Q. Hi Cynthia! I have a problem digesting vegetables because immediately afterwards I get a horrible stomach ache. It is in the top area of the tummy, above the belly button. It hurts so bad, my tummy gets bloated and I have gas. Even when I eat enzymes and extra hydrochloric acid. Why is this happening and what can I do about it? ~Madeleine
A. Hi Madeleine,
There are a variety of potential issues that may be contributing to this problem.
In the center of the abdomen, above the belly button area, resides the small intestine and the stomach. So that is the most likely place where your problem is occurring. It may be one or both.
Pain during digestion can be a sign of an inflamed small intestine. When there is inflammation in the GI tract, it results in pain as the food passes through. This often leads to leaky gut and food sensitivities. In leaky gut, the lining of the small intestine becomes damaged and allows small food particles to leak out of the gut and into the blood stream, which results in more inflammation and food sensitivities. When food sensitivities develop, then the food you are sensitive to can cause the pain as well.
The small intestine may become inflamed from drugs (prescription, OTC or street,) alcohol, caffeine, sugar, food additives, preservatives and dyes, soda pop, pesticides, herbicides, junk food, whole grains, dairy and legumes, as well as some forms of bad gut flora like Candida, parasites or pathogenic bacteria.
Any time there are gastrointestinal symptoms, this typically means there is some form of gut dysbiosis. Either a fungus, parasite or bacteria is at the root. They often occur together simultaneously. If one tries all the general guidelines to improve digestive health like taking appropriate digestive enzymes, cleaning up the diet, and an abundance of probiotics and doesn’t see results, then this is a clear indication of some kind of organism that needs identified.
The first step in healing the gut is to eliminate the bad bugs. In order to eliminate the bad bugs, you need to know which ones you have. You should consider taking a look at the GI Effects Stool test. This test is more advanced than other stool tests, therefore better at identifying unfriendly organisms and evaluating the health of the gut.
Other substances that aid in healing the gut include lots of probiotics, saccharomyces boulardii, colostrum, essential fatty acids. glutamine and digestive enzymes. Aloe vera is helpful for some.
Identifying one’s food sensitivities and avoiding those foods for a period of time is needed for healing as well. The ALCAT test is a great tool to assist in this process.
Although you are already taking digestive enzymes, it could be that the digestive enzymes you are taking are not working adequately for you. You must be sure you are taking a good quality supplement, and not something from the discount supplement store. Not all enzymes are created equal. It’s also important to take both plant based and animal based enzymes. Plant based enzymes work in a broader range of pH, so they will begin working in the stomach.
Make sure the digestive enzyme you are taking has a lot of amylase and cellulase, these are the enzymes that are needed to break down vegetables. Also make sure your HCL has pepsin.
It’s equally important to replenish the GI tract with probiotics like acidophilus and bifidus. One of the manners in which the bad bugs proliferate is the absence of adequate good bugs.
Be sure you’re washing your vegetables before eating them. Vegetables often carry parasites.
Raw vegetables can produce great pain when there is inflammation in the gut. Most people find that they need to cook their vegetables until healing has occurred.
One of the most common bacteria to produce the types of symptoms you are experiencing is h pylori. H pylori affects the stomach and the first section of the small intestine called the duodenum. It is typically accompanied by a burning sensation in the stomach area above the belly button, acid reflux, heart burn, burping, indigestion etc.
Candida overgrowth is a very common cause of the symptoms you are experiencing as well. Candida emits a variety of toxins that cause inflammation, and is the leading contributor to gut inflammation and leaky gut.
Behind the stomach is the pancreas, so it is also possible that your pain is originating there. When you digest, the pancreas is called upon when the food hits the small intestine. Inflammation of the pancreas can occur in response to Candida, bacteria or parasites or the consumption of alcohol.
Further above the stomach and the pancreas is a section of the large intestine called the transverse colon. It attaches the ascending and descending colon. The colon also becomes inflamed from bacteria, fungus, parasites and food sensitivities and may result in what is called irritable bowel. Irritable bowel can produce a great deal of pain, bloating and gas as well. It is possible your pain is originating in this area, but if that’s the case, then the pain would occur many hours after eating and it is a bit higher than the belly button. Although, the location of the large ingesting varies slightly from person to person and it does sag down in the middle and could possibly come close to the belly button. If the pain and discomfort you experience comes shortly after eating and it is in the center of the stomach, it is probably the stomach, pancreas or small intestine.
However, it’s also important to be aware that sometimes pain is not always experienced at the source of the origin. There are a lot of organs packed into a small space in the abdomen and pain can radiate from one area to another. For example, the gallbladder resides on the right side of the abdomen under the lower part of the rib cage, but gallbladder pain can be experienced all the way across the mid-region of the stomach, in the back directly behind the rib cage and in the right shoulder blade. Pain in the ovary can be experienced as pain in the entire length of the leg. So it is possible your pain is coming from somewhere other than the small intestine and stomach, but based on the types of your symptoms I think it is unlikely.