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 get frazzled and frenzied.
TUMMY TROUBLE: Painful colon spasms and cramps.
For the 25 percent of women in the United States who suffer from irritable
bowel syndrome (IBS), stress is a top trigger for the disorder. (Other common
culprits include certain foods, medications, or even having your period.) IBS
is a condition that leads to chronic, crampy, painful lower abdominal pain
accompanied by constipation or diarrhea or both. If these symptoms sound
familiar, you might suffer from IBS and not even realize it -- more than 76
percent of people with the disorder go undiagnosed, according to a recent
There's no single cure for IBS, which may be caused by a glitch in how the
nerves of the intestine send messages to the brain (experts aren't really
sure). Different foods aggravate symptoms in different people, so keeping a
meal diary for a few weeks to find your trigger foods is essential. Your doctor
can prescribe an antispasmodic, such as Bentyl, to control colon muscle spasms
and reduce abdominal pain; low-dose antidepressants can help block pain signals
to nerve cells; and there are also medications such as alosetron hydrochloride
(Lotronex) specifically for women whose primary IBS symptom is diarrhea, and
lubiprostone (Amitiza) for women who suffer mostly constipation.
Learning to better cope with your stress can also reduce your IBS symptoms
-- it did so for up to 72 percent of women with the condition in a recent study
from the State University of New York at Buffalo. So consider counseling, yoga
classes, meditation, or long walks or hikes, but don't fail to take this
immediate tension-taming step this season: Cut down on holiday commitments by
simplifying the menu for your Thanksgiving dinner, scaling back on social
engagements and parties, or declaring a "one gift per family, please" rule with
your friends and extended family members. Your tetchy tummy will thank you.
5 Ways to Quit Your Bellyachin'
1. Snack first. Arrive at holiday parties only a little hungry and
you'll be less likely to suffer indigestion from eating too much, too fast.
2. Don't share. Food poisoning can be contagious, so use only your
own glass, utensils, and plate -- and avoid sampling forkfuls of other people's
3. Move it. Daily exercise, even a short brisk walk, stimulates your
bowels to process waste efficiently, preventing constipation.
4. Order the bubbly -- but make it seltzer, club soda, or sparkling
mineral water. Otherwise, stick to plain old H2O. Keeping your alcohol intake
low will lessen your chances of suffering a stomach-churning hangover or a more
serious consequence like an inflamed pancreas. Staying hydrated prevents
5. Breathe. Is the season's shopping, cooking, or kid-chauffeuring
making you nuts? Close your eyes, inhale and exhale, and take a moment to
regroup. Defusing the stress will help keep IBS under control and reduce your
need for headache helpers like ibuprofen, which can irritate your stomach
Originally published on November 15, 2008
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