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Common digestive symptoms and how to treat them

How is your gut? If all is going well in your digestive system, it’s probably not a part of your body you give too much thought to. But if you’re experiencing symptoms like reflux, bloating, constipation, heartburn, or indigestion, the pain and discomfort can make it hard to ignore.

Here are four common digestive symptoms and what to do to help minimise and treat them:

Reflux: Reflux is the backward flow of stomach contents into the oesophagus. Signs and symptoms can include an acidic taste in the mouth, increased burping, or a hoarse throat or a dry cough.

Heartburn and Indigestion: Indigestion causes bloating and an uncomfortable feeling in your stomach after eating or drinking, which can be associated with reflux. The main symptoms are a discomfort or burning pain in the chest area near the breastbone, and there may be a bitter or sour acid taste in the mouth, or a pain that worsens when sleeping or bending over.

You can help minimise or relieve your symptoms of reflux, heartburn and indigestion by:

  • eating smaller meals, and avoiding foods high in fat

  • finishing your last meal for the day at least two hours before bedtime

  • minimising your alcohol and caffeine intake

  • staying upright after meals, wearing loose clothing, and avoiding vigorous activity directly after eating

  • raising your head with a pillow when you go to bed

Bloating: Are your pants feeling a bit tight all of a sudden? It could be from bloating. Bloating is the feeling of pressure from inside your stomach, which is often accompanied by the stomach protruding and feeling hard or tender to touch. Bloating can be caused by food intolerances or digestive issues (chat to your doctor if you think this applies to you), indigestion, eating too much, or even by hormones in women.

You can help minimise or relieve bloating by:

  • avoiding clothes that are too tight around the stomach

  • keeping stress levels under control

  • eating small, regular meals and avoiding large meals

  • chewing your food well before swallowing

  • avoiding chewing gum or fizzy drinks, which can cause you to swallow excess air.

Constipation: Moving a bit further down the digestive system, constipation is when you have trouble passing your bowel motions, or they’re not as regular as usual. Everyone differs in how often they have a bowel motion: for some people it might be one a day, for others it could be twice a week. The main symptoms of constipation are straining to pass hard stools, only passing a tiny amount, or consistently feeling as though the bowels have not been fully emptied.

You can help manage constipation by:

  • regularly eating foods high in fibre such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, oats, legumes, and wholegrains

  • drinking plenty of water

  • exercising regularly – at least 150 minutes at moderate pace every week – and standing up often and walking about if you sit at a desk for a long time

  • learning to sit properly on the toilet – lean forward, have a straight back and put your feet flat on the floor or on a foot stool. Aim to have your knees higher than your hips as this can help make things easier.

In most cases, making healthy changes to your lifestyle, like quitting smoking, losing excess weight, and eating a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables and wholegrains, can all help improve your gut health overall in the long term.

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms regularly, chat to your doctor who can do tests to understand the cause behind it, and help you treat it. Make sure you mention any medications you are taking, as these could be the cause.

There are also a number of medications that can help relieve your symptoms, heal inflammation and reduce the chance of further complications. Chat to your pharmacist about what is right for you.

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Acknowledgement of Country

Capital Chemist acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we operate, live and gather as employees, and recognise their continuing connection to land, water and community. We pay respect to Elders past, present and emerging.