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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 go overboard at the bar.
TUMMY TROUBLE: Severe pain that moves to your back with a fever and vomiting can mean acute pancreatitis.

Knock back too many cocktails at a big holiday bash and the result is usually a nasty hangover. But sometimes the consequence is a life-threatening condition that strikes an estimated 210,000 Americans each year: acute pancreatitis. This occurs when the pancreas, a large gland that secretes digestive enzymes, becomes inflamed, often due to an excess of alcohol. Acute pancreatitis can happen after just one night of binge drinking, or from repeatedly drinking too much alcohol. You'll know it if you have more than a hangover: An attack usually begins with a pain in your upper abdomen. It then worsens daily and begins to wrap around to your back; your belly may become very swollen and tender, and you'll have fever, vomiting, nausea, and an increased pulse rate. Get to a doctor right away, and expect a hospital stay; treatment usually requires you to receive antibiotics intravenously.

Women are 50 percent more likely than men to suffer an attack of acute pancreatitis because "we don't tolerate drinking as well as men do," says Silvia Degli-Esposti, M.D., director of Women & Infants' Center for Women's Gastrointestinal Disorders in Providence, RI. "Anything above two drinks a night is more than a woman's body can properly metabolize." So toast the holidays with a cup (or two) of good cheer -- then stop and switch to sparkling water.

THE TRIGGER: You can't resist hot cocoa or eggnog.
TUMMY TROUBLE: Nausea, gas, bloating, and/or cramping -- signs of a lactose intolerance.

If these symptoms hit two to three hours after consuming a milky drink, you may be lactose intolerant -- meaning you're one of the more than 30 million Americans who are unable to digest lactose, the main sugar in dairy products. Even if you've never had a reaction to dairy before, you may have nausea, gas, and bloating now, especially if you consume more than usual, says Yuri A. Saito, M.D., a gastroenterologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. It's not uncommon for lactose intolerance to crop up in adulthood if you're genetically susceptible to it because your body produces less of the enzyme needed to digest dairy as you age.

Every woman who is lactose intolerant has a different dairy threshold -- some can tolerate only tiny amounts, while others can knock back one grande latte with no problem. The trick to a settled stomach is to find your personal "tipping point" and then stay under it. To head off problems (or if you can't resist that once-a-year nog), you can buy lactase enzyme tablets or drops (Lactaid, DairyEase), which help with digestion if taken with the first sip of milk. Lactose-reduced milk is another option; it's a little pricier than standard cartons, but it tastes the same and has all the nutrients of regular milk.

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