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How Acid Reflux, Bloating, Constipation, Diarrhoea, and IBS Are Connected and What You Can Do About It

How Acid Reflux, Bloating, Constipation, Diarrhoea, and IBS Are Connected and What You Can Do About It


When something doesn't feel right in the stomach, it can be difficult to concentrate on anything else. Digestive problems are a common issue that many of us face, but we don't always know how to solve them. In fact, according to a study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, up to 74% of the general population experiences some form of gastrointestinal discomfort. The World Gastroenterology Organization also states that functional gastrointestinal disorders, which include common issues like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and functional dyspepsia, affect about 40% of people globally. With such widespread prevalence, it's crucial to understand these typical digestive problems and how to alleviate them. In this article, we'll explore five common digestive issues and provide science-backed solutions to help you regain control over your gut health.

  1. Acid Reflux
  2. Bloating
  3. Constipation
  4. Diarrhoea
  5. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  6. Conclusion

Acid Reflux

What is Acid Reflux?

Acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), occurs when stomach acid flows back into the esophagus, causing discomfort and potentially damaging the lining of the esophagus. This backward flow is a result of a weakened lower esophageal sphincter (LES), the muscle ring that separates the stomach from the esophagus. Common symptoms of acid reflux include heartburn, a burning sensation in the chest, regurgitation, and difficulty swallowing.


Common symptoms of acid reflux include:

  • Heartburn: A burning sensation in the chest, usually after eating, which might worsen at night
  • Regurgitation: The sensation of stomach acid or bitter-tasting fluid flowing back into the mouth or throat
  • Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia): The feeling of food getting stuck in the throat or chest, causing discomfort or pain
  • Chest pain: Discomfort or pain in the chest, which can sometimes be mistaken for a heart attack
  • Chronic cough: A persistent cough that is not related to a respiratory infection
  • Hoarseness or sore throat: Irritation or inflammation of the vocal cords and throat due to stomach acid exposure
  • Dental erosion: The gradual wearing away of tooth enamel due to the acidic environment created by refluxed stomach acid

Causes and Risk Factors

Various factors can contribute to the weakening of the LES and the development of acid reflux. These include obesity, pregnancy, smoking, certain medications, and consuming foods that can trigger reflux, such as spicy or fatty foods, chocolate, and caffeine

Scientifically Proven Solutions

  1. Weight loss: For individuals who are overweight or obese, losing weight can significantly reduce the frequency and severity of acid reflux symptoms
  2. Dietary changes: Avoiding common trigger foods, such as spicy or fatty foods, chocolate, and caffeine, can help alleviate acid reflux symptoms. Additionally, eating smaller, more frequent meals instead of large meals can help prevent overeating and reduce pressure on the LES .
  3. Elevate the head of the bed: Sleeping with the head of the bed elevated by 6-8 inches can help prevent acid reflux symptoms by using gravity to keep stomach acid in the stomach .
  4. Quit smoking: Smoking can weaken the LES and increase the risk of developing acid reflux. Quitting smoking can improve LES function and reduce acid reflux symptoms .


  1. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) - Harvard Health

  2. Singh, M., Lee, J., Gupta, N., Gaddam, S., Smith, B. K., Wani, S. B., ... & Sharma, P. (2013). Weight loss can lead to resolution of gastroesophageal reflux disease symptoms: a prospective intervention trial. The American journal of gastroenterology, 108(2), 183-188.

  3. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) - National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

  4. Kahrilas, P. J., Shaheen, N. J., & Vaezi, M. F. (2008). American Gastroenterological Association Institute technical review on the management of gastroesophageal reflux disease. Gastroenterology, 135(4), 1392-1413.

  5. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) - Cleveland Clinic

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2. Bloating

What is Bloating?

Bloating is a sensation of increased abdominal pressure or fullness, often accompanied by visible distention of the abdomen. It can be uncomfortable or even painful and is typically caused by the accumulation of gas, fluid, or undigested food in the gastrointestinal tract.


Common symptoms of bloating include:

  • A feeling of fullness or tightness in the abdomen
  • Swelling or distention of the abdomen
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Excessive gas or flatulence
  • Gurgling or rumbling sounds in the stomach

Causes and Risk Factors

Bloating can be caused by various factors, including:

  • Overeating or eating too quickly
  • Swallowing air while eating, drinking, or talking
  • Consuming gas-producing foods, such as beans, lentils, cabbage, and carbonated beverages
  • Food intolerances, such as lactose intolerance or gluten sensitivity
  • Gastrointestinal disorders, like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Constipation
  • Hormonal changes, such as during menstruation

Scientifically Proven Solutions

  1. Identify and avoid trigger foods: Keep a food diary to help identify which foods may be causing bloating, and then reduce or eliminate them from your diet. Common culprits include gas-producing foods, high-FODMAP foods, and foods that cause intolerances or sensitivities .

