Stomach Problems? The Complexities Surrounding The Dreaded Stomach Upset!

Gastrointestinal distress, or stomach upsets as they are commonly known, can manifest in a number of ways including constipation, diarrhoea, flatulence (wind) or all three,  AND these symptoms can arise for a number of reasons. More often than not the causes are relatively straight forward and can be fixed via a few dietary and lifestyle adjustments, but occasionally the causality may be a little more complex and sinister. Causes of stomach distress can range from trapped wind, right through to lactose intolerance, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), coeliac disease and even cancer. However it is also possible that you might have a bacterial or viral disturbance in the stomach and/ or bowel, so it’s well worth getting yourself checked out by a Doctor first. discount supplements

So what should you do if you have a stomach complaint?

If you’ve visited a Doctor and they’ve ruled out a viral or bacterial infection, then the next course of action is for the Doctor to refer you to a Dietitian who may be able to help you identify the root cause of your complaint. A Dietitian is best placed to look into your lifestyle and dietary habits, interpret the information and devise a plan to alleviate your symptoms. Quite often a Dietitian will adopt an empirical or exclusion diet whereby the person will have to abstain from eating a full range of foods until symptoms subside. This is then followed up by the gradual reintroduction of certain foods and food groups, if and when symptoms recur, then chances are you can isolate the problematic food.

Problematic foods and their specific nutritional components

Identifying the problematic food is one thing, but then the Dietitian has to investigate further to identify which nutritional component is causing the issue. This may require further testing including blood tests, breath tests or biopsies of the gastrointestinal tissue, in fact, an actual diagnosis shouldn’t really be made in the absence of such results. An example of where medical testing is key to diagnosis is in coeliac disease, in order to make a concrete diagnosis a blood test would have to show adequate levels of certain markers in the blood (signs of an autoimmune response indicative of coeliac disease).

What if you don’t fit into one of the ‘diagnosed’ brackets?

There may be occasions when your stomach upset can’t be attributed to a specific food or nutritional component, it may be that it’s a number of foods that cause an issue or even no obvious food at all. In this case a Doctor and Dietitian may label this as condition known as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). IBS can manifest as constipation, diarrhoea or both, and often the lack of a definitive diagnosis can lead to stress, which in turn results in symptom exacerbation (worsened stomach complaints). The amount of distress a stomach upset can place on a person is subjective, for example a person with coeliac disease might report les distress, and lead a freer life than somebody who suffers from what appears to be a ‘simple’ bout of wind! The problem is it’s never quite that straight forward, something as simple as wind may be secondary to a bacterial imbalance in the bowel, increased luminal transit rate (rapid movement of food through the bowel) as well as an absence of brush border enzymes such as lactase, the enzyme needed to digest lactose (carbohydrate in milk), and other enzymes needed for the breakdown of certain fibrous carbohydrates. So getting to the root of the cause of the problem is without doubt the main focal point.

Don’t be nervous…

If you’re suffering with stomach problems, bite the bullet and go and see a health professional about it. It is such a common complaint in today’s stressed out world, so do not worry, the health professional you see will be well rehearsed at discussing such matters…there really is no need to put it off. Quite often the apprehension of going to see a health professional causes more aggravation to your gut, so go and see someone about your complaint, chances are that you’ll get to the bottom of the cause, and the quality of your life will lift immediately.

Reference Thomas, B & Bishop, J. (2007). Manual of dietetic practice. 4th Ed. Disorders of the stomach and duodenum. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.    

About the Author

Job Role Qualified Dietitian and Sports Nutritionist Qualifications BSc (Hons) Sports Science | BSc (Hons) Dietetics Tom has always participated in sport both recreationally and competitively which led to an unquenchable thirst for information on anything health, nutrition and fitness. After leaving school Tom went on to play for a football academy during which time he studied Sport and Exercise Science. From here he went on to study a BSc (Hons) Sport Science at UEA followed by his second BSc (Hons) degree, this time at the University of Hertfordshire studying Dietetics. Tom has worked in the fitness, educational and clinical nutrition industry starting out at David Lloyd Health and Leisure Clubs. He then went on to work as a Dietitian (RD) in the NHS, during which time he conducted clinics for healthy eating, weight loss and weight gain, as well as specialised consultations on Diabetes, IBS and Coeliac disease to name a few. He has vast amounts of experience at devising diet plans and supplement regimens, as well as working in the community with schools and competitive athletes. As Head Nutritionist and Supplement expert at Discount Supplements Tom is here to provide current and evidence based health and nutrition information to help you reach your health and fitness goals!
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