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Seasonal Digestive Distress: 10 Tips for Coping

5 Tips for Coping With Digestive Problems

You got caught up in the fun and overdid it at the barbecue anyway? Have no fear, it's not hard to handle occasional digestive problems. 

1. Eat Fruits and Herbs That Soothe the Stomach. Certain foods can help a troubled digestion, says Mullin, who favors pineapple, papaya, ginger tea, and fennel. Other experts also recommend chamomile to soothe stomachs. 

2. Drink Clear Liquids. If your digestive problems include diarrhea or vomiting, it's even more important to remain hydrated, though you should take it slow. Drink clear liquids one teaspoon at a time until you can keep them down. Hold off on solid foods for several hours. 

If you've got a bad stomachache, severe abdominal pain, or persistent diarrhea or vomiting accompanied by fever, see your doctor right away. 

3. Avoid Strong Odors. If too much food has made you queasy, you might want to step away from the grill -- and your favorite aunt who wears all the perfume. Strong odors like cooking smells, perfumes, colognes, and smoke can overturn a queasy stomach.   

4. Stay Away From Substances That Irritate Stomachs. Coffee, alcohol, and carbonated beverages can aggravate the digestive system. So can some over-the-counter and prescription medications, as well as some herbal remedies and supplements. If you take medication or supplements and have digestive trouble, talk with your doctor. 

5. Try Over-the-Counter (OTC) Remedies. Antacids and acid blockers may help relieve occasional indigestion when you've overindulged, while antidiarrheal drugs may help with diarrhea. To be sure you're taking the right medication for your symptoms, talk to your doctor.

"Self-diagnosis and drugs of any kind make a bad combination," writes Steven R. Peikin MD, professor of medicine and head of the division of gastroenterology and liver diseases at Cooper University Hospital, in his book Gastrointestinal Health. Aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), for example, can make gastrointestinal issues worse for some.

Digestive Problems: When to See a Doctor

Fortunately stomachaches, diarrhea, constipation, and other digestive problems are usually fleeting.

If you experience digestive trouble often, talk to your health care provider. Your symptoms may be related to a medical condition such as acid reflux, food intolerance, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, or ulcers. It may also be related to medications or supplements you are taking.

If you have frequent diarrhea, the CDC recommends seeing your doctor if you've also got: 

  • High fever (temperature over 101.5 degrees, measured orally)
  • Blood in your stool
  • Prolonged vomiting that prevents keeping liquids down (which can lead to dehydration)
  • Signs of dehydration, including a decrease in urination, a dry mouth and throat, and feeling dizzy when standing up
  • Diarrheal illness that lasts more than 3 days 

But for most people who have a bit of digestive distress after we overindulge, a little rest, time, and TLC should be all we need to get through occasional barbecue excess.

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Reviewed on April 12, 2010
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