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How Does it Work to Try New Foods with GI Conditions

Often people with gastrointestinal conditions are fearful about trying new foods, and for good reason! They may have a long history of food causing painful, uncomfortable, and life-altering symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, severe constipation, and urgent diarrhea. Sometimes there are real food triggers. Other times, all the foods are jumbled together, and it is hard to figure out what is contributing to the problem, so lots of foods end up being avoided. It is possible to be able to try new foods and increase food variety, even with a GI condition.

person having a stomach ache from a burger

Working with a dietitian will help you try new foods with your GI condition. The first step in trying new foods and increasing food variety is understanding the GI condition you have. Your dietitian may want to see notes from you GI doctor, surgery notes, a list of medications you are on, and recent labs. Your dietitian will take a detailed history of your medical condition and symptoms. Understanding your disease well will inform which types of nutrients and foods you are more or less likely to tolerate. It will also inform which foods may even help improve symptoms!

Even armed with all this knowledge, there are always individual differences in how people respond to foods. There may be a food that many people with your condition don't respond well to, but you eat that food with no problems. Or, there is a food that theoretically you should tolerate, but you happen to not tolerate it. This is where the methodical food trials start.

Your dietitian will likely want you to slowly make changes in how you eat. This may involve trying a new food, a new cooking method, or increasing volume of a food you already eat. Your dietitian may recommend a food you previously have not tolerated, but with a variation that may help improve tolerability, such as preparing it differently or in a smaller portion.

As you eat new foods, you probably will notice new and somewhat bothersome sensations. When you are used to having a lot of pain and more severe symptoms, you may have become ultra sensitive to any sensation in your GI tract. But here is where we use a cognitive exercise of distinguishing between pain and other noticeable sensations.

Patients can relearn how to distinguish between a sensation they feel, even a very strong sensation, and pain. Being able to distinguish between the two can help reduce the fear of eating foods that cause noticeable GI sensations.

If you can work with a dietitian experienced with GI conditions, you may be able to try new foods and increase your food variety. This is a process that takes time and a lot of work--both practically and mentally. But in the end, you hopefully will have success with trying new foods with your GI condition.

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