Is The Gurgle in Your Gut Telling You Something?
By Auguste Turnier, MD, Virtua Gastroenterologist
How completely inconvenient…you've spent weeks preparing a keynote presentation and your stomach has decided to turn against you. With your gut churning and gurgling, how are you going to get through it with a straight face? It seems as though stomach pain, nausea, or other types of gastrointestinal (GI) distress are out to get you at the worst possible times.
You can’t always control your body’s response. But, with some helpful prevention and treatment tips, you can manage GI issues when they strike.
Some of the most common patient complaints from both men and women include gas, bloating, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, and crampy abdominal pain. While these can be symptoms associated with a variety of ailments, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) tends to be the most common offender. IBS often results when the carefully orchestrated process of muscle contraction that controls food ingestion and digestion stops working as it should.
GI Distress: The Common Culprits
The cause of IBS or other GI distress could be as simple as the food you’re eating. Fatty foods, spicy foods, carbonated beverages, artificial sweeteners, and chocolate are frequently associated with IBS. You also may notice that certain vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, or cabbage haven’t “agreed” with you lately. And don’t forget lactose, the sugar found in milk. Millions of Americans are lactose intolerant and suffer digestive issues after consuming dairy products.
Stress is also a common cause of IBS, since the complex nervous system that controls your digestive tract is influenced by the brain.
6 Tips for Relieving Stomach Issues
When you just need relief, here are some treatment tips that may help you right away and improve your digestive health over the long-term:
- For bloating and cramps, try a probiotic (supplement that contains healthy gut bacteria such as lactobacillus or bifidobacterium), a lactase enzyme supplement (like Lactaid) if you suspect dairy may be the issue, or a peppermint supplement.
- Start keeping a food diary. It may help you correlate your symptoms with a specific food.
- Stay hydrated to help with constipation and diarrhea.
- Make sure you are getting enough fiber; this could mean adding more fruits, veggies, and whole grains to your diet. A supplement can help if high-fiber foods are causing gas.
- Relax, even though it can be hard. We underestimate how powerfully stress can impact how our bodies work. Try to ease symptoms with breathing exercises, meditation or yoga.
- Check for over-the-counter digestive remedies that match your symptoms. These might include active ingredients like simethicone (like Gas-X) or bismuth subsalicylate (like Pepto Bismol).
Although IBS rarely leads to severe complications, it can be tricky to diagnose. Only your doctor can properly determine what's causing your problems. It’s always best to consult with your primary care doctor or gastrointestinal specialist if symptoms persist.
Updated January 3, 2017