Bloating – What Is It And What Does It Mean?

Bloating – What Is It And What Does It Mean?

Do you ever feel like your stomach is too full or swollen? You may be bloated.

Bloating is a common problem, even in people who are otherwise healthy. About 1 in 7 Americans experience bloating on a weekly basis. It’s not always easy to figure out what’s causing bloating. Continue reading to learn more about what causes bloating and what it means.

What Is Bloating?

If you’re bloated, you may feel like your stomach is too full or tight. It can happen when your gastrointestinal system (GI system or digestive system) is full of gas or liquid. Your stomach may also look swollen or distended.

When you’re bloated, you can experience many different symptoms, including:

  • Abdominal (stomach) pain
  • Swollen stomach
  • Flatulence (farting)
  • Belching (burping)
  • Stomach cramps

What Does Bloating Mean? — 6 Possible Causes of Bloating

Bloating can be a symptom of many different conditions.

A 2023 study published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology found that women and people with certain GI diseases were more likely to experience bloating. There are many other conditions that can cause bloating. Six possible causes of bloating are discussed below.

1. You Have Gas

You can feel bloated when you have excess gas trapped in your digestive system. Common symptoms of gas include belching, bloating, and flatulence.

It’s normal to have symptoms of excess gas, especially after eating. Eating and drinking can cause you to swallow small amounts of air along with your food and drink. Certain activities may increase how much air you swallow, such as:

  • Chewing gum or sucking on hard candy
  • Drinking carbonated drinks
  • Eating or drinking too fast
  • Smoking
  • Wearing loose-fitting dentures

The type of food you eat can also cause excess gas. Carbohydrates (such as sugar, starch, and fiber) can cause gas when the bacteria in your intestines begin to break it down. You may notice that you have more gas when you eat more carbohydrates.

Other foods that can cause excess gas include:

  • Legumes (such as beans, lentils, and soybeans)
  • Bran
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Dairy products
  • Fruits
  • Sugar substitutes (such as sorbitol)
  • Carbonated drinks

2. You Have a Food Intolerance

food intolerance can occur if your digestive system has difficulty digesting (breaking down) certain foods.

A food intolerance is different from a food allergy, which is caused by your immune system. Food allergies have different symptoms than food intolerance, including rash, difficulty breathing, or swelling of your mouth and lips.

If you have a health condition that makes it difficult for you to break down certain foods, you may have increased gas and symptoms of bloating. Common food intolerances include lactose intolerance, gluten intolerance, and fructose intolerance. Other food chemicals that may cause symptoms of food intolerance include:

  • Histamine — found in wine and cheese
  • Caffeine — found in coffee, tea, and some soft drinks
  • Alcohol
  • Sulfites — found in beer and wine
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG) — found in ripe fruit, cured meat, and some savory foods

Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance is the most common type of food intolerance. It’s estimated that about 68% of the world’s population has lactose intolerance.

Lactose is a carbohydrate (sugar) found in milk. It can be found in any product made from milk and some processed foods. You may be intolerant to lactose if your body doesn’t make enough of an enzyme (a type of protein) called lactase that helps you break down lactose.

If you have lactose intolerance, you may experience symptoms of bloating within a few minutes or hours after eating lactose.

Fructose Intolerance

If you have fructose intolerance, you have difficulty absorbing and digesting fructose. It’s estimated that about 40% of people in the Western hemisphere have trouble digesting fructose.

Fructose is a type of sugar commonly found in fruit. People with an intolerance can experience symptoms of bloating shortly after eating fructose. People with severe fructose intolerance can experience serious complications, such as kidney damage, liver damage, coma, and death.

Gluten Intolerance

If you feel bloated or sick after eating food with gluten, you may have a gluten intolerance. It’s estimated that about 6% of Americans have a gluten intolerance.

Gluten is a protein found in some grains, including wheat, rye, and barley. If you have a gluten intolerance, you can experience other symptoms in addition to bloating, such as:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Joint pain
  • Rash
  • Nausea and vomiting

3. You’re Constipated

You may feel bloated if you’re constipated. Constipation is defined as having fewer than 3 bowel movements (pooping) per week. However, everyone’s bowel habits are different, and you may feel constipated if you have more or fewer bowel movements than 3 per week.

Constipation happens when your colon (also known as your large intestine) absorbs too much water from your stool (poop). When this happens, your stool becomes harder and more difficult to pass. The buildup of stool in your colon can cause your abdomen to appear larger and cause abdominal pain.

Constipation is one of the most common digestive complaints in the United States (US). Some people are more likely to experience constipation, including:

  • Women
  • Pregnant women
  • Older adults
  • People who take some medications or supplements
  • People with gastrointestinal disease and other chronic medical conditions

You may also be more likely to become constipated if you:

  • Don’t eat enough fiber
  • Don’t drink enough water
  • Don’t get enough exercise
  • Have changes in your daily routine
  • Are stressed
  • Resist the urge to go poop when you feel it

There are ways to treat constipation when you have it.

4. You’re About to Start Your Menstrual Cycle

It’s common to feel bloated before and during your menstrual cycle (period). Three out of four women experience bloating around their period.

Bloating may occur around the time of your period because of certain female hormones. For example, estrogen can cause fluid retention — when your body holds on to water, causing swelling. If swelling occurs in your abdomen, it can make you feel bloated. Estrogen and progesterone can also interact with your digestive tract and cause increased gas in your intestines.

Another reason you may feel bloated before your period is that your uterus actually increases in volume just before your period starts.

5. You Take a Medication That Causes Bloating

Medications can cause bloating by causing gas in your digestive tract or causing constipation.

You may feel bloated if you take an antacid to treat heartburn. Fiber supplements can also cause increased gas. Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that isn’t digested. Because of this, the bacteria in your intestines may produce more gas when you take a fiber supplement. If you take too much of a fiber supplement or don’t drink enough water, it could cause constipation, which can also make you feel bloated.

Medications that can cause constipation include:

  • Opioid pain medications — such as hydrocodone (Vicodin) or oxycodone (Oxycontin)
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) — such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Motrin), and naproxen (Aleve)
  • Antidepressants — such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors like sertraline (Zoloft) and fluoxetine (Prozac) and tricyclic antidepressants like amitriptyline (Elavil)
  • Iron supplements — available in many forms over the counter (OTC)
  • Antihistamines — such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
  • Seizure medications — such as phenytoin (Dilantin) and gabapentin (Neurontin)
  • Nausea medications — such as ondansetron (Zofran)

6. You Have a Chronic Medical Condition

Bloating is a possible symptom of several different chronic medical conditions.

Gastrointestinal Disease

People living with GI disease are more likely to experience bloating than the general population. People with GI disease have difficulty with digestion, which can cause symptoms that lead to bloating, such as excess gas and constipation.

GI diseases associated with bloating include:

Liver Disease

People with liver disease can feel and look bloated if they develop ascites.

Ascites is a condition where fluid builds up in the abdomen. The fluid builds up between two layers of tissue called the peritoneum that lines the organs in the abdomen.

While liver disease is the most common cause of ascites, it can also be caused by heart failure, kidney failure, an infection, or cancer.


Certain cancers can make you feel bloated if they affect the organs in your abdomen. Examples of cancers that may cause bloating include:

  • Ovarian cancer
  • Uterine cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Stomach cancer

If you’re experiencing symptoms of bloating due to cancer, you will likely have other symptoms, such as fatigue or unexpected weight loss.

For gynecological cancers, like ovarian and uterine cancer, you may experience unusual vaginal bleeding or pelvic pain. Colon cancer can also cause blood in your stool. If you have stomach cancer, you may experience difficulty swallowing.

Talk to your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms. Additionally, regular cancer screening can help you detect some cancers before symptoms occur. Talk to your doctor about which screening tests are appropriate for you.

