There are many causes of stomach pain. The digestive system which consists of the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small and large intestines and anus is also complemented by such important organs as the liver and gallbladder. I also consider the pancreas as a complimentary digestive organ because of its importance in producing insulin which regulates blood sugar levels.
I want to give some pointers on proper digestion. Let me start by saying this:
1) Chew your food properly. Mastication, or chewing, is an important part of digestion and where the body starts to break down food. Amylase is an enzyme in saliva that helps the initial break down of starchy carbohydrates into sugars. Never stuff your mouth or swallow large chunks (aka bolus) of food. The stomach has a harder time separating carbs/fats/proteins if the food isn’t initially digested by the amylase.
2) Rest between bites. Food wasn’t made to be eaten as fast as possible and proper digestion is aided by smaller portioning. If you consider the stomach like a processing plant, the greater volumes can back up production. Smaller food boluses tends to be more efficiently broken down because there is more proportional surface area for the peptic acid to work. The stomach acid is a like small lake with a strong pH (highly acidic) environment. Overloading that lake with food tends to drop the pH making it harder and increasing the time it take to fully digest. Eat a couple of bites, wait a few moments, then continue.
3) Allow your body some time to digest the food after you’ve eaten. That means no swimming, jogging, laying down or sleeping or driving. These are activities that tend to leach focus and energy away from the body’s very important task of digesting the food you’ve just eaten. Lions binge eat, then rest all day while they digest. Things that are beneficial to digestion are: light walking, reading, watching television, and unfortunately smoking (the nicotine aids digestion and stimulates the peristaltic movement of the digestive system).
Next I’ll go over some of the common digestion problems that any of us might have after eating an especially heavy fat meal.
A) Indigestion – The most common cause of non-systemic digestive problems. People who experience indigestion are probably on the go eaters who have a short lunch break and are always back at their desk workin at 100 mph directly after lunch. Working takes concentration and diverts the energy used for digesting food. If you eat a big cheeseburger and then run a mile you’ll know how these people feel every day. It feels like you’ve got a small baseball (or for some of us a bowling ball) moving around in your stomach and your breath smells like a rancid version of your last meal.
The body has not fully digested the volume of food and it is just sitting in your stomach swishing around waiting for the next time you eat or rest to produce the peptic acid necessary to finish the job.
1) Don’t take prevacid, rolaids, tums, pepto bismol, or even drink milk. All of the above are substances that tend to either coat the stomach or cut off the acid production in the stomach. However I just explained that the body needs enough of this acid to do the job, but not so much that it burns the inner lining of the stomach. Rolaids, Tums and Pepto Bismol all tends to alkalize the stomach, neutralizing the effectiveness of the acid you have in your stomach. Instead drink a shot of vinegar. Beside the horrid taste, acetic acid has a high pH and won’t damage the inner lining of the stomach (unless you have many ulcers). I prefer apple cider vinegar, but any vinegar works. Soda (coca cola or sprite) can help because it is highly acidic and has the carbonation that can calm the stomach while not requiring more acid production, may work better for people with ulcers.
2) Massaging the internal organs to promote better digestion is a well known Chinese trick for indigestion. In small circular motions going clockwise, rub your belly 30 times. Next do counter clockwise making a larger circle that covers the stomach, diaphragm, and just to above your genitals, and rub your stomach this way another 30 times. The first smaller circle promotes the peristaltic movement of the stomach and small intestine. The larger circle helps move the contents of your previous meal around your colon to your anus.
After doing this exercise don’t be surprised if you fart or have to empty your bowel. That is how you know your digestion is working properly.
B) You have extreme pain after eating a heavy meal with sharp spasming pain and you seize up holding your stomach area until the spasm goes away. Possible followed by a bout of constipation then diarrhea. This condition, unlike indigestion is more a cause of the body digesting properly, but of the food not being handled properly. ALso known as Montezuma’s revenge, this occurs when a person comes into contact with bacteria or organisms in food where the chef didn’t wash their hands properly or the body is just not used to that kind of bacteria. Bacteria is in all foods, we have beneficial kinds of bacteria in our stomach and all throughout our intestines, but the exact specimen to bacteria is regional and local to a population. When you go to Mexico and drink the water it is just like if you go to the river and drink the water from a static lake. Both have organisms that can produce diarrhea, but the people in Mexico are used to their bacteria while we are not.
a) Water loss in diarrhea is important and a serious consequence if you are in a third world impoverished environment and for us it important to replace those fluids.
b) In these cases you’ve ingested an abnormal amount of a bacteria that your body isn’t equipped to handle. In most of these cases the bacteria has to run it’s course and may take from several hours to several days. Monitoring the patient to make sure they don’t develop a fever is very important (fever indicated their body is losing the war against this bacteria or virus). Emptying of the bowels helps as well as abstaining from meals until the digestive system is allowed to settle.
c) You have a very sharp pain on the right side of your abdomen after you eaten a fatty meal high in cholesterol. This can indicate cholecystitis which is an inflammation of the gall bladder. The gall bladder is a very important organ especially to use fatty Americans. It releases bile which is a highly acidic substance and releases this into the first portion of the small intestine where food goes immediately after it has left the digesting portion of the stomach. Here in the duodenum, the bile breaks down fats and if there are large volumes of fats the gall bladder has to work overtime to produce more bile which can tax and overwork the gall bladder.
Solution: This kind of problem requires the help of a specialist (unless you are gonna just cut the amount of fat in your diet) who may need to do some testing to make sure there isn’t an infection of the gall bladder or a gall bladder stone(s) making the organ overwork itself. See your gastroenterologist for tests that will help the doc determine if it’s your gall bladder that is the problem.
Eat healthy, Live an active lifestyle and take your time to digest!