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Everyone experiences tummy troubles at some point in their lives. According to a large U.S. population-based study from 2018, just over 61% of respondents reported having gastrointestinal issues within the previous week.

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Abdominal cramps, bloating, and gas are just a few of the uncomfortable symptoms you might experience when the gastrointestinal system isn’t in tip-top shape.

Whether you’re having heartburn because of too much spicy food, feeling queasy after a bad night’s sleep, or experiencing more gas and bloating than usual because of your period, some strategies can help ease symptoms and improve your overall well-being.

Some foods are more likely than others to cause gastrointestinal symptoms, including:

  • spicy foods
  • sugar, including sugar-free sweeteners such as xylitol and sorbitol
  • dairy
  • caffeinated drinks
  • broccoli and cauliflower
  • foods high in saturated and trans fats, including fried foods
  • starchy foods
  • insoluble fiber-rich foods
  • alcohol

Not everyone has the same triggers, so finding out what gets your stomach rumbling and avoiding foods that tend to give you diarrhea or excess gas is one way to manage symptoms.

You may also find it helpful to eat more often, the Office on Women’s Health suggests.

Switching from three large meals each day to smaller meals spread out throughout the day can help curb your gastrointestinal symptoms.

Find out what may be causing your abdominal symptoms.

Probiotics are microorganisms, such as bacteria and yeast, found in foods and dietary supplements. They’re sometimes called good bacteria.

Probiotics are similar to the microorganisms in your gut. Your gut flora, or microbiome, plays an important role in your body’s digestive process and your mental health.

An imbalance in this microbiome can lead to issues with digestion, nutrient absorption, and immunity.

Increasing your probiotic consumption may help with:

  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • various gastrointestinal conditions

Adding some of the following probiotic-rich foods to your diet can diversify your gut microbiome and help manage gastrointestinal symptoms:

  • kefir
  • yogurt
  • sauerkraut
  • kombucha
  • kimchi
  • tempeh
  • miso
  • pickles
  • apple cider vinegar

If these foods are new to your diet, try adding them slowly. Adding them too quickly may cause gassiness, abdominal cramping, bloating, or diarrhea.

You can also take probiotics in supplement form.

Read about more foods that can help an upset stomach.

Sleep hygiene is the consistent practice of good sleep habits.

Getting a good night’s sleep can help you feel your best and lower your risk for conditions like hypertension and heart disease.

But did you know your sleep quality also plays an essential role in maintaining a healthy digestive system? According to a 2019 study, researchers found that poor nightly sleep can negatively impact your gut’s microbiome.

Additionally, bad sleep habits can affect your body’s internal clock, or circadian rhythm.

And disruptions in your circadian rhythm can lead to insomnia and fatigue. According to the results of a 2020 review, they can also affect gut motility, leading to symptoms when you wake up.

Improving your sleep hygiene and resetting your body’s internal clock can help prevent and manage gastrointestinal troubles.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends practicing these habits to help you get refreshing nightly shut-eye:

  • Stick to a regular bedtime.
  • Avoid caffeine 3 to 7 hours before bed.
  • Keep your room dark, cool, and quiet at night.
  • Quit using electronic devices before bed.
  • Limit your alcohol intake and avoid large meals before bedtime.

Studies consistently show that an increase in stress levels often leads to gastrointestinal symptom flare-ups. For example, one 2019 review found that people with stress-related mental health conditions tended to have more severe gastrointestinal symptoms.

Taking steps to reduce your daily stress levels may help you manage uncomfortable symptoms and improve your overall mental and emotional health.

Here are some suggestions for lowering your overall stress level:

  • Adopt a daily meditation or yoga practice.
  • Practice good sleep habits.
  • Get help from a licensed mental health professional.
  • Try alternative forms of therapy, like acupuncture or reiki.
  • Participate in regular physical activity.

Read more about how stress can make your symptoms worse.

Regular exercise is great for your overall health. It may also help your gut.

One review from 2017 suggests that physical activity may reduce inflammation and help improve the gut microbiome.

A systematic review from 2019 found that complementary and alternative medicine practices, such as qi gong and tai chi, may also result in more frequent bowel movements.

Regular exercise may also help limit:

  • bloating
  • excess gas
  • abdominal cramps and pain
  • constipation, diarrhea, or both
  • stress

According to the CDC, adults should aim to get a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week and strength train at least twice a week.

You might do 30 minutes of regular exercise, such as yoga or a brisk walk, 5 days per week. But you could also break up your activity into 3 exercise sessions (10 minutes each) throughout the day.

It’s important to note that some people might find that certain forms of physical activity, like running or cycling, can worsen symptoms.

If you’re experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms but still want to enjoy the benefits of exercise, try switching to gentle movements, like stretching or abdominal breathing, to prevent symptoms from sidelining you.

Find about what may cause stomach cramps in men.

Lifestyle changes may help manage occasional digestive symptoms, but if you’re experiencing regular discomfort, consider talking to your doctor about your symptoms.

In some cases, medications may lend an extra helping hand in managing gastrointestinal conditions.

Your doctor might recommend or prescribe:

  • medications such as Lotronex, Viberzi, Xifaxan, and Amitiza
  • laxatives
  • supplements
  • antidiarrheals
  • antidepressants
  • antispasmodics
  • probiotics

While medications and supplements may help alleviate digestive symptoms, some can also cause potential side effects like increased gas, bloating, or constipation.

It’s essential to talk with your doctor about the potential risks before starting any medication. Your doctor can help you weigh the pros and cons of different treatment options.

Read more about stomach conditions.

Digestive symptoms can happen at any time. Even when they’re relatively mild, they can cause serious discomfort.

Lifestyle changes can help you manage problems with digestion and minimize the impact of gastrointestinal symptoms.

If you frequently experience abdominal cramps, bloating, gas, constipation, or diarrhea and suspect you have a medical condition, it’s worth talking with your doctor to get an official diagnosis and rule out any underlying conditions.