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1050 Describing Stomach Problems

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Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 1,050 – Describing Stomach Problems.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 1,050. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Visit our website at ESLPod.com. Take a look at our ESL Podcast special courses in Business and Daily English. You can also take a look at our ESL Podcast Blog on our website, and why not like us on Facebook at facebook.com/eslpod.

This story is about describing problems with your stomach. Let’s get started.

[start of story]

There’s nothing I enjoy more than spending a couple of hours relaxing at a café. I sit drinking my tea and reading. What could be better?

Woman: So I think I may have to see a doctor soon. You know I’ve had these terrible pains in my stomach. My digestion is terrible, and now I think I might have an ulcer!

Well, I was having a relaxing time until I started overhearing the woman at the next table talking loudly on her cell phone.

Woman: No, I don’t think it could be lactose intolerance. My bowels are working fine. I don’t have the runs or feel constipated. I just get a really upset stomach and these terrible pains.

This was definitely not a conversation I waned to listen to. I looked around for another table, somewhere I could escape to.

Woman: Yes, I do feel some heartburn and bloating. Do you really think it could be acid reflux? I do have a problem with too much gas and burping a lot. Will an antacid help, do you think?

By this time, I was in panic mode. If I didn’t get away from this woman soon, I’d surely be sick to my stomach!

[end of story]

I begin our story by saying, “There is nothing I enjoy more than spending a couple of hours relaxing at a café.” I enjoy going to a café and relaxing, not doing any work. “I sit drinking my tea and reading,” I say. “What could be better?” Then I hear a woman who’s talking next to me. She says, “So I think I may have to see a doctor soon.” The woman is not talking to me. I’m sitting in a café and I can hear the woman talking to someone else. She says she may have to go see the doctor soon. Why? Well, she then tells us.
“You know I’ve had these terrible pains in my stomach.” Your “stomach” (stomach) is the part of your body that processes the food and drink so that you have energy for your body. The woman is having pains in her stomach. Her stomach hurts. She continues, “My digestion is terrible, and now I think I might have an ulcer.” “Digestion” (digestion) is the biological process of converting food into energy for your body. The stomach is part of your “digestive system” – part of the system in your body that converts food into energy.

The woman says her digestion is “terrible.” And, she says she thinks she might have an ulcer. An “ulcer” (ulcer) is basically a sore on the inside surface of your stomach that produces pain. Ulcers can be very painful. Many ulcers are caused not by food, but by a type of bacteria. We discovered in the last 20 years or so that there is a kind of bacteria that causes a lot of ulcers, but we won’t go into that.

This woman thinks she might have an ulcer. I then return in the story and comment. I say, “Well, I was having a relaxing time until I started overhearing the woman at the next table talking loudly on her cell phone.” “To overhear” (overhear) does not mean to hear too much, but rather it means to hear something without trying to hear it, simply because you are close to whatever is making that sound. Usually, we use this verb “to overhear” when we’re talking about hearing the conversation of another person.

I’m sitting at the café and there is a woman next to me who is talking loudly on her cell phone. This is one of the things that I believe should be illegal, and I will vote for any politician that makes it illegal for you to talk loudly on your cell phone inside a café. There, I’ve said it. Now, I’m overhearing the woman at the next table, and she continues with her conversation about her stomach problems. She says, “No, I don’t think it could be lactose intolerance.”

I’m only hearing one side of the conversation – one person in the conversation. So, we hear the woman responding probably to a question from the person with whom she’s speaking. The woman says she doesn’t think it could be lactose intolerance. “Lactose” (lactose) refers to a kind of sugar that is found in milk and milk products. If you have an “intolerance” (intolerance) to some kind of food, your body reacts negatively when you eat that food, or drink that drink.

