Bloating? Gas? – Tips to Support Digestion

If you experience bloating, gas, diarrhea or constipation, or other digestive difficulties, you are not alone! According to the Canadian Digestive Health Foundation (CDHF), Canada has one of the highest rates of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in the world, affecting 18% of the population vs. 11% globally (Lovell et al. 2012). 

With growing research in the area of the gut microbiome, we could all use a few tips to support a healthy digestive system (a.k.a “gut”). Not only can it help if you are experiencing digestive upset, but it can also reduce inflammation in the body, improve your immune system, and your mental health! 

  1. Choose grilled, baked, boiled or pan-fried dishes more often. Limit meals that are deep fried and high in fat. These are tasty and perfectly fine to enjoy sometimes, but can be hard on the digestive system. 
  2. Lactose (carbohydrate found most often in milk or milk products) – a common culprit for digestive issues. There are a variety of alternatives in the dining hall and retail locations, such as: lactose free cow’s milk, soy, almond, and oat milks. 
  3. For those experiencing gas or bloating, choose cooked vegetables more often than raw. Certain vegetables, which are “sulfurous” are especially gassy. These include: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts, asparagus, onions, and garlic. Everyone’s tolerance is different. Some may be able to tolerate these vegetables in small amounts, especially when cooked. Experiment (within your comfort level) to find your tolerance threshold. 
  4. A diet rich in fiber is important to maintain bowel regularity and feeds healthy bacteria in our gut. Good sources of fiber include: vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes (such as beans and lentils), nuts and seeds. 
  5. Red meat (ie. beef/pork) is more difficult to digest. Choose eggs, poultry, and fish more often. 
  6. Limit/avoid stimulants: these include caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol. 
  7. Carbonation can act as an irritant to the gut. If you enjoy carbonated beverages, try sparkling water that is naturally flavoured or even better, look for water in the dining halls that are flavoured with different fruits and herbs. 
  8. For those who are gluten intolerant/sensitive, look for gluten free grains – oats (GF pantry), quinoa (salad bar), rice. Students with celiac disease should always speak with the chef to ask about appropriate options. 

Keep in mind – the true balance station will exclude many of the foods known to be triggers for digestive upset. 

Also important to note is the strong connection between stress/our mental wellbeing and digestive health. This is a topic for another day, but there is no shortage of research demonstrating this link. 

If you aren’t sure of your triggers – consider keeping a food and symptom journal, like the one shown here

Seek medical advice if symptoms are undiagnosed, ongoing or worsening. 

As always, you can always book an appointment with me (Registered Dietitian) to explore dietary options that will best meet your needs. 

Theresa Couto, RD

Registered Dietitian & Wellness and Sustainability Manager

References: 

Moayyedi P, Andrews CN, MacQueen G, et al. Canadian Association of Gastroenterology Clinical Practice Guideline for the Management of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). J Can Assoc Gastroenterol. 2019 Apr; 2(1):6-29

Canadian Digestive Health Foundation. https://cdhf.ca/digestive-disorders/irritable-bowel-syndrome-ibs/. Accessed January 23, 2022.

Clairmont S. The Best and Worst Foods for IBS. The Best and Worst Foods for IBS – Stephanie Clairmont. Published January 26, 2015. Accessed January 23, 2022.

Clairmont S, Moore B. The IBS Master Plan: A Real Food Approach to Relieve Digestive Distress. Lexington, KY; 2013: 17-18.

Alberta Health Services Registered Dietitians Nutrition Services. Food, Lifestyle, and Symptom Diary. https://albertahealthservices.ca/assets/info/nutrition/if-nfs-food-lifestyle-symptom-diary.pdf. April 2017. Accessed January 24, 2022.

Dietitian & Allergy Appointment Buy Flex $
& Campus Meal Plans
Close