Queasy? Crampy? Bloated?
Tummy troubles are especially common this time of year. Here, seven reasons why -- and how to ease the pain.
THE TRIGGER: You eat at school and/or church gatherings.
TUMMY TROUBLE: Food poisoning or the stomach flu.
It's easy to pick up a harmful food-borne bug at a holiday potluck, says
Mitty: "The more cooks in the kitchen, the greater the chance someone will be
hazy about safe food-handling rules." In addition, prepared dishes are often
left out for more than two hours at room temperature, giving bacteria and
viruses plenty of time to multiply.
If you experience abdominal cramping, bloating, vomiting, diarrhea, and/or
fever within six hours of eating at a potluck dinner, you've probably met a
food-borne bacteria, such as E. coli. If you fall victim to these exact same
symptoms but do so later -- say, one to three days after the event -- you've
got a virus, which you can catch directly from food but also by having other
contact with an infected person. This is why it's important to hand wash.
Sadly, the stuff on food that makes you sick can't be seen, but it's still
safer to skip the chicken if it appears undercooked. If you do get sick, the
biggest risk is dehydration, which you can alleviate by sucking on ice chips or
drinking water, clear broths, or noncaffeinated sports drinks like Gatorade.
OTC antidiarrheal medicine such as Imodium or Pepto-Bismol may ease symptoms,
but some physicians believe that loose, frequent stools are the body's way of
pushing out invading bugs -- and that these meds may slow the process, actually
prolonging the problem.
Most food-related bugs last anywhere from a few hours to several days and
don't need to be treated with antibiotics. Contact your doctor if you've got
severe stomach cramps and/or your diarrhea and vomiting don't subside after
THE TRIGGER: You pop more pain relievers than usual.
TUMMY TROUBLE: Irritation and/or ulcers.
Even in the calmest of times, many women overuse non-steroidal
anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, aspirin, or naproxen sodium to
treat various body aches, migraines, and menstrual cramps, says Joanne A.P.
Wilson, M.D., a professor of medicine-gastroenterology at Duke University
Medical Center in Durham, NC. But during the holiday season, you may find
yourself uncapping that bottle even more often -- to soothe muscles strained by
carrying heavy packages (or heavy toddlers) through the mall, say, or to dampen
a headache caused by a flight delay. Regularly popping these pain relievers can
disarm the stomach's protective defenses against digestive acids, leading the
stomach lining to become inflamed or to develop ulcers (open sores). As a
result, you may feel a wicked, burning pain that comes and goes almost daily or
experience a chronic, gnawing, dull ache in the upper area of your stomach.
Put the brakes on irritation from NSAID use by switching to a form of
acetaminophen, like Tylenol, which is gentler on your stomach lining. And to
help the healing, try taking OTC medications that reduce the amount of acid
your stomach produces, such as Zantac or Prilosec.
If you don't feel better in two weeks, make an appointment to see your
doctor, who may check you for H. pylori -- a bacteria that can cause ulcers and
can be cleared up with antibiotics and acid-suppressive medications.