Category Archives: Peter Muller

Interview with DJ Michael Knall

by Peter Muller

DJ Michael Knall

Lately, we’ve looked at research concerning recent breakthroughs in the study of music’s effect on mood and film’s effect on our memories. Michael Knall is a music producer, record label owner, and deejay specializing in a genre of electronica known as “House” music. Strongly influenced by elements of soul and funk-infused percussive disco, Knall mixes bass lines, electronic drums, beats, funk and pop samples, reverb, vocals and synthesizers to ensure everyone on the dance floor is truly emotionally affected.

We sat down with Michael to talk about his current and future projects and his thoughts on the effect of music and emotions.

Occam’s Taser: How did you get your start in music?
Michael Knall: Funny thing, I was never really into music growing up, I had my few favorite songs here and there, but I just never realized how great it really is until my late teens. I think I sort of hit a “musical puberty” in my high school years; some would call me a late bloomer in that aspect. During high school, I started frequenting the infamous Mission Night Club in Chicago’s suburb of Elgin, IL. At the time it was really what set me into the electronic music culture. It wasn’t long before I wanted more of it, and moreover, I wanted to learn what made this scene work, the part that you most don’t see, just feel. The part that draws the people together: House music.

OT: What is it about House that drew you in?
MK: House music, just like any other genre, has many different styles ranging from progressive house to electro-house and so on. I love them all, but I tend to stick to a combination of progressive, electro, and dutch house sounds with my music. It has a harder electronic edge and more defined beat. Accelerating highs and lows throughout a track, layering different sounds on top of each other and slowly bringing them in and out of the mix are the key ideas behind the progressive movement.

OT: What are some of your current projects?
MK: Aside from running a very new record label and the responsibilities that go along with that, I’m constantly producing new music. Whenever I have an idea for a new track or sound, it’s important for me to get to work on it right away while it’s still fresh in my mind. That usually accumulates to around 10 or so works-in-progress at a time, and I manage to finish only around two per month. I’ve also been working with some vocalists around the city, really trying to showcase a lot of unseen talent in the Chicagoland area. Who knows, maybe I’ll find the Freddie Mercury of our generation.

DJ Michael Knall

OT: Last week we looked at research that studied how music affects people’s emotions. Do you have any thoughts on the emotional effect of music on people?
MK: Every track I write embodies my current mood at the time. I think that transmitting emotions to my listeners through my music is key to connecting with them. We all listen to music that suits the mood we’re in, and sometimes music can help change our mood. Any song you hear can take you back to a certain memory or mindset linked with it resulting in happiness, sadness, excitement and so on. I often see this first hand when I’m playing to a packed night club; depending on what I work into the mix, I can see differences in how people react almost immediately. It’s almost like I can control peoples moods or energy levels through my choice of beats, intensity, effects, etc.

OT: Is there any music that has, or has had, an emotional effect on you?
MK: I think everyone has different memories linked to different songs, be those good or bad, they’re emotional connections. That’s one of the reasons we consciously like or dislike certain songs, whether or not we truly think they’re good songs.  One that immediately comes to mind from my childhood is Alice Cooper’s “Schools Out”. I remember singing along to it with my brother, blasting in my Dad’s conversion van with the new high-tech CD player. That’s a memory that will always remain warm every time I hear that song.

OT: What about music in film? Do you think it has a similar effect on the audience?
MK: If you ever have a chance to watch a movie with the music removed, do it. It’ll blow your mind as to the difference it makes in your emotional perception of the film. For example, The Dark Night was a movie that used a lot of music and intense sounds to give the audience those goosebumps and butterflies.  Movie soundtracks are one of the most important elements of film that I’m sure most people don’t even notice. Music is, at its core, an emotion in a the form of sound. It creates a certain feeling and mood that can’t be replicated by anything else.

DJ Michael Knall Live

Michael Knall is the president of  White Smoke Records. He produces House music in his home recording studio and deejays at various night clubs in and around Chicago. You can catch up with him on his FaceBook page, check out and download his tracks from his SoundCloud page, or see him spinning his beats live in and around Chicago’s club scene. Just try to control yourself at his shows and keep your memories good ones.


