Follow Us

Digestion Explained

Our bodies are complicated and your digestive system is no different. There are seven steps to the digestive process and our bodies often have a way of telling us if something is wrong- from bloating to heartburn.

About Trapped Wind

When we swallow food, water, or saliva, we also swallow small pockets of air that collect in the digestive system. Foods that are high in fibre and fats (like beans, pulses, and some fruits), are hard to digest: they form gases during digestion and can be major causes for trapped wind.

Other causes of trapped wind can include a food intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or Coeliac disease.

What does trapped wind feel like?

When the gases in our digestive system build up, they can cause us to feel bloated and uncomfortable, causing cramps and referred pain. Some people even experience trapped wind in their chest; a sign that you have gases trapped in your body.

How to get rid of trapped wind naturally?

If you are feeling bloated, you can usually relieve trapped wind by making changes to you diet and lifestyle: eating smaller and more frequent meals, and eating and drinking slowly. Taking a source of peppermint oil, such as our Colomint, can also help. Peppermint oil has been proven to promote healthy digestion

About Bloating

What is bloating?

Bloating is very common and can be the result of trapped wind, a large meal or menstruation. In most cases bloating causes an extended stomach that can be painful, along with a ‘stuffed’ feeling. Bloating is a broad term and can refer to excess solids, liquids, or gasses in the digestive system.

Typically, bloating is not the symptom of any serious medical condition. However, if the bloating does not subside a visit to the GP is advised. Bloating has been linked to the following:

  • Various infections
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Bowel or bladder blockages 
  • Cancer
  • IBS
  • Inflammation
  • Liver disease
What foods cause bloating?

Likelihood is, that dietary factors are to blame for your bloating. Foods that are high in fibre tend to be the culprits for many; ingesting these foods more frequently can reduce bloating in the long run. Foods that can cause bloating include:

  • Whole grains
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Prunes, apricots, apples, peaches
  • Brussel sprouts, onion, cauliflower, broccoli
  • Dairy products
  • Salty foods
  • Fizzy drinks
  • Fatty foods
How to stop bloating?

Sometimes you cannot stop bloating, it is a natural occurrence. However, if you suffer with bloating regularly it may be time to look at your diet and eliminate certain foods that could be causing you issues.

About Acid Reflux

Acid reflux is a common gut complaint. It is often distinguished by bouts of heartburn; a burning sensation experienced in the centre of the chest. Heartburn is also accompanied by a sour taste in the mouth and bad breath which is caused by stomach acid.

What does acid reflux feel like?

Acid reflux is uncomfortable; symptoms can be worse after eating, or when laying down or bending over. The pain of heartburn can also be accompanied by bloating, nausea, a persistent cough, or hiccups.

What causes acid reflux?

It should be remembered that heartburn and acid reflux are two different things, but heartburn can be a symptom of acid reflux. Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid backs up into the oesophagus. The stomach acid then irritates the tissue of the oesophagus. At the top of the stomach there is a muscle, known as a sphincter. When this is closed stomach acid cannot enter the oesophagus. However, some people have weaker or more relaxed stomach sphincters, meaning the stomach’s contents can flow up into the oesophagus. Acid reflux can be caused by:

  • Being overweight
  • Smoking
  • Pregnancy
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Anti-inflammatory painkillers
  • A hiatus hernia
What foods cause acid reflux?

One of the most common causes for acid reflux can be your diet. Irritating food or drink can include:

  • Fatty foods
  • Spicy foods
  • Chocolate
  • Coffee
  • Alcohol
  • Oily foods
  • High quantities of salt
  • Milk and cheese
How to get rid of acid reflux

Immediate relief from acid reflux can be achieved using medications. Antacid substances neutralise the acid in the stomach to relieve not only acid reflux but heartburn and indigestion too.

