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Some facts that are easy to digest

Let's face it, when you're travelling down the road, it's hard to keep to a schedule. Traffic jams, detours, late loads and lock-outs all add up to a scheduling nightmare. So, trying to make up time, ...




Let’s face it, when you’re travelling down the road, it’s hard to keep to a schedule. Traffic jams, detours, late loads and lock-outs all add up to a scheduling nightmare. So, trying to make up time, you decide to eat on the run, which can throw off your digestive system.

Digestive problems at home are one thing, but on the road – that’s another story. With rest stops being shut down, creating bigger gaps along the highway, wouldn’t it be great to keep your digestion system on an even keel? Constipation, belching, gas, hiccups and/or heartburn can turn a simple delivery into a very uncomfortable experience.

Constipation isn’t usually a reason for concern. Since everyone’s system is different, everyone has a unique digestion rhythm. Some people have days between bowel movements, while others go several times a day. The key is how a person feels. If your movements take place without any discomfort, and follow their usual pattern, you aren’t constipated. However, if an unusual amount of time passes between movements, or if they are passed with difficulty, discomfort, or pain, then you are.

Often the trucker’s lifestyle leads to constipation. When you’re on the road, you can’t always immediately respond when nature calls. Unfortunately, when you aren’t free to go, you may not feel like it again for a few hours. Meanwhile, your bowels keep taking the water from the stools, so by the time you make it to a rest stop, your bowel movement is dry and hard.

Another cause of constipation is a lack of physical activity. Regular exercise not only tones the muscles we see on the outside of the body, but they also improve the muscle tone of the hidden muscles, including the digestive tract. In addition, some medications can also cause constipation.

One way to avoid constipation is to drink plenty of fluids. Two litres a day is ideal. Combining this water with a high-fiber diet will also help. Prunes or prune juice is an especially effective fiber source. Honey can also have a laxative effect because your body can’t entirely absorb it.

Eating a little more fat may also help out because it softens the fecal matter. However, these are only suggestions, since each person’s digestive system responds differently. But try these strategies before reaching for over-thecounter laxatives. If you use laxatives frequently, your digestive may become dependant and not be able to work without them.

Another common digestive complaint is belching. Even though belching is often blamed on certain foods, it is actually caused by swallowing food. To avoid belching, slow down when you eat. If you wear dentures that don’t fit properly, you may be swallowing extra air as well. Chewing gum and drinking pop also make it more likely that you’ll start belching. (Occasionally excessive belching may be a sign of gall bladder trouble, or a stomach ulcer).

To avoid belching, eat slowly, chew thoroughly and relax.

Hiccups can also be bothersome, but they’re not a medical concern. Eating or drinking too fast can also cause them. In order to get rid of hiccups, I recommend holding a mouthful of air and pushing your cheeks out, forcing the air to the back of your cheeks. This is the most successful technique that I’ve found so far.

Intestinal gas can be quite embarrassing, but it’s not unusual. Healthy people release several hundred millilitres of gas several times a day. About 99% of the gases expelled (nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, methane and carbon dioxide) are odourless.

However, the other 1% raises a stink. The most common foods that cause offensive gas are rich in carbohydrates: sugars, starches, and fiber. When these partially-digested foods reach the large intestine, bacteria ingest them, producing gas as a by-product. Trial and error will help you identify the foods your body doesn’t handle well.

Another common digestive complaint is heartburn. You’ve probably felt it at one time or another. Most people have. It’s caused because the sphincter at the top of the stomach isn’t stopping the stomach contents from moving back up into the esophagus. Sometimes this is because you have eaten or drank too much. Or, perhaps your pants are too tight, so your food can’t easily move down your digestive tract. Or, you may have changed position too quickly after eating (bending over, lying down). On a rare occasion, however, your sphincter may actually be defective.

If it’s not a medical problem, heartburn is pretty easy to treat. Eat many smaller meals. Drink liquids between meals, instead of with them. Sit up while you eat. Wait one hour after eating to lie down and two hours to exercise. Stay away from tight clothing. Avoid foods, beverages, and medications that have aggravated your heartburn. Lose weight if necessary.

Just follow these guidelines to ensure optimum digestion on and off the road.

– Karen Bowen is a professional health and nutrition consultant and she can be reached by e-mail at karen_bowen@yahoo.com.


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