The Composed Composer: An Interview with Nikolas Lund

by Margo Ruter & Peter Muller

Music has a special effect on our emotional landscape. The Swedes uncorked that mystery for us earlier this week. When we hear music, we adjust our feelings to the mood of the song, but not all of us remain on the receiving end of the treble clef. Nikolas Lund for example, performs, composes, arranges, produces, and promotes music while also running a recording studio and dabbling in acting. Occam’s Taser stole a meter of his time and asked him how he felt on the matter of mood, emotion and music.

Occam’s Taser: I guess we’ll start with the obvious. How did you initially get into music?
Nikolas Lund: I come from a family with a lot of music in it. My Dad played the guitar professionally, performing with a number of bands in Champaign, Illinois while I was growing up. He was able to jump between a lot of different styles of music, so I was able to see the same musician function in many different capacities. Now that I’m older, I understand the level of talent needed to be able to do that, but at the time it seemed like a very natural progression between different styles. It exposed me to a lot of difference within the field at a very early age.

OT: Did he pass down any specific knowledge?
NL: Besides exposing me to a lot of different musicians and records, he taught me to play the guitar. I remember him helping me strum through the Pink Floyd song “Wish You Were Here.” I still remember it exactly as I learned it too.

OT: Have you had formal musical training?
NL: Not really. When I was 16, I moved from the guitar to playing the piano. It was a primarily self-guided study. I had a few odd tutors here and there: a man who taught purely via what I’d call “poetics”; and another that wouldn’t even have me pick up an instrument during lessons. Again, being older now I understand what they were trying to teach me: that playing music is a much deeper experience than just knowing how to read music and learning the notes.

OT: So you do know how to read music?
NL: Yes. And more importantly even: How to notate it with precision. I’ve made it a point to hone the skill. It’s proven an extremely helpful ability to have while interacting with all these different types of players. My mother also had a musical background, and she was actually the first one to write out the notes of the treble and bass clefs for me, onto an index card which I still occasionally reference.

OT: Your parents seem to have been a major inspiration for your musical career. How about the rest of your family?
NL: I’d say both sides of my family are very musically oriented. They all really like music. When we get together, the discussions often involve music, new artists, recent concerts, etc. Certainly not all my family members are musicians, but they all seem to have an affinity for music on a broad scale.

OT: Did you always know you wanted to be a musician?
NL: Definitely not. I went to Trinity College (in Hartford, Connecticut) so that I could, as I stated it at the time, “learn how to write.” I played the piano frequently in my time there, sometimes just messing around, sometimes writing songs, but a career in music never really occurred to me. In my senior year, I had a substantial epiphany that put it all into perspective. In short, I finally realized that no matter what I pursued, I was dependent on music for my very understanding of the world, and that I would always return to it. I finished my degree in Philosophy and Modern Languages (French and German) and then moved directly to NYC to be a “starving artist.” Nevertheless, I wound up “eating” a little too much of the buffet, lasted 2 years, and then moved to Chicago in 2007.

OT: What have you been up to since returning to Chicago?
NL: Well, a little or a lot of everything: performing, composing, arranging other people’s music, running a recording studio, producing, promoting, and some acting. Much of my time now is devoted to my work in an artist’s collective called APTPA. It stands for: Artist Public Trust / Thinking Power America. We’re working to establish a broad network of artists, musicians, and performers, through the staging of elaborate events. Our last show was in an old house in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, and it was quite lively. I had a photographer at my feet while I was playing and others huddled around the piano. Sort of wild. I’ve got a show coming up now that’ll have me playing at a cabaret.

OT: Would you classify your musical work as belonging to a certain genre?
NL: It’s definitely not concerned with or indicative of any genres that I know about. I’m just trying to take everything that seems important into a new world.

OT: We recently featured a study that discussed the alteration of a listener’s emotional landscape based on the music they listened to. Do you consider emotions and music to go hand in hand?
NL: When you’re dealing with emotions and music, it’s everything vs. nothing. Once you allow a few emotions to come through, you’re dealing with them in relation to the rest of your feelings or you’re not dealing with them at all. On a good day, I can have a one-on-one correspondence between the, let’s say, “soul” and the piano. Some days, I feel like I barely know anything. One thing to remember is that mood is different from emotion. Mood is primeval. Mood determines the frame for the experience of emotion, which leads somewhere else in the same stream. If that makes sense?

