Two hours of Googling your stomach symptoms doesn't compare to 10 minutes of frank talk with a top G.I. doc. Step away from the Web, and read these surprising doctor tips. By Lisa Mulcahy, REDBOOK.
"Order the green beans on date night"
"If a friend is going out to dinner with her guy, I tell her to get a side of green beans. They're your safest veggie in terms of not causing your digestive tract distress. I also recommend chicken and fish as the proteins that won't make you gassy. For dessert, stick with a bowl of berries; raspberries and strawberries are good choices. And skip the after-dinner mint-it can increase motility through your system, which could mean too much tooting!" -Jacqueline Wolf, M.D., gastroenterologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and associate professor of medicine at Harvard University
"Chill out about gluten"
"Gluten is getting a lot of attention lately, and my friends will often say, 'I know I'm allergic to gluten!' if they have any gas, bloating, or diarrhea. But those symptoms can mean lots of things, not just a gluten intolerance. If your doctor diagnoses you with celiac disease-meaning your body can't process gluten, the protein found in wheat, barley, and rye-it can cause real health problems like damage to the intestines, and it must be treated. But a lot of people simply have a lower level of gluten tolerance, so they don't need to go on a completely gluten-free diet, which can be pretty strict. I tell my friends to try eating less of foods that contain gluten before cutting them out-they're often able to tolerate a certain amount without any trouble." -Robert Burakoff, M.D., clinical chief of gastroenterology and director of the center for digestive health at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston
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"Trust me: You do not need a colonic"
"Friends will boast to me, 'I just had a colonic!' because they think it's healthy, but I always say: Don't follow that fad. We have trillions of bacteria in our guts, and they're there for a reason-if you're washing them out, you could be losing the 'good' bacteria your body needs for vitamin absorption. Besides, I do colonoscopies all the time, and I tell my friends that our colons are usually very good at self-cleaning and flushing out the toxins naturally-we just need to eat lots of veggies, fruits, and fiber to keep things working smoothly. P.S.: Ditch the fruit juice in the morning and eat an orange or a grapefruit instead-it's the easiest way to get more fiber." -Jonathan LaPook, M.D., gastroenterologist and CBS Evening News medical correspondent
"You're probably not backed up"
"Whenever a friend asks me if it's a problem not to go to the bathroom like clockwork, I tell her that a healthy range of bowel movements is fewer than three per day and more than three per week-we researchers have too much time on our hands! As long as you don't feel discomfort, bloating, or constipation in between 'drop-offs,' don't panic." -William D. Chey, M.D., director of the G.I. physiology laboratory at the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor
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"Replace the antacids with R&R"
"A very busy attorney friend of mine came to visit my family at our vacation home in Hawaii. He was completely stressed out when he arrived, clutching a bottle of Tums, which he downed constantly for heartburn and tummy issues. After relaxing at the beach all week, he ditched the Tums. Stress can wreak havoc on digestion-tension throughout the body can cause the digestive system to freeze up. If you're tightly wound all the time, the best OTC medication for stomach problems may be to chill out." -Liz Lipski, Ph.D., board-certified holistic nutrition clinician, and author of Digestive Wellness
"Think you're lactose intolerant? Try this D.I.Y. test"
"If a friend says she's worried about too much gas, a churning tummy, and running to the bathroom and thinks dairy might be the culprit, I recommend this 'chug test': Drink a quart [four cups] of low-fat milk over 15 to 30 minutes. If you can down this amount and not get gas, bloating, and diarrhea, then you're probably fine. Many doctors recommend cutting out dairy products for 10 days; if symptoms ease up, you're likely lactose intolerant. But if you want to know now, this should give you a good indication." -Brian E. Lacy, M.D., section chief of gastroenterology at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, NH
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"Don't complain about belly bloat-get moving!"
"Friends are constantly saying, 'Ugh, I feel so bloated-my stomach's sticking out.' I tell them, nicely of course, to hit the gym. Cardio isn't only great for toning. There's research that tells us that moving around can also help, well, move gas out. Holding it inside doesn't just make your tummy look distended; it's also uncomfortable. Once they start exercising, they look trimmer and they feel so much better." -Gail Hecht, M.D., chief of gastroenterology and nutrition at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, IL
"Weight-loss surgery is not an easy fix"
"When overweight friends ask me about the 'quick fix' of bariatric or gastric bypass surgery, I tell them, 'Don't be fooled if you see a celebrity who makes such an operation look like the easiest way to ditch the pounds-it's not.' Here's the reality: The procedures require your total commitment. You must be willing to work with a psychiatrist and a dietitian; you'll need frequent blood tests post-surgery to make sure you're getting proper vitamins and nutrients; you have to eat all your foods in small bites, avoid drinking with your meals, and stop eating the second you feel full-for life. These procedures are really a last resort." -Jaime Ponce, M.D., president of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery
"Never ignore intense tummy pain"
"A friend was suffering from severe abdominal pain unlike regular period cramps. Her ob/gyn could not find the cause, so my friend came to me and said, 'Jackie, my whole life is starting to center around this pain!' She'd already had her appendix taken out, so I suggested she see a different gynecologist immediately. Sure enough, she was diagnosed with endometriosis, and had to have surgery. I always tell friends that they have to be their own advocate. If a doctor ever tells you, or implies, 'Live with the pain, dear,' find another doctor." -Jacqueline Wolf, M.D.
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