Cute jingles and funny names like "tummy" can't erase the discomfort of digestive issues. No matter what you call them -- abdominal conditions, stomach problems, digestive or gastrointestinal diseases – these issues do more than make you frown and hold your stomach like in the commercials. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), 60 to 70 million people were affected by digestive diseases in 2009, taking them out of work or school and keeping them in bed.
Abdominal pain is the number one symptom that keeps Americans bolting to the doctor's office, according to the American Gastroenterological Association. Abdominal pain can be a symptom of an underlying chronic illness, but more often than not, these common, mild abdominal issues can be treated at home -- it's probably that brownie you ate or all that coffee, not the knock of imminent death. Tired of gulping pink stuff? There are a bevy of natural and organic medicines with high response rates. Taken properly, these supplements can even help keep the stomach and intestinal tract free of toxins for improved gastrointestinal health.
Find What Ails You
There are many stomach woes that can keep us running to the restroom or doubled over in bed. But before you start loading up on pills and powders, you need to make sure you are treating the right culprit to get the best results. To find out the best natural supplement for you, see if any of these scenarios sound like you:
Condition: Gastrointestinal infection or infectious diarrhea (a.k.a. "stomach flu" or "stomach bug")
What it feels like: Your coworkers need to get out of the hall because you're bolting to the restroom with frequent, large and watery bowel movements. To make matters worse, you may also be vomiting and dealing with abdominal cramps.
What causes it: Viruses, bacteria and protozoa present in contaminated food and water or passed along from another person can cause an infection.
What can you do: The most important rule for diarrhea is to prevent dehydration by replacing the fluids and electrolytes lost. Whether it's a sports drink or the straight up clear stuff, just keep it coming. Probiotics, commonly found in yogurt, help maintain the normal bacterial flora in the gastrointestinal system. Herbs like blackberry and raspberry leaves, carob and chamomile and berberine-rich plants like barberry, goldenseal and Oregon grape are common treatments for diarrhea, taken as tea or in capsule form.
What it feels like: You keep feeling the urge to have a bowel movement, but just can't do it and are on the verge of bursting blood vessels in your eyes. When you are successful, you have hard stools.
What causes it: Poor dietary habits, lack of exercise and not drinking enough water can all make your time in the bathroom feel like giving birth.
What you can do: Make sure you are eating enough whole grains, fruits, nuts and vegetables a part of your daily diet and exercise regularly. Putting off hitting the restroom can also cause constipation. Synthetic laxatives may work for a while in treating constipation, but the body gets used to them easily and they lose their efficacy. Natural supplements, bulk-forming agents and stool softeners can be found in liquid, as powder, capsule or softgel form, including psyllium husk, flaxseed, blue-green algae, barley grass or wheatgrass, cayenne and buckthorn.
Condition: Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
What it feels like: You have heartburn that just won't quit, and feels like a sharp or burning pain in the chest. To top it off, you have an unpleasant sour taste in your mouth from the resulting acid reflux or regurgitation.
What causes it: GERD occurs when the lower end of the esophagus (known as the lower esophageal sphincter, or LES) does not close properly after food intake. The partial opening allows stomach acid to flow back up into the esophagus, causing symptoms. This LES malfunction is caused by certain drugs, weakened muscles and some diseases. Chronic acid reflux can lead to bigger problems, such as esophagitis, narrowing of the esophagus and ulcers and can raise the risk for esophageal cancer.
What you can do: Treatment for GERD is aimed at reducing the acid that causes heartburn. Do your best to avoid fatty foods, caffeine, soda, garlic and onion -- while delicious, they can be the source of that molten lava feeling in your chest. You can also try taking DGL (deglycyrrhizinated) licorice, chamomile tea, turmeric, aloe vera, apple cider vinegar and ginger.
Keep your doctor in the know if you are experiencing these issues regularly, so he can make sure your tummy troubles don't turn into whole body troubles.
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