After a stressful day of meeting deadlines and working from home, a large deep-dish pizza might feel like the answer to all of life’s problems. Although those cheesy bites certainly look delicious (and taste delicious, too), your digestive system might not feel so great after you indulge.
Bloating, constipation and gas are some of the most common reactions people experience when they overeat processed foods. While gut problems aren’t the most pleasant topic to discuss around the dinner table, it’s still important for us to acknowledge them.
This applies especially to young people who fall into the millennial age group (ages 25-40 as of 2021). For this young and hard-working demographic, there’s plenty of reasons to settle on ordering a pizza for dinner. It’s convenient, it tastes good, and let’s be honest—how many people crave a salad when they’re stressed?
At HealthOne, we’re proud to have both a Naturopathic Doctor and Registered Dietitian on our Wellness team. They both frequently work with millennial clients to resolve their gut health issues. When asked about why millennials experience these problems so often, our practitioners unanimously agreed about the #1 culprit.
“Honestly, I think a lot of it is stress,” said Trista, our Registered Dietitian. “I think we’re a very anxious generation. There’s a lot of stress going on, especially with quarantine.” Our Naturopathic Doctor, Dr. Saira Kassam, agreed without a doubt. “Stress is a really big reason, and I don’t think we should minimize that at all because of digestive issues,” she said.
We sat down with both of them to learn the most common digestive issues in millennials, why they’re happening, and how you can improve your symptoms.
A Seriously Stressed-Out Generation
Like Trista and Saira mentioned, it would be an understatement to say that millennials aren’t stressed out. There are a lot of responsibilities put on young adults, from working long hours to being a parent (that includes pets!). Add hobbies, finances, and maintaining a social life into the mix, and you’ve got one long list of to-dos with no end in sight.
Stress can trickle into all areas of life, especially when it comes to our nutrition. “I find that so many millennials, especially working from home now, tend to skip meals or graze throughout the day. This often causes them to over-eat or binge in the evenings,” Trista said.
It can be easy to forget about focusing on our food when other priorities take the driver's seat of our lives. “I find a lot of millennials are eating while working or watching TV, and with COVID I think with people working from home it’s really difficult to find and create those boundaries,” Saira added.
It makes sense in this case why ordering a meal from UberEats is so desirable. The last thing most people want to do when they’re overwhelmed is spending hours in the kitchen cooking a meal. And with so many mouth-watering, readily-accessible choices available through the tap of a phone screen, ordering food is an option that’s hard to say no to.
“Us millennials, we’re foodies, which I love and I think it’s great,” said Trista, “But we need to mix those foods with some gentle nutrition to make sure we’re not always indulging in delicious takeout options or home-cooked meals that aren’t really beneficial to the digestion.”
You can still be a foodie and have great digestion, too! It all comes down to balance and incorporating mindful, healthy habits. But first, let’s take a deeper look at what digestive issues our experts see the most often.
Trista and Saira both agreed that bloating is one of the most common digestive issues they see in millennials. We’ve all felt a bit puffy after one too many donuts. But if you frequently experience severe bloating and discomfort, it’s a sign that something more could be going on.
According to Saira, two of the most common causes of bloating are chewing too quickly and overeating. These are both easy patterns to fall into during stressful moments, so for a seriously stressed-out millennial this can very quickly become their daily reality. For Trista, one of the first things she looks at when clients have bloating issues is how much they’re eating and how often they’re eating it.
Aside from irregular eating behaviours, bloating can be a signal of a more serious underlying infection or dysbiosis. This refers to the growth of unfriendly bacteria in the gut. “It disrupts the balance between good and bad bacteria, which disrupts the pH of the gut and reduces your enzyme production,” Saira explains. Common causes can include antibiotic use, a diet high in processed foods, and you guessed it—stress. Luckily, there are ways to treat bloating that we’ll touch on later in this article.
Another digestive issue our Naturopathic Doctor and Registered Dietitian see in millennials is constipation. Having a healthy and well-functioning digestive system is essential to our overall health. It allows our bodies to absorb nutrients through food and properly eliminate the waste we don’t need.
Some of the main causes of constipation include not drinking enough water, not getting enough fibre, a lack of exercise, and a diet high in processed foods or simple sugars. That’s why incorporating gentle nutrition, as mentioned by Trista, can prove to be a helpful addition to your diet. Nutrient-rich foods with the added bonus of fibre can help relieve your constipation naturally.