OT: Does your music tend to express a current mood?
NL: To a certain extent, yes. In order to learn and progress, I usually record myself practicing. When I go back and listen, I can often pinpoint events in my personal history that influenced how I was feeling at the time. There are sometimes unexpected correspondences between the mood and the state. I’ve written some fairly bright and affirmative music in periods of extreme personal upset or misery. Of course, I’ve also written some stuff in that sort of state that comes out sounding upset and miserable.

OT: You have that degree in English. Do you ever put lyrics to your music?
NL: Oh yeah, all the time. But it’s so hard to write lyrics in English! For example, in French, the word “love” rhymes with over 50 other words, but in English, it only rhymes with four. How am I supposed to work with that?

OT: It’s commonly thought that musicians express a lot of emotion in their music. Are you able to understand emotions and moods in the music you listen to?
NL: Well, I’ve come to the realization that I’m on a long journey and that I’m going to continue to find myself in a lot of new and different places. I think that “getting better” at making music, for me, actually has a lot to do with the ability to control my emotions; or better yet, with the ability to be more comfortable with them as they are being experienced. In a “for good or for bad” kind of situation, I simply prefer the “for.” Otherwise I feel paralyzed. I think I’ll write much better music as I become less and less ego-heavy. With that in mind, I should be getting “good” any day now!

OT: Any favorites?
NL: I think The Beatles had more fun in the 20th Century than anyone. They were the quintessential “band”. John Lennon suffered from extreme emotions, but was capable of writing very emotionless music. And then there’s Paul McCartney. A cooler character seemingly, but the one who wrote “Let It Be” and “Hey Jude.” Aside from that, it would be a vast understatement to say that there’s a lot of different stuff I’m into. The new Sufjan Stevens album is absolutely extraordinary.

Nikolas’ artist collective, APTPA ( is doing some pretty amazing stuff. We suggest going to see them perform if you’re in the Chicago area. The Arts rely on the support of fans. Between his unique training and professional expertise, Lund helped us compose a perfect coda to this week’s research.

The Music World Beyond MP3

by Peter Muller

Music is in a weird place right now. Never before has a person been able to carry their entire music library in their pocket, clip four thousand songs to their shirt sleeve for a run, or buy just about any song under the sun from their cell phone. Hell, cell phones can even hear, identify, and suggest songs now!

With all these changes and conveniences come consequences and headaches; pros and cons. The music industry claims to be hurting more than ever, but smaller artists that would have previously not had a chance are filling up venues. CD sales are plummeting, MC Hammer is still broke, but Lady Gaga just bought another mansion and Lars Ulrich is still a raging douche bag. It’s all very confusing.

Sometimes it helps to take it back to a simpler time: We’re talking about vinyl records. You may scoff at the thought of having to flip through a stack of the huge, flat, and heavy 12” square sleeves that house those giant black discs. There’s a reason your parents probably keep them in the basement and refuse to throw them out; it’s called listening. Because, let’s face it, no one listens to music anymore. Today it’s all about that latest single; forget the rest of the filler album it comes with. Everyone just wants to download the song that everyone knows, the one that you heard on the radio and in that new movie trailer. A pop artist today can make more money off of one song than most used to make in an entire career, so why bother spending time making good music when they only need one hit? Along with attention spans, people’s ability to hear talent has gotten drastically insufficient.

That’s why vinyl is making a comeback in a big way. Almost every new album released on CD and iTunes is now available on vinyl too. Some speculate that vinyl may even be the music industry’s last hope. Why do you ask?

Because listening to music on vinyl is a completely different experience than clicking a song on your iPod. It’s not that easy or quick to skip around songs on a record, which means you’ll drop the needle at the beginning, walk away, and listen. What do you own when you buy an mp3? Not much but a bit of computer code stored on digital memory. With vinyl, you can honestly say you own a piece of music: a 12” square piece of art that the album artist chose to communicate the sum of their enclosed work to you. Everyone should experience pulling that inky black disc from its paper sleeve, being careful to only handle the edges as you work to connect the turntable spindle with the tiny hole and the center of a seemingly endless vortex of grooves. That’s a truly interactive experience that you’ll never get from those white ear buds as you run to catch the bus.

