Talking about bowel function is a national pastime. Mothers monitor diaper catchings of their children with diligence, frequently keeping logs. Old people obsess abut what comes out or, rather, what doesn’t. Gastrointestinal (GI) function may top weather conversation among the AARP set. And, of course, boys from the time they can speak until, well, death joke about bathroom habits. And all this for apparently good reason — Americans suffer from gastrointestinal distress in a big way. Who doesn’t know someone who doesn’t complain of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), chronic constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, hemorrhoids, ulcerative colitis, intractable diarrhea, or diverticular disease. GI issues make life miserable.
A whole lot of GI distress can be alleviated with a few simple lifestyle changes. Of course, these won’t work for every issue or every person, but many Americans can feel a whole lot better.
- Cut down on caffeine-containing beverages. Think about how coffee is the last thing you want when you have a stomach ache.
- Cut out the alcohol and the cigarettes. You knew this already, didn’t you?
- Get at least 8 hours of sleep as an adult, 10 as a teen, and 12 as a child. Unfortunately many people do not follow these guidelines, which are especially important for teens.
- Drink water, just water. Measure out half your weight in ounces at the beginning of the day and drink throughout the day.
- Eat more produce, mostly vegetables. Work your way up to 11 servings daily.
- Reduce or eliminate gluten. Gluten can aggravate inflammatory issues, especially those that involve GI function. Gluten-free diets are not just for celiacs.
- Take a high-quality probiotic daily. The good bacteria in your GI tract is vital to well-being.