Stomach problems: they’re uncomfortable, often embarrassing, and stubborn as a mule. We’ve all been there, and if you haven’t, congratulations! You might be a robot.
For the rest of us, these troublesome symptoms often send us straight to Google, typing in vague digestive symptoms that turn up terrifying diagnoses but very few answers on what we can do to feel better. For those of us who are already card-carrying Celiacs or gluten intolerant, we’re prone to stomach problems.
It’s time to come out from the shadows and stare in the face of our digestive demons. We’ve pulled together some of the need-to-know resources on what to do when you and your body are not seeing eye-to-eye.
Disclaimer: While we’re in the business of gluten free and feeling good, we’re not doctors. Always consult your doctor when you’re not feeling well and before starting a new treatment.
What It Is:
Gas may seem like more of a punchline than a medical condition, but it can really wreak havoc on your digestive health. Everyday Health explains that gas is made up of several different vapors that pass through your body: carbon dioxide, hydrogen, methane, nitrogen, and oxygen. When you have excessive gas, that’s when you’ll experience troublesome symptoms like belching, flatulence, and bloating. In excess, those symptoms can cause a lot of discomfort and even disrupt your normal routines.
What To Do:
First, experts recommend you consider your diet. Certain foods can cause excessive gas, and sometimes a few tweaks in your diet can give you considerable relief. For sensitive stomachs, foods like beans (bet you knew that one!), lentils, asparagus, broccoli, onions, lactose products, and even fruit can cause discomfort from excessive gas. Your best bet is to start noticing when you’re experiencing symptoms and tracking it in a food diary. You’ll be able to narrow it down to a few problematic foods and adjust your diet accordingly. When choosing what to eat for dinner tonight, opt for foods rich in dill, basil, cinnamon, cumin, oregano, and parsley (maybe not all in the same dish ;). Those herbs are part of the carminative family, which have shown to provide gas relief.
Another potential cause of your discomfort? WebMD says it could be that you’re swallowing too much air. As strange as it sounds, some of our daily habits result in swallowing more air than usual, and that can cause abdominal bloating, gas, and belching. If you’re an avid gum chewer, if you drink a lot of soda, you’re a smoker, or you’re experiencing a lot of stress, you might be inadvertently taking in too much air.
If you find that lifestyle changes aren’t bringing you much relief, there are certain medical conditions to discuss with your doctor that could be an underlying cause of your symptoms.
What It Is:
While people are quick to say they’re feeling bloated, medical bloating is more than just feeling full after a big meal. Abdominal bloating is when your stomach feels abnormally full and gaseous, and it might even be visibly swollen. Sounds fun, right? Experts will consider a variety of underlying causes of bloating, including indigestion, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, PMS or pregnancy, and – of course – Celiac Disease. While chronic bloating (especially if it’s one of many digestive issues) should send you straight to your doctor, occasional bouts of bloating are bound to happen for those with sensitive stomachs, food allergies, and Celiac Disease.
What To Do:
When you’re feeling bloated, look first to your diet. Similar to when you experience excessive gas, certain foods could be aggravating your symptoms. For bloating, certain foods could also alleviate your symptoms and provide relief. You could have home remedies in your pantry right now, including ginger (make yourself a cup of ginger tea!), yogurt, tempeh, and other foods containing natural probiotics, the good bacteria that aids digestion. When you’re so bloated that snacking sounds unappealing, consider trying light exercise. While you may not feel like moving a single muscle, taking some time to do gentle stretches and yoga for digestion can help massage your abdominal organs and relax your digestive and nervous system when things are out of whack.
For many people who are prone to bloating, gas, and digestive discomfort, activated charcoal is a go-to home remedy. Activated charcoal binds to and absorbs toxins in the body, and you can find it as a key ingredient in certain over-the-counter drugs as well as in natural products. Likewise, some people mix apple cider vinegar into their diet, which many say aids digestion and prevents bloat-inducing indigestion. The bottom line? Monitor your diet, cut down on foods that make you feel sick, and keep your doctor in the loop as you test out home remedies.
Other Fun Stuff
Here’s a quick 101 on some digestion-related topics you’ve probably been wondering about. Have a story to tell about your experience with one of these subjects? Share your expertise in the comments below.
When is the best time to eat? In general, the consensus is to start with a healthy breakfast, followed by balanced meals throughout the day (think fruits, veggies, whole grains, poultry, and fish). The key is to avoid late-night eating, especially sugary drinks and foods. Research shows that thoughtful meal distribution and timing is linked to a healthy weight and heart.
What is FODMAP all about? Usually, people turn to this diet as a way to treat the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). FODMAPs are a type of carbohydrate, and the idea is that these carbs are harder for certain people to digest, leading to an increase in symptoms of IBS. While many people immediately notice a change for the better on the FODMAP diet, it’s not for everyone. Do your research and give your doctor a call before starting.
If gluten is bothering me, should I stop eating it? Not so fast! If you are gluten intolerant or have Celiac Disease, the answer is yes – eventually, you’ll need to adhere to a strict, gluten-free diet. But first, it’s crucial you get tested by your doctor for Celiac Disease while you’re still eating gluten. This is because the test for Celiac Disease screens for certain antibodies, and in order to get accurate results you must be eating gluten, which triggers that autoimmune response. After you receive your test results, you and your doctor can decide whether or not you need to cut gluten from your diet.
If I’m gluten-free, am I also lactose intolerant? We hate to break it to you, but maybe. Especially for those still healing from the damage of undiagnosed Celiac Disease, a temporary intolerance to lactose is pretty common. Celiac Disease damages the lining of your small intestine, which is home to the lactase enzyme that digests lactose. Give it time, track how you feel, and hope that you and cheese can make amends down the road.