I remember having frequent stomach aches as a small child. Looking back, I believe they probably came from stress and poor diet.
As a teen and young adult, I could eat anything. Seriously. And in large quantities. I lived for a pot of chili, hotter than my family could stand. My friends never understood how I stayed so thin.
Then it happened—pregnancy. Carrying an extra 40 pounds just below my stomach did me in. I couldn’t eat a quantity of anything; and definitely not chili. Subsequent pregnancies—five to be exact—and a couple bouts with Irritable Bowel Syndrome have left my stomach health wanting. However, with proper management and a healthy diet I can, once again, enjoy an occasional bowl of chili.
Before I tell you how I treat my digestive problems, let me say this: chronic heartburn is a symptom that something is wrong. Uncontrolled, it can lead to the burning of the lining of the esophagus, stomach ulcers, or cancer. If you cannot get it under control, see a healthcare professional.
Know your trigger foods—This was the key with the Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Yes, it is initially caused from stress, but then certain foods will aggravate it. I always thought it was my mother, then I realized we always had spaghetti when I asked her to dinner. Turns out tomato sauce, coffee, carbonated beverages, and baked potatoes are my worst triggers. The best way to figure this out is to keep a food diary. When you find yourself having to run to the bathroom before you can finish eating, take note of what’s on the plate.
Eat fermented foods—The enzymes found in things like sauerkraut, pickles, kombucha, and other fermented foods and drinks act as digestive aids in your stomach. Before refrigeration, fermentation was a way to keep foods through the winter. In some cultures, serving these foods at every meal was a way to keep the digestive system healthy.
Take pro-biotics—Many of us are missing the natural flora that should be found in the digestive tract due to antibiotic use. The way to replace that is to take some type of pro-biotic supplement or to eat cultured milk products such as yogurt. Pro-biotic supplements require refrigeration, so don’t waste your money buying them at WalMart or your pharmacy. Go straight to the refrigerator in your local health food store for a quality product.
Take DGL—Studies have shown deglycyrrhizinated licorice as effective, or more so, than prescription drug products in treating peptic ulcers. Taken on an empty stomach about 20 minutes before a meal, the DGL coats the lining of the stomach and promotes healing of the mucosa. If I could only choose one item to treat my stomach, it would be DGL.
Eat small meals—Don’t eat until you are stuffed. When you start to feel full, stop. It is better to eat 4-5 small meals a day than 3 large ones. Also, give your stomach time to digest your food before lying down. That means taking your supper earlier and forgoing that bedtime snack. (This tactic will also help you shed a few pounds.)
Drink apple cider vinegar—Another way I treat my stomach is to drink an apple cider vinegar beverage with my meals. In a cup of warm water, add 2 teaspoons of the vinegar and 2 teaspoons of raw honey. The vinegar acts as a digestive aid and the honey, while anti-biotic in nature, makes the vinegar more palatable. This combination really does have a pleasant taste.
What about you? What do you do to treat your heartburn and digestive problems? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
Photo by Leo Reynolds