At one time or another, most of us have felt our stomach talking to us. Perhaps we overate, or ate something that didn’t agree with us. Maybe we are stressed by our thoughts or our circumstances, or can’t “stomach” what is going on in our lives and it is affecting our health.
The fact is that most of us will suffer from one digestive disorder or another at some time in our lives. The highest number of calls received by the National Health Service is from people suffering with digestive problems. Our diet and the foods we eat play a major role in keeping our digestive system in good order. This month, I’d like to discuss three common digestive problems that I see in patients in my holistic chiropractic practice: heartburn, indigestion and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
First of all, heartburn has nothing to do with the heart itself. Rather, it is a term used to describe the burning sensation that occurs in the chest area, just behind the breastbone. Heartburn pain is often worse when lying down or bending over.
It may be accompanied by other symptoms including: regurgitation, a bitter taste at the back of the mouth or throat, excess salivation, belching, and difficulty or pain when swallowing. There is often a feeling of “fullness” after eating, feeling sick and/or vomiting. Heartburn can develop at any time and may not always be as a result of eating or drinking. Stress is also a common cause of heartburn.
Heartburn occurs when stomach acid backs up into your esophagus. Normally when you swallow, your lower esophageal sphincter — a circular band of muscle around the bottom part of your esophagus — relaxes to allow food and liquid to flow down into your stomach. Then it closes again.
However, if the lower esophageal sphincter relaxes abnormally or weakens, stomach acid can flow back up into your esophagus, causing heartburn. The acid backup may be worse when you’re bent over or lying down.
The advice for sufferers is to eat slowly and in a relaxed environment, concentrate on enjoying your food and chew it thoroughly. Do not drink too much while eating. Sip fennel, mint, chamomile or apple tea.
Foods to avoid include crisps, chips, nuts and rich creamy or fried foods; acidic foods like vinegar and pickles; citrus fruits or unripe fruit can cause acid reflex. Smoking can also cause heartburn—another reason to quit!
Indigestion, also known as dyspepsia, is a term used to describe one or more symptoms including a feeling of fullness during a meal, uncomfortable fullness after a meal, and burning or pain in the upper abdomen. Sometimes the term indigestion is used to describe the symptoms of heartburn, but these are two different conditions. A person can have symptoms of both indigestion and heartburn.
Indigestion can be caused by a condition in the digestive tract such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), peptic ulcer disease, cancer, or abnormality of the pancreas or bile ducts. If the condition improves or resolves, the symptoms of indigestion usually improve.
Sometimes, however, a person has indigestion for which a cause cannot be found. This type of indigestion, called functional dyspepsia, is thought to occur in the area where the stomach meets the small intestine. The indigestion may be related to abnormal motility—the squeezing or relaxing action—of the stomach muscle as it receives, digests, and moves food into the small intestine.
Most people with indigestion experience more than one of the following symptoms:
– Fullness during a meal. The person feels overly full soon after the meal starts and cannot finish the meal.
– Bothersome fullness after a meal. The person feels overly full after a meal—it may feel like the food is staying in the stomach too long.
– Epigastric pain. The epigastric area is between the lower end of the chest bone and the navel. The person may experience epigastric pain ranging from mild to severe.
– Epigastric burning. The person feels an unpleasant sensation of heat in the epigastric area.
Some people may experience relief from symptoms of indigestion by eating several small, low-fat meals throughout the day at a slow pace, refraining from smoking, abstaining from consuming coffee, carbonated beverages and alcohol, stopping use of medications that may irritate the stomach lining such as aspirin or anti-inflammatory drugs, getting enough rest, and finding ways to decrease emotional and physical stress, such as relaxation therapy or exercise.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
IBS affects a third of the population at some time or another and about one in ten people suffer symptoms bad enough to go to the doctor. It can be painful and distressing, and a qualified medical practitioner should confirm diagnosis of IBS.
Symptoms include abdominal pain or a sharp pain felt low down inside the rectum, spasm/diarrhea and bloated stomach, rumbling noises and wind, constipation, nausea, belching and vomiting. Stress is believed to play a significant part in the occurrence of IBS.
Despite current awareness of IBS and its effect on the quality of life, a cure has yet to be found. Some people find their IBS is due to food intolerance. Foods to avoid are wheat products, cereals, pastries and pasta and sauces made with flour. Cut down on diary intake – milk, cheese, butter, yogurt and custard.
It is best to keep food as light as possible – try milk substitutes such as organic soy or rice milk. IBS is sometimes aggravated by particularly fatty and rich foods like fried or creamy dishes.
The common denominator found in all three of these conditions is STRESS! Mental, emotional and physical stress often shows up as dis-ease in our body. Our “gut response” is a communication from our body that something needs to change.
I have found QNRT (Quantum Neurological Reset Therapy) to be an excellent program to remove the emotional stressors that prevent the body from functioning at its best. QNRT is a great complimentary therapy designed to aid with any other treatment you are now seeking to find relief from disease, behavioral issues, relationship challenges and addictions.
If your gut has been talking to you and you don’t know what it is saying or asking, please call Amber in our Ventura office at 805-644-0461 and make an appointment for an office visit with me. Don’t let the symptoms of heartburn, indigestion or IBS rule your body and your life. You CAN take charge of your health and wellbeing!