The sound is different too. There is an arguably different level of depth in the music that emanates from vinyl. Between the occasional pops, clicks, and hiss is a warm sound that your iPod will never be able to reproduce. It’s the audio equivalent of splitting wood to build your own cooking fire when camping out on a cool fall evening.

Convinced yet? If you’re ready to give it a try, we’re here to help you out. Vinyl technology has benefited from modern advances almost as much as cell phones, so you can forget that four foot tall, two hundred pound, compressed wood laminate turntable your dad has in the garage. Today’s turntables are barely larger than the record itself, and sometimes even smaller! We’ve searched high and low, testing out different set-ups in all price ranges to find you the best one for the right price.

There is no doubt, the reigning king of turntables is the legendary (and recently discontinued) Technics SL-1200 series. In reality, there is no reason to go off spending $600-1,000+ on some audio equipment to jump on the vinyl boat. We managed to put together an awesome home system for just over $200.

The Vestax Handy Trax ($130, available here) combined with the Numark NPM5 Studio Monitor Speakers ($90, available here) will get you spinning vinyl with excellent sound in no time at all. Containing all the basic controls you’ll need to play LPs (the big ones), 45’s (the small ones), and Bakelite 78’s (the really thick mid-sized ones your grandma may have left behind), the Vestax turntable even has a small built in speaker and runs on batteries for when you’re really hooked and need to share with your friends. The built in preamp means you can connect it to any stereo system or speaker set with ease via RCA audio cables (the red and white ones). We recommend connecting it to the Numark monitor speakers because of their dedicated amp, making the sound clear, loud and proud. You’ll be amazed at what you’ve been missing all this time.

Your mood may be affected by the music you listen to, but forming a physical connection to your music collection can change your life. Pull those old records out of the basement and raid your local record store (they could probably use your support), you’re guaranteed to expand your taste for good tunes and make some musical discoveries.

Turn It Up and Cheer Up

by Peter Muller

Most people who can hear (and some who can’t) have an important relationship with music. Some listen passively to that damn Muzak on the elevator while others obsessively dig through crates of vinyl and overload their computers collecting it. Either way, music is a part of every one’s lives. White Apple earbuds dangling from ears have become as socially ubiquitous as wearing sunglasses or carrying a purse. Hipster mustaches only dream of such market penetration.

When artists create music as self-expression, it’s often tied to heavy emotional states. Although there is no denying the existence of emotion in music, a common dispute between music researchers has been how it affects the listener. Anyone who listens to music knows the feelings of joy or excitement that comes with hearing a familiar upbeat song or the calming effect of a slower chill tune. The question raised by researchers is whether or not that feeling comes from the music changing the listeners’ actual emotional state, or just their perception of the artist’s emotion in the music.

That‘s exactly what a group of researchers from Sweden’s Örebro and Uppsala Universities set out to discover. Both sides of the argument had been supported in previous studies because variables that serve as identifiers of emotion were not standardized throughout the field of study. Some of the studies used only surveys, which were flawed because a listener couldn’t consciously understand where their emotions stemmed from. Others used popular music samples in their tests and read involuntary reactions, making it unclear whether the reactions came from the tone of the music, or the listener’s memories associated with a particular song.

To get a more accurate reading, the Swedish researchers picked the tests from old studies which had previously yielded the most reliable results, combining them into one standardized measurement. Using listener surveys and electronic tests for autonomic responses (facial expression, heart rate, skin conductance and temperature), the researchers developed the most accurate reading of emotional origin to date.

32 subjects (16 male, 16 female) listened to music through headphones, during which they were surveyed on emotional state and tested electronically for the autonomic responses.

“The stimuli consisted of simple pop songs in a singer-songwriter style sung and performed on the acoustic guitar. One happy song and one sad song each were performed by a male and a female singer, yielding a total of four musical performances… we decided to use lyrics in English that were neutral in character (no emotion words were allowed)”.

In the end, the findings pointed to clear evidence that music does, in fact, alter the emotional state of its listeners. Happy music genuinely made the subjects happy and sad music bummed them out, regardless of gender. That’s good information to know given the recent election results, we’ll need lots of Jackie Wilson and Feist to get through the next 2 years.

