How can women crack the code on bloating?

How can women crack the code on bloating?

How can you get rid of bloating and find digestive relief? 

Bloating is a fairly common problem for women, but many find it difficult to crack the code and find genuine relief. Dr. Connor was interviewed in brit.co, where she talks about how to identify bloating, the symptoms that can trigger it, the role that food and nutrition play, and much more.

Read the brit.co interview for the article, “How To Get Rid Of Bloating And Find Digestive Relief, According To An Expert.

Stress response for men and women biologically is different

Stress response for men and women biologically is different

Stress response for men and women biologically is different

Men and women have been shown to have biologically unique responses to stress. When encountering stress or a stressful stimulus, men produce more adrenaline and cortisol than women, so the “fight or flight” response is engaged, and this is truly and measurably more pronounced.

In women, however, the release of oxytocin is activated by the sympathetic nervous system—which is often termed the “tend and befriend” reaction. The results and responses by gender (male vs. female) are very real.

Read Dr. Brynna Connor’s contribution to the article in upjourney.com, entitled, “Why and How Do Men and Women Handle Stress Differently?

Bloating – What Is It And What Does It Mean?

Bloating – What Is It And What Does It Mean?

Do you ever feel like your stomach is too full or swollen? You may be bloated.

Bloating is a common problem, even in people who are otherwise healthy. About 1 in 7 Americans experience bloating on a weekly basis. It’s not always easy to figure out what’s causing bloating. Continue reading to learn more about what causes bloating and what it means.

What Is Bloating?

If you’re bloated, you may feel like your stomach is too full or tight. It can happen when your gastrointestinal system (GI system or digestive system) is full of gas or liquid. Your stomach may also look swollen or distended.

When you’re bloated, you can experience many different symptoms, including:

  • Abdominal (stomach) pain
  • Swollen stomach
  • Flatulence (farting)
  • Belching (burping)
  • Stomach cramps

What Does Bloating Mean? — 6 Possible Causes of Bloating

Bloating can be a symptom of many different conditions.

A 2023 study published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology found that women and people with certain GI diseases were more likely to experience bloating. There are many other conditions that can cause bloating. Six possible causes of bloating are discussed below.

1. You Have Gas

You can feel bloated when you have excess gas trapped in your digestive system. Common symptoms of gas include belching, bloating, and flatulence.

It’s normal to have symptoms of excess gas, especially after eating. Eating and drinking can cause you to swallow small amounts of air along with your food and drink. Certain activities may increase how much air you swallow, such as:

  • Chewing gum or sucking on hard candy
  • Drinking carbonated drinks
  • Eating or drinking too fast
  • Smoking
  • Wearing loose-fitting dentures

The type of food you eat can also cause excess gas. Carbohydrates (such as sugar, starch, and fiber) can cause gas when the bacteria in your intestines begin to break it down. You may notice that you have more gas when you eat more carbohydrates.

Other foods that can cause excess gas include:

  • Legumes (such as beans, lentils, and soybeans)
  • Bran
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Dairy products
  • Fruits
  • Sugar substitutes (such as sorbitol)
  • Carbonated drinks

2. You Have a Food Intolerance

food intolerance can occur if your digestive system has difficulty digesting (breaking down) certain foods.

A food intolerance is different from a food allergy, which is caused by your immune system. Food allergies have different symptoms than food intolerance, including rash, difficulty breathing, or swelling of your mouth and lips.

If you have a health condition that makes it difficult for you to break down certain foods, you may have increased gas and symptoms of bloating. Common food intolerances include lactose intolerance, gluten intolerance, and fructose intolerance. Other food chemicals that may cause symptoms of food intolerance include:

  • Histamine — found in wine and cheese
  • Caffeine — found in coffee, tea, and some soft drinks
  • Alcohol
  • Sulfites — found in beer and wine
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG) — found in ripe fruit, cured meat, and some savory foods

Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance is the most common type of food intolerance. It’s estimated that about 68% of the world’s population has lactose intolerance.

Lactose is a carbohydrate (sugar) found in milk. It can be found in any product made from milk and some processed foods. You may be intolerant to lactose if your body doesn’t make enough of an enzyme (a type of protein) called lactase that helps you break down lactose.

If you have lactose intolerance, you may experience symptoms of bloating within a few minutes or hours after eating lactose.

Fructose Intolerance

If you have fructose intolerance, you have difficulty absorbing and digesting fructose. It’s estimated that about 40% of people in the Western hemisphere have trouble digesting fructose.

