In Part 1 I talked about the journey of food through the digestive system and all the fascinating processes that happen along the way. In part 2 we will look at a few of the signs the body can give when things are not quite going to plan.
Most people experience the odd gastro symptom like bloating or loose bowels movements at some stage, and this can be totally normal. However, if there are noticeable ongoing changes, then I really encourage you to get this investigated for your own piece of mind, and so that you can then seek the right treatment and/or lifestyle change.
Reflux (which can often lead to heartburn) is when the contents of the stomach leak back into the oesophagus. – If you’re popping Gaviscon like candy then it’s likely time that you take a wee look at your diet and lifestyle to see if there’s an obvious cause, rather than the easy (but temporary) option of masking the symptoms. This is one of my pet hates with modern medicine.. far too often I see people taking medications that simply mask the symptoms of problems without actually addressing the cause. I’m not saying I’m anti-medication, it definitely has it’s place and can be so helpful to us.. but we also need to look at the why. Thankfully there are some amazing doctors out there that do this so well, and really take the time to look at the big picture, which often includes diet and lifestyle in the holistic management of a medical condition or problem.
For reflux, there are many dietary factors that may contribute to this: smoking, high alcohol intake, spicy food, acidic food eg. lemons, tomatoes, coffee. This doesn’t mean that everyone should avoid all of these things (but if you want a good start I would ditch the smoking and reduce the alcohol consumption, for multiple health reasons). Reflux can be acidic or non-acidic and it tends to be the acidic type that reacts with things like lemons and coffee. Lifestyle factors also play a role, with how we eat and how much we eat potentially contributing to reflux. Eating too fast or overeating in the stomach may increase the chances of reflux, as can high stress. Stress is a key factor in so many gastro conditions. Our gut is so sensitive to our mood due to the intricate connections it has with our brain and our nervous system.
This can be related to mood, stress, medications, and several medical conditions. If you are getting full after eating very little on a regular basis I would recommend chatting to your GP to see what could be contributing to this.
Food goes down and next thing you know you’re three months pregnant a temporary and painful air baby. Not only is this uncomfortable (particularly if you’re wearing anything other than elastic waisted pants!), it can also have knock on effects like the inability to have a glass of rose because people might think you’re drinking during gestation… not ideal!
There are lots of factors that could be at play here. It could be what you’ve eaten, perhaps a slight intolerance – the effects of this may be felt soon after eating or many hours after a meal i.e when the food has made its way to your lower gut. It could be how you’ve eaten (shovelling food in while stressing over a work email sound familiar??). It could be how much you’ve eaten – a food baby rather than an air baby.
Whatever the reason, if you are frequently bloating, please take this as a not so subtle sign from your body that something is not right or that something needs to change. It can take some time to figure out what contributing factors are, but it can also make a significant difference to quality of life and daily comfort.
Loose bowel movements
We’ve likely all experienced this at one time or another, but it should not be something that is happening on a regular basis. Again, if this is happening, consult your GP for investigations into why.
Loose bowels is one of the most common IBS symptoms, and it often relates to an intolerance of one or several foods or types of foods. A common one of these is lactose intolerance – a reduced ability to break down the sugar in milk. We lose the enzyme that does this job with age so it can come on later in life for some people. An easy way to check this is to switch your normal milk to lacto-free milk and see if you notice a difference. Lactose is just part of a group of foods referred to as FODMAPs that are frequent culprits for triggering IBS symptoms. Loose bowels can significantly affect quality of life, but it can also negatively affect our nutrition – if things move too quickly through the digestive tract we lose valuable time to extract the nutrients we need. It can also mean we are losing excess fluid and putting ourselves at risk of dehydration.
These are just a few of the issues that I see with clients. Often people have been suffering for years thinking that this is just the way it is. I believe these kinds of issues as wonderful opportunities the body is giving us to make changes and improve overall health. Learning to listen to your body is a valuable tool for now and the future.. it may even save your life one day.
If you have been battling away through any of the conditions, please get in touch and together we’ll make a plan to get your digestive system back on track!