Gastrointestinal upset characterized by abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea can be acute, caused by infection, medication, or noxious substances. The symptoms of chronic GI upset include nausea, diarrhea, stomach pain, bloating, belching, and flatulence that may be caused by disease processes or poor eating habits. A choice of dietary guidelines can remedy the effects of gastrointestinal upset and restore good health.
CRAM and BRATT Diets
These diets are recommended by doctors to restore nutrients, particularly when diarrhea is a problem. CRAM stands for cereals, such as rice cereal and oatmeal, rice, and, milk. Rice, almond, or soy milk are generally much easier on digestion than cow's milk.
The BRATT diet was traditionally used for treating pediatric diarrhea. B stands for bananas, R for rice, A for apples and applesauce, tea, and toast. Basically, this diet was used to firm up stools. It is still a valid tool, but some practices now favor the CRAM diet. Both diets add gelatin, broth-based soups, and electrolyte drinks for quick rehydration.
The Gluten Free/Casein Free Diet
Recurrent gastrointestinal upset may indicate celiac disease, also known as gluten intolerance. One in 100 people are estimated to have this sensitivity to wheat, barley and rye, but many go undiagnosed. Celiac disease is often mistaken for irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn's disease and other inflammatory bowel diseases. Eliminating all sources of wheat, including hidden ingredients in processed foods, is necessary to start feeling better. Dairy products and foods containing casein, a milk protein, should also be eliminated initially, but many people can add them back into the diet once the digestive tract is healed. Celiac disease can begin at any age; it typically takes years for gluten to damage the intestines in sensitive individuals. Lifelong avoidance of wheat, barley and rye is the only treatment.
The Combining Diet
The food combining diet is based on the fact that specialized enzymes are produced by the body to digest different foods. When some foods are eaten together, the enzymes counteract each other and digestion is incomplete. Poorly digested products remain in the stomach and bowels, producing toxins that cause bloating, burping, heartburn, and painful gas. Enzymes deplete with age unless they are replaced by a diet high in fresh raw vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. Digestive enzyme supplements can help, as can following these rules for food combining:
Dark green leafy vegetables and other non-starchy vegetables, either raw or steamed, can be combined with any other foods.
Eat fruit alone on an empty stomach, preferably in the morning. Fruit is subject to fermentation when combined with starches or proteins.
Do not eat starches and proteins together.
Do not eat more than one starch at a time or more than one protein food at a time.
Foods that naturally combine starch and proteins, such as beans, should be eaten alone.
Wait at least two to four hours between meals.
Skip dessert. Different sugars need specific enzymes to digest, none of which are compatible with other foods.
Foods like pizza, sandwiches, and tacos do not belong on a food-combining diet. Harvey and Marilyn Diamond in their popular book, Fit For Life, say they believe many cases of food intolerances could be overcome with proper food combining.
Low-Carb, Low-Fat Diet
Although it is easy to feel deprived on this diet, eating only lean meats and non-fat dairy products, egg whites, and non-sweet, non-starchy vegetables is often recommended for gastrointestinal upset. Once digestion has improved, transition from low-carb, low-fat to a whole foods diet that includes yams and winter squash, brown rice and quinoa, tofu, avocado and raw walnuts. Those are filling foods with fiber, protein, good fats, and vitamins.