Just like with bloating, constipation can also be caused by an underlying chronic infection. That’s why visiting an expert in gut health, such as Trista or Saira, can help you address your symptoms from the inside out.
Gas and Indigestion
The next common digestive issues our experts see in millennial clients are gas and indigestion. “I’ve really seen an uprise in the past year that so many people just don’t feel good going to the washroom,” Trista said. Don’t be afraid to admit it if this statement applies to you! We’re all human, after all, so we shouldn’t be afraid to talk about our experiences—even when it comes to our guts.
A big reason why millennials can experience chronic gas once again comes down to the way we’re eating. When we’re stressed and not eating mindfully, we tend to eat quickly. Often as a result, we ingest a lot of air. “This can lead to chronic intestinal infections like SIBO, IBS, lactose intolerance, and possible alternative colitis,” Saira explains, “which is why I always recommend implementing my basic tips for improved digestion.”
Saira and Trista shared their most effective tips on how millennials can improve their digestive symptoms so you can start to feel better in your own life. Here’s the full scoop!
Digestion Tips from Our Experts
1. Eat more fibre.
Fibre has a big impact on our bowel regularity. So, upping your intake will be beneficial no matter what digestive issues you’re experiencing. Not sure where to start? Aim for 30-35 grams a day. Healthy choices to add to your grocery list include whole grains, leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, beans, and lentils.
2. Exercise more.
We often forget that moving our body means moving our digestive organs, too! Exercise is especially important today because we spend so much time indoors. It helps gravity do its job by helping food move through your digestive tract. Even a short walk in each day is worth adding to your routine.
3. Drink more water.
We’ve heard about the importance of hydration. But it’s especially important when it comes to our guts. Our stools are 70% water, so staying adequately hydrated can help our elimination processes happen more easily. Many millennials also drink coffee and alcohol, which act as diuretics and cause further dehydration.
4. Practice mindful eating.
Thinking before you eat can go a long way. Spreading your meals throughout the day can help curb late-night cravings and overeating. Whenever possible, aim to eat your meals away from screens so you can focus on the experience of eating—and chew each bite between 15 and 20 times before swallowing.
5. Try apple cider vinegar.
Apple cider vinegar can help stimulate hydrochloric acid, which can help reduce bloating in a lot of situations. Try adding 1 teaspoon to a bit of water and drink it before meals. As long as you don’t experience heartburn, increase your dose up to 4 or 5 to maximize the benefits.
6. Visit a professional.
When simple tips for improved digestion don’t quite do the trick, it might be time to visit a professional. Both a Naturopathic Doctor such as Saira, or a Registered Dietitian such as Trista, can play an integral role in your care approach to treat your digestive issues once and for all.
Saira works with millennial patients to help uncover and treat the root cause of their symptoms. She begins by recommending lifestyle changes based on your current routine. “When those don’t do the trick, we go deeper and look for the cause. We might need to address an underlying factor and do a stool test. Or if there’s an overgrowth of bacteria, we can do a natural antimicrobial. Digestive enzymes can be really useful over a short period of time, and acupuncture for motility is another method I use to improve gut health.”
Saira has a variety of tools and modalities she uses with millennial patients at HealthOne. But each person’s treatment plan is created for their needs. This is also what Trista implements when it comes to nutrition.
“I initially get clients to fill out a food and symptoms tracker for the first two weeks. It provides us with a little data about what could be common triggers. I also work with a lot of mindful eating tips, and there are a lot of probiotics that can help support gut health. It’s really about building that rapport and addressing their diet and lifestyle in a very non-judgmental approach.”
As millennials themselves, Saira and Trista both understand the unique challenges faced by the people in this age group. The responsibilities we face in today’s world can add up easily and create high-stress environments. However, there are simple changes we can make that can have a big impact on our digestive issues.
So, go ahead and enjoy that cheese pizza—but eat it mindfully, go for a walk after, and try making water your drink of choice! Balance is key and will help reduce your levels of stress so all millennials can continue to live inspired.
Click here to book a complimentary consultation with Dr. Saira Kassam, Naturopathic Doctor.
Click here to book a complimentary consultation with Trista Chan, Registered Dietitian.