Fructose is a type of sugar commonly found in fruit. People with an intolerance can experience symptoms of bloating shortly after eating fructose. People with severe fructose intolerance can experience serious complications, such as kidney damage, liver damage, coma, and death.

Gluten Intolerance

If you feel bloated or sick after eating food with gluten, you may have a gluten intolerance. It’s estimated that about 6% of Americans have a gluten intolerance.

Gluten is a protein found in some grains, including wheat, rye, and barley. If you have a gluten intolerance, you can experience other symptoms in addition to bloating, such as:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Joint pain
  • Rash
  • Nausea and vomiting

3. You’re Constipated

You may feel bloated if you’re constipated. Constipation is defined as having fewer than 3 bowel movements (pooping) per week. However, everyone’s bowel habits are different, and you may feel constipated if you have more or fewer bowel movements than 3 per week.

Constipation happens when your colon (also known as your large intestine) absorbs too much water from your stool (poop). When this happens, your stool becomes harder and more difficult to pass. The buildup of stool in your colon can cause your abdomen to appear larger and cause abdominal pain.

Constipation is one of the most common digestive complaints in the United States (US). Some people are more likely to experience constipation, including:

  • Women
  • Pregnant women
  • Older adults
  • People who take some medications or supplements
  • People with gastrointestinal disease and other chronic medical conditions

You may also be more likely to become constipated if you:

  • Don’t eat enough fiber
  • Don’t drink enough water
  • Don’t get enough exercise
  • Have changes in your daily routine
  • Are stressed
  • Resist the urge to go poop when you feel it

There are ways to treat constipation when you have it.

4. You’re About to Start Your Menstrual Cycle

It’s common to feel bloated before and during your menstrual cycle (period). Three out of four women experience bloating around their period.

Bloating may occur around the time of your period because of certain female hormones. For example, estrogen can cause fluid retention — when your body holds on to water, causing swelling. If swelling occurs in your abdomen, it can make you feel bloated. Estrogen and progesterone can also interact with your digestive tract and cause increased gas in your intestines.

Another reason you may feel bloated before your period is that your uterus actually increases in volume just before your period starts.

5. You Take a Medication That Causes Bloating

Medications can cause bloating by causing gas in your digestive tract or causing constipation.

You may feel bloated if you take an antacid to treat heartburn. Fiber supplements can also cause increased gas. Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that isn’t digested. Because of this, the bacteria in your intestines may produce more gas when you take a fiber supplement. If you take too much of a fiber supplement or don’t drink enough water, it could cause constipation, which can also make you feel bloated.

Medications that can cause constipation include:

  • Opioid pain medications — such as hydrocodone (Vicodin) or oxycodone (Oxycontin)
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) — such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Motrin), and naproxen (Aleve)
  • Antidepressants — such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors like sertraline (Zoloft) and fluoxetine (Prozac) and tricyclic antidepressants like amitriptyline (Elavil)
  • Iron supplements — available in many forms over the counter (OTC)
  • Antihistamines — such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
  • Seizure medications — such as phenytoin (Dilantin) and gabapentin (Neurontin)
  • Nausea medications — such as ondansetron (Zofran)

6. You Have a Chronic Medical Condition

Bloating is a possible symptom of several different chronic medical conditions.

Gastrointestinal Disease

People living with GI disease are more likely to experience bloating than the general population. People with GI disease have difficulty with digestion, which can cause symptoms that lead to bloating, such as excess gas and constipation.

GI diseases associated with bloating include:

Liver Disease

People with liver disease can feel and look bloated if they develop ascites.

Ascites is a condition where fluid builds up in the abdomen. The fluid builds up between two layers of tissue called the peritoneum that lines the organs in the abdomen.

While liver disease is the most common cause of ascites, it can also be caused by heart failure, kidney failure, an infection, or cancer.

Cancer

Certain cancers can make you feel bloated if they affect the organs in your abdomen. Examples of cancers that may cause bloating include:

  • Ovarian cancer
  • Uterine cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Stomach cancer

If you’re experiencing symptoms of bloating due to cancer, you will likely have other symptoms, such as fatigue or unexpected weight loss.

For gynecological cancers, like ovarian and uterine cancer, you may experience unusual vaginal bleeding or pelvic pain. Colon cancer can also cause blood in your stool. If you have stomach cancer, you may experience difficulty swallowing.

Talk to your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms. Additionally, regular cancer screening can help you detect some cancers before symptoms occur. Talk to your doctor about which screening tests are appropriate for you.

When Should You See Your Doctor for Bloating?

Bloating is a common problem, so it can be hard to know when you should see your doctor about this symptom. Almost 60% of people who experience bloating don’t seek medical advice. However, bloating can be a symptom of another, more serious medical condition.

