When you have a stomach bug it can feel like you’re hiding an embarrassing secret while keeping one eye on the nearest toilet.
But it’s estimated that 40% of us have at least one digestive symptom at any one time^, often as a result of lifestyle and eating habits (stress is an important factor too).
With so many affected, talking about gut health is becoming less of a taboo, so you don’t have to suffer in silence. Our guide to treating common stomach complaints will help you to feel more in control.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Often referred to simply as IBS, Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a condition of the gut which may make it sensitive to food. It can be triggered by stress.
There are varying degrees of the condition. But symptoms often include stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea or constipation. A flare-up can last for days, weeks or even months at a time and this can be a debilitating condition.
The effects are not just physical; IBS can result in anxiety and loss of confidence, sometimes preventing everyday activities such as exercising or even socialising because of the anxiety about the symptoms.
Although IBS can’t be cured, it can be managed effectively. If you’re a sufferer, it’s recommended to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet, avoiding processed foods and high levels of fat and sugar. Some foods may make your symptoms worse, such as those high in fibre, while certain grains can perpetuate gas and bloating, so try to identify your triggers, and avoiding them can help.
Upset stomach, constipation or diarrhoea
Being struck down with a stomach ache can happen out of the blue, often while travelling. You may have eaten something that doesn’t agree with you or picked up a bug, leading to diarrhoea or constipation. Luckily, both can be easily treated.
If you have diarrhoea, eating low fibre foods free from salt or spices (e.g. bananas, rice and toast) can help with nausea and slow the urgency to run to the nearest toilet.
But if the opposite is true and you’re finding it difficult to pass stools, you may be suffering with constipation. Drink water and add more fibrous food to your diet, such as leafy greens and pulses to aid movement in your gut. Senna tablets can help make you regular again.
Heartburn and indigestion
Indigestion often goes hand-in-hand with over-indulgence. If you’ve ever felt bloated and full hours after eating your Christmas lunch then you’ll know how uncomfortable it can feel.
Your body uses acid to break down and digest your food. But sometimes this acid may cause pain in the upper abdomen. This can create a burning sensation in your stomach and acid reflux, leading to a burning sensation in the middle of your chest, known as heartburn. There are over-the-counter remedies called antacids that may help such as magnesium trisilicate mixture*** which neutralises excess stomach acid to provide relief from heartburn.
You may find some foods in your diet trigger indigestion, such as alcohol, caffeine and foods high in fat, which you should try to avoid. Stress and anxiety can also trigger indigestion.
It may be best to speak to your pharmacist about the best way to relieve your indigestion, as it may be a sign of an underlying issue.
No parent forgets when their child has had the dreaded gastroenteritis. It’s unpleasant and can easily spread throughout the family, leaving you bed-bound and miserable for up to a week.
The rotavirus bug is a leading cause in children^^, with symptoms such as sudden vomiting and diarrhoea, and it’s usually simply a result of a child failing to wash their hands properly after going to the toilet.
Unfortunately, the illness usually needs to run its course, so call in sick to the school and the office until it passes. Be sure to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, rest and you may choose to take paracetamol to help ease the fever and any aches you may have.
And as with any signs of diarrhoea, avoid high fibre foods that could make symptoms worse.
Are you one of those people who gets nauseous if they sit in the back of a car? Travel or motion sickness is a very common complaint, which can make you feel sick, dizzy or like you might vomit.
The science behind it is that the signals your inner ear is sending to your brain are different from those your eyes are seeing, confusing the message and making you feel unwell.
Distracting yourself with music, or focusing on a point on the horizon can help you stop feeling ill. But reading and using your phone can often make it worse. Speak to your pharmacist too who will be able to recommend effective travel sickness tablets.
This blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding you or your family’s health.