Take a look at our good friend Tom above. Would you say he looks happy? Sad? Indifferent? Possibly angry? That could depend on what you’ve been listening to lately. In a related study, a group of researchers at the University of London have linked musical tone to the way people perceive the emotions of others. Given the fact that music and facial expressions both convey clear emotion, the researchers wanted to see if one could influence the other. In the study, subjects listened to short clips of music classified as “happy” or “sad” while viewing photos of people with happy, sad, and neutral facial expressions. The results were quite significant. A person listening to happy music obviously identified the happy faces, but also attributed happiness to the neutral faces and even some of the sad faces! The opposite was true for sad music. Maybe Tom would cheer up if he lightened up his music a little?

Last week we looked at Emotional Intelligence and its effect on others around you (e.g., the workplace, relationships). How you feel can affect everything in your life, and everything in your life can effect how you feel. Knowing that music has such a strong effect on your emotions, you can use it to pick yourself up when you’re feeling blue, or calm yourself down when you’re pissed. Music is used to control our emotions all the time. Stores play music that makes us want to shop, political candidates and sporting events rev their audiences up with fight songs, and spas play that sleepy slow stuff for a reason. Pop in those white earbuds and see where your playlist takes you today.

Emotional Responses To Music: Experience, Expression, and Physiology
by: Lars-Olov Lundqvist, Fredrik Carlsson, Per Hilmersson, & Patrik N. Juslin
Örebro University, Uppsala University, Sweden
Psychology of Music 2009 37: 61

Crossmodal Transfer Of Emotion By Music
by: Nidhya Logeswaran & Joydeep Bhattacharya
Department of Psychology, Goldsmiths College, University of London, London, United Kingdom
Neuroscience Letters 455 (2009) 129–133

Office Etiquette: The Pain Train Is Coming!

by Peter Muller

Connecting to your emotions is one way to get through to your work colleagues, but simple office etiquette can go a long way too. Dealing with your co-workers day-in and day-out can come close to a roommate style relationship. Sharing a space in any setting means that everyone is getting to know each other very well and, like it or not, just like living with someone for a while, it’s the little things that eventually wear away at people’s patience.

Applying basic etiquette to the office can keep things positive for everyone. The rules are simple: leave things as you found them, clean up after yourself, if you finish something (like coffee) refill it, don’t be noisy, nosy, smelly (that’s good or bad smells!), don’t mess with other people’s stuff, and be polite. Although those may seem obvious, many people have problems remembering these rules once they clock in.

During the 2003 Super Bowl, Reebok took on the issue of office etiquette. In a series of advertisements, Terry Tate, a fictitious football player turned “office linebacker”, deals out his own style of punishment for bad behavior.

Although Feltcher & Sons may not be the safest place to work, office etiquette violations are definitely dealt with immediately and rarely repeated. Help avoid your workplace hiring an office linebacker by thinking of others before you steal that food from the fridge or take that call on speakerphone.

Slim Down And Brain Up: How To Keep Your Mind And Body Running

by Peter Muller

Fact: cardiovascular exercise is integral to staying in-shape and healthy.  We all know this.  Whether it’s your doctor harping on the subject or just that reflection in the mirror serving as a constant reminder, without a steady regiment of cardio, our bodies just grow rounder and each flight of stairs gets tougher to scale.  Keeping a steady workout routine is tough, especially when work, school, recreation, and entertainment get thrown into the mix.

Struggling to put down that cheeseburger?  You’re in good company.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the obesity rate in America has seen a dramatic increase over the last twenty years.  Furthermore, it has more than doubled in the last 30 years!

No matter which group you belong to; those who eat, breathe, and sleep at the gym or those who just eat; we all think of exercise in the same terms: work out, stay healthy, look good, be confident.  Even recent research on cardiovascular exercise continues to reiterate these points.  Now, there’s a new reason to get on board with exercise:  According to a 2006 study at the University of Illinois – Urbana, cardiovascular aerobic exercise helps keep your brain healthy as you age, too.  Add that to the list of reasons to start a running regiment tomorrow.

In the study, researchers looked at the brain activity of fifty-nine adults aged 60-79 via MRI scans over the course of six months; with half the group participating in regular aerobic exercise and the other half not.  To their surprise, the group that participated in a regular aerobic routine had a significant increase in brain volume in only those six months!  Although this study concentrated on older adults, the message is clear: there is a direct connection between a cardiovascular workout and the health of your brain.

