How to Beat 5 Embarrassing Ailments With Your Diet

Use your diet to help fight 5 common digestive problems

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Surrounded by cellphones, search engines, and apps at our fingertips, we expect to get everything we seek with lightening speed. But it's not just information we want quickly—we also expect weight-loss diets to take effect immediately, and we want our workouts to make us look like body builders as soon as we join the gym.

You may never have to pick up a telephone book or encyclopedia again; but when it comes to losing and maintaining your weight, you'll need to put in some time. On the other hand, there are some digestive problems that can be controlled in a relatively short period of time just by manipulating some foods in your diet. Although these tips may not "cure" your digestive conditions, this quick reference guide may help keep some of the following ailments from disrupting your daily routines.

• Constipation: Increasing your fiber intake through whole grains and by filling half your plate with fruit and veggies and fruit will get you halfway to the finish line; fluids will do the rest. Without enough liquid in your diet, the fiber you consume will act like a cork instead of a plunger. Shoot for at least eight glasses of water, nature's stool softener, each day. Increasing exercise helps get things moving, too.

Diarrhea: To help control this problem, think of the acronym, BRAT, which stands for bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. These foods are comfort-laden carbs that get digested and absorbed without making your body work very hard. Be sure to also drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration, or perhaps include a sports drink to prevent the loss of electrolytes.

• Nausea: To remember which foods settle your stomach, think of how dry land would ease the feeling of seasickness. Choose dry foods like crackers, toast, or perhaps dry cereal without milk, and drink liquids between meals. Have small, frequent meals, and don't go for a long period of time without eating. It might also be best to eat bland foods, and steer clear of anything with strong odors and flavors.

• Gas: Unfortunately, some of the greatest offenders are the foods that are the richest in nutrients, so totally avoiding such foods is not recommended. Since they may have a cumulative effect, pay attention to how often the following foods appear in your diet, and perhaps alternate the days on which you consume them. This list includes some of my personal favorites: beans, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, melon, eggplant, peppers, and cucumbers.

Perhaps frozen yogurt should be served with a topping of antacids since this frosty treat is a major gas-producer! Ditching carbonated beverages could generate less belly bubbles, and avoid drinking through a straw or chewing gum so that you'll swallow less air. The best bloat-beaters include drinking peppermint, chamomile, or ginger teas, and chewing on anise seeds or fennel.

• Heartburn: Hurried habits are often to blame for the discomfort of heartburn. Try relaxing at mealtime, chewing your food well, eating slowly, and dodging large meals, particularly close to bedtime. Some people find it best to skip or limit alcohol, tea, coffee (regular or decaffeinated), carbonated beverages, chocolate, citrus fruit or juices, tomato sauces, peppermint, spearmint, and highly spiced foods.

Just as you would to maintain good health, you can help tame any of the above circumstances by avoiding greasy, fried foods void of nutrient value. Most importantly, if any of the above symptoms persist, it might be best to consult your health care provider to be sure that you don't have a more serious underlying condition.

Hungry for more? Write to eatandrun@usnews.com with your questions, concerns, and feedback.

Bonnie Taub-Dix, MA, RD, CDN, has been owner of BTD Nutrition Consultants, LLC, for more than three decades and she is the author of Read It Before You Eat It. As a renowned motivational speaker, author, media personality, and award-winning dietitian, Taub-Dix has found a way to communicate how to make sense of science. Her website is BetterThanDieting.com.