Tips for Summer Digestive Distress

Summer is a time for outdoors, family, friends, barbecues, seaside clambakes, and fair food. And unless we’re careful, we suffer some unpleasant results: stomachaches, nausea, heartburn, and constipation or diarrhea.

Outdoor events can trigger digestive problems in a number of ways:

  • Picnic and party food can spoil in the heat.
  • We may over-exercise.
  • And it’s easy to become dehydrated.

6 Ways to Avoid Digestive Problems

1. Eat Smaller, Frequent Meals. If you want to prevent indigestion, eat smaller, more frequent meals.  In the case of a great picnic or barbecue, try starting with small portions of your favorite foods.

2. Take It Slow. Taste your food, savor it, and space it out. Practice mindful eating, and talk and socialize. If you overwhelm your stomach — and the more you eat the more you slow it down — you’ll feel gas, bloating and discomfort.  Here’s one good way to help yourself slow down: Cut your food into small pieces, then chew each piece well.  Going slow refers to physical activity, too. If you exercise for more than 45 minutes, wait an hour before you eat so that the blood diverted to your muscles has time to return to your stomach, where it’s needed to help digest your food.

3. Store Food Safely. The waning sun feels great on your skin, but it also allows bacteria to thrive on food. There are about 76 million cases of food-borne illness in the U.S. each year, says the CDC. Common symptoms are diarrhea, vomiting, and other digestive problems. Keep cold foods cold, hot foods hot, and if you have doubts about that salad, steak, or picnic bounty, pass it up. Hot foods should be kept at 140 degrees or warmer. Cold foods should be kept at 40 degrees or colder. Perishable food should not be kept at room temperature for longer than two hours.

4. Avoid Fried and Acidic Foods. To prevent gas, bloating, and other symptoms of overindulgence, limit or avoid these types of food:

  • Fatty food, like fried foods and cheese, which take longer to digest and increase risk for heartburn
  • Gassy foods, like sodas and beans
  • Acidic foods, like citrus, tomatoes, colas, tea, and coffee, which can lead to heartburn

5. Consider an Enzyme Supplement. Enzymes are mainly in raw vegetables, fruits and nuts and are heat-sensitive. Cooking, microwaving, processing and barbecuing food zaps the enzymes. Result? You’re body doesn’t break down the food you eat. You feel sluggish, bloated, tired, and just plain lousy. “You are what you eat” is only true if your body absorbs the nutrients. Adding enzymes to your daily regimen is a simple yet powerful way to absorb the nutrients in your food more effectively.

6. Hydrate. When it’s warm out, you want to be sure you’re getting enough fluids. Yet you don’t want to gulp down glass after glass, which can cause you to swallow air, leading to bloating and gas. Dehydration can lead to constipation and nausea. Drink sensibly before you’re thirsty.