Sunday, September 30, 2012

7 ways to calm your upset stomach

7 ways to calm your upset stomach

Maybe you've just eaten, or finished a meal an hour or so ago — and now our stomach just doesn't "feel right." You feel bloated and uncomfortable. Or maybe it's more of a burning sensation. Maybe you feel queasy, or even throw up. You might say you have an "upset stomach" or indigestion. If there is no known medical cause for your symptoms, your doctor would call it "dyspepsia" or "bad digestion."
Indigestion is real. The medical term for persistent upper abdominal pain or discomfort without an identifiable medical cause is functional dyspepsia. Eating often triggers symptoms of functional dyspepsia. Sometimes the discomfort begins during the meal, other times about half an hour later. It tends to come and go in spurts over a period of about three months. One of the annoying things about functional dyspepsia is that a medical workup often finds no physical or anatomical cause for it.
If you suffer from functional dyspepsia, you're not alone. Roughly 25% of the population is affected, and it hits men and women equally. It's responsible for a significant percentage of visits to primary care doctors; in part because many people worry they might have an ulcer. It's a reasonable concern, given that 10% of Americans develop a peptic ulcer at some time in their lives. While it's frustrating that the cause of functional dyspepsia is unknown, it's even more frustrating that there is no surefire cure.
The good news is that there are simple things you can try to help get some relief.
  1. Avoid foods that trigger your symptoms.
  2. Eat small portions and don’t overeat; try eating smaller, more frequent meals and be sure to chew food slowly and completely.
  3. Avoid activities that result in swallowing excess air, such as smoking, eating quickly, chewing gum, and drinking carbonated beverages.
  4. Reduce your stress. Try relaxation therapies, cognitive behavioral therapy, or exercise. An aerobic workout 3-5 times per week can help, but don’t exercise right after eating.
  5. Get enough rest.
  6. Don’t lie down within two hours of eating.
  7. Keep your weight under control.
For more on diagnosing and treating indigestion, buy The Sensitive Gut by Harvard Medical School.

Putting the kibosh on belching

Constant burping can be annoying...and embarrassing! But there are some simple steps that can help you squelch belching. The key is to reduce the amount of air you swallow.
Start by looking at some simple habits. Two of the biggest culprits behind swallowing too much air are chewing gum and smoking. Drop these habits and you'll be gulping less air—and quitting smoking has even more important health benefits! If you wear dentures, make sure they fit snugly. And avoid "high air" foods and beverages like carbonated beverages and whipped desserts. After eating, consider taking a stroll rather than plunking down in front of the TV. Staying upright and moving helps your stomach empty and relieves bloated feelings. When it's time to go to bed, try sleeping on your stomach or right side to aid in the escape of gas and alleviate fullness.
Some people swear by eating brown rice or barley broth regularly. Papaya and pineapple are also said to help. Whatever you eat, chew foods slowly, avoid washing meals down with liquids, and try to eat smaller servings. If you find that you're swallowing a lot of air often, talk with your doctor. Sometimes this problem (aerophagia) can be related to stress or anxiety and treating these underlying issues may help calm your digestive tract.
For more information and advice on ways to control discomfort in your digestive system, buy The Sensitive Gut from Harvard Medical School.

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