Categories
Digestive

What to Eat for Chronic Constipation

So, what if you’ve tried the low FODMAPs diet?  What if you don’t have IBS with diarrhea?  There are other options.  Today, let’s look at another option for people who struggle with chronic constipation.

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Is Adding Fiber Actually the Answer?

Low Fiber Diet for IBS

This diet goes against the classic recommendation– fiber!  Add more fiber, you’ve been told.  But then it didn’t work (for you– it does work for some people).  This is the direct opposite.  Eliminate the fiber.

A few years ago, a few research studies about chronic constipation were published that trialed no fiber or low fiber diet (<10 grams) for chronic constipation. It worked pretty well for the participants who managed to stay on the diet.  Many of them had the constipation resolve, or at least improve.  (See one 2012 publication here.)

What can I eat on a low fiber diet for constipation?

This involves eliminating many of the foods that we’ve been taught are healthy, like whole grains and beans. It’s a big change for many people. Here are some examples of what to eat and what to avoid.

Eat:

  • white rice, white pasta, and white bread
  • fruit and vegetable juice without the pulp
  • strained vegetable soups
  • meat, poultry, and eggs
  • milk, yogurt, and cheese.

Avoid:

  • fruits and vegetables with skins or seeds
  • beans
  • whole grains
  • nuts and seeds.

What does that mean long term?

Like the low FODMAPs option, the goal is to stabilize symptoms and work on liberalizing your diet to include more fruits, vegetables, and nuts.  High fiber foods like beans may or may not start constipation– but avoiding all potential foods with fiber over a longer time means you miss out on key nutrients.  Personalizing the way you eat is essential to staying healthy over a lifetime.

Why don’t more people talk about this?

Many people with constipation do respond well to adding soluble fiber.   Fewer people seem to respond well to insoluble fiber, like bran.  Constipation has different causes, so different types of chronic constipation seem to respond to different nutrition approaches.

Other people end up working with medications, stress reduction, biofeedback, or other methods.  Staying on a low fiber diet long-term can lead to nutrient deficiencies, though, so it’s advisable to work with your health care providers.

Could this work for me?

It’s always wise to chat with dietary changes with your health care providers, especially major changes.  Start the conversation if you think it might be an option at your next appointment.

Still have questions?

Contact me to request a short call to discuss how I can help you feel better.  If I can’t help, I’ll refer you to someone else who hopefully can.

 

Categories
Digestive

How to Manage Acid Reflux Symptoms with Nutrition

First, talk to your doctor about your symptoms.  Consistent acid reflux can be a sign of more serious problems than over-indulging in pizza. But after that– there are also some choices you make with your fork that can help or harm you.

What is acid reflux?

In short, your stomach has a little valve at the top.  Normally, it closes pretty tightly after you finish swallowing.  Sometimes, it doesn’t.  When it doesn’t, the food and acid found in your stomach can be pushed back up into the esophagus.  Your esophagus isn’t designed to tolerate that acid, so it can be damaged (which hurts!).

A certain pattern of severe acid reflux is called GERD, gastroesophageal reflux disorder.  Gastroenterologists usually diagnose and manage this condition.

How can nutrition help with acid reflux or GERD?

So why does overindulging in a wing, pizza, and beer night lead to reflux symptoms?  First, the spicy sauces with wings are a trigger.  Second, the tomato sauce can be a trigger.  Third, alcohol is a likely culprit.  Finally, a large meal later in the day often leads to night-time symptoms.

Several basic steps can help manage acid reflux symptoms.

  1.  Avoid alcohol.  At least most of the time– it relaxes that little valve, so it opens more easily.
  2. Reduce or avoid caffeine.
  3. Eat several smaller meals instead of one large meal.  For example, instead of a large lunch, eat a morning snack, a light lunch, and an afternoon snack.
  4. Avoid eating for four hours before bed, if possible.
  5. Limit irritating foods.

Often, the first four steps are enough to manage symptoms most of the time.  Other people have to limit trigger foods and add in some lifestyle changes (like stress management or changes in the way they sleep) to help.

