Digestive Problems: Symptoms, Causes & Tips

Verdauungsprobleme: Symptome, Ursachen & Tipps

Unfortunately, digestive problems are not uncommon. Sometimes our intestinal activity is restricted, which can lead to symptoms. According to a survey by the opinion research company forsa on behalf of the Federal Union of German Associations of Pharmacists (ABDA for short), 69% of all Germans occasionally suffer from digestive problems (1). Bloating, diarrhea and constipation are probably the most well-known symptoms of digestive problems.

In most cases, there is no disease, but another cause such as lack of exercise. For such cases, there are some home and food items that can help against indigestion.

In this article we will go into more detail about the causes and symptoms. On the other hand, we would like to give you a few tips along the way that should help you get rid of digestive problems and prevent them as much as possible.

the essentials in brief

  • When we have digestive problems, our gastrointestinal tract goes on strike. This can be due to poor diet, stress or lack of exercise. But intestinal diseases can also be reasons why our digestion causes problems.
  • Most people are familiar with the typical symptoms such as diarrhoea, constipation, flatulence and abdominal pain. Neither do babies. In most cases, digestive problems can be alleviated with the help of home and food products. There are some natural remedies that can work wonders.
  • However, if the problems occur more frequently and more severely, i.e. if the symptoms are acute, you should consult a doctor. You should also visit the vet for dogs and cats if your pet feels visibly bad and often shows symptoms.

Definition: What exactly are digestive problems?

Digestive problems are also often called indigestion or indigestion. Many often complain of problems with digestion. But what exactly does that mean and what exactly is digestive problems?

Generally speaking, this refers to all complaints associated with the digestion of food (2). The gastrointestinal tract is usually responsible for the symptoms. These problems often manifest themselves, for example, in the form of nausea, loss of appetite, diarrhea, etc.

When talking about digestive problems, diseases outside the gastrointestinal tract such as salivary gland inflammation can also be meant.

Background: What you should know about digestive problems

We have clarified what is meant by digestive problems. In this section we want to delve even deeper into the matter and provide you with information about digestive problems.

How does digestion work?

Before we go into more detail about the symptoms, causes and treatment of digestive problems, we first want to explain to you how digestion works in general. With the help of digestion, all important nutrients from food reach the body's cells (3).

Woman has hand on stomach

However, there are also parts in our food that the body cannot absorb. This portion is then excreted with other breakdown products. (Image Source: Ava Sol/Unsplash)

For this to happen, the food we eat must be broken down and broken down. Our gastrointestinal tract is responsible for this. Blood and lymph take care of the transport. This means that they transport the food components away from the intestine to the body cells. So they make sure they get to the right place.

What are the causes of digestive problems?

The typical digestive problems such as constipation, diarrhea, flatulence or abdominal pain can occur with everyone from time to time. They usually occur as a result of stress, an unhealthy diet or lack of exercise (4,5).

The causes of digestive problems can also lie deeper. In this case, the following may be possible:

You may be wondering if the cause of your digestive problem lies deeper. For example, if the symptoms occur very frequently and are very severe, you should consult a doctor, as intestinal diseases such as uclerosis or Crohn's disease could be present.

What are the symptoms of digestive problems?

If you want to know more about digestive problems, information about the symptoms is very relevant. You've probably heard of one or the other symptom of digestive problems. The following list contains possible symptoms of digestive problems (1,5):

  • gas
  • constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • nausea and vomiting
  • stomach pain
  • heartburn
  • bloating
  • Fever
  • stomach pain
  • back pain
  • loss of appetite

If these symptoms occur frequently, you should consult a doctor. You should also see a doctor if you experience severe unwanted weight loss, vomit blood or have blood in your stool. As soon as the symptoms are more severe or acute and differ from occasional digestive problems, we strongly advise you to consult a doctor.

Which home and food products help with digestive problems?

Of course, there are medications that can help you with digestive problems. But maybe you would prefer to get rid of your symptoms in a natural way, i.e. with the help of home and food. If so, you can find them in the table below:

Home/Food (4) short description
spring water Clear, pure water promotes healthy digestion and contains healthy bacteria.
coconut products Coconut products can reduce or inhibit inflammatory reactions in the body and thus help the intestines to heal.
avocado An avocado can reduce or inhibit inflammatory reactions in the body and thus help the intestines to heal.
olive oil Olive oil can reduce or inhibit inflammatory reactions in the body and thus helps the intestines to heal.
Berry Berries can reduce or inhibit inflammatory reactions in the body and thus help the intestines to heal.
Homemade kimchi Kimchi helps stock the gut with healthy lactic acid bacteria. Sauerkraut has a similar effect.
medicinal plants Medicinal plants such as coriander, cinnamon, ginger, fennel, caraway, peppermint, thyme and liquorice can be used in tea or as a spice in food to relieve digestive problems. Namely, they stimulate the digestive system and contain essential oils that can remove gases from the gastrointestinal tract and relieve pain. They also improve the ability of the stomach to contract. Medicinal plants can promote intestinal health .

