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Digestive Health Dietitian Tips: How to Get Your Bowels Back on Track Print

Improve your gut health after travel, illness, or medication

Digestive dietitian tips for what to eat to get your bowel habits back on track

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.

  • Chia seeds

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:

Nutrition counseling for IBS and digestion issues

How the low FODMAP diet may help IBS and digestion issues

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

Success stories

"I am a psychologist in private practice and it is very important to me that my clients have the best care with other health care professionals. For that reason Health Stand Nutrition is my only source for exceptional Dietitians. Andrea and her team provide highly knowledgeable, compassionate, and real world support to my clients who require assistance with food lifestyle. I trust my clients to them and you would be in excellent hands making them part of your health care team."
Adele Fox, Psychologist
“This is the first time I feel satisfied; my cravings have diminished dramatically and I have a whole new relationship with food. I am eating guilt-free for the first time in my life. My energy has also dramatically increased and I feel great!
Rhonda Jenkins, Nutrition Counseling Client
“The Dieticians at Health Stand Nutrition help you to take action on the science behind eating well by making it practical, understandable, and fun. Their office is cozy and not at all clinical or intimidating. I felt like I was sitting down with a really smart, caring friend who wanted to help me make the best choices for my lifestyle and food preferences. They really are the best in the business.”
Marty Avery, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I have come to think of the program as a one stop shopping excursion for everything one needs to know about creating a joyous relationship with food and our bodies. In a single word, the course has gifted me with freedom from the punishing rigidity of disordered eating, old stories that never were true, and body dysmorphia that did nothing but make me lose sight of a body that has done everything I've asked, despite my careless dismissal of her needs. Now when I look in the mirror I find myself shifting from harsh criticism to gentle gratitude.”
Lynn Haley, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“I spent 3 hours when first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I learned more from my Dietitian about food in those 3 hours than I had learned in all the years of my life. I also love the newsletter, there is always something to learn.”
Peter Whitehead, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I didn’t realize how strong my “diet mentality” was, and all the rules I had in my head about food. I was in a cycle of reward/punish/binge/cringe. I booked with your business very reluctantly, on the repeated advice of my doctor, to get my slowly rising cholesterol levels in check. I thought I knew everything about food, and my behaviour with food, but I was definitely re-schooled. My weight is creeping down, I feel good about my diet, exercise, body image, and lifestyle.”
Amy Floyd, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Thanks Andrea for an amazing presentation, I have heard all positive remarks from attendees and the evaluations show the same sentiment. It is really gratifying when a speaker does their “homework” and weaves in our profession’s day to day challenges within their content, you did an awesome job of this! You truly took the “die” out of Dietician! Your information on healthy eating and simplifying how we can work towards this as we are all so busy really hit the mark. Andrea connects very well with her audience; she is energetic, funny, and very approachable.”
Carole Ann LaGrange, Transfusion Medicine Safety Officer

Event Planner for Laboratory Diagnostic Imaging Annual Event

I am a family physician who sees patients with a myriad of eating concerns – from wanting to know how to plan healthy meals for active families, to weight loss, to eating disorders, and so on. I cannot recommend the Health Stand team highly enough. I have worked with (and been to!) other Dieticians in the past and too often find that they just ask for food logs and make suggestions that are easily obtained online or in books. The Dieticians at Health Stand offer much more than just telling clients what they “should be eating.” In contrast, the team really does more of a counselling practice, and they work hard to help their clients learn more about why their eating habits may be off track and not optimal for them, as well as helping people to effect change at a deep level that, most importantly, is sustainable for lifetime health.”
Dr. Deb Putnam, Family Physician

Nutrition Counseling Client & Referring Physician

“I am a busy mom, with kids in high level sports, working full-time downtown, and running our home acreage outside the City. I now have the knowledge and tools I need to plan for and manage the chaos of meal planning.”
Gillian Gray, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“As a construction company, we select speakers who can relate to our industry and its employees. Andrea’s message was delivered with humor and empathy. She makes people feel as though they can make changes without leaving behind every favorite food. Andrea focused her presentation on healthy eating as a way to keep energy high throughout the day. This message and the way it was delivered resonated with our predominantly male, blue collar culture. I would highly recommend Andrea as a speaker for groups such as ours. She will get your message across without alienating anyone in your audience – which is a huge hurdle when trying to introduce a wellness program in the workplace!”
Stephanie Wood, HR and Safety Manager

Fisher Construction Group, Burlington, WA

I found my Dietitian warm, funny, and skilled at teaching nutrition concepts without the overwhelm. The general approach of each session was to mix science with emotion, which was exceedingly effective in helping me shift my perspective on food from one of anxiety to one of joy and curiosity.”
Erin Kronstedt, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Excellent presentation! What a refreshing change to have a speaker inspire rather than “lecture” about nutrition. Your captivating stories, tips and overall approach to healthy eating uplifts and puts people at ease. It was great to hear we don’t need to strive to be perfect eaters, and that small changes really can make a difference in how we feel and in our health. Thanks to Andrea, we have solutions to our everyday nutrition challenges that can actually work in real life!”
Tina Tamagi, Human Resources

ARC Resources Ltd.

“Had I not joined this course I would have struggled with no focus, low energy, and mindless eating. Excellent teaching and motivation. This is not just a course, it is a nutrition club with mentorship, support, and connections with other people with similar situations.”
Lorri Lawrence, Pursuit of Healthiness online course participant

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