When it comes to health and wellness, the focus is usually on the same few things. You think about weight, feeling good, having energy and waking up with a smile on your face. It's all yoga poses in front of a sunset and paleo dieting, but there is one area that's overlooked.
Part of that reasoning might be because it's not the most pleasant of topics. You might obsess about the things you eat, but the actual process of digestion? It's a bit gross. No one wants to think about stomach acid and bowel movements; they don't fit with the clean, sparse image we have of wellness.
This is a massive problem, because of how vital your digestive system is. Your stomach is your engine, but it's also the entire source of nutrients in your body. If it's not working, then nothing is going to work right. It doesn't matter how many vitamins you take if you can't absorb them. It's irrelevant if you eat "clean" if you don't get the benefit from the nutrients.
When it comes to managing health and wellness, you have to start from the inside out. That means managing your stomach and gut health is essential, because without those, nothing much else matters. Digestive complaints are all too common, and there are various reasons behind them. Some have their roots in lifestyle choices and some are genetic, while others are spontaneous illnesses from the just-bad-luck pile.
There are symptoms you have to be aware of, because identifying them is the only way to know your stomach is working as it should. Most of the time, digestion should be something that you can forget about. You should be managing it so well that you can afford to overlook it. But if you are suffering from one of the symptoms below, then it's something you need to rectify.
It may seem normal to bloat after eating, and to an extent that's true. But there is a difference between your stomach expanding as you eat, and bloating that's being caused by excess gas.
You'll produce more gas if your stomach is having a tough time digesting something. So if this is a regular complaint, your diet is the first place to look. Complex carbohydrates are more difficult to digest; if you only have the problem after eating these foods, it's likely the source.
But if you're bloating after every meal, even those rich in protein, then it might be worth further examination.
Yes, sorry, we're going to have to go there! It's pretty difficult to talk about GI complaints without going into the less attractive side of things. As icky as it sounds, it pays to be aware of your bowel movements.
As a rule, your poop should be solid and a light brown color. If it's dark to the point of being black, that could be a medical emergency due to bleeding in the GI tract. Look for medical advice immediately. A lighter color or floating issues, as The Alternative Daily details can mean you are eating too much fat. This can also be a sign of Celiac Disease.
Regularity is something that is very individual. Some people have to go two or three times a day, and for them, that's normal. Others once every two days. The only way to know what's right is to judge what's right for you. If your movements change in frequency, then it's worth keeping a food diary to see if there is any obvious cause.
Finally, blood in a bowel movement is not necessarily a cause of alarm. In most cases - and particularly if you're younger - it will be hemorrhoids, which are unpleasant but treatable. Nevertheless, seek medical advice if you see blood anywhere it shouldn't be.
This is a burning feeling in the chest and windpipe, which can occur at any time but primarily after eating. It's often grouped into a disorder known as GERD. There is no specific test for GERD; it's more an easy way of associating several symptoms.
Anxiety can worsen GERD, so look at lifestyle changes that can help calm stress if that is an issue (or consider seeking help from a therapist). Eating spicy food is also responsible, and carbohydrates don't help either.
Spices are fine in moderation, however, acid reflux can be a sign of a more serious problem like a stomach ulcer. In these cases, it will be accompanied by a pinching pain in the stomach. Ulcers are not life-threatening, but they can make you feel horrific and should be dealt with by a medical professional.
Nine times out of ten, this is going to be down to something that you have eaten. Again, the more complex a food the more likely it is to hurt as it takes time to digest it.
However, it's worth considering if you have an allergy or a sensitivity. There are a few ways to try and identify this. You can go for allergy testing, but this can sometimes give false negatives. It also doesn't identify a sensitivity.
You can try taking an over-the-counter antihistamine and seeing if that eliminates the problem. This will likely only be effective, however, if your digestion is good enough to digest the pill effectively. And, again, it won't show a sensitivity.
Your best bet is to keep a food diary. If it's being caused by a particular food, then you will be able to track it. The FODMAP elimination diet is effective in helping find issues, and if it's a chronic issue, well worth doing. It will allow you to make the changes you need. If you don't find an effective culprit, then visit a doctor.
There are many causes for this, though the top suspect will be Celiac Disease. This is relatively easy to test for, with a blood test being the first step. This can be followed by an endoscopy, but is not always necessary.
So the weapons in your arsenal are food diaries, elimination and knowing what works for you. If you see a change, seek medical advice. You can consider supplements and probiotics - and perhaps should - but these are just treating the symptom. Find the cause, treat it, and you will soon get the most of your wellness efforts.