Digestive Problems: 10 Tips for Daily Life
4. Stay Hydrated, but Drink with Care
Water is essential to good health and normal bowel function. Water also
helps keep stools soft but solid and well-formed. Avoid drinking beverages such
as coffee or soda if you think they trigger your digestive problems.
When diarrhea strikes, it’s important to drink plenty of fluids to avoid
becoming dehydrated. Water and sports drinks (which replace lost minerals
called electrolytes) are good choices. Caffeine and alcohol can worsen
Increase your fluid intake in hot weather and any time you exercise
vigorously. Drinking water helps prevent dehydration, a potentially dangerous
imbalance where your body loses more water than it takes in.
To prevent “traveler’s diarrhea,” avoid potentially contaminated water and
anything that might have come into contact with water. Sip bottled water,
juice, or sports drinks when you’re on the road. Remember that contaminated
water may be used to make ice and popsicles, coffee, or tea, and to rinse raw
fruit and vegetables.
5. Practice Healthy Hygiene for Better Digestion
Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water after you use the
bathroom and before eating or preparing food. This helps prevent transmitting
potentially dangerous bacteria to your food.
If diarrhea causes pain or itching, try using premoistened, alcohol-free
towelettes (not harsh soap) to clean the anal area. Keep the skin dry by
wearing cotton underwear and loose, comfortable clothes that breathe.
6. Prepare for Digestive Emergencies
No matter how well you plan, accidents may happen. Be prepared by keeping
emergency supplies on hand at home, work or school, and on the road. Discrete,
portable packaging is available for many products. Here are some products to
- Fast-acting medication (for gas, bloating, or diarrhea)
- Pre-moistened travel wipes
- An extra pair of underwear
- Disposable pads or underwear for incontinence
- Plastic bags to dispose of soiled wipes and clothes
Stash these supplies in your purse, car, suitcase, and your desk at work,
then put your mind at ease. If accidents or fecal incontinence persists, talk
to your doctor.
7. Manage Stress for Digestive Tranquility
Does stress seem to cause or aggravate your digestive problems? (Having
frequent digestive flare-ups can be, in itself, a stress factor.) You may be
able to relieve stress with relaxing pursuits such as exercise, yoga,
meditation, or a favorite hobby.
Be realistic and flexible as you adapt stress management activities to your
individual needs. For example, attending a yoga class might make you feel
insecure on a day when your digestive problems flare up. In that case, work out
with a DVD in the privacy of your own home.
Not all stress can be avoided. To find ways to deal with tough situations
and relationships, consider asking a friend or therapist to help you.