When Should You See Your Doctor for Bloating?

Bloating is a common problem, so it can be hard to know when you should see your doctor about this symptom. Almost 60% of people who experience bloating don’t seek medical advice. However, bloating can be a symptom of another, more serious medical condition.

Contact your doctor if you experience bloating that:

  • Lasts longer than one week
  • Keeps getting worse
  • Is painful
  • Comes with other symptoms like vomiting, fever, or blood in your stool

How Is Bloating Diagnosed?

If you experience persistent bloating, your doctor may ask you questions about your history, perform a physical exam, and order different medical tests to find the cause of your bloating.

During a physical exam, your doctor will feel the organs of your abdomen to look for anything unusual. Based on your symptoms, your doctor may order additional tests for possible causes of bloating, such as blood tests, stool tests, and tests for food intolerances.

Your doctor may want to examine the inside of your GI tract. Imaging tests such as an ultrasound or X-ray can create a picture of the inside of your body. Your doctor can also insert a small flexible tube with a lighted camera into your GI tract. When it’s inserted through your mouth into your stomach, it’s called a gastroscopy. When it’s inserted into your colon through your anus, it’s called a colonoscopy. These tests can be used to help diagnose GI diseases and some types of cancer.

How Can You Manage Bloating?

The treatment for bloating depends on what’s causing your bloating symptoms. If you experience persistent bloating, you should talk to your doctor to find out the cause. There are some ways you can treat bloating at home, including:

  • Simethicone (Gas-X) — this medication helps relieve bloating by popping gas bubbles in your GI tract and is available OTC by itself or in combination with antacids
  • Antacids — antacids help decrease stomach acid and help you pass gas more easily and are available OTC
  • Probiotics — good bacteria in probiotics can help restore balance to your gut bacteria and reduce gas
  • Herbal tea — herbal teas such as peppermint, chamomile, or turmeric can help aid digestion
  • Peppermint oil — peppermint oil can relax your stomach muscles to help pass gas

Food-Related Bloating

If you’re experiencing food-related bloating, making changes to your diet may help your symptoms.

It can help to cut back on foods that cause excess gas.

If you have a lactose intolerance and can’t avoid dairy products, taking a lactase supplement may help decrease your symptoms. Your doctor and a registered dietitian can help you choose the best diet based on your symptoms and intolerances.

Constipation-Related Bloating

If your bloating is related to constipation, taking steps to prevent constipation may improve your symptoms. Some tips for reducing constipation include:

  • Increase the amount of fiber you eat
  • Stay physically active
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Don’t ignore the urge to poop

Talk to your doctor about what’s causing constipation and bloating to find the best treatment for you.

Chronic Disease-Related Bloating

If you have a chronic disease that causes bloating, appropriate treatment for that disease should help improve your symptoms. Talk to your doctor about all of the symptoms that bother you and discuss the best treatment option for you.

Additionally, regular follow-up with your doctor can help discover some problems before they happen.

Articles authored by Dr. Connor are intended to facilitate awareness about health and wellness matters generally and are not a substitute for professional medical attention or advice from your own healthcare practitioner, which is dependent on your detailed personal medical condition and history. You should always speak with your own qualified healthcare practitioner about any information in any articles you may read here before choosing to act or not act upon such information. Read Dr. Connor’s original version of this article posted on

Bone-Boosting Foods: Do They Prevent Osteoporosis?

Bone-Boosting Foods: Do They Prevent Osteoporosis?

woman with pomegranate
Weak bones are a growing concern as you get older. Your bone tissue naturally thins out and loses strength over time. Among adults over the age of 50, about one out of 20 men and one out of five women have osteoporosis or weakened bones.

There are several types of medications and lifestyle changes that can help strengthen bones or slow down bone loss. In particular, the things you eat have a major impact on the health of your skeleton. Good or poor diet choices may help determine whether you experience pain or falls due to bone loss.

What Is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a condition that leads to fragile bones and an increased risk of experiencing a bone fracture (broken bone). You may have this condition if you lose too much bone mineral density (the amount of minerals found in your bones). You may also be diagnosed with this condition if you have broken bones in the past, and your doctor thinks you are at risk for breaking another one.

How Do You Know If You Have Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is often considered to be a “silent” disease — it doesn’t often cause symptoms. In some cases, people with osteoporosis may notice certain changes. Their height may shrink, they may not be able to stand up straight, or their spine may curve until it forms a rounded hump at the base of the neck.

Your doctor can measure your bone mineral density with a special X-ray scan that measures the thickness of your bones. Your bone density is compared to the density of an average healthy, young adult. The more different your bones are from a young adult’s, the lower your bone density and the higher your chances of breaking a bone.

You should start undergoing regular screening tests to measure your bone density starting at age 65. However, it may be a good idea to start undergoing testing at age 50 if you have certain risk factors, such as a parent who has previously broken their hip. Ask your doctor if bone mineral density testing might be helpful for you.

The Many Causes of Osteoporosis

Some people have a higher chance of developing this disease. Some risk factors include:

  • Being a woman
  • Being white or Asian
  • Older age
  • Having a low body weight
  • Having a family history of osteoporosis
  • Not getting enough physical activity
  • Drinking a lot of alcohol
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Experiencing hormone imbalances such as low levels of estrogen or testosterone
  • Having certain medical conditions that cause inflammation or impact the kidney or liver
  • Using certain medications, such as proton pump inhibitors, glucocorticoids, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), or cancer drugs

Diet also plays a large role in the health of your bones. Not getting enough of certain nutrients can cause bone loss. Additionally, the foods and drinks you consume can have an impact on other osteoporosis risk factors, such as hormone levels and inflammatory diseases.

The Best Nutrients for Preventing Osteoporosis

When you want to strengthen and protect your bones, it is a good idea to make changes to your diet. Several vitamins and minerals are important for maintaining the normal processes that help your body build up bone. Making sure that you are eating enough foods that contain these nutrients is an important part of maximizing your bone health.

In order to find out how much of each nutrient you are getting from your diet, check the Nutrition Facts labels on your foods and drinks.


super foods

Calcium is a mineral that supports healthy nerves, muscles, and blood vessels. Without this substance, your cells and tissues wouldn’t be able to properly function. The body needs to keep calcium levels within a certain range in order to stay healthy.

The body can’t make its own calcium, and relies on the things you eat and drink in order to get the calcium it needs. As the body absorbs calcium from the diet, it stores extra calcium in the bones.

Calcium is part of a delicate balancing act called bone remodeling that helps the body maintain bone tissue. During this process, osteoclast cells break apart the old bone and the body reabsorbs and recycles any nutrients, such as calcium, that are released. Next, osteoblast cells will add new bone using collagen and various minerals. If you don’t eat enough calcium, the body will take it from the bones but won’t be able to replace it with new, strong bone tissue.

In order to keep up with the body’s calcium needs, experts recommend that adults get at least 1,000 mg of calcium each day. Older adults who have an increased risk of bone loss should get even more — women over the age of 50 and men over the age of 70 should aim for 1,200 mg daily.

Find calcium in foods and drinks like:

  • Milk
  • Dairy products like cheese, yogurt, sour cream, and ice cream
  • Canned, bone-in sardines and salmon
  • Green vegetables such as kale, spinach, collard greens, broccoli, and bok choi
  • Chia seeds
  • Tofu
  • Canned pinto beans
  • Certain cereals
  • Drinks that have added calcium, such as fruit juice, almond milk, and soy milk

Calcium is also available in supplement form or as part of a multivitamin. Some supplements, including antacid tablets, contain calcium carbonate, which should be taken along with food for optimal absorption. Other supplements that have calcium citrate can be taken with or without food and may be more easily absorbed, especially by older adults.

