Is your stomach happy?

Now that Thanksgiving is over, are you experiencing a bit of “food hangover?” You know, that sluggish, bloated, uncomfortable feeling you get after indulging in things like dairy, gluten, and sugar. Now that all the turkey, stuffing, and delightful Thanksgiving dessert leftovers are gone, this may be a good time to think about the health of your gut.

You can spend time researching on the internet, but unfortunately, not everything you read online is accurate. It’s really important to consider the source before making any major changes to your diet and lifestyle. So, how do you know if you’re having unhealthy gut issues?

Everyone at some point experiences digestive problems such as abdominal pain, bloating, loose stools, constipation, heartburn, nausea, or vomiting. When symptoms persist, it may be a sign of an underlying problem that needs medical attention.

Weight loss without a good reason, blood in the stool, black stool (a sign of bleeding

in the gut), severe vomiting, fever, severe stomach aches, trouble swallowing food, pain

in the throat or chest when food is swallowed, or jaundice (a yellow discoloration of the

skin or eyes) could potentially indicate an underlying gastrointestinal problem with

serious consequences.

You should see your healthcare provider if any of these symptoms occur.

In general, fresh vegetables and fruits are excellent choices of gut-health friendly foods. Chicken and fish are preferable to red meats. To reduce the risk of stomach and colon cancers, avoid charred meats. And if you’re having symptoms of acid reflux, avoid excess caffeine, alcohol, and fatty foods. Nuts, seeds, and legumes like beans and lentils are excellent sources of both protein and fiber. Use common sense and be careful with “food trends” that promise magical results.

So, what else should you know about gut health?

Food choices are common causes of heartburn, bloating, and constipation. If you experience these symptoms, start using a food diary to see if there are links between your symptoms and certain foods. Avoid fried foods and consume alcohol and caffeine in moderation, as they are not healthy in the long run. If you keep having gastrointestinal problems despite making wise food choices, consult your healthcare provider.

Adequate sleep is essential for gut health. It is not uncommon for people with disturbed sleep to suffer from nausea, bloating, constipation, and other digestive concerns.

Regular exercise is known to reduce stress levels and help maintain a healthy weight, which can have positive effects on gut health.

Antibiotics can wipe out both bad and good germs in the gut. Avoid taking antibiotics for conditions such as common colds or sore throats.

So, if you are still intrigued with maintaining a healthy gut, here is a shortlist of myths about gut health that may surprise you:

1) Water. Drinking lots of water when constipated won’t necessarily help your bowel movements. Water is actually absorbed into your blood before stool is formed. A much better option to get things moving quickly is prune juice and exercise.

2) Fiber. If you suffer from IBS, stay away from fiber. It’s a bulking agent that can make constipation worse. It also doesn’t help diarrhea, and just adds more stress to your already compromised digestive tract. Instead, a little pasta or white toast is best.

3) Laxatives. Regularly taking laxatives will not damage your bowel. Rather than suffering from constipation, you need to keep your bowel movements regular. Getting a little aid from a daily laxative in order to speed up the digestive process is healthier than staying plugged up for too long.

4) Pain Pills. If you’ve got a stomach ache, the last thing you want to do is pop a pain pill like ibuprofen. Many painkillers will actually irritate the gut and can lead to constipation. To ease any belly discomfort, go with peppermint oil capsules.

5) Fasting. Fasting is becoming pretty trendy, but eating regularly is the best way to support your gut. When you skip a meal, your digestive system slows and can even stop. This means food will sit in your gut longer, creating more gas and indigestion. Eating five small meals a day is much healthier than eliminating breakfast or dinner.

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