When it comes to the natural supplement industry (and the state of your health) nothing generates a more packed aisle than stomach troubles. From feeling bloated to bouts of diarrhea, none of us enjoy the feeling of an upset stomach. Knowing the difference between what will really help and what’s merely marketing can be tough, so here’s some guidelines to help.
The issue you’re experiencing
There are many reasons why your stomach might be upset, and it’s important to properly determine what’s causing the issue before you reach for any bottle. Generally, stomach upset is caused by an imbalance of the flora in your stomach. Many beneficial bacteria live in harmony with us in our stomachs. Without these friendly bacterial colonies, we wouldn’t be able to absorb nutrients, break down food, or live a healthy life.
When we get sick or have to treat a medical issue with antibiotics or other meds, these beneficial bacteria can get killed off the same as the ‘bad’ bacteria we’re fighting. There’s no way for the medication to differentiate between the ones we need and the ones doing the harm. This can be especially problematic for women, as the balance of friendly bacteria in the reproductive system can also be set off balance, leaving them open to thrush infections and bacterial vaginosis. For women, hormonal fluctuations during your menstrual cycle can also throw your good bacteria off during the month, especially around menstruation and ovulation.
You are what you eat
A poor diet can also wreak havoc on our friendly bacteria. When you consume a diet packed with unhealthy fat, sugar, and bland carbs, you create an environment that feeds bacteria we don’t need for good health. This is exacerbated by a lack of fiber leading to slow digestion and constipation, and you end up with a bowel packed with unhelpful bacteria and slow-moving waste; a recipe for bloat and pain.
Sometimes you don’t have to do anything ‘wrong’ health-wise for your body to turn against you; sometimes these issues are due to bad genes. There’s a wealth of possible causes, and while some can be addressed with diet changes and other lifestyle adaptations, sometimes it’s just a body malfunction we have to adapt to.
Some diseases target the bowel and stomach directly, kill off good bacteria, create inflammation on bowel surfaces, and generally do damage to delicate intestinal linings.
It starts with the right diagnosis
While the overall symptoms (gas, bloating, diarrhea, and stomach pain) can be the same for all of these issues, the treatment methods don’t always overlap. Likewise, some are acute issues that can be fully resolved, and others are chronic problems that can only be managed over time rather than fully cured. Knowing exactly what’s going wrong is the first step to helping yourself, so don’t be afraid to seek help from medical professionals if you’re having severe stomach pain or repeated bouts of pain.
We know it can be a little embarrassing to chat to a doctor (Cedars-Siani.org has some tips to help) about something like diarrhea or bloat, but remember that they are trained medical professionals who want to help. Plus, HIPAA makes sure everything is confidential.
What supplements help stomach pain?
Once you’ve determined the cause of your pain, you’re better able to address the symptoms through smart supplementation and other management plans. Let’s take a look at a few below.
As we mentioned, you can’t out-supplement a poor diet. Especially if it’s the direct cause of your woes! A healthy diet should be rich in minerals and vitamins, balanced between carbs, fat, and protein, and contain enough fiber for healthy bowel movements. Especially if we want to age healthily.
Some stomachs can’t take specific foods, however. Conditions like Irritable Bowel Disease may need you to experiment and keep a food diary to determine what foods contribute to your stomach irritation. Some will have luck with strict diet plans like the FODMAP diet to help relieve symptoms. Others may discover an allergy (like lactose intolerance) or simply foods that trigger their stomach issues. On a wider note, remember that conditions like diabetes, while not directly linked to the stomach, can be greatly helped by eating a healthy diet.
Probiotics are supplements containing those ‘good bacteria’ we mentioned, to kick-start healthy colonies in your bowels. Not all probiotic products are created equally. You will need to consistently supplement over time with a high-quality product to get results. Look for the highest possible amount of colony forming units in the product. Be aware that some probiotics need refrigeration to stay good. It’s a good idea to add fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi, and pickles to your diet as well as taking these in supplemental form.
Other dietary supplements:
While some dietary supplements aren’t worth the money,some will help stomach pain. Licorice has a lot of colloquial use behind it, although it hasn’t been replicated by scientific studies (and pregnant women should avoid it completely, as per tommys.org). On the other hand, there’s some strong evidence that peppermint oil can help with stomach-related issues, especially the bloat from IBS. Many people also find chamomile soothing, although you should avoid this if you have allergies to the ragwort family. Ginger is another natural remedy for stomach ailments, especially if accompanied by nausea, and has some scientific grounding too. A supplement called L-Glutamine, often used by bodybuilders, shows a lot of scientific promise to help rebuild your damaged intestinal lining.
Remember, before using any supplement, you should make sure to purchase from a reputable site (like wellspringmeds.com). As the FDA does not give a lot of oversight to supplement companies, it’s important to work with reliable partners so you know you are getting what you pay for, and that it’s safely and effectively formulated.
There’s a wealth of supplements out there to help you take control of your life again after a bout of diarrhea or stomach pain. Don’t be shy to help your health.