Joanie confided to me that she was mortified on a fairly regular basis.
“Why is this happening to me?” she asked. “I’m sitting with friends at a restaurant and let out a toot when I stand up to leave. It’s funny but also very embarrassing. I try to pretend it’s the chair scraping on the tile floor, but they laugh and say it happens to them too.”
Sounds familiar? Joanie is not alone. It’s one of many humbling things that is more common in midlife than when we’re younger. Some of it is muscle control, but the more common reasons a gal develops audible flatulence are related to the quality of her digestive system, her eating style and her diet.
The Digestive System – Your Second Brain
I’m in awe of the digestive system. Some call it our second brain because of all the receptors located throughout the system. Seventy to 80 percent of the immune system resides in the gut. Much of serotonin, our happy hormone, is produced in the gut.
There is, we hope, a massive colony of good bacteria situated in a healthy gut. Who among us hasn’t said we have a gut feeling about something? Our gut talks to us. Spread it out, and it stretches nearly 30 feet! There’s a lot that can go right – or wrong – as food moves through this long passageway.
Knowing all our gut does makes it easier to appreciate how tenderly we should treat this amazing system.
What’s Your Eating Style?
Inquiring about your eating style is a critical question when it comes to figuring out your tummy issues. Do you “inhale” your food? If you do, that may be the answer as to why you cut the cheese.
Food needs saliva, not air, to be broken down and make its way through your system. Slow down and chew. Check out my blog post on the topic to understand the many reasons why inhaling your food isn’t good. Slowing down to chew may be all you need to do to cure this embarrassing current of noxious, noisy air.
Well, maybe your eating style isn’t the whole breaking wind story, but simply a part of it. For sure the foods you eat affect your digestion. But here’s where it gets tricky. You may be eating the same foods you always ate, but they are affecting you differently.
I used to eat plain shredded wheat for breakfast; recently my body says, No way. When this happens, you have some choices. You can experiment with eliminating suspected culprits and if it’s something you like, try it again in a couple of months. You can take digestive enzymes or a probiotic to see if you get relief. It may take some time and experimentation, but these are easy tasks and may lead to great relief.
Other Tummy Troubles
So maybe it’s not gas, but another kind of tummy trouble. The most common one is acid burn. For example, Nancy and Sandra had both been treated for their acid problem, but no one had bothered to ask them what they were eating or what their lifestyle was like. They were only given a proton pump inhibitor medication to lessen the gas in their stomachs. It didn’t help.
Stomachs should have acid in them to break down food; the problem comes when that acid goes up into the esophagus and wow, will it burn.
In Nancy’s case, she was dealing with an anxiety problem and had a diet high in processed food; Sandra was a late-night eater who would lie down right after eating. When Nancy got some therapy, and began eating simple whole foods, her stomach quieted. Sandra changed her schedule and began eating her big meal at mid-day. Both got off their medication and feel much better.
Recommendation: hold off on the Tums and Prilosec and experiment with your food first.
Simple Whole Foods
If you’re wondering what I mean by simple whole foods, I mean foods that are in their original form, not packaged or combined with other ingredients. Examples are a head of broccoli, an apple, a cup of brown rice, a piece of wild fish or a piece of antibiotic and hormone free beef or chicken. This is the starting point for identifying foods that are good for you and most likely won’t cause stomach acid. They are clean foods.
That said, we are all unique, and your life experience may be quite different from the person next to you. You need to listen to your body; observe how it responds to any and all foods that you eat. Just because it’s a simple whole food doesn’t mean your body will tolerate it. Choosing simple whole foods is your baseline. Your careful observation is the most powerful force in identifying what works in your body and what does not.
Check out three habits of people with excellent digestion on my website Wellness and You.
Have you experienced any midlife tummy troubles? Have you made any positive changes to improve your tummy health? Did it come from changing your food? How have you adjusted your eating and lifestyle habits over time? We would love to hear your stories.