Whatever the depth of the relationship, a delectable dish often remains in memory with much more potency than any sort of digestive upset the treasured food may have caused.
Even those who aren’t enamored with food but eat simply because it’s necessary may wolf down their lunch only to find it biting back a couple of hours later. And what do too many of us do when our stomachs bloat, cramp, or send us running to the bathroom? We reach for an elixir, a mint, pill or potion to tame the unquiet tummy.
Not that there’s anything wrong with seeking some quick relief. But if you’re suffering from chronic discomfort and find yourself diving for the antacid on a regular basis, you should probably see a doctor to make sure you don’t have an infection or organic disease. If medical tests fail to point to any culprit, you may be diagnosed with a “functional” digestive disorder such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or chronic constipation that can’t be traced to any organic disease. In this case, changing your lifestyle is usually the best way to permanently free yourself from digestive distress.
Functional disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome, heartburn, gas, and chronic constipation and diarrhea are often connected to life in the 21st century: too much rushing around in traffic, grabbing fast food, skipping meals, then unwinding with a big dinner and a few cocktails late at night.
Diet, in fact, has such a strong connection to so many of these ills that stomach specialists often tell their patients to keep a log of every bit of food or drink they consume so they can pinpoint the source of their distress and make some lasting changes.
The daily diary
People who have had stomach problems for months or years often have no idea what foods trigger their pain. To figure out possible sources, Gary Gitnick, MD, chief of the division of digestive diseases at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Medicine, advises that the food journal include when you eat something, how much you eat, where you ate it, if you were doing anything else at the time, and any symptoms you’re feeling. (He also suggests recording your mood and emotions at the onset of any digestive symptoms.) Your diary should include everything you put in your mouth, including things like chewing gum, candies, and mints.
After a few weeks of keeping the diary, you can get a better sense of which foods are unfriendly to your digestive tract, and begin creating a diet that is well-balanced and tailored to your needs. You may also want to consult with your doctor or a nutritionist to find out what foods are most likely to produce the symptoms you have. Removing a food item from your personal menu doesn’t necessarily mean avoiding it altogether. It may mean cutting it out until the symptoms go away.
Foods that bite back
Heartburn: If you have heartburn (also called acid indigestion) — with the classic symptoms of a bitter taste in your mouth, a burning sensation in the back of your throat, or pain in your upper abdomen — there are foods and beverages you might consider avoiding. These include drinks containing caffeine such as coffee, cola drinks, black tea, and hot chocolate. Also avoid teas, candies, and gum with mint. Oil of peppermint relaxes the valve between the esophagus and stomach and allows stomach acid to back up into your esophagus. High-acid foods such as lemons, oranges, grapefruit and tomatoes may also aggravate your condition. Cutting back or eliminating your alcohol intake may help, too, as will eliminating nicotine.