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Stomach problems are a common ailment

here's how to help stay healthy

August 13, 2012|By JAMIE LOBER | Special to The Herald-Mail

Tummy troubles are one of the most common complaints heard at the doctor's office. 

"It can vary from things as simple as anxiety to food poisoning to a medication effect to things more chronic like heartburn, reflux, gallbladder disease, ulcers or pancreas problems," said Dr. Tani Crussiah, family practice physician with Williamsport Family Practice.

Here are some tips to handling those tummy troubles.

  •  Sometimes you can act preventatively. "If you have heartburn symptoms, avoid citrusy or saucy-type foods and avoid eating late at night, whereas if it is a stomach virus, typically a blander diet resolves with your own immune system," Crussiah said.
  •  Get stress under control. "The mind and body are connected so when you are stressed, the stomach overacts and can churn more causing acid or anxiety-induced gastritis, so you may want to try over-the-counter acid reducers," she said. Some people like a warm compress to help alleviate these symptoms.
  •  Know the signs of a virus. "A virus, which can be self-contained after 7 to 10 days, can cause stomachache along with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, low-grade fever and body aches, and the best thing you can do is stay hydrated and follow the BRAT (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast) diet," Crussiah said.
  •  Fend off food poisoning. "You want to make sure foods are not kept in the temperature danger zone which is between 40 degrees and 140 degrees Fahrenheit," said Tim Higgins, nutritionist and diabetes educator at Meritus Endocrine, Nutrition and Diabetes Center.  That zone encourages the growth of bacteria which is one of the primary causes.
  •  Be sure vegetables are well-washed before consumed and that meats are well-cooked. And if you are at a friend's house, don't be afraid to ask questions. "The two-hour rule, or not eating food after it has been left out for two hours, is good to keep in mind so anyone who is eating or cooking chicken or other types of meat should make sure they are well-cooked and use a meat thermometer," Higgins said.
  •  Remember that chicken should be cooked above 165 degrees and pay attention to how foods are prepared. "Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold," Higgins said.
  •  Do not forget to stay sanitary. "If you are preparing raw meats, use separate cutting utensils or at least clean them and sanitize them before you use them on vegetable items that are ready to eat such as salad," Higgins said. Cross-contamination can occur, so make sure your hands and surfaces are both kept clean.
  •  Food poisoning is more common than you might realize. "If someone is having a problem and you suspect food poisoning, keep them well-hydrated, because dehydration can be a danger," Higgins said. Many times, people suspect it is an intestinal virus or associate it with a passing illness when, in fact, food poisoning is taking place. "It could take up to 48 hours to actually exhibit, and most of the time it will resolve itself," Higgins said.
  •  Teenage girls might experience tummy troubles related to menstruation. "Midol, Pamprin or an anti-inflammatory like Ibuprofen can help, but if it is stomach-related, Ibuprofen can upset the stomach so it is a fine line of lessening the pain," Crussiah said.
  •  Plan ahead. "If the woman is regular on her cycle, she can be proactive and take a medication the day before or the day of because she knows the lower abdominal pain is going to happen," Crussiah said.
  •  Be prepared for the doctor to take your history. "You can tell a lot by asking the patient questions on where the symptoms are, what makes it better and worse and any associated symptoms," Crussiah said.
  •  You can also expect a physical exam. "We look at the abdomen and tap on it and sometimes do imaging like an ultrasound or CAT scan if we think it is appendicitis or something serious," Crussiah said.
  •  Sometimes it is necessary to see a specialist. "Usually if it is unresolved with basic interventions and you still have abdominal pain after weeks, gastroenterologists locally can do more imaging or do scopes to look in your stomach and see if there are concerning symptoms," Crussiah said.
  •  Tummy troubles occur among all ages. "It is better to see your doctor instead of trying to self-treat; particularly for kids it is harder because it can mean anything from an ear infection to that they got bullied at school," Crussiah said. 

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