|By Richard N. Waldman, MD|
President, The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
During the holiday season, delicious and decadent foods are everywhere. Foods that have the potential to throw the digestive system for a loop are all around.
Problems of the digestive system such as constipation, diarrhea, heartburn, and gas occur more frequently in women than in men and may be made worse by changes in hormone levels caused by menstruation and pregnancy.
Eat hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Skip foods that have been sitting out on the buffet too long.
Women are also more likely to develop irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a common digestive disorder marked by persistent abdominal pain and bowel changes. IBS sufferers may have a strong digestive reaction to stress, large meals, caffeine, dairy products, and large amounts of alcohol typical staples of the holiday season.
Try these tips to avoid seasonal digestive consequences:
The fix: Eat at least 25 grams of fiber each day, drink plenty of fluids, exercise, and use the bathroom when you have the urge. Your doctor may also prescribe laxatives or other therapies.
The fix: Eat hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Skip foods that have been sitting out on the buffet too long. If you have diarrhea, drink fluids to keep hydrated. Drink liquids that contain salt such as sports drinks or broth if diarrhea lasts more than a few hours. Avoid drinks that include dairy products, caffeine, or sugar which can make diarrhea worse.
The fix: Avoid overeating. Instead of lying down after a meal, try taking a walk.
Gas and bloating can be triggered by hard-to-digest foods such as beans, broccoli, cabbage, and dairy products for lactose intolerant people.
The fix: Pay attention to which foods give you gas and avoid them. Your doctor may suggest an over-the-counter treatment.
Talk to your doctor if your abdominal or digestive discomfort persists.
Symptoms that have been present for at least 12 weeks out of the last 12 months may be a sign of IBS or a more serious condition, such as colon cancer.
For more information, the ACOG Patient Education Pamphlet "Problems of the Digestive System" is available at www.acog.org/publications/patient_education.
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