As you can see, it is possible to naturally relieve digestive problems. You can also use these home and food items to prevent digestive problems as they promote intestinal health. A cup of fennel or ginger tea never hurts.

What are the causes of digestive problems during pregnancy?

In fact, it is not uncommon to suffer from digestive problems during pregnancy. Constipation, flatulence and diarrhea in particular are common in this phase of a woman's life (6,7). Your body reacts much more sensitively than usual during pregnancy. As a result, pregnant women often suffer from digestive problems.

pregnant woman touches her belly

A woman faces many hurdles during pregnancy. Not only the waist circumference changes. Common digestive problems are also often part of pregnancy. (Image source: Freestocks / Unsplash)

Your body often wants to protect your unborn baby from potential germs and therefore reacts with diarrhoea. Gas and constipation are results of the hormonal and physiological changes you go through during pregnancy. The food you eat stays in your body longer and is digested more slowly. And that can lead to more gas bubbles.

Constipation can also be caused by taking iron supplements during pregnancy. Iron is very important during pregnancy. If you are diagnosed with an iron deficiency during pregnancy and your doctor then prescribes iron tablets , ask about the ingredients and possible side effects.

Why is my baby having digestive problems?

First, if your baby is suffering from digestive issues, don't worry. That's not uncommon. Babies often have problems with their digestion, especially in the first three months of their lives (8). One reason for this is that the baby's digestive system still has to mature. Another obvious point is that babies sometimes swallow a lot of air when sucking and/or drinking.

If your baby suffers from digestive problems, it often happens that he/she cannot sleep very much or well. This then leads to the baby becoming overstimulated. It is important that you should not take medication without consulting a doctor. Your doctor will tell you what to do if your baby is suffering from digestive problems after examining your baby.

How are digestive problems related to periods?

It's no secret that menstruation is associated with pain and cramps for many women. However, women also often struggle with digestive problems during this time. Even before the start of the period, women often feel constipated and bloated (9). During the period, it is often not just abdominal cramps that plague you. You are also plagued by intestinal cramps and flatulence.

The reason for this is similar to hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy. More precisely, in this case the hormone progesterone and a group of tissue hormones, the so-called prostaglandins, play the main roles.

Progesterone can lead to the muscles in the intestine only being able to function to a limited extent. This then leads to constipation. Prostaglandins sometimes cause cramps not only in the uterus, but also in the intestines. Diarrhea, flatulence and more frequent bowel movements are therefore not uncommon during the period.

What can I do if my dog ​​or cat has digestive problems?

Dogs and cats also suffer from digestive problems. What you can do if your beloved pet suffers from digestive problems, we will tell you below:

  • Dogs: In dogs, the most common cause of digestive problems such as diarrhea or vomiting is food (10). Therefore, you should ensure that your dog has high-quality and easily digestible food if it is affected by a sensitive gastrointestinal tract. You can also buy special feed for this. It is also advisable to give up the treats for a while. But sometimes worms are the problem. In this case, the vet should examine your dog.
  • Cats: Similar to dogs, the wrong food is usually the cause of symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, constipation or allergies (11). A change of feed can be helpful here. In the case of constipation, the cause can be insufficient fluid. Putting water bowls everywhere might help in this case. Diarrhea can be caused by chronic stress, but also by worms or parasites. In the latter case, the vet will help you.

For both dogs and cats, you should definitely visit the vet if diarrhea and/or vomiting lasts longer than a day or two or occurs frequently. The same goes for constipation and other symptoms.

If you find that nothing is helping, contact your vet immediately. It could be caused by a disease or a parasite. Animals suffer greatly from digestive problems. If they occur frequently, the vet will be able to shed some light on the matter.

Digestive Problems: Top Tips for Treating Digestive Problems

Since we have now dealt extensively with the background of digestive problems, we now want to go into detail about the treatment. Because of this, we have put together the best tips for you so that you know what to do if the worst comes to the worst. Below we present our tips.

Movement against digestive problems

It's no secret that exercise is good for both the body and the psyche. We hear more and more about how negatively a lack of exercise can affect our health and how important it is to exercise every day. If only briefly.

man jogging

Regular exercise is good for us. Our bodies function better when we exercise regularly. Exercise can also work wonders for our intestinal activity. (Image Source: Chander R. / Unsplash)

Exercise also plays a key role in our gut health (5,12). A little exercise, such as going for a walk after a meal, can help prevent digestive problems (13). It's not called the "digestive walk" for nothing. Abdominal exercises such as sit-ups can also be good for your intestines, as they keep them moving. Such sports exercises feel like a massage for your intestines.

