Maintaining a healthy gastrointestinal GI system requires any number of resources, including healthy foods, exercise, and other means to relieve stress. Often times, it also requires medications to treat specific GI disorders, such as acid reflux, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), constipation, diarrhea, and other functional disorders.
Together, the result is an exorbitant monthly expense to take care of one organ system in the body. However, there are ways you can work with your doctor, nutritionist, and dietitian to help cut the cost of your GI health care.
Food and nutrition
For many people with GI disorders, and many people with healthy GI systems trying to maintain a healthy gut, healthful foods include fresh fruits and vegetables. With the fast pace of life, the easiest way to include these in our diets is to purchase pre-cut fresh fruit cups or salads from restaurants. This can become costly very quickly.
To cut costs, you can instead buy fresh fruits and vegetables from the produce section of the grocery store and cut them up at home. This may take extra time, but it’s worth the savings. Small fruit cups can last a few days in the fridge, which are easily packed for snacks and lunches. Making salads at home and packing dressing on the side will not only save money but also reduce calories. Often, salads from restaurants are packed with calories due to excessive amounts of dressing already poured onto the salad. You can save even further on produce by buying fruits and vegetables from your local farmer’s market. This will add seasonal variety to your diet as well.
Medications are costly. Insurance companies often cover the medications your physician prescribes for you to take. However, there are cases when a particular medication (especially many acid reflux medications) is not covered. There are several ways you can save money. Ask your physician if there is a generic, as opposed to trade name, medication that works just as well. Also, ask if there is an alternative medication, or a medication in the same class of drugs, that is covered by your insurance that would be just as effective.
If your insurance does not cover a particular medication, there may be an over-the-counter alternative that is less expensive. Or, a medication that your physician suggests you purchase over-the-counter might actually be cheaper if you are given a prescription and get the medication through your insurance. Your physician will be able to provide you with some of this information.
Exercise and stress relief
Exercise and relieving stress help maintain gut regularity. They also help with specific GI disorders, such as constipation, acid reflux, IBS, and even IBD. Gym memberships and exercise classes can be extremely costly. One option for saving money is to invest in gym equipment at home. Paying once for a treadmill or elliptical and some free weights that you can use for up to 10 years will over time be much less costly than a monthly gym membership.
Another option is to find exercise videos that you enjoy on YouTube or from friends and exercise right in your own living room. You can also try finding a friend willing to walk or run outdoors with you so you can keep each other accountable.
Many people turn to meditation and yoga for stress relief. Again, classes can become costly. Some towns and cities have programs that offer yoga classes in a park or on the beach for free or at discounted prices. Be sure to discuss stress and anxiety with your physician. In some cases, a referral to a therapist is recommended for your own health and safety.
Taken together, you can find ways to save a significant amount of money to maintain a healthy and happy gut. Be sure to talk with your physician before changing any of their recommendations on your own, especially with respect to any prescribed medications. Staying healthy should not have to break the bank!
Constance Pietrzak, M.S., M.D., is a gastroenterologist with Advocate Medical Group in Chicago. Through her work with HealthCentral, she strives to expand knowledge on gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Follow Constance on Facebook and Twitter for timely updates on IBD, and more.