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  • Writer's pictureCarla Hunnicutt

Tips for Digestive Distress

One thing that has surprised me during my time practicing is the number of people who have digestive problems and think it’s perfectly normal. One of my clients told me his wife thinks he needs to see a GI doctor, but “everyone has gas, right?” Listen: You do not have to live with gastric distress, my friends! Sure, gas or diarrhea may happen once in a while, but this is not something that should be happening daily or even multiple times a week. If you have an ongoing issue, consider seeing a doctor to find out if you have a more serious underlying issue. If your doctor tells you everything looks fine, and you don’t get a diagnosis, then call me. And if you do get a diagnosis, you can call me then too! Whatever the case, I can work with you to ease your digestive distress. In the meantime, here are some tips for immediate relief of short-term issues.

Gas and Bloating

For immediate relief of gas and bloating, fennel tea works wonders for many people (but if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, talk to your doctor first). Note: If you’re allergic to parsley, or plants in the parsley family, do not take fennel. You can buy fennel in the form of tea from brands like Traditional Medicinals or Buddha Tea.

If you have ongoing gas and bloating, consider digestive enzymes. As we get older, our bodies don’t produce as many enzymes as before, especially if we’re not eating a nutrient-dense diet. Digestive enzymes help your GI tract break down your food so that it doesn’t sit in your gut fermenting, causing bloating and gas. Brands like Enzymedica and Pure Encapsulations make digestive enzymes to help break down all of your macronutrients (protein, fat, and carbs). I should go ahead and tell you now that I’m not getting paid from any of the companies whose brands I’m suggesting, and that different types of enzymes work better for different people, based on their personal issues and what foods they may be having trouble digesting.

Acid Reflux

When it comes to acid reflux, what my colleagues and I have come to learn is that not everyone has too much stomach acid. Many people actually do not have enough. Stomach acid, along with digestive enzymes, helps the body break down food.

During digestion, food enters the stomach and then passes through the pyloric sphincter before entering the small intestine. The pyloric sphincter acts like a door, closing to prevent food from re-entering the stomach as it passes through the small intestine. However, if that pyloric sphincter becomes relaxed and does not close, the partially digested food (called chyme), which has combined with stomach acid, re-enters the stomach, causing that burning sensation. Long-term use of proton pump inhibitors (PPIs, such as Prilosec) and a vegan diet may contribute to low stomach acid. There are at-home tests you can take to determine if you have low stomach acid, such as the baking soda test. If you suspect you have low stomach acid, try drinking a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar diluted in a glass of water immediately before meals.


There are many possible causes of diarrhea, some more serious than others. Whatever the case, your body can become dehydrated as a result, and you’ll need to increase your water intake. I typically recommend half your body weight in ounces, so for example if you weigh 140 pounds, then you should drink 70 ounces of water per day, never exceeding more than 100 ounces for a woman and 120 ounces for a man. That being said, if you’re not drinking much water now, you should gradually increase your water intake so as not to disturb your electrolyte balance, which can be risky.

If you have temporary diarrhea, try activated charcoal tablets. Activated charcoal blocks the body’s absorption of toxins – and of medications and other supplements – so be sure to take at least 4 hours apart.


Constipation can often be resolved by means of simply drinking more water and gradually increasing your fiber intake. Most Americans get about half the amount of fiber than needed. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends 14 g of fiber for every 1000 calories, which comes to about 25 g per day for women and 38 g per day for men. You’ll want to gradually increase your intake to avoid gas and bloating.

It’s important to take note of which foods may be causing your digestive upset. One of my clients noticed that no matter what she seemed to eat, she had gas and bloating. So I gave her a food diary to fill out for a few days, and lo and behold, I noticed that all of the offending foods were high-FODMAPs foods. This particular client decided to stick to low-FODMAPs foods permanently rather than get to the root of the problem, but I want you to know that does not have to be the case for you. If you avoid high-FODMAPs foods forever, you’ll be missing out on a lot of tasty, nutritionally dense foods, and you can certainly heal your gut so that you can eat these foods again.

This is a simplified list of tips for short-term or temporary digestive issues, and is not meant to be the solution for everyone, because everyone’s body is different. If you suspect you have a more serious issue, contact me and I can provide an in-depth review and work with you to find the best solution for you.

Disclaimer: The content of this blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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