Top Tips for Common Digestive Troubles

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Gas, bloating, heartburn (or reflux), constipation, and diarrhea are common digestive troubles that we many of us experience from time to time. Especially around the holidays when you are eating foods you don’t regularly consume and in larger portions. These are familiar symptoms that many people experience during these days of celebration. However, if you have a bloated belly, or are living with heartburn more than once a week, you may find yourself searching desperately for some relief.  CDHF is here to help with our top tips for common digestive troubles.

First things first, let’s define these common digestive troubles.

Bloating and distension are often used interchangeable, but they are different.

Bloating: is the feeling of fullness

Distension:  visible expansion of the gut (the actual measurable increase in the stomach’s size).

Gas: can include flatulence (farting) or burping.

Reflux: the backward flow of stomach acid into the tube that connects your throat to your stomach (esophagus). During an episode of acid reflux, you might feel a burning sensation in your chest (heartburn). This can cause damage to the esophagus, mouth and sinus irritation, chronic cough.

Heartburn: Heartburn is a symptom of reflux, an uncomfortable burning feeling in your chest that can move up your neck and throat.

Constipation is the passing of hard stool and/or a bowel movement less than every 3 days.

Diarrhea: is the passing of soft stool and/or more than 3 bowel movements a day.

So how do we know what’s “normal”?

Closeup photo of girl wondering what's normal for common digestive troubles.

Feeling bloated (the feeling of fullness) after eating is usually not a cause for concern, as it is a normal part of the digestive process. Distention – which is the visible expansion of the stomach, is also very normal. Our stomachs will naturally expand throughout the day as we eat. However, when either bloating or distention is accompanied by discomfort and pain, that is when there can be a cause for concern, and there are some changes you can make to potentially help.

When it comes to flatulence (gas), the average person passes gas about 13-21 times a day, and we produce about 2L of gas in one day total. When it becomes distressing, affects your quality of life, or causes pain, that is when you would want to talk to your doctor.  

For reflux or heartburn, it is very common for someone to experience this occasionally after a big dinner or a holiday meal due to pressure in our stomach. If however, it occurs weekly – that is when you would want to speak to your doctor.

Lastly, when it comes to diarrhea or constipation, it can be a common ailment that everyone suffers from occasionally. If, however, it lasts for weeks, is associated with pain, or there is a sudden onset, it can indicate a problem that would require you to speak to your doctor.

What are some tips for managing these common digestive troubles?

Top Tips for Managing Bloating

  • Eat easily digestible carbohydrates such as: potatoes, rice, lettuce, bananas and grapes
  • Consume products that contain pre and probiotics such as yogurt, kefir, fruit and vegetables, whole grain breads , legumes, nuts & seeds
  • Gradually introduce more fibre into your diet: For optimal general health and function of the colon, you should aim to consume about 25 to 38 grams of fibre from a mixture of fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains and every day
  • Drink plenty of water each day while decreasing your intake of caffeinated, alcoholic, and sugar-rich beverages such as pop and fruit juices
  • Limit difficult to digest carbohydrates like beans, pulses, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and brussel sprouts
  • Avoid foods that are greasy, high in animal fat, and fried
  • Limit polyol-containing foods (common polyols include maltitol, sorbitol, xylitol and isomalt) Polyols are used as replacements for sugar as sweeteners in chewing gum, candy, ice cream, frozen desserts, baked goods, chocolate, fruit spreads, toothpaste, mouthwash, breath mints, cough syrup and cough drops.
  • Avoid overeating and have mini breaks in the day to allow your digestive tract to have a break.
  • Do not rush eating and chew food slowly and well. Avoid drinking too much fluids with meals.
  • Gentle movement
  • Wear comfortable clothes that fit

Top tips for Reducing Flatulence (Gas):

  • Eat smaller and more frequent meals without increasing overall calorie intake.
  • Eat easily digestible carbohydrates such as: potatoes, rice, lettuce, bananas and grapes
  • Consume products that contain pre and probiotics such as yogurt, kefir, fruit and vegetables, whole grain breads , legumes, nuts & seeds
  • Drink plenty of water each day while decreasing your intake of caffeinated, alcoholic, and sugar-rich or artificially sweetened beverages such as pop and fruit juice
  • Limit difficult to digest carbohydrates like beans, pulses, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and brussel sprouts
  • Avoid foods that are greasy, high in animal fat, and fried
  • Limit polyol-containing foods (common polyols include maltitol, sorbitol, xylitol and isomalt) Polyols are used as replacements for sugar as sweeteners in chewing gum, candy, ice cream, frozen desserts, baked goods, chocolate, fruit spreads, toothpaste, mouthwash, breath mints, cough syrup and cough drops.
  • Avoid chewing gum
  • Take your time when eating and chew food slowly and well
  • Gentle movement
  • Wear comfortable clothes that fit

Tips for Reducing Constipation:

  • Include foods rich in fibre: For optimal general health and function of the colon, you should aim to consume about 25 to 38 grams of fibre from a mixture of fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains and every day
    • Choose fruits rich in pectin, such as apples, strawberries, lychees or pears, to increase stool volume and ease passage
    • Consume products that contain pre and probiotics such as yogurt, kefir, fruit and vegetables, whole grain breads , legumes, nuts & seeds
    • Drink plenty of water each day while decreasing your intake of caffeinated, alcoholic, and sugar-rich or artificially sweetened beverages such as pop and fruit juice
    • Avoid foods that are greasy, high in animal fat, and fried
    • Limit intake of refined sugar (sweets and rich deserts)
    • Eat at regular times
    • Commit to a healthy lifestyle: exercise regularly, do not smoke, avoid stress, establish regular sleeping patterns, and adopt good time management techniques

Top Tips for Managing Heartburn/Reflux:

  • Take your time when eating and chew food slowly and well
  • Eat smaller and more frequent meals without increasing overall calorie intake. Eat 4-5 small frequent meals instead of 2-3 large meals. The last meal should finish no later than 2-3 hours before bedtime.
  • Reduce intake of acid causing foods (caffeine, alcohol, spice, high fat, tomatoes)
  • Avoid foods that are greasy, high in animal fat, and fried
  • Include foods rich in fibre in your diet
  • Elevation of head of bed with 6-10” foam wedge
  • Wear loose clothing across the stomach and chest
  • Stress management techniques such as yoga, meditation, and mindfulness.
  • Maintain a healthy weight for you: weight management can often help with reflux management

If you are looking for more information on the subject, register for our Trending Now event and get instant access to watch Andrea Hardy, RD’s and Kristina Campbell M.Sc’s presentation on Demystifying Digestive Issues: by clicking here.


As always, consult your Health Care Provider for specific strategies to meet your personal needs.

For information and education purposes, not intended to replace the advice of a Health Care Professional.