Per digestive congestion means a disorder of the gastrointestinal system usually due to a sudden temperature change during digestion. At the origin of this event there is an arrest of the digestive process that can occur during or after a meal if the blood is concentrated in the stomach area.

What is digestive congestion

Also called food congestion, the digestive congestion it can lead to often very serious consequences and occurs almost always in summer due to the ease of exposure to temperature changes. There trigger of this occurrence resides in a sudden drop in temperature in the abdominal area, which effectively stops the digestive phase still in progress.

When food enters the stomach, the body immediately begins the digestive process and draws more blood to this organ. In the event that the temperature of the stomach suddenly drops, a deep reflex occurs in the brain in order to bring the basal temperature back to optimal levels. The result is a vasoconstriction sequentially – which causes a decrease in the flow of blood to the gastrointestinal system during digestion – with a consequent abrupt interruption of the digestive process and a circulatory imbalance that can reach a state of shock.

What can cause digestive congestion

I behaviors that can predispose to digestive congestion They include:

  • Drink an iced drink too quickly, especially if you are hot after a big meal or rich in fatty foods
  • Immerse yourself or take a dip in very cold water (e.g. sea or swimming pool), when you are overheated and in the digestive phase. It is good to remember that if there is a large difference between the external temperature and the water temperature, a potentially lethal phenomenon can occur even if you are on an empty stomach: hydrocution
  • Switch from a warm to a cold environment or vice versa
  • Being exposed to a current of cold air or not covering yourself enough when going outdoors
  • Carry out excessive physical exertion immediately after a big meal

Temperature changes are not the only causes capable of causing digestive congestion, as other possible risk factors are the high consumption of fatty and spicy foods, excess of caffeine, alcohol, smoking, too abundant and fast meals, food intolerances and abuse of drugs like antibiotics e antiinflammatory.

Signs and symptoms of digestive congestion

The disorders that can appear in case of digestive congestion are, in general, non-specific and common also to other conditions such as, for example, the heat stroke and / or insolation:

  • Chest pain
  • Cold sweating
  • Chills
  • Pallor
  • Goose bumps
  • Feeling of heaviness in the stomach
  • Heartburn
  • Cramps in the abdomen and / or stomach
  • Stomach ache
  • Flatulence
  • dizziness
  • Confusional state
  • Blurred vision
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomit
  • Gradual lowering of the blood pressure, with a feeling of fainting that hardly culminates in a loss of consciousness (lipotimia)
  • Fainting

Normally these disorders appear gradually, with the appearance of chills and cold sweats, pallor, feeling of extreme tiredness followed by cramps or stomach pain and pain in the belly, nausea and / or vomiting.

In more serious and rare cases, the difficulty on the part of heart in pumping the blood it can generate decompensation, loss of consciousness or a gradual drop in blood pressure. For these reasons it is important recognize the first signs of congestion to be able to intervene in time and avoid consequences that can become serious.

In addition, it is good to remember how children often do not recognize and cannot interpret the first ailments and, for this reason, they may be more at risk than adults in particular if congestion occurs while they are in the water.

In any case, if you take action at the first alarm bells of the congestion, the recovery occurs within about 2-3 hours, without consequences, except for the persistence of a marked sense of exhaustion with muscle pain for a certain period after the event.

What to do in case of congestion

As just seen, the digestive congestion it is not in itself a serious illness, but a generally transient disorder. At the first feeling of being unwell you must stop all activities, lie down with your legs raised above your head in a well-ventilated and dry place, keep your belly warm to restore body temperature and reactivate digestion by performing a gentle massage. It is also useful to occasionally moisten the forehead with a cloth soaked in water at room temperature.

Congestion after a swim in the sea or in the pool

If congestion occurred after a bath, you should dry and warm up immediately. It should not be eaten, but after body temperature has recovered, it may be useful to drink in small sips lukewarm liquids or at room temperature, such as, for example, water or chamomile.

In more serious cases, if the complaints do not subside, it is advisable to call the emergency telephone numbers (118 or 112 where operational) and / or seek immediate medical attention.

When to enter the water after eating

There is a widespread belief that before being able to bathe, in sea or in swimming pool, one must wait at least two or three hours from the end of the meal; in reality, the waiting time depends on what you eat and the characteristics of the individual.

The recommendation of the Istituto Superiore di Sanità is that of follow common sense: if you have eaten a large meal, rich in fats that are difficult to digest, it is preferable to wait 2-3 hours before taking a bath; if, on the other hand, the meal was made up of very light food or a snack based on fruit or vegetables (a not too ‘stuffed’ sandwich, a fruit, a salad, etc.), you can also bathe immediately .

It is important in any case listen to your body and be able to evaluate the physical condition of the moment: if you feel weighed down, it is better to wait before taking a bath and, in any case, never go too far from the shore by yourself. In addition, one must evaluate one’s swimming ability, the sea conditions, the presence of expert personnel who check the shore or the swimming pool.

A useful tip is to enter the water gradually, get your wrists and temples wet first, to get your body used to the different temperature and avoid the so-called thermal shock that is the main cause of digestive congestion.

In general, the risk that you run if there is a congestion while you are in the water is that of not recognizing the first signs of malaise in time and, therefore, of not being able to return to the shore or to get out of the water, thus risking, in the most serious cases, of drowning. This is particularly important in children, as they often do not notice the appearance of the first ailments. For this it is necessary to pay particular attention to them and never leave them alone in the water, especially the youngest ones.