Having gut issues may not only be painful and disruptive to your life, but it can also feel like a topic that’s sensitive to talk about. Gas, constipation, diarrhea — the list goes on. All of these things can make getting out the door in the morning way more difficult and add stress to your day. Because when you’re not feeling your best physically, it can affect how you feel mentally and emotionally. Which is why we turned to an expert.
For product recommendations that can help treat many common gut issues, we spoke with Tamara Duker Freuman, also known as the “The Bloated Belly Whisperer” (her nickname and the name of her book). Freuman is a registered dietitian at New York Gastroenterology Associates.
Ah, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). You’ve seen the commercials, and maybe you deal with some symptoms yourself. From diarrhea to constipation, Freuman recommends a few different products for those who deal with the disorder, which affects the large intestine.
PS: Something Freuman suggests if you find your IBS is really triggered by stress: the Nerva app. “It’s self-guided, gut-directed hypnotherapy, which has been shown to be really effective for various types of IBS, those with lots of pain and symptoms triggered by an emotional state of mind.” She’s been using it in her practice for over a year and has seen great results from patients.
Now to dive into the different symptoms of IBS, and what could help you:
Soluble fiber for those with multiple urgent bowel movements that have you running back and forth to the bathroom each morning…
If this sounds like you, taking soluble fiber before bed may help consolidate your morning bathroom marathon. Freuman says it can take “loose stool and glue it together for fewer, more complete bowel movements.” This way you can have one or two good bathroom trips, and then get out of the house. She suggests Heather’s Tummy Fiber or Citrucel to get the job done. ($16.97, Amazon)
Symptom: Abdominal pain
Peppermint oil capsules for pain and cramping…
If your IBS leaves you with cramping and discomfort, Freuman suggests enteric-coated peppermint oil capsules at an evidence-based dosage. Why? Because those pills break down in your colon, rather than your stomach. And the peppermint oil acts as a natural antispasmodic (read: it helps your muscles relax). For those with intense symptoms, Freuman says you can take up to three pills a day, depending on when you experience pain. For example, before or after meals, or at the end or beginning of each day. There’s Heather’s Tummy Tamers, IBgard, and Atrantil. If you’re vegan and want capsules without gelatin, try Deva. ($17.49, Amazon)
Symptoms: gas and gas pain
An enzyme if your IBS leaves you with lots of gas and gas pains associated with FODMAP foods…
Try Fodmate, a digestive enzyme capsule that helps break down many FODMAP foods. What are those? Freuman describes them as foods made of fermentable carbs that are hard to digest, stay in your gut, and can trigger IBS gas symptoms. Aka certain things your gut and bowels just can’t handle — think lactose- and fructose-containing foods. The FODMAP diet can help you eliminate some of those food groups, but is (unsurprisingly) restrictive and hard to follow over long periods of time. Instead, taking a Fodmate capsule can help bring relief and make certain foods (like onions, garlic, wheat, milk, yogurt, etc.) easier to digest. ($60, Amazon)
Magnesium supplements if your IBS causes constipation…
With this symptom, Freuman suggests taking over 350 milligrams of magnesium at one time as a gentle and natural osmotic laxative (which makes it easier for water to absorb into poop so that your bowel movements can be more complete and regular). If you have a high-fiber diet already, Freuman suggests adding a 400–600 milligram dose at night. If you don’t find relief from that, she then suggests bumping it up by 200 milligrams, with the highest dosage being 1,200 milligrams before she’ll try something else. She says, “Taking a dosage that high, as long as your kidneys are working, is a perfectly safe, inexpensive, and effective way to empty your bowels more easily. Whether you have IBS-D or are just struggling with constipation.” ($9.12, Amazon)
A fiber supplement if you’re someone who experiences certain forms of constipation and whose diet could use more fiber…
Maybe you’re an inconsistent eater who dines out frequently and finds it more troublesome to stick to certain food groups that are high in fiber. That’s OK. Freuman recommends FiberCon. “Often people who aren’t too strict with their diet but need more regularity can take it to have an easier time forming and passing stools.” But as a note — these patients are not eating a super high-fiber diet naturally. ($23.63, Amazon)
Introducing: functional dyspepsia, otherwise known as IBS of the stomach. It can feel like a hypersensitivity to carbonation, spice, or anything fatty, being uncomfortably full from a small portion of food, and getting nauseous after eating (among other things). If this sounds familiar to you, Freuman recommends a mix of peppermint oil and caraway seed oil in pill or tincture form.
FDgard to relax your upper stomach…
Best if taken before meals, FDgard works to relax your upper stomach, allowing it to stretch more easily so it can accommodate normal-sized meals. Freuman also suggests Iberogast, which can be dissolved into water and taken before mealtime. “It’s an herbal tincture that’s been around for a long time and helps with feelings of early fullness, bloating, nausea, and discomfort.” ($35.99, Rite Aid)
Prebiotics & Probiotics
“Probiotics aren’t really evidence-based to help with IBS management,” Freuman says. “It’s more of a guessing game of what would help you that’s specific to your body.” In fact, Freuman doesn’t recommend prebiotics or probiotics for many people, especially those without common gut issues. “Your body’s gut ecosystem is so rich and complex, often one isn't necessary and won’t do much good for you. Currently, there’s not enough scientific backing that the average person benefits from probiotics.”
If you want to positively change your gut’s microbiome, Freuman suggests that nourishing the beneficial bacteria species you already have is best. How so? Eat a high-fiber diet, filled with diverse types of fiber. This means elimination-style diets like cutting out all dairy or gluten aren’t the greatest for your overall health because you’re cutting out different types of fiber and nutrients your body needs. This is why the FODMAP diet can be hard to follow over time. If you’re looking to up your fiber intake, but are unsure of where to start, Freuman advises supplementing your diet with things like beans, artichokes, barley, flaxseeds, asparagus, onions, and leeks.
For those who are interested in trying prebiotics and probiotics (with or without IBS), Freuman highlighted the ones below:
A probiotic that may help if an antibiotic is giving you diarrhea…
Freuman mentioned that many can react to taking antibiotics, and if you’re someone who doesn’t have IBS or regular gut issues, but are experiencing diarrhea because of an antibiotic you were prescribed by your doctor, try Florastor. “In this case, a probiotic can be very helpful. And Florastor is an evidence-based product that can help prevent the buildup of C. diff bacteria, which can cause a really nasty diarrhea illness.” But as always, we recommend you speak with your doctor if you’re about to take any antibiotics. ($28.99, Amazon)
A prebiotic that works sans the side effect of gas…
“Prebiotics are basically certain types of fiber that have been shown to nourish very desirable, anti-inflammatory bacteria in your gut. When you feed that good bacteria, they increase in abundance and can then produce beneficial compounds like short-chain fatty acids,” Freuman says. Often prebiotics can make you gassy though, especially for people with IBS, which is why Bimuno is her top rec. “It’s a different form of prebiotic that has been shown to nourish good gut bacteria without the side effect of gas.” It’s great for those interested in gut health, and her IBS patients can better tolerate it. ($47.99, Amazon)
Sign up for the Daily Skimm email newsletter. Delivered to your inbox every morning and prepares you for your day in minutes.