Asked and Answered: How can I keep my stomach in check during July 4 barbecues?

Maybe you're getting off work a little early today. Maybe some all-day parties are on the horizon. Maybe you're just planning on watching some fireworks... with a few beers and pounds of barbecue. While all of this sounds fun (because it is) excessive eating can also mean a stomach problem waiting to happen.

Even if you're not competing in the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating contest -- because no one should do that, ever -- July 4 barbecues can catch up with you if you're not careful. Let's start with the preventatives -- things you can buy with your FSA before you celebrate Independence Day harder than Will Smith and Bill Pullman.

Probiotics are your friend...

...or friends, we should say. Probiotics are the millions of naturally occurring bacteria and yeasts in your body that help with the digestion process. Sounds kind of gross, but these little guys are really helpful when it comes to breaking down food and boosting your immunity.

While we're already filled with lots of good probiotics, sometimes it's nice (and necessary) to get a little help. Probiotics can be found in tons of common foods like yogurt, chocolate and soft cheeses. If you have a more diverse palate, they're also found in sauerkraut, kombucha and even sour pickles.

But, If these foods don't excite you, or if you're having digestive troubles, a medical professional might prescribe probiotics, or other digestive health remedies.

What if it's "too late?" …

If you've already eaten 20 hot wings (after promising you'd stop at three), or if you had a fun night out after getting back from an entire day out -- don't panic. There are solutions, and they come in the form of digestive aids.

Digestive aids are over-the-counter (OTC) medicines that can treat anything from diarrhea to heartburn to gas pains. They come in a wide range of forms like antacids, laxatives, antidiarrheals or anti-gas medicines, all of which can help what's bothering you (and all of which can be FSA-eligible if prescribed by your doctor).

And if this becomes more of a recurring problem, then maybe there's more to it. Instead of turning to temporary solutions, a doctor might recommend a change in your sleeping habits. Thankfully, there are awesome elevated acid reflux pillows that can alleviate a lot of the discomfort. Just by raising your sleeping position, acid stays where it belongs, and you start enjoying the benefits of a restful night sleep... even if you still overdid it at the fireworks display.

If it's a little more serious ...

If you don't have a simple stomach ache and are dealing with more long-lasting gut pain, your FSA can still help. After speaking with a doctor (which you should do whenever experiencing stomach pains of any kind) and targeting the the source of your discomfort, you might be given some OTC meds to help.

Gastrointestinal medications are FSA-eligible, and can treat ailments associated with conditions like Crohn's disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), liver disease, ulcers, stomach cancer and many others.

For those dealing with these sorts of problems, this time of year can be hard as is, so make sure you protect yourselves from the potential discomforts that can be caused by eating heavier, greasier foods and by stress.

Stomach issues are going to happen, especially if you plan on multiple July 4 barbecues this year. But they shouldn't hinder your life -- and with a little proactive, preventive treatment, they don't have to.


From FSA basics to the most specific account details, in our weekly Asked and Answered column, our team gets to the bottom of your most-pressing flex spending questions. It appears every Wednesday, exclusively on the Learning Center. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter.

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