Vitamin D

Although the body relies on the diet for its calcium needs, the digestive system doesn’t absorb this mineral very efficiently. Only about 15 to 20% of the calcium in your foods and drinks is taken up by the body. However, vitamin D helps the body absorb more calcium.

Within the body, vitamin D becomes activated to form calcitriol, a hormone. Calcitriol interacts with cells in the intestines and kidneys to stimulate these organs to absorb more calcium for the body to use. When you don’t get enough vitamin D, your body doesn’t absorb as much calcium and your bones may weaken.

Your skin makes vitamin D when it is exposed to sunlight. However, sun can also speed up aging of the skin, leading to wrinkles, uneven skin tone, and spider veins. Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun are also the main cause of skin cancer. Therefore, it’s best for your overall health to protect your skin from the sun and to rely on getting vitamin D from your diet instead.

Adults should aim to get 15 micrograms (mcg) or 600 international units (IU). Those who are in their 70’s or older should be getting 20 mcg or 800 IU in order to protect their bones and help prevent osteoporosis.

Vitamin D can be found in foods like:

  • Fatty or oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel, trout, tuna, or sardines
  • Cod liver oil
  • Beef liver
  • Egg yolks
  • Mushrooms
  • Milk, which usually is usually supplemented with vitamin D
  • Other foods that contain added vitamin D, such as certain types of soy milk, almond milk, oat milk, yogurt, cereal, and orange juice

Vitamin D supplements can also help increase your intake of this nutrient. Your body can better absorb vitamin D supplements when it’s eaten along with foods that contain some fat.


Although calcium and vitamin D likely have the biggest impact on bone health, recent research has also started identifying other nutrients that can play a role in osteoporosis and bone loss.

Carotenoids are antioxidants that help neutralize molecules that cause damage within cells. They are important for keeping the eyes healthy and for protecting against conditions like cancer.

These molecules help encourage osteoblasts to create more bone, and prevent osteoclasts from removing bone. Studies show that people who eat high amounts of carotenoids are 46% less likely to experience a fracture.

There are a few different types of carotenoids that can help keep bones strong. Lycopene is a carotenoid found in red fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, watermelon, pink grapefruit, apricot, and guava. It can also be found in other non-red foods such as parsley and asparagus. The carotenoid beta-carotene comes from yellow, orange, and green produce, including carrots, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, spinach, and broccoli. Green vegetables, pistachios, and eggs also contain high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin, additional carotenoids that help prevent bone loss.

woman with a salad and tape measure

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is also an antioxidant. It supports immune system health and helps the digestive system absorb iron. The body also uses this nutrient in order to help form new osteoblasts and osteoclasts and to produce collagen, a protein that provides structure for the skin, cartilage, and bones, and helps these tissues work properly.

Studies have found that vitamin C could help protect against osteoporosis. In particular, the more vitamin C men consume, the less bone loss they experience. Men who took vitamin C supplements were 69% less likely to break their hip in one study. Some studies have also found that this vitamin can help women maintain bone density as they get older.

You can get more vitamin C through supplements. It is also found in most multivitamins. Foods that contain higher levels of vitamin C include:

  • Citrus fruits like oranges or grapefruits, as well as juice from these fruits
  • Kiwi
  • Strawberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Tomatoes and tomato juice
  • Bell peppers
  • Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage
  • Baked potatoes

One of the best ways to make sure you’re getting enough vitamin C is to eat a lot of fruits and vegetables each day. Experts recommend eating five servings of fruits and vegetables each day in order to support health, reduce risk of chronic health conditions, and live longer.

Vitamin B12

When older adults don’t get enough vitamin B12, they are more likely to have high homocysteine levels. Homocysteine is a molecule that helps control bone remodeling. Too much homocysteine can increase risk of osteoporosis, so eating more vitamin B12 may be good for the bones. People who have low levels of vitamin B12 in the blood tend to have less bone density.

Adults need at least 2.4 mcg of vitamin B12 each day for optimal health. You can find this nutrient in animal products, such as meat, poultry, seafood, milk, and eggs. If you don’t eat much meat, you can also get vitamin B12 in foods like tempeh and cereal that has had this vitamin added in during the manufacturing process.


Some research has found that women who drink red wine may be more likely to have better bone health. Experts think that this effect might be because red wine has resveratrol, a substance that helps protect tissues from damage. Additionally, men who take resveratrol supplements are more likely to have greater bone density in the spine.

It is important to note that drinking too much alcohol can be bad for the bones, so you should drink wine in moderation. In addition to red wine, resveratrol can also be found in grapes and nuts.


Cutting Out Foods That Lead to Weak Bones

woman with a salad and tape measure
Some foods can make it harder for your body to keep calcium levels high. Eating too much protein or too much salt can trigger your kidneys into getting rid of calcium. It’s best to eat moderate amounts of protein and follow a low-salt diet if you are worried about your bone health, especially if you think you may not be getting enough calcium from your diet.Additionally, one study found that a diet high in processed foods was connected with lower bone mineral density. For this reason, it’s better to reach for: 

  • Whole grain products instead of refined grains
  • Fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables rather than canned ones
  • Whole chicken or fish rather than processed meats like sausage, bacon, and deli meat
  • Freshly-prepared meals rather than microwave meals or fast food

Putting It All Together

There are several nutrients that can help contribute to bone health, and many different food choices that can provide these vitamins and minerals. In general, eating a variety of different foods from all of the different food groups will be enough to give you all of the nutrients you need.

However, if you are worried about your bone health, talk to your doctor. You may be able to undergo blood tests that can identify any nutritional deficiencies and pinpoint any vitamins or minerals that you need more of. Additionally, you may want to talk to your doctor about whether you should undergo screening to measure your bone density, or make any other lifestyle changes that can help support the health of your bones. It is important to visit your doctor to discuss a plan for healthy bones. Make an appointment with Dr. Connor to find out what approaches are best for you.

Superfoods for Super Sperm (Part 10 of my Superfoods series)

Superfoods for Super Sperm (Part 10 of my Superfoods series)

woman with pomegranate
Your diet can impact many aspects of well-being and it can be an important aspect in understanding male infertility. You may know that the things you eat affect your physical health and even your mental health, but do you understand how food can influence your sexual health?

Adding superfoods to your diet may be a good way to increase the health of your sperm and boost your fertility. While there’s no scientific definition of what makes up a “superfood,” this label is often given to foods and drinks that contain a lot of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that boost health. While superfoods generally can’t cure conditions like fertility, they can be an important part of optimizing your sexual health to be the best it can be.

Why Is Sperm Health Important?

In order to naturally conceive a child, you need to have enough healthy sperm. Sperm are cells made by the testicles in the male reproductive system. They combine with egg cells made by the ovaries in the female reproductive system to result in an embryo. Multiple types of hormones, including testosterone, help control the production of sperm.

There are a few components to sperm health, including:

  • How many sperm cells your body makes, usually measured by how many sperm cells are found within a certain quantity of semen
  • The ability of sperm cells to move rapidly
  • The sperm cells’ shape and size

If your body doesn’t make enough sperm, or if your sperm cells are abnormal, you may have a hard time getting your partner pregnant. When a couple is unable to conceive after at least one year of regular sex, they are said to be infertile. Infertility has multiple causes that can affect men and women, and there are several possible medications, surgical procedures, and lifestyle changes that can help treat this condition.

Boosting Sperm Health Through Superfoods

Men who eat certain superfoods may produce healthier sperm cells and be less likely to experience medical conditions that impact fertility. The more health-boosting superfoods you can add to your diet, the more you can optimize your sexual health.


Oysters are a fantastic source of zinc. One serving of this seafood provides 673% of the recommended daily intake of this mineral. You can also find zinc in superfoods like pumpkin seeds, yogurt, chickpeas, and oatmeal.

