Queasy? Crampy? Bloated?
Tummy troubles are especially common this time of year. Here, seven reasons why -- and how to ease the pain.
By Janis Graham
Stuffing? Check. Stiff drinks? Check. Stress? Check. 'Tis the season -- for stomachaches. "The holidays create a perfect storm for stomach problems because of all the eating, traveling, and partying," says Roger D. Mitty, M.D., chief of gastroenterology at Caritas St. Elizabeth's Medical Center in Boston. And women are especially vulnerable, since some gastrointestinal ills occur up to six times more often in women than in men. What's more, a recent survey found that during the holidays, nearly half of all women experience heightened stress, which can dramatically contribute to new tummy aches or make existing issues worse. Read on to find sweet relief for the most common holiday-time stomach woes.
THE TRIGGER: You overdo it at holiday meals.
TUMMY TROUBLE:Heartburn (also known as indigestion or acid reflux).
Getting more than your fill -- especially of hard-to-digest, rich, fatty foods such as gravy, sausage stuffing, and pie with whipped cream -- is a classic cause of indigestion, which typically feels like a searing pain in your upper abdomen and is often accompanied by nausea, bloating, belching, and a sour taste in the mouth. The burn is caused by a backwash of stomach acid into the esophagus and may be triggered by lying down within three hours after a meal, since gravity acts as an important barrier to reversed acid flow. Eating one of the season's traditional sweets, peppermint (whether in hard candy, chocolate, or cake), can also cause heartburn, because it numbs and relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter, the muscle that keeps food down in your stomach where it belongs.
If heartburn hits, ease your symptoms by taking an antacid such as Pepto-Bismol, Maalox, Tums, or Rolaids. Better yet, if you know from past experience that you're likely to suffer after a big meal, take a stomach-acid blocker, such as Pepcid Complete or Tagamet HB200, a half hour before eating. These medicines work for eight hours or longer and can prevent indigestion altogether. And try to keep your body upright for a few hours after a feast, even while you're sitting on the couch, instead of curling up for a nap.