Digestive problems are a major issue for many people, but some of them are so common that we may not even realise our bodies are trying to tell us something.
In fact, according to The Gut Foundation Australia, half of all people in the country complain of digestive problems every year – and many more than that may experience them.
“Poor digestive health can affect anyone, and most people are affected by some form of gut issue at some time in their lives,” the organisation says on its website.
While it can be hard to talk about certain digestive issues, being aware of when they affect you is the first step towards sorting them out. So, let’s start by looking at some of the most common digestive issues people experience and how you can deal with them.
Acid refluxAlso referred to as gastroeosophageal reflux or heartburn because of the burning sensation associated with this condition, acid reflux is an upward flow of stomach acid into the oesophagus. For some people it feels like a burning in the chest, and for others it leads to some regurgitation and a sour taste – or all of the above.
According to the NSW Health Department, be caused by “some foods and drinks, including fatty foods, coffee and alcohol, or by eating a lot of food late at night”, and we all experience acid reflux occasionally. But if it’s an ongoing issue, it’s important to get it looked at by a doctor, as it may indicate another underlying condition such as a stomach ulcer or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Research has shown that reducing consumption of fatty foods, sugars and caffeine can help reduce the frequency and/or severity of acid reflux, and the University of Maryland also notes that probiotics may help by maintaining “a balance in the digestive system between good and harmful bacteria”.
Bloating is a big issue for a lot of people – so much so that we have already written a whole article about it. Bloating is often the result of digestive issues that lead to slower movement of food through the body and/or a build up of gas.
This issue can be uncomfortable to experience, and in some cases can lead to a visibly swollen or distended belly. Occasional bloating can be caused by eating or drinking a lot in a short amount of time, having food intolerances or sensitivities, or even hormonal changes (for women).
Bloating can be prevented or reduced in a number of ways, such as exercising and stretching, adding probiotic rich foods and drinks in your diet and eating mindfully. But if you frequently experience bloating, it’s also important to bring it up with a certified medical professional so that you can identify the cause and specific solutions for you.
Gas is another major issue people deal with, and it has all kinds of different causes. As with bloating, one of the most common is a production of gas during the digestive process.
Some gas may just be the result of eating a particular type of food, but other times it could indicate an ongoing digestive issue, so it’s important to consider how often you experience gas issues and discuss it with a doctor if you are concerned.
You can support your digestion – and reduce the chance of passing gas – by incorporating a variety of vegetables and fruit in your diet, choosing smaller portions of protein (about 100g or a palm-sized serving is usually recommended for both meat and vegetarian sources of protein), and exercising regularly. Fermented foods, which are rich in probiotics, can also help by optimising your gut bacteria and helping with the digestive process.
The Victorian government’s Better Health Channel defines constipation as “the passing of hard, dry bowel motions (stools) that may be infrequent or difficult to pass.” Constipation is a very common issue for a lot of people, but rarely talked about because it’s often seen as an embarrassing or taboo subject.
Some of the most common causes of of constipation are not getting enough fibre in your diet, not drinking enough water, lack of exercise, and changes in routine (including sleep patterns). As such, some of the most common suggestions for dealing with constipation include:
- Gradually increasing your daily fibre intake (too much too fast could result in further issues) through leafy green vegetables, whole grains and fruit such as apples, pears and prunes.
- Regularly exercising, even if it is just walking.
- Trying to stick to a routine with sleep and daily life.
Some other home remedies include a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in warm water before meals, or a tablespoon of honey in warm water just before bed. Probiotics can also help reduce constipation by improving your digestion so that food is broken down and easier to pass through your bowels.
Some people also self-treat constipation with over-the-counter laxatives, but if it’s an ongoing issue you should still get it checked out professionally – regardless of the constipation remedies you use.
When it comes to our digestion, everyone is different in what will and won’t have an impact. Sometimes it’s an easy fix, and sometimes it takes a little longer to get to the root of the problem. But being aware of common issues and finding a way to discuss them will help you stay in tune with your body so you can be healthy and happy from the inside, out.