Dear Dr. Malik,
Back in my prime I found I could eat an entire pizza on my own. Lately, no matter how much or how little I eat, I find I am often left feeling bloated, gassy, and I get a lot more indigestion. I’ve tried over the counter pills like antacids but nothing seems to work. I know I shouldn’t be out there eating whole pizzas, but I’d like to get back to enjoying my meals.
Gass-man, Derby Line
You’re not alone. Just about everyone out there has had at least one bout of indigestion at some point in their lives. The first thing to realize is that there are certain foods out there that are common culprits. Obviously fatty foods, like pizzas, hamburgers, hot-dogs, French fries, etc. are more prone to lead to reflux, a condition where the acid in the stomach can rise up into your throat. Very uncomfortable. These foods, because they’re so fatty, take longer to digest and so can sit around in your stomach giving the sensation of bloating, gassiness and fullness.
Some other foods aren’t as obvious. Coffee, chocolate and some sodas can lead to reflux because they relax the sphincter between the stomach and throat making it much easier for food to rise up. Alcohol, especially red wine, is a major irritant as well as cigarettes. Excess salt in food means water retention also contributing to that bloating feeling. Just as some foods can make it worse, some can make it better. Bananas are high in potassium and can counter salt. Yogurt with active cultures increases the amount of “good bacteria” in the gut. The bacteria promotes good digestion and healthy bowel movements. Ginger and mint promote good gut motility, helping foods move along so they don’t stick around as much. It’s easy to get ginger or mint in herbal tea preparations and even one cup goes a long way.
Of course, there are always medicated options. Pharmacies usually have multiple shelves dedicated to healthy digestion. As you pointed out, sometimes the natural food measures are no longer enough and even over-the-counter pharmaceutical remedies don’t seem to cut it. Your doctor may have some better suggestions for you. Talk to them to see if there are prescription medications that might be right for you. You may want to also ask about any medications you are currently taking that could be making your symptoms worse.
Occasionally bloating and gassiness can be a sign of something more. If your symptoms aren’t being relieved by any measures and/or are worsening you may be a candidate for a special test called endoscopy. This involves inserting a camera through the mouth, down the throat into the stomach to look for any abnormalities or to take samples. In Newport, we are fortunate to have some excellent surgeons who are very familiar with this procedure.
I hope one of these solutions works for you. And if they don’t, the doctors at North Country Hospital are always there to help. Thanks for writing in. I look forward to hearing from the rest of you.
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