Antacids can be used to treat many different issues, from indigestion, heartburn and acid reflux to gastritis and stomach ulcers. You do not need a prescription to get hold of antacids and there are many different brands available with products in both liquid and chewable tablet form. Pregnant women should consult their GP before taking antacids as some are not suitable.
Aluminium, magnesium, calcium, and sodium are common ingredients found in antacids. If you require a product to add a protective layer to your stomach opt for an antacid also containing alginate.
Antacids work by reducing excess stomach acid to relieve not only indigestion but heartburn, acid reflux and stomach upsets too.
Your doctor may prescribe one of the following if antacid isn’t helping:

  • H2 blockers to decrease acid production
  • Proton pump inhibitors to reduce the amount of acid produced by the stomach
  • Foaming agents to coat the stomach and prevent reflux
  • Prokinetics to help strengthen the stomach sphincter and reduce acid reflux

However, one of the best ways to relieve and eliminate acid reflux is via adopting some lifestyle changes. These can include:

  • Eating smaller and more frequent meals
  • Losing weight if you are overweight
  • Sleeping slightly more upright than flat
  • Quitting smoking
  • Enjoying alcohol in moderation
  • Steering clear or triggering foods
  • Do not eat within 4 hours of bedtime

About Heartburn

As previously discussed, heartburn is a symptom of acid reflux. However, it is also a gut complaint in its own right. Heartburn occurs when stomach acid travels up the oesophagus towards the throat.

What does heartburn feel like?

Heartburn can occur underneath the breastbone in the middle of the chest. However, it can also be felt high in the abdomen or just below the breastbone. The pain doesn’t come from the heart, but the oesophagus and stomach.

Heartburn symptoms, other than the obvious burning pain of the chest or throat, can include:

  • Sour taste in the mouth
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Stuffed nose
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Gastric discomfort

What causes heartburn?

Heartburn is a symptom of acid reflux and many of the causes are the same: including obesity, stress, smoking, anti-inflammatory painkillers or triggering foods. Some people who suffer with heartburn may have a hiatus hernia which is when part of your stomach moves up into your chest.

What food causes heartburn?

Some common heartburn food and drink triggers include:

  • Spicy foods
  • Raw onion
  • Tomatoes
  • Chocolate
  • Citrus fruits
  • Caffeinated drinks
  • Garlic
  • Fatty foods
  • High quantities of salt
How to get rid of heartburn?

The uncomfortable feeling of heartburn can last from several minutes to several hours, or longer. Taking antacids can alleviate the symptoms and provide relief. However, heartburn can last until the food has been digested and may reappear if you bend over or lie down.

Heartburn is inconvenient and can be painful. When heartburn strikes, bar purchasing antacids, try some of the following remedies to help alleviate the symptoms:

  • Change into loose clothing
  • Keep your upper body elevated and straight
  • Chew gum
  • Sip apple cider vinegar
  • Try chewing on vinegar
  • Take licuorice supplements

Ultimately it is lifestyle changes that will you avoid heartburn in the long term. If you are suffering with recurrent bouts of heartburn, try:

  • Shedding excess weight
  • Quit smoking
  • Use herbal remedies
  • Exercise
  • Avoid triggering foods
  • Do not eat late at night

Heartburn during pregnancy

Many women are bothered by heartburn during pregnancy. During pregnancy hormones change dramatically. An outcome of this is the muscles in the oesophagus relaxing, allowing stomach acid to flow backwards. This causes the pain and discomfort of heartburn.

 As the baby grows, the stomach and organs are pushed in all directions to make room. Therefore, women in their second and third trimester can find heartburn painful and frustrating.
Before taking any medication whilst pregnant, consult a doctor. Magnesium and calcium carbonate-based antacids are good options to relieve heartburn during pregnancy. However, magnesium shouldn’t be ingested during the final trimester as it can affect contractions during labour. Antacids containing high levels of sodium, aluminium hydroxide or aluminium carbonate should be avoided; aluminium based antacids can cause constipation and sodium can equate to a build-up of fluid.

Can stress cause heartburn?

Stress is recognised as a trigger for heartburn and can make symptoms of acid reflux worse. Scientists currently believe that when you are stressed or upset your body is more sensitive. This can result in even the smallest amount of stomach acid in the oesophagus causing irritation and pain.