There’s something about digestive difficulties that makes them hard to discuss in polite company—which leaves many of us suffering one problem or another in silence. What’s more, digestive disorders are placing a “growing burden” on Americans, causing an unprecedented number of clinic visits and hospitalizations, says Stephen Bickston, an American Gastroenterological Association fellow and professor of internal medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University. Yet fixes can be as simple as making informed lifestyle changes or taking over-the-counter remedies. Peppermint oil and soluble fiber, for example, can help people with irritable bowel syndrome; a 2008 British Medical Journal study suggests that both should be first-line therapies for IBS.
Here’s a rundown of the latest medical wisdom on eight common gastrointestinal problems.