Bloating, gas, cramps – these can all make your day highly uncomfortable. Worse yet, if you don’t know what’s causing your stomach distress, it can become that much more frustrating.
It could be allergies or ulcers, but there are many other reasons why your stomach is crying out for help that you may not have considered.
Here are four other reasons why your stomach may not be at its best – and what you need to do.
1. Medication side-effects
Prescribed or over-the-counter (OTC) medications are taken to treat an ailment, but often they’re tied to a list of side effects, stomach problems included.
The most common form of medications which can make your stomach uneasy are NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). These include common pain medications, ibuprofen and even aspirin. John Hopkins medical school reports that NSAIDs weaken stomach lining, making you more vulnerable to acid produced in the stomach. This can lead to bleeding, swelling and ulcers.
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They also suggest seniors are more likely to be at risk from NSAID side effects because they take these medications over longer periods of time in order to treat chronic conditions.
To avoid an irritated stomach, it’s best to take these types of medications with food. Also, avoid consuming alcohol, but take pills and capsules with either a full glass of water or milk – as long as you have not been instructed otherwise. Make sure to follow the instructions provided on each bottle. Many medications will have a label noting how to take it safely and avoid any harsh side-effects.
2. Monitor your gum-chewing habit
Find yourself popping in a stick of gum throughout the day? It’s an easy way to freshen your breath and curb snack cravings. But if you’re opting for the sugarless kind quite often, it may be time to switch to a different habit.
Although sugary gum is not advised, since it can pull out teeth fillings and cause cavities, sugarless gum can lead to serious stomach issues. Research has shown that chewing too much sugarless gum can cause excessive bowel movements and abdominal pain.
The main culprit behind the issue is sorbitol – an additive in sugarless gum. Sorbitol is a non-absorbable carbohydrate that presents a problem similar to lactose intolerance. The body can’t break it down when it enters the digestive track, so when it meets bacteria, it lets out gasses which leave you with cramps, bloating and uncomfortable gas.
Some people are more susceptible to this reaction than others. If you’re chewing a lot of gum and notice your stomach just hasn’t been feeling the same, cut down on the amount or switch to a more naturally-sweetened kind.
3. Relax and reduce stress
We associate stress with headaches, muscle stiffness and insomnia, but it can take a toll on your stomach as well.
It starts with your brain. When you’re stressed, your brain sends out a “fight-or-flight” signal to the body. In response, your digestion can slow or shut down, so your body can focus its energy on handling stress. Other issues may be abdominal pain and depression.
Depression is also a large contributor to stomach troubles because it affects your eating habits, causing weight loss and additional pain. Chronic stomach pain can also be a sign to diagnose depression. Both issues work hand in hand, as people with depression are often more aware of physical pain they may be experiencing.
Stress can be a bully, so it’s important to find ways to manage it. Yoga, walking, even relaxing with a cup of warm tea, are all means of calming your nerves and letting go of built-up stress.
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4. Check your thyroid
You may not have thought your stomach discomfort could have something to do with your thyroid, but it’s a real concern because it impacts digestion. An overactive thyroid can lead to diarrhea and cramping as the digestive tract speeds up, while an underactive thyroid can cause constipation and gas.
People with thyroid problems often do not produce enough stomach acid, which you need for proper digestion. Stomach acid also assists in the removal of bacteria from food. Without it, you can end up with bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine. This can be problematic when it comes to diagnosis because the symptoms of bacterial overgrowth are very similar to those of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). The thyroid may be overlooked and treatment may not be correct.
If you’re constantly in the bathroom, or can’t go, and also feel like food is just sitting in your stomach, ask your doctor to check your thyroid as a possible suspect to your stomach woes.
That gas, bloating and stomach pain can really hinder your day-to-day life. If you feel that you’re experiencing these issues regularly, examine your lifestyle and see what habits could be the cause. Make a few changes and see if your stomach improves.
But if things continue, please see your doctor.
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