How Would Your Stomach Feel If You Were Pregnant – It’s hard to avoid stomach aches at Christmas. Is it a sign of underlying health problems? And will it help you change your lifestyle?
Symptoms of indigestion include nausea, pain in the upper part of the stomach (dyspepsia) or behind the breasts (heartburn) and severe bloating. Photo: Izabela Habur/Getty Images/Vetta
How Would Your Stomach Feel If You Were Pregnant
Most of us, especially at this time of year, recognize the symptoms of indigestion: nausea, pain in the upper part of the stomach (dyspepsia) or behind the breasts (heartburn) and lots of lumps. Even after eating a small meal, you may feel bloated and especially full. One fifth of adults in the developed world experience recurrent indigestion, which can cause anxiety and weakness. There may be an obvious temptation – like a five-pint vindaloo – but, equally, there will be nothing obvious.
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Rarely can a specific cause be found, even if a tube is passed down your throat and into your stomach (endoscopy) to take a look. People often worry about underlying cancer, but if there are no other worrisome symptoms such as weight loss, difficulty swallowing, or repeated vomiting, the risk is very low. Medicines that stop the production of stomach acid, block pain messages to the brain or remove bacteria from the digestive tract
(HP) can work wonders. Exercise, relaxation therapies, and acupuncture may help, although evidence is limited. Cutting out the obvious triggers (like alcohol, spicy foods, and painkillers) makes sense—but this might not be an easy month to try.
This is because the brain has a hard time distinguishing whether pain is coming from the heart or the stomach and esophagus. It can be hard to tell the difference, and if you’re really concerned, it’s best to seek immediate medical attention. A heart attack can start while you’re exercising — for example, using the treadmill or having sex. This is usually pressure, pain or tightness on the left side of the chest. It then spreads to your neck and jaw, creating shortness of breath, dizziness and sweating. Heartburn (confusingly called “heartburn”) usually starts in the upper abdomen and moves behind the breastbone. It gets worse when you lie down or bend over because it causes stomach acid to back up into the esophagus. If the acid goes that far, you have a sour taste in your mouth. Antacids that neutralize acid (such as Gaviscon or Renny) can help with pain. If you’ve had it for years, it’s more likely to be an indigestion than a heart attack.
Your doctor may want to check that you don’t have a specific underlying problem that is causing inflammation of the esophagus, stomach, or duodenum, the first part of the intestine. This part of the gut is called the upper gastrointestinal tract or UGI. Swelling can be caused by acid reflux (gastroesophageal reflux disease or GORD), ulcers, the effects of medications (such as ibuprofen), bacterial infection (for example from HP), or rarely, cancer. Investigations include blood analysis for anemia, stool analysis for HP and referral for endoscopy for direct vision. If you are over 50 or have recently developed persistent indigestion, you are more likely to get it.
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Sixty percent of people with recurrent dyspepsia have no symptoms of inflammation of the esophagus (esophagitis) or stomach (gastritis). No lesions or cancer. Experts call this functional dyspepsia (FD) and think it is due to abnormal sensitivity of the nerves in the esophagus and stomach. Tests for bacterial HP associated with inflammation are usually negative. Even if HP is detected, treating it won’t cure the symptoms, but Professor Nigel Fluke, a family doctor at the University of Alberta in Canada, says it’s worth a try. “HB therapy may provide lasting relief in a small number of dyspepsia sufferers.”
It helps to know that although functional dyspepsia is a pain, it is not dangerous. A one-month trial of acid-suppressing therapy (proton pump inhibitors or PPIs) is often recommended. dr. Alex Ford, a gastroenterologist at the University of Leeds, says low doses of amitriptyline (used in high doses in the past to treat depression) can work well because they reduce pain signals in the brain.
The National Institute for Health and Care Evidence (NICE) recommends lifestyle changes if you are overweight, such as losing weight, reducing alcohol, eating regularly and stopping smoking. But according to Fluke, it’s hard to predict what will help. “The activities that cause dyspepsia are highly individualized. Possible triggers include large and late meals, caffeine, alcohol, fatty foods, NSAIDs [nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen] and other medications.” Exercise, relaxation techniques, psychotherapy and acupuncture can help, but are difficult. As for finding evidence, Ford says that’s not a priority for the investigation. While specific diets high in short-chain carbohydrates (fermentable, oligo-, di-, monosaccharides, and polyols) may help people with irritable bowel syndrome, more research is needed to see if it helps people with dyspepsia.
Acupuncturist Rhiannon Griffiths certainly thinks so: “Using a combination of acupuncture points on the legs, feet, arms, hands or abdomen to re-establish the proper flow of energy in the body can help with bloating, indigestion and irritable bowel. Calm syndrome in Chinese medicine, we treat the stomach like a cauldron. We see – hot and blisters, so it is important not to put cold or raw food in the stomach in winter, it lowers the temperature too much. The stomach then has to work very hard and spends all its energy to bring it to the optimal temperature for better digestion. This can cause a feeling of lethargy, indigestion or looseness No strong evidence has been found for the use of acupuncture in the treatment of functional dyspepsia, although it is unlikely to be harmful.
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You may have gallstones. The symptoms are similar to those of dyspepsia: bloating, belching and pain in the upper abdomen. Pain in the gallbladder is stronger after a fatty meal, 30 minutes to two hours after eating, and is stronger on the right side where the gallbladder and liver are located. Your doctor can arrange an ultrasound examination, which will confirm the diagnosis. If the stones are too large, the gallbladder can be removed.
Most people with indigestion do not get cancer. Warning signs that prompt you to seek emergency medical attention include: unexplained vomiting, bleeding, anemia, weight loss, and difficulty swallowing. But remember: If you took 100 people with these warning signs, less than four would have cancer, and only 13 would have a serious problem, such as a bleeding ulcer. If you buy something from an affiliate, the media earns a commission. See our ethical statement.
After Jenna Angst gave birth to her second child, she noticed that her midsection wasn’t quite right. “Even after getting back to my normal weight, I was frustrated that my stomach was so flat,” says Angst, 37. So she asked to see her gynecologist in Atlanta. The doctor dismissed it and said it was purely aesthetic.
But Angst wondered if it was something she once heard in yoga class called “mommy dog,” “mommy belly,” or “baby belly.” So she went to doctors, specialists and physical therapists in search of answers. Finally someone told her, yes, she has diastasis recti, a condition where the abdominal muscles are too far apart and the stomach sticks out.
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“It was terrifying for me to have to go on such a journey to get answers — to talk to friends, my obstetrician, [a physical therapist] and four plastic surgeons,” says Angst. “The information was not immediately available. I got some answers only after my son’s first birthday.”
Angst’s struggle to understand this postpartum condition was not unusual. Although research suggests that at least 60 percent of women have DR at six weeks postpartum and 30 percent at one year postpartum, most women have never heard of the term.
As with many other postpartum problems that affect women, this condition lacks good research. Women are not usually screened for DR before normal delivery, which occurs around six weeks after delivery. They often say that if they get a diagnosis, a big job – tons of cracks, for example – will show the stomach and thus close the gap.
But doing the core job incorrectly or on your own will not solve the problem. In fact, it can make things worse. In the long term, DR can compromise fetal stability and function, and is associated with other complications that can develop years after delivery.
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