Submitted by Carol Tomlinson, RN BS
Community Health Educator
The Sensitive Gut
When your digestive system, also known as your gut, is running smoothly, you tend not to think about it. Once trouble begins, your gut, like a squeaky wheel, suddenly demands your attention. According to the CDC, an estimated one in four people has frequent digestive issues. Additionally, aging takes a toll on the GI tract. Aging muscles, including digestive muscles, contract more slowly and move their contents at a more leisurely pace.
A “sensitive stomach” is a term commonly used to describe a range of gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms. The actual stomach is a hollow sac and is only one part of the GI tract. Digestion in the upper gut actually starts in the mouth and proceeds through the esophagus to the stomach and then to the small intestine. The lower gut proceeds from the second part of the small intestine through the colon (bowel) to the anus. Digestive problems can be found in any of these organs.
Some common digestive issues include but are not limited to:
- Acid Reflux or GERD: This commonly presents with heartburn. Symptoms worsen after eating certain foods or drinks or when lying flat.
- Gastritis: Symptoms may include gnawing stomach pain, indigestion, bloating, nausea and belching.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A condition commonly marked by abnormal bowel habits (episodes of diarrhea or constipation) with abdominal bloating and pain.
- Diverticular Disease: Refers to diverticulosis and diverticulitis. Diverticulosis presents with bloating, lower abdominal discomfort and constipation. Diverticulitis symptoms include abdominal pain, changes in bowel habits, nausea, vomiting and fever.
- Food Intolerance: Some of the more common intolerances include…
1. Lactose Intolerance – found in milk products.
2. Gluten Intolerance – found in wheat and other grains.
3. Fructose Malabsorption – found in fruits, fruit juices and some other drinks.
4. Sorbitol Intolerance – a type of sugar found in diet foods and drinks and sugarless gum.
5. Nut Intolerance – may include a specific nut or all nuts. Nuts are found in many products and are difficult to keep out of your diet.
There are many other conditions that present in your gut. Sometimes they are called “functional” which means there is no disease or abnormal structural problem. But don’t be discouraged if your doctor can’t find anything wrong. Your symptoms are real and there are things you can do to improve your digestion.
- Eat smaller meals, but more often.
- Eat in a slow, relaxed manner.
- Remain upright after meals.
- Avoid bedtime snacks.
- Stay away from carbonated beverages.
- Learn the foods that trigger your symptoms and AVOID them.
- Lose weight if you need to.
- Check your medications with your physician or pharmacist. Ask if any of the medications could trigger or worsen your symptoms. Include all medications you take regularly, even over-the-counter medications.
A sensitive gut can cause many unpleasant symptoms. If you have any questions, write your symptoms down and contact your health care provider.
For more information, you may contact HealthLink Littauer at 518-736-1120. You can e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org, see our website at nlh.org, or visit our new wellness center at 2 Colonial Court in downtown Johnstown, Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. We’re your community health & wellness service of Nathan Littauer Hospital and Nursing Home.