: Fruits & veggies can prevent GI discomfort?
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Those who suffer from GI disorders or GI discomfort can decrease their symptoms by eating more fruits and veggies.
WHAT WE KNOW
Over the past few years there has been a large increase in the awareness of a variety of gastrointestinal disorders. Irritable bowel disease (IBD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), celiac disease, acid reflux, diverticular disease, and other GI disorders affect numerous people in our country. Diet is a big challenge for those who suffer from these conditions. Even if you haven’t been diagnosed with any of these disorders, everyone has "stomach issues" at some point! And while each person is different, most people can identify foods that trigger an increased amount of pain and discomfort.
Constipation can cause flare-ups of IBD and IBS, as well as abdominal pain in those without these disorders. A diet adequate in fiber is important to encourage proper functioning of the GI tract—including preventing constipation and gas build up—while during moments of flare-ups, decreasing fiber is often recommended. Fiber can also be used as a preventative measure against flare-ups.
We also know that fatty foods, such as those that are deep-fried, tend to be harder to digest. This can cause the stomach to be upset as well, especially in individuals with a GI disorder.
HOW DO WE KNOW THIS?
While the diet is not the cause of GI disorders, it can play a substantial role in exacerbating the symptoms. In some cases, such as in diverticular disease, the diet may be able to prevent the disease. High fiber diets (containing fruits, veggies and whole grains) have been shown to decrease the risk for diverticular disease. But while high fiber diets can prevent this disease, it’s important to note that individuals with diverticular disease must avoid foods with seeds (i.e. strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes, etc.).
Constipation can be caused by a number of reasons, including inadequate fiber intake, inadequate fluid intake, or lack of exercise. In fact, a study reported in the Journal of Clinical Nursing found in a survey of 383 children in Hong Kong that those children who didn’t report eating fruits and vegetables on a regular basis were 13 times more likely to experience constipation than children who reported enjoying and eating fruits and vegetables.*
First, identify your trigger foods in a food journal. If you discover raw fruits or vegetables are trigger foods, rather than omitting or reducing them, learn to prepare them in a way that’s tolerable to your stomach. It’s important to ensure you’re getting the vitamins and minerals both fruits and vegetables provide. And remember, no matter what form they’re in (fresh, frozen, canned, dried or 100% juice), they’re healthy for you. Try puréeing, steaming, or one of several other ways to prepare them that do not upset your stomach.
Bottom line? Eat your fruits and veggies to ward off GI discomfort—they’re full of fiber and composed primarily of water. Combine a healthy diet with physical activity and you’ll be on your way to minimizing GI discomfort!
*Chan, M.F., Y.L. Chan. “Investigating Factors Associated with Functional Constipation of Primary School Children in Hong Kong.” Journal of Clinical Nursing (2010); 19(23-24): 3390-3400.