Contact your doctor if you experience bloating that:

  • Lasts longer than one week
  • Keeps getting worse
  • Is painful
  • Comes with other symptoms like vomiting, fever, or blood in your stool

How Is Bloating Diagnosed?

If you experience persistent bloating, your doctor may ask you questions about your history, perform a physical exam, and order different medical tests to find the cause of your bloating.

During a physical exam, your doctor will feel the organs of your abdomen to look for anything unusual. Based on your symptoms, your doctor may order additional tests for possible causes of bloating, such as blood tests, stool tests, and tests for food intolerances.

Your doctor may want to examine the inside of your GI tract. Imaging tests such as an ultrasound or X-ray can create a picture of the inside of your body. Your doctor can also insert a small flexible tube with a lighted camera into your GI tract. When it’s inserted through your mouth into your stomach, it’s called a gastroscopy. When it’s inserted into your colon through your anus, it’s called a colonoscopy. These tests can be used to help diagnose GI diseases and some types of cancer.

How Can You Manage Bloating?

The treatment for bloating depends on what’s causing your bloating symptoms. If you experience persistent bloating, you should talk to your doctor to find out the cause. There are some ways you can treat bloating at home, including:

  • Simethicone (Gas-X) — this medication helps relieve bloating by popping gas bubbles in your GI tract and is available OTC by itself or in combination with antacids
  • Antacids — antacids help decrease stomach acid and help you pass gas more easily and are available OTC
  • Probiotics — good bacteria in probiotics can help restore balance to your gut bacteria and reduce gas
  • Herbal tea — herbal teas such as peppermint, chamomile, or turmeric can help aid digestion
  • Peppermint oil — peppermint oil can relax your stomach muscles to help pass gas

Food-Related Bloating

If you’re experiencing food-related bloating, making changes to your diet may help your symptoms.

It can help to cut back on foods that cause excess gas.

If you have a lactose intolerance and can’t avoid dairy products, taking a lactase supplement may help decrease your symptoms. Your doctor and a registered dietitian can help you choose the best diet based on your symptoms and intolerances.

Constipation-Related Bloating

If your bloating is related to constipation, taking steps to prevent constipation may improve your symptoms. Some tips for reducing constipation include:

  • Increase the amount of fiber you eat
  • Stay physically active
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Don’t ignore the urge to poop

Talk to your doctor about what’s causing constipation and bloating to find the best treatment for you.

Chronic Disease-Related Bloating

If you have a chronic disease that causes bloating, appropriate treatment for that disease should help improve your symptoms. Talk to your doctor about all of the symptoms that bother you and discuss the best treatment option for you.

Additionally, regular follow-up with your doctor can help discover some problems before they happen.

Articles authored by Dr. Connor are intended to facilitate awareness about health and wellness matters generally and are not a substitute for professional medical attention or advice from your own healthcare practitioner, which is dependent on your detailed personal medical condition and history. You should always speak with your own qualified healthcare practitioner about any information in any articles you may read here before choosing to act or not act upon such information. Read Dr. Connor’s original version of this article posted on northwestpharmacy.com.

Prevention and Treatment for Diabetes

Prevention and Treatment for Diabetes

Diabetes is a major health concern. In the U.S., about 1 in 10 people have diabetes, and a third of the population has prediabetes. Many people may know that eating healthy foods and exercising more can help with this condition. However, scientific research has also shown that a person’s genetics and family history also affect whether or not they get this condition. Is it worth it to try to develop new, healthy habits if diabetes runs in your family?

What Exactly Is Diabetes, Anyway?

As we eat food, the body breaks it down into smaller components. Large carbohydrate molecules are broken down into smaller sugar molecules called glucose. Glucose travels through the bloodstream and is delivered to all of the body’s cells, which use it to make energy. Normally, after a person eats a meal, blood glucose levels rise. This signals the body to produce insulin, which tells cells to absorb glucose from the bloodstream and use it for fuel.

In people with diabetes, the body either stops producing insulin or cells become unable to use insulin. The end result is that too much glucose stays in the blood. The excess sugar can then damage the eyes, kidney, and nerves. Additionally, people with diabetes are more at risk for heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness, and amputation.

Types of Diabetes

There are three main types of diabetes:

  • Type 1: This occurs when a person’s body does not produce any insulin. Anyone can develop type 1 diabetes, but it occurs most commonly in children and young adults. This type of diabetes is often called insulin dependent diabetes.
  • Type 2: In this type of diabetes, a person’s body does not make or use insulin as well as it needs to. This type of diabetes is often called non-insulin dependent diabetes. Type 2 diabetes risk increases as a person gets older and with other health conditions.
  • Gestational diabetes: Some women develop diabetes when they are pregnant. This condition typically goes away after the mother gives birth, but women with gestational diabetes are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes in the future.

