By: Dr. Dominique Vanier, ND, MEnvSc, BScH
Mississauga Naturopath at ECO Physio and High Tech Physio
You have an important work deadline tomorrow and you suddenly feel that recognizable, twisting abdominal pain in your stomach. You’ve been down this familiar road before, in which you frantically email your boss citing that your child is “sick” and you will need to stay home from work tomorrow.
Having a digestive issue can be frustrating, isolating, and just plain annoying. At least 1 in 5 people in Canada suffers from a chronic digestive disorder – in fact, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is the second most common cause of work absenteeism behind the common cold.
Our everyday food choices play a significant role in helping (or hindering) our digestive function. For those who have sensitive tummies, even healthy foods like certain fruits and vegetables can cause digestive upset including bloating, gas, abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, acid reflux, and nausea. This can be confusing and complicated, as many individuals who clean up their diet still experience persistent digestive symptoms!
As a naturopathic doctor, I search for the root cause of my patients’ health concern and carefully analyze all factors that may be contributing to their health condition. Together, we explore the underlying cause while addressing dietary and lifestyle factors that aggravate their digestive problems.
When we have frequent bloating, gas, and upset stomach, how we eat and what we eat should be prioritized. Below are some tips that can help optimize digestive function:
- Adopting a low FODMAP diet. FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. FODMAPs are basically carbohydrates – like apples, onions, and garlic – that are easily fermented in the gut leading to digestive symptoms like bloating, abdominal pain, and gas. Reducing foods high in FODMAPs has been clinically shown to help reduce unwanted gastrointestinal symptoms.
- Space out meals. Eating every three to four hours allows the digestive tract to undertake its “housekeeping” action, which is to sweep debris in regular cycles toward and through the large bowel. This movement occurs only when we are fasting (about three hours after our last meal). If we snack throughout the day, we don’t allow our body to enter a fasting state, which can compromise this housekeeping function.
- Skip the dairy. Approximately 65 percent of humans have a reduced ability to digest lactose. For someone who is lactose intolerant, or sensitive to other compounds in dairy like casein, going dairy-free may help ease digestive symptoms.
- Cook your food. Ensuring food is cooked and warm – rather than cold and raw – will “predigest” food and make it easier for the digestive system to break it down further. Cooking food in your kitchen allows you to both evaluate and monitor the foods you are eating, which can help you better identify any food culprits causing digestive distress (and also helps with weight management – an added bonus!).
- Chew thoroughly. Digestion starts in the mouth as soon as food contacts the enzymes found in saliva. If we are distracted, such as doing work or driving while eating, we may forget to chew thoroughly. Swallowing large pieces of food can add strain to the digestive system and result in bloating, diarrhea, and heartburn.
- Make friends with herbs! Using carminative and anti-spasmodic herbs such as peppermint or chamomile can help ease abdominal pain and any anxiety associated with poor digestion.
- Create a positive relationship with food. Do you find you have a strained relationship with food? The role of food is to nourish the body, however sometimes we may use it as a coping mechanism that provides us with comfort during difficult times of our life. Remembering to eat mindfully and intuitively can go a long way in promoting a relaxation response while eating a meal.
Working with a naturopathic doctor can ensure you receive the right testing and treatment plan while using natural tools and modalities to bring the body and digestion back into balance.
Dr. Dominique Vanier is a naturopath in Mississauga and is accepting new patients at ECO Physio on Tuesdays starting in August 2019 and at High Tech Physio on Thursdays and Fridays.
Book your appointment today for healthier digestion tomorrow…