The prefix “in-” usually means “not,” and that’s what it means here – not tolerant. If your body is tolerant of something, it . . . it doesn’t mind it. It doesn’t react negatively. Many people have what is called “lactose intolerance,” which means they cannot drink milk or other milk products without getting sick. Other people have what is called “carbohydrate intolerance,” where your body reacts negatively when they eat too many carbohydrates – things like bread and pasta and cake and cookies, all the good stuff.

This woman continues telling us about her problems. She says, “My bowels are working fine.” Your “bowels” (bowels) are your intestines. Your intestines are these long tubes inside your body that help to digest food and to get rid of the food that you no longer need, or that your body doesn’t need for energy. The woman says, “I don’t have the runs or feel constipated.”

Well, here, now we’re getting into some somewhat unpleasant descriptions. The term “the runs” (runs) is used informally in English to refer to what is more properly known as “diarrhea” (diarrhea). “Diarrhea” is basically waste that comes out of your body – out of your butt, to put it more explicitly – that isn’t solid. It can be quite painful. “To be constipated” (constipated) means that you have difficulty getting rid of waste from your body. The woman says she is not constipated.

She says, “I just get a really upset stomach and these terrible pains.” An “upset (upset) stomach” is a feeling of sickness in your stomach, as though you might vomit or throw up. We might also use the word “nausea” (nausea) to describe this condition more technically, more medically. “Upset” normally means angry. When we talk about a person being upset, we mean the person is mad, but an “upset stomach” means that your stomach isn’t feeling right – that you feel “sick to your stomach,” we might also say. Another word we might use in this case is “queasy” (queasy).

I then say in the story, “This was definitely not a conversation I wanted to listen to.” I say, “I looked around for another table,” meaning I looked in the café to find another table. “Somewhere I could escape to,” I say. “To escape” (escape) to somewhere means to go to somewhere that is safer than where you are now, or perhaps more comfortable than where you are now. The verb “to escape” means also to leave some sort of imprisonment or confinement. You could talk about a prisoner in jail “escaping” – getting out of the jail (illegally, of course) and running away.

I’m not in jail in this story. I’m in a café, but still I need to escape to somewhere more comfortable. But again, we hear the woman speaking. She says, “Yes, I do feel some heartburn and bloating.” “Heartburn” (heartburn) is a painful or uncomfortable burning feeling, usually inside of your chest or just below your chest. It sometimes caused by eating, for example, spicy food, food that is hot. (Hot in the sense of being spicy, not hot in the sense of having a high temperature.) Many different things could cause heartburn, I suppose.

The other thing the woman says she feels is some “bloating” (bloating). “Bloating” is when your body – your stomach or your intestines – has extra liquid or perhaps gas, and it increases the size of your body, or parts of your body. The woman says, “Do you really think it could be acid reflux?” “Acid (acid) reflux (reflux)” is a medical condition in which the acid in your stomach, a liquid in your stomach, moves up into the esophagus, which is the tube that carries the food from the mouth to the stomach. Once again, it can be quite painful.

The woman says, “I do have a problem with too much gas and burping a lot.” “Gas” (gas) here refers to someone who has air come out of their butt, and it’s often not very pleasant smelling. The more technical word would be “flatulence” (flatulence). A somewhat cruder, informal word is “fart” (fart). I’ll have to thank Dr. Tse for writing this script for me to explain later on. But, back to the script.

The woman says she has a problem with “too much gas and burping a lot.” “To burp” (burp) means for air to come out of your mouth, usually in a way that is “involuntary” – that you don’t mean to happen – although I guess you can make yourself burp, to a certain extent. A “burp“ is gas coming out of your mouth rather than out of your butt, to put it that way.

The woman then asks, “Will an antacid help, do you think?” An “antacid” (antacid) is a kind of medicine or drug you take to reduce the amount of acid in your stomach. Remember, the acid in your stomach helps break down or divide up the food that you are eating in order to convert it into energy. If you have too much of this acid, it can be painful. That’s why you would take an antacid, something to stop or reduce the amount of acid.