  2. Eat slowly and mindfully: Eating too quickly can cause you to swallow more air, which can contribute to bloating. Take your time and chew your food thoroughly to help reduce the amount of air you swallow .

  3. Consider probiotics: Some research suggests that certain probiotic strains can help reduce bloating, particularly in people with IBS. Speak with a healthcare professional before starting a probiotic supplement to ensure it is appropriate for your individual needs .

  4. Exercise regularly: Physical activity can help stimulate the passage of gas through the digestive system, reducing bloating and discomfort .

  5. Stay hydrated: Drinking adequate water can help prevent constipation, which can contribute to bloating .


  1. Bloating and Gas - GI Society
  2. Gas - Mayo Clinic
  3. McFarland, L. V., & Dublin, S. (2008). Meta-analysis of probiotics for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. World Journal of Gastroenterology, 14(17), 2650-2661.
  4. Exercise and Bloating - WebMD
  5. Water - Nutrition Source - Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health


What is Constipation?

Constipation is a common digestive problem characterized by infrequent bowel movements, difficulty passing stool, or a feeling of incomplete evacuation. It can be caused by various factors, including a low-fiber diet, dehydration, lack of physical activity, and certain medications or medical conditions.

Symptoms of Constipation

Common symptoms associated with constipation include:

  1. Fewer than three bowel movements per week
  2. Hard, dry, or lumpy stools
  3. Straining or difficulty passing stools
  4. A feeling of incomplete evacuation after a bowel movement
  5. Bloating or discomfort in the abdomen

Causes and Risk Factors

Some common causes and risk factors for constipation include:

  1. A diet low in fiber, which is essential for maintaining regular bowel movements
  2. Insufficient fluid intake, which can lead to harder stools that are more difficult to pass
  3. Lack of physical activity, as exercise can help stimulate the muscles in the digestive tract
  4. Certain medications, such as opioids, antacids, and some antidepressants, which can affect bowel function
  5. Medical conditions, such as hypothyroidism, diabetes, and neurological disorders, that can influence bowel movements [^12^].

Scientifically Proven Solutions

  1. Increase fiber intake: Consuming more fiber-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, can help soften stools and make them easier to pass. Aim for at least 25 grams of fiber per day for women and 38 grams for men .

  2. Stay hydrated: Drinking enough water and other fluids can help prevent dehydration and keep stools soft. Aim for at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day, but individual needs may vary .

  3. Exercise regularly: Engaging in regular physical activity can help stimulate bowel movements and promote regularity .

  4. Establish a bowel routine: Trying to have a bowel movement at the same time each day, preferably after a meal, can help train your body to have more regular bowel movements .

  5. Avoid overusing laxatives: While over-the-counter laxatives can provide temporary relief from constipation, overusing them can lead to dependence and worsen constipation in the long run. Use them only as directed and for short periods of time .


  1. Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids
  2. Water - Nutrition Source - Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
  3. Exercise and Constipation - WebMD
  4. Constipation - National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
  5. Laxatives - NHS


What is Diarrhoea?

Diarrhoea is a common digestive issue characterized by frequent, loose, or watery bowel movements. It can be caused by various factors, including infections, food intolerances, certain medications, and gastrointestinal disorders. Diarrhoea can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances if not managed properly.

Symptoms of Diarrhoea

Common symptoms associated with Diarrhoea include:

  1. Frequent, loose, or watery stools
  2. Abdominal pain or cramping
  3. Bloating and gas
  4. Urgent need to have a bowel movement
  5. Nausea or vomiting

In severe cases, Diarrhoea can also lead to signs of dehydration, such as dark urine, dizziness, dry mouth, and increased thirst.

Causes and Risk Factors

Some common causes and risk factors for Diarrhoea include:

  1. Viral, bacterial, or parasitic infections, such as norovirus, salmonella, or giardia
  2. Food intolerances or sensitivities, such as lactose intolerance or gluten sensitivity
  3. Certain medications, including antibiotics, antacids containing magnesium, and some cancer drugs
  4. Gastrointestinal disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  5. Consuming contaminated food or water.

Scientifically Proven Solutions

  1. Stay hydrated: Replacing lost fluids and electrolytes is crucial during episodes of Diarrhoea. Drink water, clear broth, or oral rehydration solutions to help prevent dehydration .

  2. Follow the BRAT diet: Temporarily following the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast) can help provide easily digestible, low-fiber foods that may alleviate Diarrhoea symptoms .

