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Improving Your Digestive Health Self-Awareness

Some people experience digestive sensitivities more frequently than others. If you experience frequent symptoms, you are not alone, as it is estimated that in the United States alone, 80 million adults classify themselves in this group.

You know your body better than anyone else does, and while we all experience digestive discomfort every now and then; frequent and recurring uncomfortable gastrointestinal symptoms (i.e. gas, diarrhea, constipation, bloating, abdominal pain etc..) may indicate a problem.

Raise your self-awareness about your own digestive health by keeping a journal of your symptoms. Because of the connection between food sensitivities and digestive symptoms, it is also helpful to journal not only your symptoms, but also the foods you are eating, in order to notice patterns. A simple notebook is all you need to keep track to help you collect the information.

Here is a simple example on how to track your food intake and symptoms:

Time Foods Symptoms Comments
7am 2 slices of toast with butter and a banana Bloating 30 minutes after eating experienced the symptom

In addition, here is a helpful app you can use to keep track of your GI health.

While digestive health isn’t a common subject of conversation among friends or peers – or even between an individual and their health professional – it is a very important part of your overall health and should not be ignored.

Important Note: It is always important to consult with your healthcare professional especially if your symptoms become severe and include pain or bleeding with bowel movements, unintended weight loss, or sudden changes in the frequency of your bowel movements.

Tips to Manage Your Digestive Health

You should work with a qualified healthcare professional to tailor a plan to manage your overall health. A doctor may suggest medications in some instances, but steps to optimize digestive health and regularity may also include diet, nutrition and lifestyle changes.

  • The food in your diet may be a cause for symptoms. A diet low in FODMAPs may be right for you. FODMAPs are a specific type of short chain carbohydrates that can be difficult to digest, poorly absorbed, and may trigger digestive discomfort in some people. FODMAPs are found in a wide variety of foods across nearly every food group. A Low FODMAP Diet is often recommended by physicians and dietitians to help manage symptoms in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Read more throughout this site about FODMAPs.
  • A balanced diet high in fiber (found in healthful whole grains, fruits and vegetables) plays an important role in maintaining digestive health. Fiber can help to support regular bowel movements, and to improve the environment for beneficial bacteria within the digestive tract. Read more in the Fiber section of this site.
  • Keeping the digestive environment balanced with beneficial bacteria is also important to digestive health. These good bacteria play an important role in gut health, immunity and more. Read more within the Probiotics section of this site.
  • Lifestyle factors are also important in digestive health. It is important to get regular exercise, adequate sleep, and reduce stress, which can be a trigger for digestive symptoms.
What Are FODMAPs?