Zinc is a very important nutrient for fertility in men. Tissue in the prostate gland as well as the fluid portion of semen contains high amounts of zinc. When zinc levels drop too low, your body may make less sperm, or the sperm may be shaped abnormally, die more quickly, or not work properly in order to fertilize an egg cell. Zinc also helps the body make hormones like testosterone. Some cases of male fertility problems have been linked to low levels of zinc within sperm cells.

Oily Fish

super foods
Oily or fatty fish like salmon, trout, mackerel, and sardines have a lot of omega-3 fatty acids — molecules that can help fight inflammation and cell damage. Eating more foods that contain this nutrient can help the cell membrane (outer layer) of sperm cells function properly and may boost sperm health.

Omega-3 fatty acids are good for your health in other ways, too, making them a popular choice among people looking to eat more superfoods. For example, these molecules can help boost heart and eye health, reduce symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, and may protect against conditions like cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

Additionally, oily fish contain coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), also called ubiquinone. This molecule is an antioxidant, helping neutralize reactive oxygen species (ROS) — chemicals that can cause damage within cells and tissues. CoQ10 can help prevent ROS from building up in the semen, which helps sperm live longer and stay healthier. CoQ10 may also help the body make additional antioxidants that protect sperm health.

Cod Fish

Cod is a type of whitefish. It’s not an oily or fatty fish that has a lot of omega-3 fatty acids. However, it does contain a lot of carnitine, an amino acid-like molecule that helps cells process fat to be used as fuel.

Sperm cells need a lot of energy in order to be able to swim around more effectively. Carnitine helps supply sperm with the fuel they need for proper movement. It also supports the growth and development of new sperm cells.

Carnitine is also present within animal products such as beef, but too much red meat can be detrimental to your sexual health. Supplements containing carnitine are also available.

Brazil Nuts

Brazil nuts contain a lot of a nutrient called selenium. When your body doesn’t have enough selenium, you may be more likely to have problems with infertility. Like CoQ10, selenium is an antioxidant that gets rid of damaging ROS chemicals that can kill sperm.

Eating more Brazil nuts may help boost your sperm health. Just a one-ounce serving (about 6 to 8 nuts) provides nearly 1000% of your recommended daily intake of selenium! This nutrient can also be found in fish and seafood like tuna, halibut, sardines, and shrimp.

couple of clinical trials have tested how nuts can impact male fertility. These studies found that men who eat more nuts produce more sperm and have sperm cells that move around better, are shaped more normally, and live longer.


Oatmeal is a whole grain that provides a large helping of fiber — a type of carbohydrate that provides many beneficial effects for the body. Eating a lot of fiber may reduce levels of estrogen, a hormone that could prevent the body from producing enough sperm. Oats and other grains can lead to healthier sperm and increase the chances that an egg will implant in the uterus after being fertilized by sperm.


Your digestive system contains about 100 trillion microorganisms, including bacteria that help you stay healthy and digest your food. Eating high-fat foods can feed the “bad” bacteria, leading to chronic inflammation, a higher risk of several health conditions, and problems producing healthy sperm.

On the other hand, you may be able to increase the number of “good” bacteria in your gut by eating foods that contain probiotics (live microorganisms), such as yogurt. These foods can help improve your digestive health, which in turn has wide-ranging impacts throughout the body. You can also find probiotics in foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir.

Organic Fruits and Vegetables

woman with a salad and tape measure
When you eat produce, it may be worthwhile to reach for organic options. Fruits and vegetables are often grown using pesticides and insecticides, and these chemicals can lessen the health of sperm cells.

Foods that are certified organic have to meet certain standards as they are grown and harvested. In particular, organic fruits and vegetables come from plants that have been grown without the use of certain synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. Avoiding these chemicals may lead to higher-quality sperm. Look for the label “USDA Organic” while grocery shopping.

Fruits and vegetables also contain a lot of prebiotics — substances like fiber that can help feed the “good” bacteria in your intestines. Produce like leafy greens, onions, artichokes, and bananas may have particularly high levels of prebiotics.

Furthermore, produce generally contains a lot of antioxidants such as vitamin C, tocopherol, and lycopene that help prevent the early death of sperm cells. Overall, fruits and vegetables work on multiple fronts to help boost sexual health and sperm quality, especially if they are organic.

Diet Plans to Improve Sperm Health

Adding more individual superfoods to your diet may help improve your fertility. However, studies have also found that men who more closely stick to an overall pattern of healthy eating produce more sperm.

Men who follow the Mediterranean diet are more likely to have higher sperm counts and to produce sperm that can move more quickly. The Mediterranean diet is also well-known to provide other health benefits, including lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels and a reduced risk of conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease. This diet emphasizes:

  • Using olive oil instead of other fats like butter
  • Eating more nuts, seeds, and beans
  • Consuming large amounts of fruits and vegetables
  • Choosing whole grains or whole wheat products over refined grains
  • Eating plenty of fish, moderate amounts of chicken, and very little red meat
  • Drinking moderate amounts of red wine

Another diet plan that has been studied in relation to sperm health is the Prudent diet. Following this diet can boost sperm counts and help the body produce higher-quality sperm. The Prudent diet is a modified version of the Mediterranean diet in which you eat more fish, chicken, vegetables, fruit, beans, and whole grains.

Foods and Drinks To Avoid for Better Sperm Health

Studies show that some foods can lead to poor semen quality. In particular, a western diet can be detrimental to sexual health. Men who struggle with infertility are more likely to eat diets that are high in fat or calories.

In particular, you may want to limit or avoid:

  • Red meat like beef or lamb
  • Processed meat such as sausage, hot dogs, bacon, and deli meat
  • Foods that contain a lot saturated fats or trans fats, including processed foods, fried foods, cheese, and sugary foods and drinks
  • Caffeine, found in coffee, black tea, and soda

Alcohol can lead to hormone imbalances, including reduced testosterone levels, that lead to lower sperm levels. Men who drink heavily may be especially more likely to experience fertility problems. Infertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) also tend to be less successful when men drink in the week leading up to giving a sperm sample.Some people believe that soybeans and soy products such as tofu can negatively impact male fertility. This is because soy contains molecules called phytoestrogens that are similar to the estrogen hormone made by the body. High levels of estrogen can lead to lower sperm counts. However, studies have found that men who eat moderate amounts of soy aren’t more likely to have unhealthy sperm, low testosterone levels, or other infertility problems. In fact, at least one study has found that eating some soy can actually lead to higher-quality sperm, so there is no reason for men to avoid soy-based foods.

Lifestyle Changes for Sperm Health

woman with a salad and tape measure
In addition to following a diet that provides your body with a wide range of nutrients, you can make other lifestyle changes that can boost your sexual health.

Some studies have found that physical activity can help boost sperm counts and sperm health. Likewise, men who spend more time watching television and those who lead sedentary lifestyles are more likely to produce less sperm.

Smoking cigarettes can also reduce sperm health, so quitting tobacco products may help improve infertility problems. Additionally, marijuana and other recreational drugs can prevent the body from making healthy sperm and can impact sexual health.

Changing your daily routine by eating more superfoods or creating other health-building habits can increase your sperm health. However, if you continue to struggle with infertility, your doctor can help you learn more about potential causes and recommend treatments that may increase your chances of conceiving.

If you are planning a family and would like to consult with Dr. Connor, please make an appointment.

What Is a Low-Residue Diet?

What Is a Low-Residue Diet?

Man with groceries
A low-residue dietA low-fiber/low-residue diet is a diet with the end goal of having fewer and smaller bowel movements each day and it may help calm symptoms of gastrointestinal illnesses or help prepare the body for certain medical procedures. People who follow a low-residue diet need to eat low-fiber foods that are easy to digest. If your physician tells you to go on a low-residue diet, ask for guidelines around what to eat and how long to stay on the diet.

