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Living Well

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 (FSA-eligible with prescription) 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 when prescribed, 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.


Acid Reflux Pillows


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.


Flex-Ed: Gift yourself some health this Father's Day

Father's Day is this Sunday. While the dads reading this probably have received their share of personalized mugs, new ties, or even a homemade pencil cup, there's a good chance they aren't getting things they actually need to keep them safely and happily "dadding" throughout the year.

And since you can't use an FSA for anyone but yourself and eligible dependents, it's the perfect time to get yourself something that promotes better health. We decided to break from the norm with this week's Flex-Ed to highlight some top FSA-eligible picks for all our favorite dads this year. Because the last thing you need is another grill apron.

Ultimate Foot Circulator with Remote

This foot circulator delivers prescription-strength relief, treats stiff muscles, and increases circulation in both your feet and ankles. It even comes with its own remote. A few nights with this awesome form of relief and you'll be back in those lawn-mowing shoes in no time. After all, no one mows symmetrical stripes in a lawn quite like dad.

CPAP Mask and accessory cleaner

Like it or not, you probably snore. In fact, about 40% of men are snorers. (That's compared to only 24% of women, but who's keeping track?) But jokes aside, snoring can be indicative of more serious (and even life-threatening) conditions like sleep apnea.

This Father's Day, perhaps it's time to come to grips with this sobering fact and look into CPAP therapy for your own snoring. If doctors agree you'd benefit, you can use your FSA to invest in a CPAP mask and accessory cleaner, which uses UV light to kill 99% of the machine's bacteria in just five minutes.

Maybe it's not the most fun item on this list. But there's nothing more enjoyable than a healthy dad and a good night's sleep (for everyone).

Acid reflux relief system

If dad's not already grilling, Father's Day often ends up in a nice dinner out -- usually at one of his favorite chain restaurants. Think Applebee's, Chili's, or if you're feeling fancy, The Olive Garden. And let's face it, the never-ending breadstick bowl can result in some pretty gnarly heartburn.

That's where the MedCline Acid Reflux Relief System comes in. It creates the ideal inclined, left-side sleeping position to help ease the pain while promoting better digestion. It's also really comfortable and ergonomic, so dad wins twice on this one.

Nausea bands

Traveling this Father's Day? Chances are an amusement park is on your short list of destinations. Remember when you used to be able to ride roller coasters and not need to sit down immediately afterward? Yep, those were the good ol' days.

Since your kids will likely show no mercy when you take them to an amusement park, you'll need the Reliefband 2.0 Nausea Relief band. It's a drug-free, fast-acting way to relieve the effects of motion sickness. It also kinda looks like an Apple Watch, so there's that.

Owlet Baby Monitor

And for you newly minted members of the dad club out there, perhaps investing in the Owlet Smart Sock 2 Baby Monitor. This isn't just your run-of-the-mill baby monitor. The sock portion wraps about your baby's foot, tracking heart rate, oxygen levels, and sleep then sends the info to the base using Bluetooth technology.

While you probably won't be getting much sleep with a new baby at home, this will help everyone sleep a bit easier. Because it's probably going to be a few years before you're putting your child to sleep with your arsenal of dad jokes.


New to FSAs? Need a refresher course in all things flex spending? Our Flex-Ed column gives you a dose of FSA Living 101, offering tips for making the most of your tax-free funds. Look for it every Thursday, exclusively on the Learning Center.