Bowel school 2: Your stomach – your compass

Heartburn, acid reflux, constipation, vomiting – all unpleasant and uncomfortable, yet all avoidable? We provide a few tips to promote better digestion.


Sometimes we get unlucky and introduce bad bacteria through no fault of our own. With a little knowledge we can avoid risking bad digestion – improperly heated foods, foods past the expiration date, improperly purified tap water on vacation.

How do we cure an upset stomach with which we would like to become friends again?

Heartburn and acid reflux

Heartburn occurs when stomach acid and digestive enzymes are pushed up the esophagus. Acid reflux even reaches the throat. This tastes terrible, is uncomfortable, and we don’t want to endure this too often. Drinking tea or chewing gum will help. Small gulps or bites tell the nerves which way the food should go: down and not back up.

Quitting smoking will help as well. Smoking produces more stomach acid. We want to avoid this, otherwise your throat will burn again. If you have major problems, you should also avoid excessive amounts of chocolate, coffee, strong spices, alcohol and sugar. This is a matter of trial and error, because not everyone reacts the same way to all foods.

Acid neutralizers are available for purchase at the pharmacy for acid reflux. Follow the instructions for these carefully, because it is not good for the stomach to use these for too long. You can also make your own potato juice. If you are bothered by acid reflux at night, lying with the upper body raised by 30 degrees benefits the cardiovascular system.

Symptoms to be aware of: if you cannot swallow, develop swelling, or lose weight. In that case, you must seek medical attention to have your stomach examined properly.


Clear indications you are about to vomit are paleness, a drop in blood pressure and slower heartbeat. The mouth fills with saliva – an ingenious measure to protect your teeth from the corrosive stomach acid. In an instant, the stomach acid and other stomach contents will come out through your mouth. Have you ever felt worse?

Not all members of the animal kingdom are able to vomit. The esophagus in several species is too long to manage this – they chew the food slowly and carefully to allow time to identify anything they shouldn’t enter their stomach. On the other hand, apes, dogs, cats, pigs, fish, birds and we humans know the art of eating quickly.

And vomiting quickly.

This is the body's way of directing the energy to where it is most needed

Gastroenteritis occurs suddenly, while all types of poisonings (bad food or alcohol) are most often preceded by nausea followed by waves of vomiting. Emotional upheaval may also lead to vomiting (or diarrhea). This is the body's way of directing energy to where it is most needed – perhaps into the legs, to handle fleeing from a horrible situation.

If what you have eaten comes up mostly unchanged from how it entered your system, then it hasn’t been in your stomach long. If the gunk is more bitter and yellowish, it has made it down to the small intestine before being reversed.

To avoid unnecessary bouts of vomiting, such as motion sickness, looking away towards the horizon helps. Our internal instruments for maintaining balance – the eyes and ears – gather information. Chewing on a piece of ginger or pressing on acupuncture point P6, located below the wrist, may also suffice. Try stroking this area softly until the nausea has passed.

Effective over-the-counter drugs are also available at the pharmacy.

Your stomach wants what is good for you

Think of the stomach protests as a security system. The stomach does all it can to protect us against poisons in food and ensure energy is conducted to where it is most needed at that time. Your stomach acts as your compass for what you should and should not eat. It wants what is good for you.

Learn more about constipation in the next post in this series.
'Bowel school 3: Your stomach needs order and routine'

Download tips on food and weight

Author: Anna Westberg
Source: ”Gut” by Giulia Enders

Topics: Health, Bowel dysfunction