What Is Food Residue?

The digestive system breaks down and uses most parts of the food we eat. However, there are some substances that can’t be digested. Anything that can’t be broken down and is left over in the large intestine after a meal is digested is called “residue.”

Residue is mostly made up of fiber. Dietary fiber is a substance made by plants. It is primarily present in plant-based foods like grains and produce. The body can’t break down fiber.

Most people need to eat a lot of fiber in order to maintain good health. Eating more fiber reduces a person’s risk of chronic disorders like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends a daily fiber intake of 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. However, a person may occasionally need to eat smaller amounts of fiber for health reasons.

The Low-Residue Diet

The goal of a low-residue diet is to eat foods that can be easily broken down by the body and will lead to less residue left over in the digestive system. This diet typically causes people to have smaller, less frequent bowel movements.

A low-residue diet is very similar to a low-fiber diet, but they may not be exactly the same. Low-residue diets do focus on low-fiber foods, but they may also eliminate other types of foods as well. For example, dairy products do not contain much fiber, but still lead to a lot of residue, so these foods may also be avoided. This is important to note if you are following a low-residue diet for the purposes of bowel preparation, dietary or other health reasons.

When Do You Need To Use a Low-Residue Diet?

holding belly
There are two main reasons why physicians recommend low-residue diets. The first is for diagnostic purposes, to prepare the digestive system before undergoing a test or surgery. The other is as a treatment for different digestive illnesses. Don’t begin a low-residue diet unless your healthcare provider tells you that you should. Low-residue diets typically don’t provide enough nutrients to keep you healthy long-term, so follow your physician’s instructions regarding when to begin and end this eating plan. Additionally, you may want to ask your physician if it’s a good idea to take any vitamins or supplements while you are following the low-residue diet.

The Low-Residue Diet as Bowel Preparation

Some people need to follow a low-residue diet before going through medical procedures. One such procedure is a colonoscopy. During this test, a physician uses a thin tube with a camera on the end to look inside the large intestine. Colonoscopies are used to diagnose certain illnesses and digestive problems. Colonoscopies are also an important part of screening for colon cancer. People with an average risk of developing this cancer should begin getting screened at the age of 45. Before a colonoscopy, a person needs to clean out their bowel. Traditionally, many physicians recommended a bowel prep that involved taking laxatives and consuming only clear liquids for one or more days before the procedure. However, in recent years many researchers have conducted clinical trials looking at other bowel prep methods. Several studies have found that people who ate a low-residue diet before undergoing procedures had equal or better colon cleansing compared to people who followed a clear liquid diet. Additionally, people following a low-residue diet preferred this method and were more likely to stick to the instructions. Physicians may also recommend following a low-residue diet before other intestinal tests. By eliminating leftover residue from the large intestine, this diet can help the physicians see the intestine more clearly and more accurately identify any problems.

Using the Low-Residue Diet as Treatment

Eating low-residue foods may help manage symptoms of conditions that affect the digestive system. Physicians may recommend following this eating plan to people who are dealing with:

  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Diverticulitis
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • A bowel obstruction (a condition in which digested food is blocking the intestines)
  • Other conditions, such as infection or cancer of the digestive system
  • Surgery of the intestines

There are two different disorders that fall under the umbrella of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. In both of these conditions, there is ongoing inflammation in the small or large intestine. Over time, this inflammation causes damage and leads to symptoms like abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, blood in the stool, weight loss, and tiredness. However, these symptoms don’t occur all of the time. They occur or get worse during disease “flares.” Low-residue diets may help reduce the amount of stool, allowing the intestines rest and leading to fewer IBD symptoms during these flares. Diverticulitis is a condition in which small bulges or pouches form in the intestines, and then — these outpouchings — become inflamed. One study has found that eating foods that are easier on the digestive system, including low-fiber foods, may help reduce symptoms. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a disorder without a clear cause that leads to several digestive symptoms, including bloating, cramping, constipation, and diarrhea. In the past, most physicians have recommended that people with IBS try eating more fiber. Unfortunately, this can sometimes make symptoms more severe. Now, researchers are finding that a low-fiber diet can lessen symptoms or make them disappear altogether. A low-residue or low-fiber diet may also be necessary before surgery — either surgery on the intestines or gynecological surgery. Following a low-residue diet before these surgeries can help create more room in the abdomen and reduce risk of infection. Additionally, switching to a low-residue diet after intestinal surgery can help people’s intestines begin working again more quickly, leading to a shorter amount of time spent in the hospital.

How Does a Low-Residue Diet Work?

It is hard to measure exactly how much residue each type of food produces. Additionally, each person’s body may respond to foods differently. Researchers have not always been able to come up with a clear definition for which foods qualify as “low-residue.” For this reason, some physicians now recommend that people who need to follow a low-residue diet simply try to follow a low-fiber diet. When it comes to a low-fiber diet, physicians often suggest eating 10 grams of fiber or less per day. If your physician wants you to follow a low-residue diet, they may also tell you to avoid other foods that may be hard to digest or cause digestive symptoms. Learning about which foods naturally contain fiber can help. Check the nutrition facts label on your foods. This will tell you how much of that food makes up one serving and how much fiber is in each serving. If a food item like a fruit or vegetable doesn’t come with a label, you can look up the amount of fiber per serving online. Keep track of how much fiber you’re eating throughout the day, and try not to eat more than 10 grams, or follow your physician’s instructions for how much fiber you should be eating. Your physician will tell you how long to remain on a low-residue diet. If you just need to go through bowel prep for an upcoming procedure, you may only need to follow the diet for one or a couple of days. If you are trying to use a low-residue diet to help with disease symptoms, your physician may advise staying on the diet for several weeks or months. People who need to follow a low-residue diet long-term may want to consult with a Registered Dietician (RD) or Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS). These health professionals can help ensure that you are eating balanced meals and getting good nutrition while limiting the foods that you eat.

What Foods Can I Eat on a Low-Residue Diet?

During a low-residue diet, you’ll want to focus on low-fiber foods. This list of foods provides a good starting point for what you may be able to eat. However, each person digests food differently, so your physician may tell you to avoid foods that are on this list. Always follow your physician’s recommendations. Usually, the foods on this list have low levels of fiber. However, it is still important to check the nutrition facts label for everything that you eat. Some naturally low-fiber foods have extra fiber added in. When it comes to grains, white or refined products have less fiber than whole-wheat and whole-grain products. Stick to:

  • White bread
  • White pasta
  • White rice
  • Non-whole-wheat crackers
  • Cereal without added fiber.

Most cooked, tenderized meats are okay to have on a low-residue diet. You can also have poultry and eggs. For plant-based options, you can try tofu and smooth peanut butter. Most fruits and vegetables should not be eaten raw. Cooking produce, removing skins and seeds, and avoiding pulp helps you cut back on fiber and residue. Vegetables that can be eaten raw include small amounts of zucchini, cucumbers, or lettuce. Make sure to peel and remove seeds first. You can also have cooked, canned, or juiced versions of the following vegetables:

  • Spinach
  • Green beans and wax beans
  • Asparagus
  • Eggplant
  • Squash and pumpkin
  • Potatoes with the skins removed
  • Carrots
  • Beets

When it comes to fruits, juices are always a good option — but make sure to buy pulp-free! Sauces and purees like applesauce are also good bets. Raw melon, cantaloupe, bananas, apricots, nectarines, peaches, and plums are usually okay to have on a low-residue diet. If you’re eating raw fruit, make sure it’s very ripe. You can also have canned fruits as long as they don’t come in heavy syrup. Make sure to drink plenty of fluids while on a low-residue diet. This can help prevent constipation, which is common when eating low-fiber foods.

