Tips for Reducing Summertime Digestive Disorders from a Methodist Mansfield Medical Center Doctor
May 31, 2017 11:05AM
By Melanie Heisinger
Tame the Flame
By Angel Biasatti
Summer camp, swim practice, sports leagues and vacations can fill up a summer schedule, but these welcomed changes in routine and diet can also trigger all sorts of gastrointestinal ailments — from occasional heartburn to traveler’s diarrhea.
“Fortunately, there are things you can do to avoid the discomfort of these common problems,” says gastroenterologist Muhammad Memon, MD, on the medical staff at Methodist Mansfield Medical Center.
Heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) are fairly common complaints, but fortunately they can be avoided by eating the right foods. “In general, eating foods that are high in fiber and easily digestible can reduce or help you avoid heartburn and GERD,” says Memon.
Here are some of the doctor’s favorites.
Bananas are a great source of potassium, low in acid, and easy to digest. Take some with you for an on-the-go snack and incorporate them into recipes and desserts.
For being so low in fat and calories, lettuce packs a powerful punch loaded with fiber and vitamins and minerals.
Another high-fiber powerhouse is rice. Pair it with your favorite entrée or mix in any combination of vegetables, beans, and lean meat for the main course. It is easy to digest and will tame the flame of frequent heartburn.
Beans are a good source of fiber and protein, and they’re a cost-effective staple that won’t ignite heartburn. Pair them with vegetables and rice for a well-rounded, filling meal.
Feeling sluggish? Granola and oatmeal’s high fiber content will get your digestive system moving. Start your morning with a serving of oatmeal and fresh fruit, or snack on granola and dried fruit for an afternoon pick-me-up.
If you suffer from frequent heartburn, pasta offers a hardy option — just stay away from the acidic toppings like tomatoes and garlic, which are harder to digest. Instead toss your pasta with a drizzle of olive oil and fresh herbs like basil, then add your choice of veggies and lean meats.
Poultry and fish are easy on the stomach — just remember to remove the fatty skin and avoid pairing with citrus, which can aggravate heartburn. These versatile proteins can be baked, broiled, sautéed or grilled with fresh herbs and spices for a healthy, delicious meal.
While there’s no magic bullet to preventing GERD and heartburn all of the time, Memon suggests eating until you are just barely satisfied — not stuffed. He also suggests limiting caffeine, fatty and fried foods, chocolate and peppermint, which can be hard to digest, as well as avoiding snacks before bedtime. He cautions adventurous eaters: “Eating exotic foods can be a prime trigger for aggravating your GERD and heartburn symptoms.”
If you think your bellyaches are due to gas, limiting foods that can cause bloating and belching can help. These include carbonated sodas, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage, beans and dairy products, as you may be lactose intolerant, as well as gum and hard candy. “Always take your time when eating, and drink slowly so that you don’t swallow air,” says Memon.
If constipation is a problem, drink plenty of fluids throughout the day and eat more fiber. “Women should aim for 25 grams of fiber per day and men about 38 grams,” he says. “It can also help to get more exercise.”
By far, one of the most uncomfortable stomach ailments to avoid this summer is what is commonly called traveler’s diarrhea, an ailment caused by E Coli.
“Traveler’s diarrhea occurs when a person consumes infected food or water. While it’s rarely dangerous, it can make for a very unpleasant vacation,” says Memon. To avoid this malady while you’re traveling abroad:
Stick to fruits and vegetables that you peel yourself, and refrain from eating those that are raw.
Don’t consume raw, rare or undercooked meat or fish. If meat or shellfish isn’t hot when it’s served, don’t eat it.
Drink bottled water instead of tap water. Avoid ice made with tap water and don’t brush your teeth with tap water.
Washing your hands frequently with soap and water, especially before eating and after using the restroom.
From adventurous outings to lazy afternoons, summer is a time to break from your routine. Following these tips for maintaining a healthy digestive system can help to ensure you enjoy it all.
Angel Biasatti is director of community and public relations for Methodist Mansfield Medical Center.
Texas law prohibits hospitals from practicing medicine. The physicians on the Methodist Health System medical staff are independent practitioners who are not employees or agents of Methodist Health System or Methodist Mansfield Medical Center.