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Which Special Diet Do I Need?

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What you eat and don’t eat can directly affect the functioning and health of your digestive tract. While diet doesn't necessarily cause disease, a special diet can help alleviate symptoms of conditions as varied as obesity, acid reflux, diverticulitis, irritable bowel syndrome, and chronic diarrhea or constipation.

At Digestive Disorders Associates, our team of board-certified gastroenterologists recommends specific diet plans depending on your medical condition and your eating goals.

Regardless of the special diet that’s best for you, certain basic recommendations support the general good health of everyone’s gastrointestinal (GI) tract and body. 

Here are things to consider when weighing special diets and some steps to make your eating supportive of your overall digestive health.

Basic dietary steps to support gut health

Habits such as skipping meals, eating lots of processed foods, and gobbling your meals quickly can contribute to digestive distress. 

You may not even need a special diet if you just follow these tips:

Regular physical activity helps keep your GI tract moving so digestion and bowel movements go smoothly. Drink plenty of water to facilitate digestion too. 

If you smoke or chew tobacco, kick the habit for the sake of not only your digestion, but your overall health.

Special diet considerations

At Digestive Disorder Associates, we take several factors into consideration when it comes to recommending a special diet. It’s best that you come in for a thorough evaluation of your medical history, your family medical history, your symptoms, and any current medications before settling on a special diet.

Issues we (and you) should take into account when adopting a diet include:

Your current diagnosis

The diet that works best for you depends on your diagnosis. For example, people with acid reflux, for example, do best when they avoid high-fat foods, caffeine, onions, and citrus and tomato products. 

People who have chronic constipation or hemorrhoids often benefit from a high-fiber diet that contains lots of fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and possibly a fiber supplement.

Possible food triggers

If you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), you may find that certain foods aggravate your symptoms. These foods may be different for every person, which is why you benefit from a personalized plan developed by our specialists.

If you have IBD, you may be best off avoiding high-fat foods, dairy, gluten, nightshade vegetables, alcohol, refined sugar, and caffeine. 

There are several types of IBS, so dietary needs vary. For people with IBS with constipation, foods like refined grains and sugars and high-protein diets are bad ideas. A diet that includes more vegetables, whole grains, and water is smart.

For people with IBS who present with diarrhea, dairy, high-fat foods, and vegetables with the peel or skin can be problematic. Instead, a diet focused on soluble fiber (found in whole-wheat bread and oats), vegetables like lettuce and carrots, and easy-to-digest proteins, like plain chicken, may be best.

Any intolerances

Intolerances to substances like lactose (milk sugar) or gluten can make a different in what you should eat.

If you have lactose intolerance, eliminating most dairy products makes sense. Lactose intolerance means you lack the enzymes that allow you to digest lactose. The intolerance can cause bloating, diarrhea, flatulence, and stomach cramps.

Lactose intolerance may exist in conjunction with a condition like irritable bowel syndrome or independent of it. Simply following a lactose-free diet can help alleviate digestive distress for many people.

The same is true for people who are potentially intolerant to gluten. You may be diagnosed with Celiac disease, an autoimmune condition in which gluten causes your body to attack the villi in your intestinal lining. Or you may have non-celiac gluten sensitivity. In either case, following a gluten-free diet plan can eliminate symptoms associated with the conditions.

People who are intolerant to FODMAPS (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols) may need to eliminate foods with these carbs from their diet. Common FODMAP-containing foods include legumes, sorbitol, high-fructose fruits, wheat, onions, garlic, and dairy.

As you can see, the best diet for you depends on so many variables that your best strategy is to visit Digestive Disorder Associates for a thorough evaluation. We can work with your food preferences and health needs to create a diet that helps you find relief. Call our office in Annapolis, Maryland, today to arrange your appointment or book using our online scheduling tool.

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