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Prevent and relieve digestive problems

Published On: Feb 13 2013 10:58:38 AM CST
Updated On: Feb 27 2013 02:31:10 PM CST
woman with hands on stomach

iStock / szefei

By Pure Matters

Just as simple things can upset your digestive system, simple changes can help. The following tips can help prevent or relieve digestive ills.

See your health care provider if symptoms persist.


Although diarrhea can make you feel miserable, it is rarely cause for concern. Bacteria, viruses, emotional upset, stress, and certain drugs can cause diarrhea, says the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). Most of the time, diarrhea in adults goes away by itself. If you notice blood or mucus in your stool; have a fever of 102 degrees or higher, diarrhea for more than three days, or severe pain in the abdomen or rectum; or if repeated vomiting or signs of dehydration develop, call your doctor.

To help prevent or relieve diarrhea, follow these suggestions:

  • DO drink glucose-electrolyte solutions.
  • DO eat if you feel like eating.
  • DO avoid caffeine, alcohol, milk products, and foods that are greasy, high in fiber, or very sweet while you have diarrhea.
  • DO wash cutting boards and cooking utensils after preparing uncooked meat.
  • DO wash your hands with soap after going to the bathroom, changing a baby's diaper, or handling uncooked meat.
  • DON'T eat poultry, meat, fish, or eggs if they are undercooked.


Stress, diet, and ignoring the urge to go to the bathroom can cause constipation. When stools pass through the colon too slowly, the large intestine draws too much water from them, making them difficult to pass, the NIDDK says.

These tips can help:

  • DO eat high-fiber foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain breads and cereals.
  • DO get plenty of regular exercise. Be sure to check with your health care provider before beginning a fitness program.
  • DO talk with your health care provider about any medications you take. Some may cause constipation.
  • DON'T wait to go to the bathroom.
  • DON'T abuse laxatives.


When the sphincter muscle between your esophagus and stomach doesn't close adequately, stomach acid can wash back into the esophagus. This creates heartburn, a burning feeling just below or behind your breastbone. This condition is called gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, the NIDDK says. GERD is caused by certain foods and eating habits, smoking and stress, among other things.

Avoiding alcohol, caffeine, citrus drinks, chocolate, mint, or spicy foods may help prevent heartburn.

These tips can also help:

  • DO relax. Eat slowly and chew food completely.
  • DO lose weight, if necessary.
  • DO take an antacid as directed by your health care provider.
  • DO ask your health care provider about using over-the-counter medications called H2 blockers and acid pump inhibitors. Formerly available only by prescription, these drugs can be taken before eating to prevent heartburn.
  • DO eat smaller portions.
  • DON'T overeat.
  • DON'T smoke cigarettes.
  • DON'T lie down right after you eat. Instead, wait a couple of hours.
  • DON'T eat or drink for two to three hours before you go to bed.


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