Heal That Upset Stomach, Pronto
We’re all guilty of the holiday hustle: running from store to store, checking off last-minute items and scheduling family gatherings. The season comes and goes quickly, but one thing that shouldn’t leave with it is our health.
We’re usually reminded of our health when something feels different – like our tummies. A recent survey found that more than 85 percent of Canadian women suffer from abdominal cramps or pain and often don’t know what the cause is or how to treat it. What’s the culprit? Is it that extra helping of turkey at dinner, the fourth drink at your work celebration or just the stress of hosting your entire family at Christmas? How can you heal an upset stomach?
Whatever it might be, you shouldn’t ignore it – your tummy is usually trying to tell you something. It’s important to determine the cause of your gut cramps because the pain could indicate tummy issues. A recent Buscopan poll showed that more than half of Canadians say they consume spicy foods, alcohol, fried foods or coffee – all of which are known to cause tummy trouble – at least once a week. Even certain foods that seem good for you, like fibre, may not help with abdominal discomfort and could even make symptoms worse. Research has shown that a variety of foods – including carbs like lactose and fructose – can cause fluid and gas accumulation, which results in bloating and abdominal pain or discomfort.
There are also different types of pain, ranging from light cramps to tightening of the smooth muscles in the stomach. The same poll showed that 74 percent of Canadians experience stomach cramps and/or associated pain, with more than one-third experiencing them once a month or more.
So, if you are already en route to that holiday party and feel the onset of an upset stomach, follow these steps to keep them under control.
Pay attention to the cramps themselves and gauge their severity. Identifying what the cramps feel like can help you quickly and effectively deal with them.
De-stressing and taking it easy may be what you need to help relieve cramps, depending on their severity
Learn how to assess the situation by asking yourself questions: How long have you had cramps? Did you eat something that tends to be a trigger? Are you stressed out?
Educate yourself on foods that can be tough on your digestive system, such as coffee and carbs, and make sure to avoid them.
For light cramps, changing positions or simply stretching may bring relief.
There are various treatment options available, such as Buscopan, to help treat your stomach cramps. You need to try to identify the source and type of pain. Stay away from over-the-counter analgesics, though – pain medications may relieve some pain, but they won’t target the cramping muscles in the gastrointestinal tract that are causing the problem. Opt for one of the specific products that targets the smooth muscle in your gut.
By keeping your health top of mind, you can continue to enjoy all that this season has to offer. And if you aren’t sure, it’s always best to speak to your health-care provider.
Dr. Jeff Habert is a family physician and an assistant professor in the University of Toronto’s Department of Family and Community Medicine.