Managing a Sensitive Stomach
By Rocio Garcia
Many who suffer from digestive health disorders, like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), acid reflux, or indigestion, find that they are sensitive to the food that they eat. For those individuals, eating well is not just a matter of eating a balanced, healthy diet; it also involves being aware of foods that may irritate a delicate stomach.
If you are someone who has a sensitive stomach, you should eat enough food to give you energy and the essential vitamins and minerals, while also maintaining a viable gut microflora, or healthy stomach bacteria. You can do so by avoiding foods that may stimulate stomach spasms, cause fluid retention, and generate large volumes of gas.
Knowing how different foods affect your digestive system will help you care for yourself and your stomach. Here are some tips on how to keep a sensitive digestive system happy and healthy:
- Have a balanced diet: Make sure your diet has plenty of variety, not only carbohydrates, but also a good range of protein-rich foods, essential oils from nuts, seeds, and oily fish, dairy, lean meats, cereals, and grains rich in fiber.
- Eat a healthy breakfast: Always make sure you have a good healthy breakfast. It is recommended you have three meals, and small snacks between meals throughout the day. There’s no need to snack if the person is full. Some individuals find that their stomach is so sensitive that it is better that they eat smaller meals, more frequently.
- Drink enough fluids: We recommend consuming fluids before or after each meal, but not during meals. Also, having something warm after the meal like herbal tea helps in digestion, especially digestion of fats. Listen to your body; don’t ignore the feeling of thirst.
- Be cautious of your dairy consumption: Dairy products are an excellent source of calcium and vitamins, but they can also contain a large amount of fat and lactose. If you are sensitive to the fat content in milk, try low-fat or fat-free varieties. If you think you are lactose intolerant, consider lactose-free options like soy, rice, or nut milks.
- Monitor your bread intake: Eating too much bread can occasionally be problematic due to certain carbohydrates that can be hard to digest. Restrict your intake of bread to two slices a day.
- Choose low-fat products: High-fat foods can stimulate nausea, indigestion, gallstones, and diarrhea. Reduce fat intake by choosing low-fat dairy products, reduce your intake of cream, soft cheese, and chocolate, have meat-free days, and restrict fried foods.
- Limit alcohol intake: Try not to drink alcohol on an empty stomach, or consume too much. Alcohol can irritate the lining of the stomach and, when abused, can lead to serious gastrointestinal and liver disease. Try to have at least two alcohol-free days a week.
Rocio Garcia, RD, LD/N, is a clinical transplant dietician at The Miami Transplant Institute at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Medical Center.