Some people also develop a condition that is known as impaired glucose tolerance or impaired fasting glucose, which is sometimes called “prediabetes,” although I don’t use this term much with my patients because I don’t want them to feel destined to become diabetic so it is an important distinction I make in my practice.

People with impaired fasting glucose (or impaired glucose tolerance) have higher blood glucose levels than normal, although these levels are not as high as they are in those with an actual diagnosis of diabetes. If one has this condition, he or she is more likely to develop type 2 diabetes in the future, although patients can do many different things to change this risk and avoid this diagnosis.

Who Gets Diabetes?

Anyone may develop this health condition. However, diabetes is more common in certain groups of people. For example, white people are more likely than others to have type 1 diabetes. However, people of other races are more likely to have type 2 diabetes:

  • American Indians are 2-5 times more likely to have diabetes than are white people
  • Black people are 1.7 times more likely than white people to have diabetes
  • Mexican-Americans and Puerto Ricans have double the chances of developing diabetes as do white people
  • Alaska Natives, Asian Americans, other groups of Hispanic/Latino people, Native Hawaiians, or Pacific Islanders are also more likely to develop type 2 diabetes

Additionally, there are other factors that may increase a person’s risk. These include being over the age of 45, having high blood pressure, not getting enough physical activity, being overweight, or smoking. People with a history of certain diseases, including heart disease, stroke, depression, polycystic ovary syndrome, or acanthosis nigricans, are also more likely to have diabetes. Just like those who have prediabetes, people with risk factors can take steps to help prevent diabetes.

Women are just as likely to get diabetes as are men. However, diabetes often leads to additional complications in women compared with men. Women with diabetes have:

  • A higher chance of getting heart disease
  • An increased risk of becoming blind
  • A greater chance of developing depression

Diabetes is Genetic – Is There Any Point of Trying to Lower My Risk?

Genes provide instructions that control the way our bodies operate. The genes that we have influence everything from our hair color to which diseases we develop. Because each of us inherits our genes from our parents, researchers look at whether certain diseases run in families in order to be able to tell whether these conditions are genetic.

In the case of type 1 diabetes, siblings of people with diabetes are more likely to develop this disease themselves. This means that genes play a role in whether a person gets this condition.

The same can be said for type 2 diabetes: it runs in families. If someone has one parent with type 2 diabetes, they have a 40% chance of having this condition. If both parents have diabetes, this risk increases to 70%.

What does this mean for a person with a family history of diabetes? Are they automatically going to develop the disease, no matter what other choices they make? Not quite. Even with a strong family history of the disease, a person’s risk of getting diabetes doesn’t reach 100%. This means that there are other factors in play that also affect whether or not a person gets diabetes. These other factors consist of lifestyle choices such as what we eat or how much activity we get.

Diabetes Prevention

So how do you lower your chances of diabetes? There are many ways. The healthier lifestyle changes you can work into your daily life, the lower your risk will be.

  • Eat smaller meals: There are many ways to encourage yourself to not overindulge, such as drinking water 10 minutes before your meal so you feel more full, eating smaller portions of meat, sharing a serving of dessert with a family member, or eating more slowly.
  • Use a healthy eating plan: Getting more fresh fruits and vegetables and eating whole grains can lower your diabetes risk. Foods to avoid include foods with a lot of fat, such as fried foods.
  • Shed a few pounds: You may be able to prevent diabetes by losing only 5-10% of your body weight. This might be more doable than you think. If you weigh 200 pounds, then you would only need to lose 10-20 pounds to meet this goal.
  • Get more exercise: Try getting at least half an hour of physical activity five days per week. Going on a walk or jog around your neighborhood may be a simple solution, but other forms of activity help, too. Try dancing as you clean the house, following fitness videos online, or taking the stairs more often.

Programs that combine these elements can have a big impact. For example, the CDC established the National Diabetes Prevention Program to help people make necessary life changes. Participants are coached in eating healthier, working out, and lowering stress levels. Those who lost 5-7% of their body weight and exercised for 150 minutes per week more than halved their chances of developing type 2 diabetes.

Nutrition and Diet for People with Diabetes

Healthy eating is a very important part of managing diabetes. Controlling your diet can lead to better control of blood glucose levels and prevent future diabetes-related health problems.