What Foods Should I Avoid on a Low-Residue Diet?

Avoid whole-grain and whole-wheat foods, which contain a lot of fiber. Additionally, stay away from:

  • Brown rice and wild rice
  • Popcorn
  • Oats and oatmeal
  • Granola
  • Wheat germ
  • Bran
  • Grains like barley, quinoa, and bulgur

When it comes to meats, stay away from processed meats like hot dogs and sausage, and say no to any deli meats. You should also avoid nuts and crunchy peanut butter, beans, and tempeh, as these are all high-fiber foods. Avoid any vegetables that aren’t on the above lists. Additionally, stay away from any vegetables that haven’t been de-seeded or peeled. When it comes to fruit, you should avoid all dried fruits, as these typically contain a lot of fiber. You should also choose not to eat any pineapple, berries, figs, and prunes. Ask your physician whether it is okay to eat dairy products. Some low-residue diet recommendations include limiting or avoiding milk, yogurt, and cheese. These products contain low amounts of fiber but may worsen digestive symptoms and increase the amount of stool that you produce.

How To Reintroduce High-Fiber Foods

You’ve completed the low-residue diet, and your physician says that you no longer need to follow this eating plan. Now what?

If you have only been eating low-fiber foods for a day or two, it may be fine to eat a normal amount of fiber again the next day. Ask your physician for recommendations.

If you have been following a low-residue diet for a longer time period, don’t go back to your usual diet immediately. It will be difficult for your digestive system to handle. Instead, increase the amount of fiber you eat gradually over time. Try eating a small amount of a high-fiber food for a couple of days in a row. If you don’t experience any symptoms, add this food back into your diet.

Some experts recommend adding 5 more grams of fiber to your diet each week. For example, if you have been eating 10 grams of fiber each day, try eating 15 grams of fiber per day the following week, and 20 grams per day the week after that. If you begin to experience digestive symptoms like bloating, cramping, or diarrhea, try decreasing your fiber intake again until the symptoms resolve.


A low-residue diet is similar to a low-fiber diet. In some cases, they may be the same. These diets may be a necessary tool when preparing for certain medical procedures. They can also be a helpful way of managing symptoms for people with digestive diseases. However, people should not usually stay on low-residue diets for long time periods, because fiber helps keep you healthy and prevent chronic illnesses. Follow your physician’s instructions when it comes to beginning and ending a low-residue diet, and heed their recommendations about what to eat and avoid. If you think this is a diet that could benefit you, please discuss with Dr. Connor first by making an appointment.

The Best Anti-Aging Superfoods

The Best Anti-Aging Superfoods

woman with pomegranate
Staying young isn’t just about the way you look or the way you act — it’s also about protecting your health. The older we get, the more damage builds up in our tissues and the more likely we are to be diagnosed with chronic health conditions.

Of course, there’s no way to permanently halt the aging process. However, eating right and taking care of yourself can help minimize age-related damage and keep you feeling as good as you can throughout many decades of life.

(I encourage you to read my entire series on superfoods to learn about what is so super about superfoods as well as about superfoods for weight lossheart healthdiabetes and pre-diabetesradiant skin and gut health.)

Aging and Your Health

Every part of your body goes through age-related changes. Your skin loses its elasticity, your muscles become weaker, and your bones lose strength.

Additionally, the older you get, the higher your risk for health conditions such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Arthritis and other joint problems
  • Cognitive disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
  • Cancer

Adopting healthy habits, including eating more nutritious foods, may help slow down these changes and keep you as healthy as possible as you age.

What Causes Aging?

Experts are still learning about the many factors that bring about aging. However, they have identified a few possible causes, which may be affected by lifestyle habits such as diet.

Some genes help control aging. These genes may be turned on or off or develop mutations that lead to age-related changes within cells.

Aging is also linked to damage. Small molecules called reactive oxygen species (ROS) can form within cells. ROS damage DNA and cells, causing a cell to age. On the other hand, antioxidants are substances that get rid of ROS, helping prevent and heal damage. Some unhealthy foods can lead to higher levels of ROS, while other foods can act as antioxidants, keeping your cells young.

Inflammation is another factor that leads to aging. A little bit of inflammation is necessary to help the immune system fight off germs or toxins. But chronic (ongoing) inflammation can accelerate the aging process and lead to age-related health problems. Different foods can help raise or lower the amount of inflammation in the body.

Superfood Solutions to Stop Aging

super foods
Eating a variety of foods from each food group is enough to help you get most of the vitamins and minerals you need to stay healthy. However, if you’re worried about aging, you may want to eat extra superfoods that can help your cells stay healthy.

There’s no one definition of a “superfood,” but the label tends to be given to foods or drinks that offer higher levels of health-boosting nutrients. Superfoods also frequently contain helpful molecules like antioxidants, which protect cells from free radicals and help heal the damage that builds up with age. Additionally, many superfoods have been shown to help reduce the risk of developing different chronic diseases.

Adding more of these foods to your diet may help you keep your body healthy and make you look and feel as young as possible as you age!


Blueberries are a powerful superfood that can help keep you healthy into your later years. These fruits contain antioxidants and other anti-aging molecules.

Blueberries can protect nerve cells from ROS and inflammation. This can help prevent or even reverse age-related problems with memory, cognitive abilities, balance, and motor function.

Blueberries also contain molecules called anthocyanins that help protect against disorders like diabetes and heart disease. They may even help protect against early death.


Different kinds of nuts — including almonds, walnuts, pistachios, Brazil nuts, and pine nuts — provide healthy fats and protein and help protect against inflammation. Another big benefit of eating nuts is their ability to help prevent age-related health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and cognitive problems like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Nuts may even help you live longer. One study found:

  • People who ate nuts once per week were 89% less likely to have an early death.
  • Those who ate nuts two to four times a week were 87% less likely to die early.
  • Eating nuts five or six times per week led to an 85% reduced risk of early death.
  • People who had nuts at least seven times a week were 80% less likely to die early.


Pomegranates are a fantastic superfood that contain several anti-aging molecules.

Several substances found in pomegranates can help protect cartilage from being degraded. This may help keep joints healthy and protect against arthritis.

These fruits also contain molecules called ellagitannin and ellagic acid. When you eat pomegranate, the good bacteria in your gut transform these chemicals into urolithin A (UA). UA reduces inflammation and gives a boost to the mitochondria (small structures that make energy for your cells).

UA can also protect against age-related problems that appear in your muscles, joints, brain, and other tissues. In some laboratory studies, UA also helped animals live longer, although this has not yet been tested in humans.


Eating more tomatoes may be an easy way to keep your skin healthy as you age. Tomatoes contain lycopene, a red pigment that also acts as an antioxidant. Pro tip: your body can absorb lycopene from tomato paste more easily than it can from fresh tomatoes.

Researchers have found that lycopene is present in your skin cells and in the oil that your skin produces, although levels decrease with age. Fortunately, eating more lycopene can increase how much of this molecule is present in your skin, bringing lycopene levels up to those seen in young adults. Studies have also found that eating more tomato paste protects the skin from sun damage.

Tomatoes may provide other benefits as well. Some research shows that eating more tomatoes can help reduce your chances of being diagnosed with serious conditions like heart disease and cancer.


Salmon, as well as other fatty fish like trout, mackerel, sardines, and tuna, is a great source of vitamin D, protein, and healthy fats, making it an important superfood.

Levels of vitamin D in the body tend to drop with age. This is bad news for your bones, since vitamin D is needed to keep them strong and healthy. Low vitamin D levels mean an increased risk of weak or broken bones. Not getting enough of this vitamin also puts you at risk for certain age-linked diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, and cancer. Making sure you have enough of this vitamin as you age is essential.