I conclude the story by saying, “By this time, I was in panic mode.” “To panic” (panic) means to become alarmed, to become perhaps even a little frightened or scared. “Panic mode” (mode) would refer to a situation where I feel a lot of anxiety or fear that I need to run away from. I say, “By this time, I was in panic mode. If I didn’t get away from this woman soon” – if I didn’t move away from this woman – “I’d surely be sick to my stomach.” “To be sick to your stomach” is, as we explained earlier, the same as to have an upset stomach or to be queasy.

Now let’s listen to this very fun dialogue one more time, at a normal speed.

[start of story]

There’s nothing I enjoy more than spending a couple of hours relaxing at a café. I sit drinking my tea and reading. What could be better?

Woman: So I think I may have to see a doctor soon. You know I’ve had these terrible pains in my stomach. My digestion is terrible, and now I think I might have an ulcer!

Well, I was having a relaxing time until I started overhearing the woman at the next table talking loudly on her cell phone.

Woman: No, I don’t think it could be lactose intolerance. My bowels are working fine. I don’t have the runs or feel constipated. I just get a really upset stomach and these terrible pains.

This was definitely not a conversation I waned to listen to. I looked around for another table, somewhere I could escape to.

Woman: Yes, I do feel some heartburn and bloating. Do you really think it could be acid reflux? I do have a problem with too much gas and burping a lot. Will an antacid help, do you think?

By this time, I was in panic mode. If I didn’t get away from this woman soon, I’d surely be sick to my stomach!

[end of story]

Dr. Lucy Tse writes all of our scripts, and most of them are wonderful.

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen to listen to us again right here on ESL Podcast.

English as a Second Language Podcast was written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan. Copyright 2014 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
stomach – the body part that processes food and drink so that the body will be able to absorb nutrients and gain energy

* Nancy has very bad stomach pain. Do you think she ate some spoiled food?

digestion – the biological process of converting food into energy and nutrients

* Doctors say that eating high-fiber foods will improve your digestion.

ulcer – a sore (wound) on the inside surface of the stomach that produces pain when digestive juices are in contact with it

* Experiencing a lot of stress can lead to painful stomach ulcers.

to overhear – to hear something unintentionally, without trying to hear it, simply because one is near the source of the sound, especially speech

* Excuse me, but I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation, and I think I know someone who might be able to fix your car.

lactose intolerance – an inability to digest the lactose sugar found in milk and milk products, so that eating or drinking those products creates digestive problems

* Damian loves ice cream, but can’t eat it because of his lactose intolerance.

bowels – intestines; the long tubes inside the body that help to digest food and carry solid waste out of the body

* Drinking prune juice every day has solved all the problems he was having with his bowels.

the runs – diarrhea; waste that leaves the body and should be solid, but actually has a lot of liquid, especially when one is sick

* Eating unclean or spoiled food can give you the runs!

constipated – having difficulty pushing solid waste out of one’s body, because it is large, hard, and dry, often because one is not drinking enough water or eating enough fiber

* Eating and drinking too many dairy products can make some people feel constipated.

upset stomach – nausea; feeling sick in one’s stomach, as if one might vomit

* The restaurant owner became alarmed when customers started complaining about having an upset stomach after eating the fish.

to escape to – to run away to a safer or more comfortable place; to quickly leave an uncomfortable, unpleasant, or dangerous place or situation

* Animals are very cautious when they approach the watering hold, and they always seem to have a safe place nearby to escape to.

heartburn – a painful or uncomfortable burning feeling in one’s chest, often caused by eating spicy food

* Craig thought he was having a heart attack, but fortunately, the doctors said it was just heartburn.

bloating – swelling cause by extra liquid or gas; an increase in the size of something

* Many women experience bloating in their legs during pregnancy.

acid reflux – a medical condition in which acid from the stomach moves up into the esophagus (the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach), making the person feel discomfort, pain, and heartburn

