Stomach Disorders That Affect Men More
(BlackDoctor.org) — Did you know that 25 percent of adults suffer pain and discomfort from digestive issues, according to experts? Did you know that some digestive disorders are more prevalent in men than in women?
While some digestive issues, such as irritable bowel syndrome, are more common in women, a number of digestive problems hit men hard. Here are four digestive problems that are common in men and suggestions for relief.
Acid Reflux and GERD
Acid reflux, the result of stomach acid flowing up into the esophagus, can cause burning pain under the breastbone, a sour taste in the mouth and sometimes regurgitation. Acid reflux is often called heartburn. It’s caused by a lazy or confused sphincter, the muscle that separates the esophagus and stomach. Either the sphincter doesn’t stay closed or it opens at the wrong time, allowing acid to flow upward and irritate the lining of the esophagus. The discomfort of acid reflux can be worse after heavy meals, ingesting caffeinated drinks and alcohol, and if you lie down too soon after eating.
To help prevent the pain of acid reflux, steer clear of greasy and spicy foods, chocolate, caffeine and alcohol. Also, be sure to eat dinner two hours or more before bedtime. If you have acid reflux occasionally, it’s fine to take chewable antacids or over-the-counter acid reducers, such as histamine-2 blockers (Zantac, Pepcid) and Prilosec (omeprazole). But if acid reflux flares up more than twice a week, see your doctor. You could have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Left untreated, GERD can increase the risk for esophageal cancer in some people. Prescription medication, along with lifestyle changes, will usually ease GERD symptoms. In some cases, surgery may be needed for GERD.
Ulcers are painful, open sores that form on the stomach or duodenum (the upper part of the small intestine). For unknown reasons, ulcers occur more frequently in men. That’s especially true of duodenal ulcers. They’re twice as common in men.
The most frequently reported ulcer symptom is a gnawing pain in the abdomen, which can wake anyone from sleep. In the past, ulcers were incorrectly thought to be from stress. But we now know that ulcers are caused by a certain type of bacteria, as well as overuse of pain relievers like aspirin and ibuprofen.
Be sure to see your doctor if you suspect an ulcer. When an ulcer is left untreated, digestive juices and stomach acid can eat a hole in the intestinal lining, causing excruciating pain that may require hospitalization and surgery. Prescription medication can help heal the ulcer, but it may take several months. For day-to-day relief, eat small meals throughout the day (ulcers hurt less when there’s food in your stomach) and nix the ibuprofen and aspirin. You can forget those old rules about eating a bland diet. There’s no evidence that helps.
If all your efforts in the bathroom are going nowhere, you likely have constipation. Despite widespread belief, constipation is not necessarily a part of growing older. It’s a myth that constipation is more common in older folks. The main sign of constipation is the absence of bowel movements for days on end, while feeling uncomfortably full. Constipation can be caused by diet (usually not enough fiber), lack of activity, medication side effects and sometimes stress.
You can try a laxative or stool softener to ease constipation, but be careful not to use laxatives regularly. Your bowels can become dependent on the laxative’s stimulation, making the constipation worse. To get things moving, add fiber to your diet. Fiber adds bulk to stool, helping it move through your intestines and out of your body. Good sources of fiber include bran and bran cereals, whole wheat bread, nuts, beans, fruits and vegetables. Aim for 38 grams of fiber per day if you’re a man 50 or younger, 30 grams if you’re older. Exercising and drinking plenty of water can also help constipation. If your stomach looks swollen or you have severe pain, see your doctor. You could have a more serious digestive issue requiring treatment.
Stomach cramps, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting that come on 24 to 72 hours after eating could signal food poisoning (also called food-borne illness). Food poisoning is caused by bacteria in food, usually salmonella, campylobacter or E. coli. Time is the best treatment for food poisoning. Most adult men recover in a day or two without any treatment as the toxins are flushed from the body. Skip diarrhea medications like Imodium (loperamide) and Kaopectate (bismuth subsalicylate), or at least check with your doctor first if you suspect food poisoning. It’s best to let your body expel the toxins on its own. If you can keep anything down, sip clear liquids, especially sports drinks, to prevent dehydration. If you’re still camping out in the bathroom after 48 hours or if you develop a fever, call your doctor: You could have a more serious bacterial infection.
While digestive issues are no fun, they’re usually not serious and are easily treatable. But always see a doctor if symptoms persist for more than a week.