Did you know that May is "National Celiac Awareness Month"? It's certainly an important condition to address, and perhaps even more so as we head into summer with all sorts of picnics and BBQ outings. Millions of Americans today suffer from digestive problems like Celiac disease
, as well as acid reflux, irritable bowel syndrome, and constipation. In fact I recently read a statistic that nine out of 10 individuals suffer from some sort of digestive malady. Chances are you’re one of them! Luckily there are many natural ways to reduce or eliminate digestive problems, even as simple as modifying your food intake to include certain foods and avoid others.
While digestive problems may seem like a mere inconvenience, they can turn into serious health problems if not checked out. But, by knowing what might be causing your problems and learning how to avoid them you may be on your way to relief. A big contributor to digestive problems can be the foods you eat (or aren’t eating).Foods to Avoid
There are certain types of food that are known to cause stomach ailments in many individuals. By either reducing your intake or eliminating these foods altogether you will greatly increase your stomach’s comfort level.Red Meat
We have all heard that it is not good to eat large amounts of red meat, and science has proven this time and again. Red meat is high in saturated fat and can cause many health problems not limited to the digestive system. Choosing leaner cuts of beef or lamb will greatly reduce your risk of suffering from digestive ailments and other health problems. Eating pork or a vegetarian dish with Portobello mushrooms in place of beef or lamb will also decrease your risk of having health issues in the future.“Variety Meat”
Processed meats such as hot dogs, lunch meats, and sausages also cause a host of digestive issues due to the way they are processed and the preservatives and additives they contain. If you must indulge in “variety meat” a good alternative to packaged lunch meat is fresh, lean deli-cut meats such as turkey or chicken.Trans Fats/Hydrogenated Oils
Another major digestive irritator is trans fat or hydrogenated oil. These fats are put in many processed foods to increase their shelf life. Trans fats are regulated by the FDA, but in some cases manufactures find sneaky ways around advertising that their products contain these fats. If the ingredients list “hydrogenated oil” it’s likely the product contains trans fat. Lactose and Gluten
Lactose and Gluten
are troublesome to many individuals because of food sensitivity. Lactose is the main sugar found in milk. If you suffer from lactose intolerance you may not have to completely cut out all dairy to notice a difference in your digestive health. Try to avoid milk or limit the amount you consume per day. Or opt for other “dairy” versions such as soy, rice or almond.
For gluten-sensitive individuals, or those who suffer from Celiac disease, the best choice is to cut out gluten products altogether. Unfortunately gluten is found in many healthy foods such as wheat, rye, barley and spelt. Checking the labels on many packaged items will help you to avoid this digestive nightmare if you have the sensitivity. And, more and more gluten-free foods are becoming available as the disease gains more recognition throughout the general public. Even some of your favorite restaurants may feature gluten-free fare on their menus.Foods to Eat
Just as there are foods you should avoid for good digestive health, there are also certain types of foods that are great for the digestive system and help prevent many digestive problems.Fiber
Fiber is one of the best types of foods for anyone’s digestive system, because it works to clear waste from the body. Fiber can be found in a wide range of food today and many products have fiber added to them. For example, I bought some Greek yogurt the other day with added fiber! It is also found naturally in many fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes.ProbioticsProbiotics
are another good “food type” for your digestive system, because they contain “good bacteria” that help the body digest food properly and also fight infections. One food source of probiotics is yogurt; although you should make sure you buy a variety with enough bacteria to be beneficial (common strains include the Lactobacillis and Bifidobacterium families of bacteria). Kefir and fermented foods like sauerkraut are also good food sources. However, to get the highest concentration of probiotics, you may want to consider probiotic supplements.Prebiotics
Prebiotics may also help you address your digestive woes. Prebiotics are non-digestible foods that help good bacteria (probiotics) grow and flourish. Essentially, prebiotics keep beneficial bacteria “healthy.” Prebiotics can be found in many foods that you already eat such as onions, garlic, leeks, bananas, artichokes and whole grains. Certain foods are fortified with prebiotics (such as yogurt) and you can also find prebiotics in supplement form.Gluten-Free Grains
If you have a gluten sensitivity or full-blown Celiac, gluten-free grains are a great way to get the grains your body needs without causing you to suffer from stomach ailments. Quinoa is a grain that is wonderful for gluten-sensitive individuals. Quinoa also contains fiber and is considered a complete protein (which means that it contains all the amino acids and minerals your body would normally get from eating protein sources such as meat).Don’t Forget the Water!
One of the simplest ways to help with minor stomach ailments is to get the daily recommended amount of water. Drinking 6-8 glasses of water per day will ensure that your systems stays flushed of any toxins that can create unwanted digestive problems.
Healthy meal plans can reduce or eliminate many digestive problems that you may suffer from, either intermittently or on a daily basis. While not all stomach ailments can be eliminated by food choices alone, the above suggestions may have effective and immediate results.