DO YOU EVER FEEL BLOATED, tired, gassy, heavy or sick after eating? Perhaps a better question to ask is do you know WHY you sometimes feel this way?
When I was a kid, my family would joke about calling "dibs" on the washroom in the house after a big meal out. To me, this was normal. It was normal to eat past being full, normal to have stomach cramps, and normal to sit on the toilet for an hour.
It wasn't until I was studying Naturopathic medicine and became aware of the foods that I was eating (and not eating), that I started noticing some major changes:
The gut is like a highway junction to every part of the body. The mucosal lining of the gastrointestinal tract (GIT) gives direct access to the blood stream which carries nutrients, oxygen, toxins, waste products, and inflammatory markers to the whole body. So when there is trouble in the gut, you can have health issues throughout your body, including your skin, joints, mind, mood, sexual organs, lungs, heart (ie. blood pressure), muscles and of course the stomach and bowels themselves.
While many of us are aware of our uncomfortable digestive symptoms, fewer of us know why we might have these symptoms in the first place. Before you reach for that antacid or laxative it's best to try and identify the reasons why you're bloated or constipated, have pain or cramping, to not only treat these symptoms, but to fix the problem at its source.
While this list is not exhaustive, here are 4 reasons why you might be having gut trouble -- and the solutions to treat them. Knowledge is power!
1. You Might Have A Food Sensitivity
What we eat can negatively influence our digestive system, possibly explaining why more often than not buttoning your favorite pair of jeans becomes more difficult after a trip to the ice cream parlour. Distinct from food allergies, food sensitivities (aka IgG hypersensitivity reactions) are immune reactions to certain foods we eat.
While food allergies typical have a rapid onset of symptoms, such a swelling, hives, or asthma, food sensitivities usually have a delayed presentation and symptoms are often seen as milder, cumulative, and non-typical. These symptoms can include migraines, cognitive 'brain fog', as well as chronic digestive concerns (constipation, diarrhea, excessive gas, IBS, IBD), skin issues (acne, eczema, atopic dermatitis), as well as low energy, weight gain, water retention and joint pain.
SOLUTION: Common food sensitivities include egg, soy, gluten, corn, and dairy and while blood tests can be performed to determine if you have a sensitivity to any of these foods, I prefer a more practical method of identification with the Hypo-Allergenic Diet. Through a process of food elimination and reintroduction not only will you be able to see if you are sensitive to a particular food, but you will also know how your body reacts, all the while healing your gut.
2. You Might Have Heart Burn and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disorder (GERD)
Believe it or not, heartburn and GERD can be due to excess as well as insufficient stomach acidity. In both cases the hydrochloric acid in our stomach, necessary to help us break down food and destroy harmful pathogens, splashes up into our esophagus, resulting in symptoms including burning of the chest region and throat.
Over time this damage can wear away the esophageal lining, causing complications such as bleeding, esophageal narrowing or Barrett's esophagus (a precancerous condition).
SOLUTION: Heartburn and GERD have been associated with being overweight, consuming fatty and fried foods, caffeine and alcohol use, poor stress coping mechanisms, as well as smoking. Improving your diet and finding ways to deal effectively with the stress in your life can help to control symptoms associated with these conditions.
3. You Might Have Indigestion
Indigestion can occur for several reasons: eating too fast, not chewing enough, consuming fatty and greasy meals, using alcohol, food sensitivities, as well as stress.
Frequent stomach upset after eating, bloating, gas, diarrhea, burps and undigested food in the stool are common. However, it's the location and timing of these symptoms that can help distinguish indigestion from another condition.
Indigestion occurs within 1 hour of eating and so the discomfort will be experienced in the stomach (between the base of the rib cage) and not lower down in the intestines.
SOLUTION: Try to focus on eating and chewing as well as taking 3 deep and slow breaths before eating which is a great way to turn your nervous system into parasympathetic mode for resting and digesting. It's also best to try to avoid greasy and fatty foods as they can exacerbate indigestion.
4. You May Have Intestinal Dysbiosis
An imbalance of gut bacteria is known as dysbiosis. Our bacterial flora is in constant flux, with trillions of bacteria lining the GIT helping to break down food, defend against infections, and creating by-products.
Dysbiosis can occur from eating a poor diet, gut infection or after a course of antibiotics which disrupts the healthy balance between our "good" and "bad" bacteria. When this happens you might notice symptoms such as smelly gas, burping and abdominal distension.
SOLUTION: Probiotics and fermented foods can help to re-balance the gut flora and decrease discomfort. Fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha, kimchee, and miso are also high in natural probiotics. If you are taking antibiotics, make sure to take your probiotics at least 3 hours away from each dose, since the antibiotic will destroy the beneficial bacteria as well
Most of us have experienced our share of digestive upset, bloating, constipation, and gas after eating. While these symptoms cannot always be avoided, knowing WHY you have these symptoms in the first place, by uncovering their root cause, is essential to not only digestive health, but total body wellness.
Eating should be a pleasurable experience, not one that has you looking for the nearest washroom or unbuttoning your pants to accommodate the post meal bloat. It's your body, you be the expert and get digestively happy to be whole body healthy!
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