Are you looking to eat for better digestion? If you’re dealing with excess gas, bloating, diarrhea and/or constipation, I’m sure this is a big goal!
These days it seems like people are much more open when it comes to discussing gas and bloating, perhaps because 1 in 5 North Americans suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) while countless more deal with occasional digestive symptoms that are uncomfortable and embarrassing. It can sometimes feel challenging and hopeless to figure out what’s bothering you but it’s absolutely possible to identify these triggers and eliminate symptoms with a step-by-step plan.
I appeared on The Social where I talked about foods that help and hurt digestion, and some easy strategies that you can use to reduce any unpleasant digestive symptoms or discomfort. You can watch the segment by clicking here or on the image below.
To figure out what’s causing digestive distress, the first step is to keep a food and symptom journal for one to two weeks. We go about our lives, not paying much attention to what we eat, so keeping this journal can help bring your awareness to your body, and help you identify patterns between what you’re eating and when symptoms like gas or bloating occur.
If you find it really challenging to identify a culprit or if it seems like everything causes digestive issues, following the Low FODMAP Diet, which is an elimination diet, can help you reduce symptoms and feel better. Research shows that the Low FODMAP Diet helps over 75% of people with IBS relieve digestive symptoms. FODMAPs are poorly digested short-chained sugars. When consumed they can ferment in the digestive system leading to gas, bloating, discomfort, pain, diarrhea and/or constipation.
The diet has been designed to be followed for 2 to 6 weeks, at which point you begin adding back in those high FODMAP foods that you temporarily eliminated. This is quite an effective but complicated approach, so it’s best to work with an expert registered dietitian during this process.
Low FODMAP Cooking Tips
Garlic and onions are two of the most difficult high FODMAP foods to avoid. Here are some cooking strategies to avoid them while still eating delicious meals:
- Use garlic or onion infused oil. (FODMAPs are water soluble, so they won’t be transferred into the oil)
- Add garlic or onion to oil in the beginning of cooking and then remove.
- Use chives and the green part of both green onions or leeks.
- Instead of using diced onion in soups and sauces, replace with diced fennel bulb.
- Use other aromatics like carrot or celery (less than 1/4 of one stalk) in your cooking as well as spices and herbs to add flavour.
Most Common IBS Food Triggers
Although research shows avoiding high FODMAP foods helps most people find symptom relief, if this feels like too much of a commitment right away and too restrictive, you could start by eliminating some of the most common triggers. By eliminating these for about 4 weeks, you may be able to reduce or eliminate unpleasant digestive symptoms. The most common triggers include:
- Gut stimulants including caffeine, nicotine and alcohol
- Chewing gum, eating too quickly, and drinking carbonated beverages (all things that put a lot of air into the digestive tract)
- Dairy (lactose)
- Sulphurous vegetables
- Fatty foods like French fries
If your bloating increases throughout the day, that’s a big indicator that food or stress is triggering this symptom. You should seriously consider doing a food elimination diet to eliminate the bloating and then add foods back in to identify the trigger. Supplements like probiotics or digestive enzymes may not solve the problem if you don’t address and eliminate the actual trigger.
If you love spicy food, but it doesn’t agree with you, try to reduce the spiciness or choose just one spicy dish for a meal. Be mindful of other potentially bothersome foods at the meal that can contribute to the digestive distress like alcohol, caffeine, or really fatty foods.
Foods for Good Digestion
It’s also key to include foods that are good for digestion into your life. Here are the top strategies to do so:
- Include digestive teas. Peppermint, fennel, ginger or a blend of these can help soothe your tummy when you’re experiencing digestive issues. Learn more about how tea can help you manage your digestive discomfort.
- Choose soluble fibre, which easily moves through your bowel, and spread it throughout the day. Don’t have a big fibre meal all at once. Foods like oats, psyllium, flax and chia are good sources of soluble fibre. Find out how to include low FODMAP sources into your diet in our article What’s all the Fuss about Fibre.
- Include mostly cooked vegetables for a time to help relieve your hard working digestive system. Do this during a period of symptoms but add raw foods back in once you’re feeling better.
- Instead of grazing all day on lattes, snacks and meals, leave 2 hours between each time you eat. This will allow your body to process food and move it through your system.
Wishing you good gut health & digestion,
Stephanie & the Team