Angela Lemond, RDN, LD
National Spokesperson, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Most people have experienced that uncomfortable rumbling in their stomach from gas or the cramping that accompanies occasional constipation. But if these symptoms occur regularly, relief could require medical attention and some diet detective work.
Seeking professional help
To rule out any serious health conditions such as celiac disease, gastroparesis, or other bowel disorders, you should share your concerns with your physician. After that, if foods are suspected as the cause of your symptoms, ask your doctor for a referral to a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN). An RDN can help by fine-tuning your eating plan.
For example, if your digestive issues are related to a diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome or a food intolerance, an RDN can help pinpoint foods that may be causing the stomach issues through an elimination diet, which involves temporarily eliminating and then slowly reintroducing suspected foods.
An RDN will first conduct a nutrition assessment, which includes reviewing the foods you eat and analyzing how those foods contribute to your nutritional needs. In addition, RDNs review the client’s medical history, social factors, laboratory results, and medications to create an individualized nutrition plan.
Managing gut health
With help from the RDN, you can track your food and beverage consumption and record any symptoms. This helps identify suspects. The RDN will instruct you on the foods that should be eliminated to decrease symptoms and will suggest substitutions based on your food preferences.
If the stomach issues improve, an RDN can help you slowly reintroduce restricted foods while monitoring how you feel. The RDN then helps you create an individualized eating plan, which may include a list of foods or ingredients to remove permanently, eat occasionally, or only eat in smaller amounts, if tolerated.
Some stomach issues might be caused by what you are not eating. For example, a lack of dietary fiber could cause constipation, which can result in changes to bowel frequency, difficulty passing stool, or both.
Fresh fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains are all sources of dietary fiber that help to keep bowels working regularly. Drink plenty of water to keep your body hydrated (and help soften stools), and regular physical activity can also help keep your bowels moving.