Causes Of Heartburn
Acidic gases from the stomach flow up into the sensitive esophagus. This produces a burning sensation. Normally, a muscular ring closes to prevent the flow of acid. But certain foods and drinks loosen this muscle. Prime offender: Coffee. Next worst: Alcohol and smoking. Also: Fried foods, fatty meats, spices, oils, and chocolate. See acid heartburn for more information.
Nervous Stomachs: The nervous stomach is a folk myth. It is not the result of eating food that "does not agree with you." Fact: Irritable bowel syndrome bedevils some 22 million Americans.*
Symptoms: Recurrent diarrhea, constipation, or bouts of both.
The cause is a combination of the following: Stress. A high-fat, processed-food diet. Irregular meals. Intermittent dieting. Dinners as the main meal of the day, after the stomach has been under stress for eight to 10 hours and it is at its most acidic.
Treatment: Regular meal times. Healthy breakfasts, and moderate lunches and dinners.
How To Avoid Constipation: Evaluate your diet. A lack of roughage (leafy vegetables, fruits, whole-grain cereals and bread) can be the cause. Eating dates, figs, or prunes is helpful. Fluids are necessary. Recommended: Water, milk, fruit juice.
Consider daily tension as a cause. Worrying about being constipated can make it worse. When you are tense, talk things over with a close friend. If the problems are serious, consider professional help.
Train your body to eliminate regularly. This usually solves the problem.
Do not rely on laxatives. Reason: The bowels become less and less sensitive to the irritants they contain, and over a period of time laxatives cause constipation. Caution: Children should never be given laxatives. Instead:
Administer an enema.
Caution: Constant constipation can be a sign of serious disease. If it persists, see a doctor.
The GI Series: GI stands for gastrointestinal. What the doctor wants is a special X-ray examination of the stomach, esophagus, and intestines as an aid in diagnosing diseases such as ulcers, colitis, gall-bladder problems, and cancer.
How it's different from an X-ray or fluoroscopic examination: The stomach and digestive tract can be seen as a special liquid preparation, which the patient has previously swallowed, is passing through them. The liquid contains barium, which cannot be penetrated by X-rays. Since the surrounding areas are penetrated by X-rays, the barium silhouettes the intestinal areas, sharply defining them.
Barium: It resembles a milk shake, but has a chalky flavor. The patient drinks it at about 8 a.m., after having eaten nothing since midnight. During the next several hours, the barium passes through the digestive areas, which show up in the X-ray and are observed through a fluoroscope. The patient experiences little or no discomfort.
Cost and time: A GI series is not normally included in a routine physical checkup. It is ordered only when there is a suspicion of an ulcer or other intestinal ailment. The charge varies, depending on the extent of the examination and the time necessary for it, but may run anywhere from $100 to $300 or more. A general physician does not usually perform such tests, but he will refer the patient to a specialist, such as a radiologist or gastroenterologist.
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