For those of us who deal with fibromyalgia, one of the most annoying symptoms is near constant stomach problems and pain in the abdomen. Not all fibro fighters experience this but for me, IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) was a constant, nagging companion. Fortunately I have learned several ways to heal this with diet and lifestyle changes and do not experience these bothersome symptoms much these days.
As was the case for me, the following may be contributing to your pain:
1. Food sensitivities
Many of us eat foods that do not agree with us. We may not get a full-blown allergic reaction with hives and difficulty breathing but the food may cause gas, intestinal discomfort, headaches, fatigue, skin problems or other pain. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what food or drink is causing your distress and the only way to find out what food to avoid is to get an IgG food sensitivity test from your holistic or naturopathic doctor. This test is different from the IgE allergy test a mainstream doctor will order. Some common foods that many people have problems digesting are gluten (anything containing wheat, rye or barley), dairy, eggs, soy, corn, and peanuts. You are likely to react poorly to pesticides from non-organic fruits and vegetables (eat organic whenever possible) and from genetically modified foods (GMOs).
2. Eating too fast or too much
Most Americans simply eat too much and too quickly. It’s important to watch portion sizes and to make it a practice to enjoy your meals in a calm, relaxed environment. Gulping down your food in the car while fighting traffic is a great example of what NOT to do. One thing that helps, is to take smaller bites of food and chew each one a minimum of 25 times. Try it. If you are like I was, I’ll bet you’ll find that typically you have been chewing less than 10 times before a quick gulp and on to the next giant bite. Digestion starts in your mouth and your saliva needs time to break up your food. If you devour too quickly and swallow before everything is broken down, you are over-taxing your stomach and will end up with gas, heartburn, stomach pains and other digestive maladies.
3. Low stomach acid
Many people who have had the kinds of symptoms described in #2 will see a gastroenterologist, who will likely prescribe an antacid, frequently a proton pump inhibitor drug, or PPI. This is what led to me taking Nexium for more than a decade. Trouble is, my problem was not excess stomach acid. I actually did not have enough stomach acid to break down my food. Once I was on the PPI, I had even less and my IBS symptoms worsened. I also got the nifty side effects of diminished vitamin D and low calcium and the start of osteoporosis in my 30s.
Needless to say, I’m not a fan of PPIs and do not recommend them. Many of us have low stomach acid so it’s a good idea to avoid drinking with meals, and immediately before and after eating, as this further dilutes your scanty stomach acid, hindering digestion further.
We all know stress has a negative effect on our health. This is intimately linked with digestive health. Ever hear the phrase, “I feel it in my gut” or “I have a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach?” Both show the close link between what’s happening in your brain (emotions producing stress, for instance) and how your digestive system reacts. The importance of stress management cannot be overstated. Your tummy problems will improve significantly once you have learned to manage stress with meditation, exercise, yoga, acupuncture, body work, journaling, psychotherapy or whatever you discover that works well for you.
It can be a delicate subject but what goes on in the bathroom has a major effect on your digestive health. Ideally, we would all move our bowels after every meal. Almost no one’s system is that tip-top, so an accepted norm is more like 1-2 bowel movements per day. If you go much less than that, or constantly need to take a laxative, this is an area for improvement. The problem could be brought on by bad bathroom habits. Often we get busy and don’t want to take the time to make a trip to the restroom, or we are out and finding a clean and comfortable restroom can cause us to wait too long. Plain and simple, when you feel the urge to go, stop what you are doing and take care of it. If you ignore your body’s signals long enough, the signals go away and soon you cannot go regularly. It’s also vitally important to eat lots of fresh veggies and fruit for fiber, supplement with gluten-free, sugar-free fiber supplements (like psyllium husk mixed in water) and drink 8-10 glasses of pure filtered water per day.
Do you struggle with stomach distress? What have you done to feel better? Please leave a comment here and share!