White-food bellyaches and what causes them 

Q: Every time I eat “white food” (fish and chips, white bread, fast food, cake, dumplings), I get a feeling of fullness. Then my back becomes sore, and then I have to go the bathroom right away. My mom thinks I’m making this up. Can you help?
— Bongiwe, Johannesburg, South Africa

A: Even if you weren’t having those suspicious symptoms, we would tell you to lay off the white stuff. With a few exceptions (cauliflower comes to mind), white foods have the kinds of carbs that raise your blood sugar, make you hungry and fat, and lead you down the road to perdition, meaning diabetes and heart disease. Stick with the healthy, brightly colored carbs in vegetables, fruits and 100 percent whole grains (OK, they’re beige).

What concerns us is the feeling of fullness you have after eating white foods. We suggest you get tested for celiac disease. The symptoms you’re describing — bloating, diarrhea, sore back — are associated with this condition. The source is a sensitivity to gluten, a protein found in certain grains, such as wheat, rye and barley, and in some weird stuff such as some toothpastes and beer (see the revised edition of our book “YOU: On a Diet” for more info). For people with celiac disease, gluten damages intestinal villi, hairlike structures in your intestines that slow food absorption so your body has time to extract vital nutrients.

Not all grains contain gluten, so if you do have celiac, work with a nutritionist to choose foods that won’t give you a bellyache. If you don’t, you’ll still feel better and be healthier by brightening up your plate with a rainbow of colors. Consider white “outta here.”

Q: A weird, scary thing happens to me. I stop breathing and get really bad chest pains. Someone has to hit me in the back to start me breathing again.
— Elizabeth, via email

A: Don’t panic: Your symptoms actually could be panic. Usually, when someone calls us saying they’ve stopped breathing and are having chest pains, our response is, “Dial 911, stat!” Those symptoms often signal a heart attack. But because this has happened to you a number of times and you’re still living, we’re going to say, “See your family doctor.”

Shortness of breath and chest pain — as well as sweaty, tingly palms; nausea; dizziness or weakness; and a feeling that you’re not going to be able to breathe again — frequently occur during a panic attack. About 6 million adults, mostly women, have this condition and become frightened of having yet another of these nerve-jangling experiences. Eventually you can begin to panic about having panic attacks!

Your physician can rule out any physical problems. If it turns out you’re suffering from anxiety-to-the-max, your doc can refer you to a mental health professional for counseling, medication or both, plus teach you ways to short-circuit panic attacks that last longer — and are less painful — than a whack on the back.

Q: I’ve heard you should wait an hour between taking calcium supplements and other supplements and medicines. Is that true?
— Doris, via email

A: You heard right. Or mostly. Like comedy, the secret to taking calcium is timing, because calcium pills don’t always play well with others. Follow a few do’s and don’ts, and you should be fine. n Do check with your doc or pharmacist before you take calcium with any prescription medications. Calcium affects the absorption of some common drugs, including certain antibiotics (fluoroquinolone and tetracyclines), bisphosphonates (for osteoporosis), levothyroxine (a thyroid med) and some diuretics. You’ll probably need to take calcium and these several hours apart.
- Don’t take calcium tablets with foods high in calcium (mainly dairy foods), or with antacids containing aluminum or magnesium, or mineral oil, or stimulant laxatives. If you do, you can kiss that calcium goodbye.
- Don’t take more than 500 to 600 mg of calcium at once or you’ll just excrete the excess.
- Do take calcium carbonate supplements with food; it’s better absorbed.
- Don’t worry about taking calcium citrate tablets with food; this form works fine on an empty stomach. Plus, if you have reduced stomach acid — something that happens with age — you’re better off with calcium citrate anyway. It’s what we take.

The YOU Docs, Mehmet Oz and Mike Roizen, are authors of “YOU: On a Diet.” Want more? See “The Dr. Oz Show” on TV. To submit questions, go to www.RealAge.com.

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