People with diabetes should try to meet healthy eating goals like:

  • Eat several small meals throughout the day rather than a couple of big ones
  • Limit the number of carbohydrates
  • Eat less sugary foods
  • Reduce the amount of salt in the diet
  • Eat fewer high-fat foods
  • Drink less alcohol
  • Incorporate more fruits, veggies, and whole grains into the diet

One of the best ways to meet these goals is to meet with a registered dietician to come up with an eating plan. A professional dietician can help you understand what exactly you need to eat based on factors such as your weight, other health conditions, and the medicines you’re taking.

Some people who have diabetes are interested in adding natural supplements to their diet. Some of these supplements have demonstrated remarkable efficacy in studies. For example, several studies demonstrate that supplements that contain alpha-lipoic acidchromium, or vitamin C may help people with diabetes control their insulin levels and may assist in maintaining a healthy blood sugar balance.

Supplements, like pharmaceuticals, also may cause side effects. Unfortunately, research has shown that supplements like cinnamon, fenugreek, ginseng, milk thistle, and selenium don’t work for controlling diabetes. If you’re interested in taking supplements, talk to your physician first, as some of them may cause drug interactions with other medications that you are taking. This way you can come up with a game plan that works with your philosophy and also with your body chemistry. Win-win!

Physical Activity

Just as working out can lower your chance of developing diabetes, getting more exercise can also help you keep your blood sugar under control. Try to find some physical activity that gets your heart pumping just a little harder and works all of the muscles throughout your body. Tips to incorporate working out into your routine include:

  • Don’t try to do too much all at once. If you start small, and gradually increase your activity level, you’ll be more likely to exercise safely and to stick with it over the long haul.
  • Choose an activity you like, so you’re more likely to keep up the new habit. Try something new, like biking or swimming. Alternately, see if there are any fun exercise classes or sports leagues in your area, if and when it is safe to do so.
  • Get a workout buddy. You may be more likely to stick with a workout program, and have more fun, if you are going through it with a friend.
  • Make a specific action plan. If you want to go on a jog every day, pick specific days and times and mark it on your calendar. You could even try setting an alarm to make sure you don’t forget!

Make sure to check your blood sugar level before and after you work out to make sure it’s within a healthy range. If it’s too low or too high, you could run into serious health problems while exercising. Additionally, people with diabetes have a higher risk of developing foot problems. Wear comfortable shoes and socks and check your feet often for blisters or cuts.

Medication

Some people with diabetes need to take insulin. In particular, taking insulin is important for people with type 1 diabetes, because their bodies no longer make any insulin at all, although some people with type 2 diabetes also need to take this hormone due to insulin resistance the body may develop and the decrease in the secretion of insulin by the pancreas. Insulin may be injected with a needle or a pen, or delivered to the body through a pump, inhaler, or injection port. Different methods of insulin work for different lengths of time and may kick in more quickly or more slowly.

People with type 2 diabetes may also take other medications to help control blood sugar levels. One of the most common is metformin, which helps the body produce less sugar. Many other types of medications also affect blood sugar in different ways, such as stimulating the body to produce more insulin or helping the body use insulin more efficiently. Some people find that a combination of multiple different medications helps lower their blood glucose levels more than any one pill alone.

Managing Mental Health

Taking care of your mental health is important, because high stress levels can lead to high blood glucose levels. Stress reduction techniques may include:

  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Listening to music
  • Taking a walk
  • Gardening
  • Participating in a hobby

Managing a long-term illness can be tough, and many people with a condition like diabetes end up struggling with depression. Having a support network may help you manage. Try talking to friends or family members when you’re going through a rough patch. Additionally, in-person or online support groups exist to help people deal with diabetes. Many people also find it useful to go to a counselor, therapist, or other mental health professional.

Coming Up with a Care Plan That Works For You

There are a lot of things that people with diabetes can do to help manage their condition. Work with your healthcare team to come up with a strategy that works with your lifestyle, your age, your weight, and your other health needs. You may end up working with an endocrinologist (a doctor who specializes in treating hormone-related conditions like diabetes), dietician, certified diabetes educator, eye doctor, podiatrist (a doctor that treats foot conditions), social worker, counselor, or other healthcare professionals.

Conclusion

There are many factors that may increase a person’s risk for diabetes. Some of these, such as age or genetics, are completely outside of our control. However, other factors are more easily changed. But just because one person’s genetics may predispose them to diabetes, there is still no guarantee that one is destined to develop diabetes. Focusing on the things you can control, such as how much physical activity you get throughout the day, can allow you to take your health into your own hands and help delay or prevent diabetes.

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