* Is it true that eating chili and cheeseburgers can worsen acid reflux?

gas – flatulence; farts; smelly air that is passed out of the body through the anus (where one defecates or poops)

* Why do little boys think it’s so funny when people pass gas?

to burp – for smelly air to escape from one’s mouth with a loud noise, usually involuntarily (not on purpose; not intentionally)

* Drinking carbonated sodas very quickly can make people burp.

antacid – a medicine that reduces the acidity of liquid inside the stomach, reducing discomfort, pain, and heartburn

* Jun always takes some antacid immediately after drinking strong coffee, to prevent any discomfort.

panic mode – a feeling of alarm, anxiety, and/or fear that makes one feel the need to fight or run away

* Even though Johann had practiced his speech many times, he went into panic mode right before he had to go onto the stage.

sick to my stomach – feeling very nauseous, as if one will vomit

* The thought of eating a snake makes me sick to my stomach.

Comprehension Questions
1. What is heartburn?
a) A burning sensation in the esophagus
b) An early warning sign of a heart attack
c) A feeling of sadness and emotional loss

2. Which of these causes pain in the stomach?
a) An ulcer
b) Heartburn
c) Bloating

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
to escape to

The phrase “to escape to (somewhere),” in this podcast, means to run away to a safer or more comfortable place or to quickly leave an uncomfortable, unpleasant, or dangerous place or situation: “The bank robbers forgot to plan where they would escape to after stealing the money.” The verb “to escape” can also mean to avoid something that is unpleasant: “How did he escape punishment?” Or, “Did you really think you could escape paying taxes?” The phrase “(something) escapes (one)” means that one is unable to think of the exact name or term for something: “I recognize the face, but her name escapes me.” Finally, the phrase “there’s no escaping the fact that” means that something will certainly happen: “There’s no escaping the fact that we will all die eventually.”

gas

In this podcast, the word “gas” means flatulence or farts: “The whole family had problems with gas after eating those undercooked beans.” The word “gas” also refers to “gasoline,” or the fuel used for automobiles: “We’ll need to buy gas at the next freeway exit.” The phrase “the gas” refers to the pedal that one pushes with one’s foot while driving to make the car go faster: “We’re late! Step on the gas!” “Laughing gas” is a chemical used during minor operations so that patients do not feel pain: “The dentist gave the patient laughing gas before removing her tooth.” Finally, “tear gas” is a gas that is very painful for the eyes and nose, used by police to deal with large, violent groups of people: “The newspapers criticized the police for spraying tear gas at college students.”

Culture Note
TOPS Club

TOPS Club is a nonprofit organization based in the State of Wisconsin whose “mission” (purpose) is to help people learn to control their body weight. The name, TOPS Club, is an “acronym” (a new word formed from the first letter of each word in a longer name or term) for “Taking Off Pounds Sensibly,” where “taking off” (removing or getting rid of) “pounds” (a unit of measurement for weight, equal to 2.2 kilograms) “sensibly” (rationally; in a reasonable, normal way) means that people should lose weight a little bit at a time, without following “crazy” (very strange) “crash diets” (severe restrictions to lose weight very quickly).

Today there are TOPS clubs around the world, but most of them are in the United States and Canada. They support research regarding weight loss and they also serve as “support groups” (groups of people who share similar experiences to help each other) for their members as they “struggle” (try to do something that is difficult) to lose weight. Members meet once a week for a “private” (not shared with other people) “weigh-in” (stepping on a scale to determine one’s weight and compare it to that of previous weeks) and then join the larger group for education and “recognition,” such as recognizing the members who have lost the most weight in the past week. The TOPS Club website “claims” (says that something is true) that its members lost 425 “tons” (1 ton = 2,000 pounds) last year.

The organization has regional, national. and international recognition days where members are recognized as Kings and Queens for having lost the most weight, often more than 200 pounds.

Comprehension Answers
1 - a

2 - a