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're constantly on the go.
TUMMY TROUBLE: Bloating, gas, and constipation.
You may be on the move, but your bowels aren't! When you're traveling, you may not get up to your usual activity levels or get properly hydrated -- key habits for keeping waste moving smoothly through the gastrointestinal tract. You tend to eat out more too, which may mean a doughnut for breakfast instead of your usual fiber-rich cereal, and fewer fresh fruits and vegetables -- foods that act like sponges in the intestines, absorbing liquids and leading to soft, easy-to-pass stools.
"Some women get so busy at this time of year they actually forget to make time to go to the toilet," says gastroenterologist Cynthia M. Yoshida, M.D., author of No More Digestive Problems. Or you suppress the urge to go because you lack the privacy you need. (Can't relax with guests banging on the bathroom door? No kidding -- who can?) And when you hold back, stool can become dry and difficult to pass.
For relief, try an over-the-counter (OTC) laxative such as Miralax or Colace, which slowly draws moisture into the bowel. It can take one to three days to work. But you shouldn't use them for more than two weeks at a time, because they can become habit-forming, says Yoshida. If you want faster relief, go for a stimulant laxative such as Ex-Lax or Correctol, which makes the colon contract. The downside is it can trigger side effects such as cramping and a "can't wait" urge to hit the bathroom -- although you'll feel better once you have a bowel movement.
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.