Does Diet and Exercise affect your gastrointestinal (GI) health?

If you are suffering from a gastrointestinal disorder, diet and exercise can be a complex issue. Some exercises and foods can have a positive impact on your condition, while other foods and physical activities may have a negative impact. Therefore, implementing a right combination of diet and exercise is essential for your health. Please always talk to your doctor before making any significant changes to your personal diet and exercise regimen.

Play Video

Does Diet and Exercise affect your gastrointestinal (GI) health?

Play Video

If you are suffering from a gastrointestinal disorder, diet and exercise can be a complex issue. Some exercises and foods can have a positive impact on your condition, while other foods and physical activities may have a negative impact. Therefore, implementing a right combination of diet and exercise is essential for your health. Please always talk to your doctor before making any significant changes to your personal diet and exercise regimen.

How Diet and Exercise affects the patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

Irritable bowel syndrome is a common chronic gastrointestinal condition that commonly presents with crampy abdominal pain, which is often relieved after passing a bowel movement and changes in bowel habits. You may experience diarrhea, constipation or combination of both.

How Diet and Exercise affects the patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

Irritable bowel syndrome is a common chronic gastrointestinal condition that commonly presents with crampy abdominal pain, which is often relieved after passing a bowel movement and changes in bowel habits. You may experience diarrhea, constipation or combination of both.

Diet:

An increased association of IBS is associated with lactose intolerance. If you have lactose intolerance, you should eliminate all dairy products for at least two weeks. If IBS symptoms improve, it is reasonable to stop dairy products permanently. If symptoms do not improve, you may resume the dairy products again. It is also reasonable to avoid green vegetables and legumes as they take more time to digest and increase the production of abdominal gas.

You should increase fiber intake to relieve constipation and normalize bowel habits. Some persons may feel more bloated and uncomfortable with fiber intake. If you are among these persons, the fiber intake should be decreased.

Exercise:

IBS is considered to be due to non-organic causes including excessive stress and anxiety. A moderate-to-vigorous level of physical activity for about 30 minutes, 3-5 times a week results in a significant decrease in symptom severity. You will also notice significant improvement in sleep, energy level, physical functioning, and social interaction.

How Diet and Exercise affects the patients with Constipation?

Constipation is a condition with varied meanings. Generally constipation is considered when a person passes stool (feces) infrequently i.e. less than three times per week. But constipation is also labelled when the stools are too hard, too small, or difficult to pass.

Diet:

You should increase fiber intake by consuming more fresh fruits and vegetables. Fiber will form the bulk in stools and increase the gut motility. You should also drink plenty of plain water and star hydrated. You are advised to drink at least 8 glasses daily.

Certain behavioral changes are also very important and noteworthy to mention. You should not ignore your body’s signals to pass stool. Whenever you feel the need to pass stool, especially after meals, you should go to washroom immediately.

Exercise:

Multiple studies have shown that physical inactivity and sedentary lifestyle increases your risk to develop constipation. Low-intensity physical activity helps to relieve constipation. This level of exercise is also ideal for seniors or others with physical challenges as constipation is more common in elderly people.

How Diet and Exercise affects the patients with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) occurs stomach contents flow back up into the esophagus.

Diet:

  • GERD is common in persons who are obese and who take large meals. Therefore it is advised to lose weight, if you are overweight.
  • You should also take frequent small meals and avoid overeating.
  • You should focus on your food by turning off your TV and putting away your phone.
  • You should chew your food thoroughly so that it can be digested more easily.
  • You should have a light walk or stay upright after meal. You should not lay down immediately after eating.
  • You should quit smoking. Smoking nearly doubles the risk of developing GERD.
  • You should avoid spicy foods and alcohol.

Exercise:

Vigorous exercise can worsen the symptoms of GERD, such as heartburn and a bitter or sour taste, especially if you perform the exercise after having a meal. Therefore, timing of exercise is important. It is better to delay physical activity until the digestive system has had some time to process ingested food.

How Diet and Exercise affects the patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)?

Although there is no clear evidence that foods actually cause inflammatory bowel disease but certain foods may aggravate your symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease.

Bowel rest can reduce inflammation in the short term. Your doctor may recommend you a special diet given via a feeding tube (enteral nutrition) or nutrients injected into a vein (parenteral nutrition) to treat the symptoms of your ulcerative colitis. This not only improves your overall nutrition but also allows your bowel to rest. Your doctor may also recommend you to:
  • You should limit dairy products, as aggravation in the symptoms have been noted in many persons.
  • You should try low-fat foods
  • You should limit fiber
  • You should avoid spicy foods, alcohol, and caffeine
  • You should eat frequent small meals and drink plenty of liquids
  • You should add omega-3 fatty acids into your diet plan. They decrease your risk of developing IBD

Exercise:

It is still inconclusive if physical activity has any protective effect against inflammatory bowel disease. Although physical activity is not harmful for you, you will find extremely hard to exercise if you are having severe symptoms. Researchers recommend low- to moderate-intensity physical activity if IBD is mild or in remission.

How Diet and Exercise affects the patients with Diverticular Disease?

Diverticular disease affects elderly people, persons having sedentary lifestyle, and constipation. You should take all the measures to prevent constipation. You should increase fiber intake by consuming more fresh fruits and vegetables. Fiber will form the bulk in stools and will increase the gut motility. You should also drink at least 8 – 10 glasses daily and stay hydrated. You should not ignore your body’s signals to pass stool. Whenever you feel the need to pass stool, especially after meals, you should go to washroom immediately.

Exercise:

Physically active people have lower risk of diverticular disease. All levels of exercises are seen to help prevent diverticular disease. Regular running and jogging is associated with a significantly reduced risk of diverticulitis and diverticular bleeding. The up and down motion of running and jogging decreases colonic pressure, causes food to move more quickly through the digestive tract, and stimulates defecation.