Digestive Health Archive


Ask the doctor: What should I do about bloating and gas?

Q. Every once in a while I get bloating and gas. It's uncomfortable and embarrassing. What can I do to get rid of it?

A. Gas and bloating are tough to talk about, but we've all have had to deal with these afflictions at one time or another. Although they're not pleasant, there are things you can do to prevent and treat them.

Don't let that heartburn go untreated

You may be risking a condition linked to esophageal cancer.

Photo: Thinkstock

Onions, garlic, tomato, and spicy foods like chili can trigger heartburn.

Answers about aspirin

Should you be taking it? If so, when, how much, and what kind?

Photos: Thinkstock

Daily aspirin can prevent heart attack and stroke, but it's often misused.

Understanding cardiovascular pain

What the location and severity reveals about your health.

If you're concerned about your heart, a sharp twinge in your chest may give you pause. If it's fleeting, it's probably nothing to worry about. But is that uncomfortable ache under your breastbone just heartburn—or a heart attack? It's often hard to tell. Understanding the underlying causes, symptoms, and duration of these two conditions—and others that cause similar sensations elsewhere in the body—can help you deal with the pain calmly and safely.

Kinder, gentler colonoscopy preps

Q. My doctor has recommended that I have a colonoscopy this year. The last time I had one, the preparation I had to drink the day before the procedure tasted awful. Are there any new preparations that are easier to take?

A. You have several options now for cleaning out the colon before colonoscopy, often called a "colon prep." Perhaps you can find one that is less disagreeable than the last one. In colonoscopy, a doctor examines the colon for abnormalities. To provide the clearest view, it's important for you to complete the laxative colon prep as directed.

Chronic heartburn: Do you need an endoscopy?

Before your doctor takes a "just in case" look down your throat for trouble, make sure you really need this procedure.

One in five men has felt the burning discomfort of heartburn in the past month, and for many men it is a chronic malady requiring daily medication. For a variety of reasons, those with chronic heartburn end up having one or more endoscopies, in which a doctor uses a flexible lighted instrument to check for trouble down below in the esophagus.

Preventing the burn of heartburn

Follow these anti-reflux strategies to avoid a painful end to your holiday meal.

The holiday season is a time well known for gastronomic excesses. Yet there are repercussions from these overindulgences. Eating too many holiday foods can lead to uncomfortable aftereffects, especially if you head straight to the couch. "People eat a huge meal and then they often recline in front of the television afterward, and that's a good setup for gastroesophageal reflux," explains Dr. Lawrence S. Friedman, who is the Anton R. Fried, M.D., Chair of the Department of Medicine at Newton-Wellesley Hospital and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

That pain in your side could be diverticular disease

Fiber and an active lifestyle prevent flare-ups, but act promptly if it hurts or bleeds. 

Many men discover they have diverticular disease after a routine colon screening exam to check for hidden colon cancer. Others find out the hard way: intense lower abdominal pain and a fever, and sometimes copious rectal bleeding. What's going on down there, and what can you do about it?

Improve sleep by eating right






Photo: Thinkstock

Why caffeine, spicy foods, and alcohol make poor bedfellows.

When it comes to your ability to get a good night's sleep, your diet may play a role. Go to bed hungry, and you'll likely have trouble falling asleep. Eat a large meal, and afterward you may feel like dozing off. "There's proof that stomach distention makes you sleepy after a meal, although it's a mild effect and it's not influenced by particular foods," says sleep expert Dr. Lawrence Epstein, an instructor at Harvard Medical School.

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