Do you know what foods trigger your symptoms?

Keep reading to learn about some possible culprits.

Foods that can trigger acid reflux

Occasionally, even after making basic changes to how they eat, people may find that some additional foods still lead to symptoms. Some common problem foods include:

  • Tomatoes and tomato-based sauces
  • Chili peppers and hot sauces
  • Peppermint candies and gums
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Chocolate
  • Fried food
  • Garlic and/or onions.

If you don’t experience symptoms after consuming one of these foods, there is no reason to avoid it.  But if you are experiencing symptoms after eating, it may be helpful to consider whether one of these (or another) food may be the culprit.  A dietitian can help you figure which foods are problems.

When there are many irritating foods, or someone continues to have symptoms often, I refer them to their doctor or gastroenterologist for evaluation.  It’s important to manage frequent acid reflux (called GERD) which can damage the esophagus.  In rare cases, GERD even leads to a type of pre-cancer called Barrett’s esophagus.

Stay in Touch!

 

Categories
Digestive

Got IBS? Here’s How to Fix It with a Low FODMAPs Diet

 

Array of colorful vegetables with text overlay "Eating Approaches for IBS Symptoms"
Do you know which vegetables are higher in FODMAPs?

Eating for IBS can be a puzzle because your response to a slice of apple can be completely different from another person’s response to a slice of apple. So, figuring out what works for you can be tough without a plan to help.

If you’re considering using food to manage your symptoms, the popular low FODMAPs diet for IBS is a plan that is often successful.

Low FODMAPs & IBS

Low FODMAPs is popular because it works for many (but not all) people with IBS.  People on a low FODMAPs diet who experience improvements in symptoms often have more problems with pain, diarrhea and/or bloating than constipation.

What is the low FODMAPs diet?

A low FODMAPs diet reduces the amount of specific types of carbohydrates.  These carbohydrates are not digested well by some people who have symptoms related to IBS.  When they aren’t digested in the small intestine, the carbohydrate molecules travel into the colon. The extra molecules draw water into the colon while also giving the microbes in your colon supplies to chow down and throw a little party.  Their party, and that extra water, leads to the diarrhea and/or bloating.  (Some people have gas, too.)

Comparison: This is like lactose intolerance.  The same process happens to other carbohydrates, too.

By avoided or reducing certain foods, the low FODMAPs diet limits those carbohydrates.  For example, apples and mushrooms contain specific carbohydrates that could be an issue. Sweet potatoes can be a problem when you eat a larger portion.

How does it work in terms of food?

Being successful at the low FODMAPs diet involves knowing what you are eating and tracking your symptoms.  So, what helps you find out if and how well it works for you? The most rigorous approach is to eat as few FODMAPs as possible (eliminating foods like onion, beans, and apples).  After that, you then slowly add them back in.

To be successful, it helps if you:

  • learn about the different types of high FODMAPs carbohydrates in different foods you like to eat
  • read labels
  • eat basic (non-processed) foods
  • log foods
  • log symptoms.

Other options include eliminating just one or two groups at a time to see if symptoms improve.  Most people see some improvement in two to four weeks but six weeks may be needed.

The goal is to figure out how many different foods you tolerate so you can eat as many foods as possible without annoying symptoms. Sometimes, just having smaller portions mean you can eat some slightly troublesome foods. For example, many people can eat a mini apple but not a large apple. Other people find they can have one or two high FODMAPs foods per day but not five or six foods.

Feeling confused? Watch this short video that uses a great analogy!

How many people improve?

The estimate from research studies suggests that most people with more diarrhea respond well to a low FODMAPs diet– about 2/3 to 3/4 experience fewer symptoms during and after trying the diet.  Most of those people are able to return to eating higher FODMAPs foods once they understand what their body tolerates.

Is it for you?

If you know you react to some foods, check out a list of high FODMAPs foods here. If there’s a food on that list, you may want to consider this option (check with your gastroenterologist, just to be safe).

Stay in touch!

Still have questions?  You can always get in touch:  click here to write me a note.