Improve your gut health after travel, illness, or medication
By Registered Dietitian Kate Chury, on our nutrition counseling team (Online Dietitian, Digestive Health Nutritionist and IBS Dietitian Calgary)
There’s nothing like an illness, a stint on a medication or, even travel to cause bowels to get off track. Temporary changes in bowel habits, such as diarrhea or constipation, happen now and then. Sometimes there’s not much we can do to avoid it. There are, however, a few things that you can do to help normalize your bowel function and get yourself on the ‘regular’ again.
Fiber and fluids!
Fiber can do wonders to regulate bowel movements but the trick is to select the right type of fiber. Fiber can be categorized into whether it can absorb water (soluble fiber) or not (insoluble fiber).
If you have a temporary bout of diarrhea, foods that contain soluble fiber will be your best bet. Soluble fiber absorbs water and forms a gel-like consistency, which is exactly what you need to firm up loose stool (i.e. diarrhea). Foods that are great sources of soluble fiber include:
Grains, such as oatmeal and barley
Legumes, such as black beans, kidney beans and chickpeas.
Vegetables, such as sweet potato, winter squash and carrots.
Fruits, such as banana, avocado and citrus fruits.
If you are dealing with a temporary bout of constipation, you’re are going to want to look for foods rich in both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber (see examples above) will help soften, hard stool, while insoluble fiber will help bulk it up and make it easier to pass. Examples of foods rich in insoluble fiber include:
- Minimally processed grains and grain products, such as brown rice, quinoa, wheat bran and whole grain breads.
- Vegetables, such as green beans, broccoli and kale.
- Fruit, such as kiwis, strawberries, pears, and pineapple.
- Nuts and seeds.
On a related note, anytime you increase the fiber content in your diet, whether by food sources or supplements, make sure you are drinking enough fluids (with an emphasis on water). Aside from the need for more fluids when you increase your fiber intake, adequate hydration can in itself help with constipation and is needed to replace the fluid lost if you have diarrhea.
Feed your gut microbiome
Another thing we can do to get your bowels back on track is to focus on eating some probiotic foods, especially if the changes in your bowel function are due to antibiotic use. Probiotic foods, such as yogurt with active bacterial cultures, unpasteurized sauerkraut, kefir, and fermented veggies can either help repopulate your colon with good bacteria (this is important after taking antibiotics) or help reinforce your good gut microbes already present in your colon.
Aside from eating foods that contain probiotics, or beneficial microbes, selecting foods that contain prebiotic fibers, which feed the gut microbes, is another way to promote a healthy gut environment. And what are those foods, you ask? Well, many prebiotic fibers where mentioned in the above section. Fiber not only can help regulate our bowel movements because of its physical properties but many can also also act as prebiotics, or food for the microbes in the gut. Some great examples of prebiotic fibers include garlic, onion, artichoke, asparagus, bananas, legumes, and grains such as wheat, oats and barley.
If you are experiencing more than a temporary change in bowel movements and have ongoing bloating, distention or abdominal pain, it may be necessary to see a digestive health dietitian, such as myself, to get your bowel health (and quality of life) back on track. Your first step, however, is to see your doctor to make sure nothing serious is going on. After that, I’d love to see you and work on a plan to get your bowels back on track.
Looking for more information on digestive health? Check out these articles:
For more information on dietitian nutrition counseling for digestion issues and our Calgary IBS dietitian services for support on what to eat for IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), the low FODMAP diet, constipation, diarrhea, celiac disease, crohn’s disease, colitis and other digestive health concerns CONTACT US. As one of the specialized IBS dietitians of Canada, Kate Chury can see you in our local Calgary nutritionist office or by phone or video conferencing for virtual nutrition counseling.
Read more about our nutrition counseling programs and book an appointment by our experienced Registered Dietitian team here: NUTRITION COUNSELING