Healthy protein sources also become increasingly important as you age. The older you get, the more muscle mass you lose. Eating higher levels of protein can help combat this and keep the muscles healthy.

The omega-3 fats found in salmon and other fish also help with healthy aging. They can reduce inflammation and protect brain health, helping prevent age-related declines in thinking and memory abilities.

Nonfat Milk

Milk and dairy products such as cheese and yogurt provide several important nutrients. Like fatty fish, milk is a good source of protein. In the United States, milk is also usually fortified with extra vitamin D, making it another good source of this vitamin.

Dairy foods also contain a lot of calcium, a mineral that is important for bone health. Low calcium levels can eventually lead to osteoporosis, a disease in which the bones become weak. Older adults may also be at risk for this condition because some medications may prevent the body from absorbing as much calcium as it normally would. Getting enough calcium from your diet is important at every age and can help prevent future bone problems.

Whole Grains

People who want to age well should look to whole grains. Try switching out white bread for whole wheat bread, refined pasta for wheat pasta, and white rice for brown rice. You can also eat more grains like quinoa, oats, or popcorn.

Research shows that middle-aged adults who eat more whole grains are more likely to have better physical and mental health, and are less likely to have chronic illnesses.


Turmeric is the super spice that gives Indian curries their yellow color. Turmeric contains a molecule called curcumin that can help improve many aspects of health and has some anti-aging properties.

Laboratory studies have found that curcumin can help worms, flies, and mice live longer. It’s not yet clear whether turmeric can affect lifespan in humans, but researchers have identified several ways in which this spice can affect aging.

Curcumin can boost the body’s own natural antioxidants. It can also turn off several genes linked to aging. Finally, it can lessen symptoms of certain health conditions linked to aging and inflammation, such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.


While it may not be a “superfood” in the usual sense, water is an important nutrient that is vital for aging well. Your skin loses moisture as you get older, which makes it age. Staying hydrated is important for keeping all of your tissues healthy.

Your sense of thirst may also decrease as you get older, making it harder to remember to drink enough fluids. Additionally, staying hydrated is important when taking certain medications for chronic health conditions.

Make a plan to drink a certain number of glasses of water each day. Plan when you’re going to have drinks — don’t wait until you feel thirsty. Try having a full glass of water with every meal, and while taking any medication. If drinking enough water is difficult, you can also drink some low-fat or nonfat milk, or juice without added sugar or salt.

Diet Plans for Healthy Aging

woman with a salad and tape measure

While eating superfoods can help protect against illness, following a healthy eating plan may provide even better results. Researchers have developed certain diets that reduce a person’s chances of developing conditions that may come on with age.

One of the best-studied diets is the Mediterranean diet. It emphasizes plant-based meals with lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, olive oil, and seafood. This diet can lower the risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and certain types of cancer. In one study, people who followed the Mediterranean diet more closely were 26% less likely to have an early death from heart problems.

A related diet, called Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH), helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels and boost heart health.

The Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diet combines elements from both eating plans above. The MIND diet encourages people to eat leafy green vegetables, berries, whole grains, nuts, beans, and wine. It can help protect against Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Other Tips for Aging Well

Many different lifestyle factors affect how we age. If you want to maintain health into your later years, you may also want to consider making other changes.

Getting Enough Physical Activity As You Age

Nearly one in three adults over the age of 50 are physically inactive. Additionally, people with chronic health conditions are more likely to report that they don’t get as much exercise. However, physical activity is very important — it can help prevent or treat many different disorders and reduce a person’s chances of an early death.

Experts make the following physical activity recommendations for older adults:

  • Get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week (for example, take five 30-minute brisk walks per week)
  • Spend two days each week doing strength training or other activities that help build muscle
  • Regularly perform exercises that help improve balance, such as standing on one foot

If you can’t reach all of the above goals, remember that doing something is better than nothing. The more time you spend moving and the less time you spend sitting, the better! Make sure to talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise plan to make sure that you are being active in a way that is healthy for you.

Limiting Alcohol and Tobacco

Smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol can speed up the aging process. They can both negatively impact the skin and lead to more wrinkles. Alcohol and tobacco can also increase a person’s chances of being diagnosed with cancer and other serious conditions.

One study also found that people who didn’t drink heavily or smoke, and adopted other healthy habits like eating healthy and getting exercise, were 60% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

Maintaining Mental Health

People of all ages can struggle with maintaining good mental health. However, problems like depression or anxiety can have a bigger impact on physical health for older adults. Poor mental health can make it harder for people to seek treatment for other conditions like diabetes or heart disease.

If you notice changes in your mood or emotions, talk to your doctor. Therapy or medication often helps improve your mental health, which can in turn have a positive impact on your physical health.


Your diet increasingly impacts your health as you age. The more you add superfoods and other nutritious foods to your diet, the more you can protect your skin and other organs from age-related damage and decrease your risk of chronic health disorders. Please click here to schedule an appointment with Dr Connor or call us at (512) 382-9500.

Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy: Causes and Treatments

Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy: Causes and Treatments

Testing blook sugar

Diabetes — a condition that affects more than one in 10 Americans — often leads to additional health problems called complications. One of the most common diabetes complications is peripheral neuropathy. People with this condition have nerve damage that leads to pain, tingling, numbness, or weakness in the hands and feet. About one in two people with diabetes have peripheral neuropathy.

What Causes Neuropathy?

Neuropathy is a disease of the nerves. The body uses nerves to communicate with the rest of the body. Some nerves send signals from the brain to other tissues, and then other nerves send signals back to the brain. This process helps the brain learn about feelings and sensations, tell muscles when and how to move, and control different processes in the body such as breathing and the heartbeat.

In people with diabetes, the body has a hard time controlling levels of sugar and fat in the blood. High blood sugar levels and high fat levels can directly damage the nerves and also harm the blood vessels that keep the nerves healthy. In people with neuropathy, the brain has a harder time receiving information from and sending signals to certain parts of the body.

Neuropathy can also be caused by other conditions. Certain genetic disorders that are passed down within families can lead to nerve damage. Other disorders such as Guillain-Barre syndrome, inflammatory conditions, or cancer may also lead to neuropathy. Environmental or lifestyle-related causes of neuropathy can include heavy drinking, not getting enough of certain vitamins or minerals, exposure to toxic substances, or infections.

Types of Neuropathy

Damage to different types of nerves can lead to different forms of neuropathy. These include:

  • Peripheral neuropathy: damage to the nerves in the feet or hands
  • Autonomic neuropathy: damage to the nerves that control body functions like digestion, blood pressure, sweating, vision, urination, and body temperature
  • Focal neuropathies: problems with a single nerve in the wrist, leg, head, or other location; includes carpal tunnel syndrome and eye problems
  • Proximal neuropathy: damage that affects nerves in the thigh, hip, or buttock, usually just on one side of the body

People with diabetes can develop any of these neuropathies. Peripheral neuropathy is the most common type of nerve damage.

Peripheral Neuropathy Symptoms

man holding arm
Peripheral neuropathy symptoms affect the feet, ankles, lower legs, hands, or arms. People with this condition may feel pain, burning, weakness, numbness, or “pins and needles” sensations. The sense of touch may also be affected in these areas. For example, people with peripheral neuropathy may not notice right away when their hand is touching something hot, or they may not realize that their shoes are too tight.

These symptoms can develop and worsen slowly over time, or they can appear quickly. They may be more severe at night than they are during the day.

Long-Term Effects of Peripheral Neuropathy

Over time, people with diabetic peripheral neuropathy may experience worsening problems with their feet. When it is harder for the nerves in the feet to pick up on different sensations, a person may be less likely to notice pain or discomfort. Some people with diabetes develop sores, blisters, or infections on their feet, and may not notice these issues right away.

