By Keri Glassman, MS, RD
A lot of embarrassing wind comes out of us; chalk it up to common digestive problems (that I wish were less common!).
Usually the burps and farts are manageable, but sometimes the human body (let’s be honest) seems to have a mind of its own. Like, what’s the deal with intense hiccups that lead to a pain that sits just under your rib cage for no apparent reason at all?
Today, I get down and dirty with the “What is that?” and how to manage gastrointestinal (GI) distress. No one said it would be pretty, but we all want some answers.
(Featured Photo: Shutterstock)
Common Digestive Problems and What to Do About Them
Common Digestive Problems: Burping
What burping is: There are conditions that cause excessive burping, such as gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining) or gastroparesis (delayed stomach emptying). These conditions are the extreme version of what most everyone experiences on a daily basis—burping.
Burping is a result of swallowing too much air, generally while eating or drinking. More air is swallowed when chewing gum, sucking candy, eating rapidly, or drinking carbonated beverages. Many people swallow air as a nervous habit, especially when they’re talking while eating.
How to avoid burping: The best trick to reduce air in the upper GI tract is to slow down. Yep, slow down. Chew food thoroughly and slowly, avoid sodas, gum, and hard candies. Don’t smoke (obvious one!), and manage reflux or heart burn if diagnosed by a doctor. A cup of mint or ginger tea will help to relax the lining of the throat and reduce stress, which may also be a contributing factor.
Common Digestive Problems: Farting
What farting is: Farting is usually caused by gasses built up and created by undigested food fermenting in the colon. It can also be caused by swallowing air, medication use, constipation, or malabsorption (when the intestine can’t adequately absorb nutrients). Some people are gassier than others and some foods create more gas than others.
How to avoid farting: The best way to get rid of flatulence is through a bowel movement. To manage posterior gas, avoid foods that exacerbate the issue. Common culprits are fatty foods, beans, peas, cabbage, lentils, bananas, dairy, and wheat products. You may want to also consider a probiotic to introduce some bacteria that will help with digestion.
Common Digestive Problems: Heartburn
What heartburn is: Ugh, heartburn is a sharp pain that is right behind the breastbone or under the rib cage and is commonly most painful after eating a meal, bending over, or lying down. It is caused by a backup of stomach acid in the esophagus and is often confused with feeling like one is having a heart attack.
People experience heartburn when their esophageal sphincter is weakened and does not work properly—instead of the sphincter opening to allow food and fluids into the stomach and closing when the food has passed, the sphincter stays partly open and gastric juices seep through.
How to avoid heartburn: Most people experience this feeling occasionally as a little throw up coming up the throat; it should resolve fairly quickly. Foods that exacerbate symptoms include alcohol, pepper, chocolate, coffee, fried or fatty foods, foods with vinegar, mint, carbonated beverages, and citrus fruits. These foods should be eliminated when symptoms are present.
Common Digestive Problems: Bloating
What bloating is: Bloating is basically the buildup of gas that cannot escape. It leads to an uncomfortable pressure in the belly and may be related to smoking, stress, eating too many fatty foods, or conditions such as lactose intolerance, Celiac disease, GI blockage, or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
How to avoid bloating: You can reduce bloating by avoiding the same foods listed related to farting, as well as avoiding chewing gum, sucking candies, and carbonated beverages. Conversely, you should eat these foods when you’re feeling bloated, and one of the best remedies for bloating is exercise, which helps with motility (AKA getting the muscles of your GI tract moving).
Hopefully this helps to clear the air (ha!) about what is going on, on the inside. Remember that nothing aids digestion better than hydration, so drink water slowly and steadily as you manage your burps, heartburn, farts and bloating.