  3. Avoid trigger foods: Steer clear of foods that can worsen Diarrhoea, such as high-fat, spicy, or gas-producing foods. Also, avoid caffeine and alcohol, as they can contribute to dehydration .

  4. Consider over-the-counter medications: Over-the-counter antidiarrheoal medications, such as loperamide (Imodium) or bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol), can help provide short-term relief from diarrhoea. However, they should not be used for more than two days without consulting a healthcare professional .

  5. Seek medical attention if necessary: If diarrhoea is severe, persistent, or accompanied by other concerning symptoms, such as fever, bloody stools, or signs of dehydration, consult a healthcare professional for further evaluation and treatment .


  1. Diarrhoea - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  2. BRAT Diet - MedlinePlus
  3. Diarrhoea - National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
  4. Diarrhoea - Harvard Health Publishing
  5. When to See a Doctor for Diarrhoea - WebMD

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common, chronic gastrointestinal disorder that affects the large intestine. It is characterized by a combination of symptoms, including abdominal pain, bloating, and changes in bowel habits, such as constipation or diarrhoea. The exact cause of IBS is unknown, but it is believed to involve a combination of factors, including altered gut motility, heightened pain sensitivity, and dysregulation of the gut-brain axis.

Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Common symptoms associated with IBS include:

  1. Abdominal pain or cramping, often relieved by a bowel movement
  2. Bloating and gas
  3. Diarrhoea, constipation, or alternating between the two
  4. Mucus in the stool
  5. A feeling of incomplete evacuation after a bowel movement

Symptoms can vary in severity and duration and may be triggered by specific foods, stress, or hormonal changes.

Causes and Risk Factors

While the exact cause of IBS is not well understood, several factors are thought to contribute to the development of the condition:

  1. Abnormal contractions of the intestinal muscles, leading to either slow or rapid transit of food through the digestive tract
  2. Increased pain sensitivity in the gut, causing discomfort even with normal contractions
  3. Dysregulation of the gut-brain axis, which may lead to miscommunication between the brain and the gut
  4. Gastrointestinal infections, which can trigger IBS in some individuals
  5. Changes in gut microbiota or inflammation within the gastrointestinal tract.

Scientifically Proven Solutions

  1. Dietary changes: Identifying and avoiding trigger foods, such as high-FODMAP foods, lactose, or gluten, can help alleviate IBS symptoms. Keeping a food diary can be helpful in identifying personal triggers .

  2. Increase soluble fiber intake: Consuming soluble fiber, found in foods like oats, psyllium, and certain fruits, can help regulate bowel movements and reduce symptoms of IBS. However, it is important to increase fiber intake gradually to avoid worsening symptoms .

  3. Consider probiotics: Some research suggests that specific probiotic strains may help alleviate symptoms of IBS, such as abdominal pain, bloating, and irregular bowel movements. Consult a healthcare professional before starting a probiotic supplement .

  4. Stress management: Stress is a known trigger for IBS symptoms. Incorporating stress-reduction techniques, such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises, can help improve IBS symptoms .

  5. Seek professional guidance: A healthcare professional can provide personalized recommendations for managing IBS, including dietary advice, medication, and psychological support, if necessary.


  1. Diet in Irritable Bowel Syndrome - NCBI

  2. Irritable Bowel Syndrome - MedlinePlus

  3. Ford, A. C., Quigley, E. M., Lacy, B. E., Lembo, A. J., Saito, Y. A., Schiller, L. R., ... & Moayyedi, P. (2014). Efficacy of prebiotics, probiotics, and synbiotics in irritable bowel syndrome and chronic idiopathic constipation: systematic review and meta-analysis. The American journal of gastroenterology, 109(10), 1547-1561.

  4. Stress and Irritable Bowel Syndrome - WebMD

  5. Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome - American Family Physician


Digestive problems, such as acid reflux, bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), are common issues that can significantly impact daily life. By understanding the symptoms, causes, and risk factors associated with these conditions, individuals can make informed decisions about their health and well-being. Evidence-based solutions, including dietary changes, hydration, stress management, and seeking professional guidance, can help alleviate these digestive issues and improve overall quality of life.

A gut microbiome test can be a valuable tool in addressing these digestive problems, as it provides insights into the composition and balance of your gut bacteria. Understanding your gut microbiome can help you and your healthcare professional develop personalized dietary and lifestyle recommendations to alleviate your symptoms and optimize your gut health.

For those interested in taking a microbiome test, we have a special promo code for a 40% discount on your purchase. Use the code "atlas2023"

Don't miss this opportunity to take control of your digestive health and enhance your well-being with the help of personalized insights from a gut microbiome test.

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Atlas Biomed Team
Atlas Biomed Team Makers of microbiome, DNA tests and bad puns

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