Diabetes interferes with the body’s healing processes by preventing enough blood from flowing to injured tissues. This means that it is harder for the body to repair even minor injuries. Some people with diabetes who develop severe foot problems may need to have a toe or foot amputated.

When feet and leg problems pile up, it may become harder to walk. Some of those with neuropathy may have a hard time balancing properly. This can lead to falls, which puts a person at risk for breaking bones. A person’s sense of movement may also be affected. Peripheral neuropathy may also cause a lot of pain, especially while walking.

Diabetics with peripheral neuropathy are likely to need more frequent visits to their doctor’s office or the hospital. They may also have a hard time working because of pain or difficulties getting around. All of these issues can in turn lead to mental health disorders such as anxiety or depression.

Diagnosing Peripheral Neuropathy

woman holding lower back
If you are experiencing signs of peripheral neuropathy, talk to your doctor. You will likely need to have a physical exam. Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and your family and personal health history.

Blood tests are often a part of physical exams. These tests can identify various health problems that can cause neuropathy or be found in people with diabetes. Blood tests may be used to detect:

  • Abnormal blood cell levels
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Kidney or liver problems
  • Low levels of certain vitamins or minerals

During the physical exam, your doctor may perform several tests to see whether you are able to detect sensations with the nerves in your feet. One possible test is a monofilament test, in which the doctor touches your feet with a thin strand of nylon to see if you can feel it. Another test involves touching the feet with a tuning fork to see if the nerves in your feet can sense vibrations.

Doctors can directly measure how well your nerves and muscles are working with other tests. They may use nerve conduction velocity tests (NCV) to see how fast your nerves are able to send out signals. An electromyogram (EMG) measures electricity in the muscles, which helps doctors understand how fast your muscles respond to signals from the nerves.

Other tests may include checking your balance, seeing how well you walk, or testing the blood flow in your feet and toes.

Can Peripheral Neuropathy Be Prevented?

pricking finger

One of the most important ways people can reduce their risk of neuropathy is by treating their diabetes. Keeping blood sugar levels under control helps prevent the nerves from becoming damaged. Work with your doctor to develop a diabetes treatment plan that works for you.

Certain risk factors can increase a person’s chances of developing diabetic peripheral neuropathy. These include:

  • Being older
  • Having diabetes for a long period of time
  • Having certain genes
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Heavy drinking
  • Being overweight
  • Having other health problems such as high cholesterol levels or hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Being diagnosed with other conditions, including kidney disease

You can’t control some peripheral neuropathy risk factors like age or genetics. However, you can reduce your risk of nerve damage by focusing on certain lifestyle changes. Getting more exercise, eating a balanced diet (especially superfoods for diabetics), quitting smoking, and limiting how much you drink may help you avoid peripheral neuropathy. Additionally, use lifestyle changes or medication to prevent or treat high blood pressure or cholesterol levels.

Peripheral Neuropathy Treatments

If you are suffering from neuropathy pain, the first step is talking to your doctor, who can help you come up with a treatment plan. Make sure to ask about ways to both treat the neuropathy as well as keep your diabetes under control to prevent further damage.

Medications for Peripheral Neuropathy

Several different types of drugs can help manage peripheral neuropathy pain. However, traditional painkillers may not always be the best option. In particular, over-the-counter pain medications often do not work for neuropathic pain. These include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen as well as other drugs like acetaminophen.

Instead of utilizing traditional pain relievers, physicians sometimes recommend a medication for nerve pain that is in the “antidepressant” category of medicine because of the mechanism of action of this medication. These medications don’t heal nerve damage, but they can reduce neuropathy symptoms. Possible options may include:

  • Pamelor (nortriptyline)
  • Norpramin (desipramine)
  • Tofranil (imipramine)
  • Elavil (amitriptyline)
  • Cymbalta (duloxetine)
  • Effexor (venlafaxine)
  • Paxil (paroxetine)
  • Celexa (citalopram)

Anti-seizure medications may be another option for treating peripheral neuropathy pain. These drugs may include Neurontin (gabapentin) or Lyrica (pregabalin). Finally, topical medications that are applied directly to the skin may help. Your doctor may be able to prescribe a cream, spray, or patch that can numb pain.

These medications are not always equally effective for everyone. If you try one medication and it doesn’t seem to be helping, notify your doctor — another drug may work better for you.

When blood sugar levels rise, some of these medications may not work as well to treat neuropathy symptoms. Following your diabetes treatment plan is important when trying to treat nerve pain and treating the root cause of the problem is the goal in working to reduce neuropathy and neuropathic pain.

Supplements for Neuropathy

Several studies have found that alpha-lipoic acid can work well to treat neuropathy symptoms. This molecule is an antioxidant that is made by the body. Alpha-lipoic acid treatments are especially effective when they are given intravenously, through an IV needle that goes directly into a vein.

This antioxidant is also available as an over-the-counter supplement. In this form, alpha-lipoic acid may still help with symptoms, but it is not usually as effective as IV treatments.

Physical Therapy

People with diabetic neuropathy may want to consider going to physical therapy (PT). This type of treatment can help you build strength and improve your balance. During PT, you will work with a physical therapist to perform different exercises that specifically address your needs.

Caring For Your Feet


Taking good care of your feet can help prevent minor problems from getting worse. Doctors recommend that people with peripheral neuropathy check their feet every day. If you notice a small issue right away and seek treatment, you have a better chance of healing and avoiding infection. Try looking for:

  • Cuts, sores, or areas where the skin is broken
  • Blisters
  • Calluses (areas of thicker skin)
  • Plantar warts (a hard, rough growth on the surface of the skin)
  • Rashes such as athlete’s foot
  • Ingrown toenails (a condition in which the edge of a toenail grows into the flesh, or the surrounding skin starts growing over the nail)

Try to get into the habit of washing your feet each day. Make sure the water that you use isn’t too hot. If you have a hard time sensing temperature, use a thermometer to measure the water before washing. Don’t use water above 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius). Once you are done, dry your feet thoroughly. Dust your feet with baby powder or cornstarch to help keep your skin dry.

Another way to protect your feet is always wearing socks and shoes. Socks can help keep your feet dry, while shoes protect your feet from injury. Make sure your shoes aren’t too tight, and break in new shoes by wearing them for short periods of time when you first get them. Before putting on your shoes, check that there are no small stones or other objects inside that could hurt your feet.

Certain types of footwear can also help prevent ulcers. Ask your doctor about whether insoles, shoes, or orthotics may help support your feet.

yearly foot exam is also a good idea for people with peripheral neuropathy. During this visit, your doctor can make sure your feet are in good health. More frequent exams may be needed for people who have current or past foot problems. You may be able to go to your primary care provider for this exam, or your doctor may recommend that you see a podiatrist (a doctor who specializes in treating feet).

Controlling Diabetes

Managing your blood sugar levels is a very important part of treating and controlling nerve damage. Make sure to check your blood sugar regularly. Choose nutritious foods that won’t lead to large blood sugar spikes, and get regular physical activity. Additionally, use any medications as directed by your doctor.

If you don’t think that you are controlling your blood sugar levels well enough, talk to your health care team. Your doctor may be able to help you better understand which treatments or lifestyle changes will help prevent complications from diabetes. A certified nutritionist or registered dietician can also help you come up with a better eating plan.


It is important to take peripheral neuropathy seriously, since symptoms can get worse and may cause additional problems over time. Effectively treating your diabetes can help you avoid nerve damage or prevent existing symptoms from worsening. Medications can help relieve symptoms of peripheral neuropathy, including pain. Follow the directions of your health care team when it comes to making necessary lifestyle changes and taking care of your feet. If you are having nerve pain and would like to discuss it further, please make an appointment. 

Pin It on Pinterest