Heat against digestive problems

If you have a stomach ache, use a hot water bottle first. Many people reach for a hot water bottle or heat pack when they feel pain in the abdominal region. Heat also helps if the gastrointestinal tract is complaining (14). Heat also has a soothing and calming effect here, because it ensures that the muscles can relax.

So if you're feeling uncomfortable or bloated, for example, warmth can make you feel better. A hot-water bottle or a warm cherry pillow are not the only helpers from the warmth department. Warm tea also soothes the intestines.

Relaxation against digestive problems

You should definitely not downplay the stress factor when you are struggling with digestive problems. Stress often manifests itself physically. Stress can hit the gastrointestinal tract because when we are stressed, our body focuses on other organs like the heart and lungs (13,15).

Do something good for yourself and your intestines by allowing yourself rest and relaxation.

As a result, intestinal activity slows down, which can result in typical symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea and diarrhea. It is therefore extremely important that you give yourself and your body some rest and reduce stress . You can consciously integrate breaks or phases for relaxation into your everyday life or, for example, resort to spas.

Fiber against digestive problems

If you have problems with your digestion, it is advisable to consume fiber (5,13). Dietary fibers are usually indigestible for us and, due to their swelling effect, ensure that intestinal activity is stimulated. But it is important to drink a lot if you eat fiber. Without a lot of liquid, a lot of fiber can also have a counterproductive effect.

Without enough water, fiber doesn't help.

Foods that contain a lot of fiber are, for example, whole grain products, corn, dates or currants. In addition, psyllium husks and chia seeds are rich in fiber and known for their swelling effect.

Bitter substances against digestive problems

Bitter substances are very good for keeping digestive problems at bay (13). This is mainly due to the fact that there are bitter receptors throughout the gastrointestinal tract (5). In addition, bitter substances ensure that saliva and acid production is boosted. As a result, the food can be digested better.

Many bitter substances are contained, for example, in Brussels sprouts, in citrus fruits such as grapefruit and lemons or in broccoli. Since bitter substances are not for everyone, they are also available in the form of tablets or supplements .


As you can see, digestive problems are not uncommon ailments. Almost everyone suffers from diarrhea, constipation or gas from time to time. Babies are no exception here either. If your symptoms occur more frequently, you should definitely consult a doctor, as an intestinal disease may be present. These then require special treatment. The same applies to dogs and cats.

In most cases, however, you can remedy the situation with the help of household items or groceries. Heat alone can provide relief. A cup of tea, exercise, relaxation, fiber and bitter substances can become your best friends when your digestion doesn't work as it should. Of course, there are also medications that can help against symptoms.


  1. Opinion research company FORSA on behalf of the ABDA - Federal Union of German Pharmacists' Associations (2015): 7 out of 10 German citizens occasionally suffer from gastrointestinal complaints. Source
  2. toppharm.ch: indigestion. Source
  3. pascoe.de: Digestive problems - support digestion and relieve flatulence naturally. Baerbel Czech. 02/22/2021 source
  4. zentrum-der-gesundheit.de: Eliminate digestive problems naturally. Carina Rehberg. 04/17/2021. Source
  5. Saller, R. (2013). Phytotherapy for gastrointestinal complaints. Phyto Therapie Austria, 5, 15. Source
  6. keleya.de: Gentle help with constipation, diarrhea and flatulence. Nadja Tiedke. 05/31/2020. Source
  7. Grospietsch, G. (2005). Gastrointestinal problems in pregnancy. The Gynecologist, 38(7), 591-598. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00129-005-1713-1 source
  8. Federal Center for Health Education (BZgA), kindergesundheit-info.de. Digestion in infants. CC BY-NC-ND. Source
  9. cara.care/en/: How your period affects digestion. dr with Andre Sommer. Source
  10. zooplus.de: Digestive problems in dogs. Source
  11. zooplus.de: Digestive problems in cats. Source
  12. Fink-Tornau, S. Probiotics: Help with irregular digestion. Source
  13. kraeuterhaus.de: Digestive problems: 4 tips on how to keep your body in balance. Source
  14. Complete C: Home remedies for gastrointestinal complaints: Forgotten remedies from the medicine cabinet and from the side of the road. Switzerland Z Ganzheitsmed 2017;29:150-153. doi: 10.1159/000475574 source
  15. Moser, G. (2009). Brain-gut axis: stress and its effect on the digestive tract. Journal of Gastroenterological and Hepatological Disorders, 7(3), 12-15. Source
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