“Our results suggest that brain volume loss is not an inevitable effect of advancing age and that relatively minor interventions can go a long way in offsetting and minimizing brain volume loss.”

In an earlier study, researchers had found that the brains of adults active in cardiovascular exercise throughout their lives were better preserved than the brains of those who did not.  Although this fact may no longer seem significant given the newer research above, it’s important to know that the benefits associated with sudden increases in brain volume are still unknown.  So, in essence, it’s still better to start exercising early in life, ensuring you keep the brains you already have.

Loss in brain volume as you age is associated with many common disorders such as schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s, dementia, long-term memory loss, and decrease in general intelligence and cognitive ability; all symptoms I’d prefer to do without.

In the end, your doctor and your reflection’s nagging urge to get rid of those few extra pounds have been correct; you’re better off making time for that workout in your daily schedule.  Except now, it’s your brain urging you to workout and save the gray matter in addition to your butt telling you to lose the “gravy matter.”  Bikini season may be over, but there’s never a season for muffin top.  Use whatever reasoning gets your ass in the gym.

“Aerobic Exercise Training Increases Brain Volume In Aging Humans”
by: Stanley J. Colcombe, Kirk I. Erickson, Paige E. Scalf, Jenny S. Kim, Ruchika Prakash, Edward McAuley, Steriani Elavsky, David X. Marquez, Liang Hu, and Arthur F. Kramer.
Beckman Institute & Department of Psychology and Department of Kinesiology
University of Illinois, Urbana.
Journal of Gerontology: MEDICAL SCIENCES
2006, Vol. 61A, No. 11, 1166–1170

“Aerobic Fitness Reduces Brain Tissue Loss in Aging Humans”
by: Stanley J. Colcombe, Kirk I. Erickson, Naftali Raz, Andrew G. Webb, Neal J. Cohen, Edward McAuley, and Arthur F. Kramer
Beckman Institute – University of Illinois, Urbana
Institute of Gerontology, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan
Journal of Gerontology: MEDICAL SCIENCES
2003, Vol. 58A, No. 2, 176–180

An Interview With No Hot Air

by Peter Muller

Physician's Assistant, Army Medic
With all of these digestion issues, we felt it was time to speak to someone more knowledgeable on the subject.  To get more information on the subjects of digestion and indigestion, we spoke with Cary Malczewski, a certified U.S. Army Combat Medic.  Army medics are a soldier’s first line of aid in the field, and in addition to combat related roles, they also man the military’s field hospitals and clinics, giving them a plethora of experience on common ailments and injuries.  Outside of the military, Mr. Malczewski has a bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology and is currently finishing a master’s degree in Medical Science within a Physician’s Assistant (PA) program.

Occam’s Taser: What makes people hungry?
Cary Malczewski: There are many components of hunger, including two counterbalanced hormones secreted by the stomach that control the feeling of hunger in the brain.  One tells your brain that you’re hungry, the other tells it that you’re full.  Ghrelin is the hormone that stimulates appetite and Leptin works inversely with Ghrelin to let your brain know you’ve had enough food.  It takes a little while for Leptin to alert the brain, so the key is to eat slowly, giving your brain enough time to learn that it’s full.  This is also why eating quickly leads to overeating.

OT: Can you fill us in on the biological basics of digestion?
CM: There are three basic phases of digestion, or gastric stimulation.  The first phase is the cephalic phase where the central nervous system is activated by the thought, smell, and sight of food.  Your body primes itself for digestion by producing saliva in the mouth and acid in the stomach.  Next, in the gastric phase, food is swallowed and enters the stomach where it’s broken down mechanically and chemically through stomach compression and lowering pH levels (increasing acidity).  Finally, in the intestinal phase, the broken down food leaves the stomach and enters the small intestine where nutrients from the food are absorbed.  Later, in the large intestine, liquids are absorbed and the rest is expelled as waste.

OT: What are the most common causes of indigestion?
CM: Again, there are many factors that can cause indigestion.  Some of the most common are gastroesophageal reflux (acid reflux/heartburn), peptic ulcers, and gallbladder disease.
Acid reflux is caused by the lower esophageal sphincter (LES)(see diagram above) being too loose, and allowing stomach acids to back up and enter the esophagus.  The LES can become loosened up from a variety of factors including heredity, anatomical variation, obesity, overeating, smoking, and alcohol consumption.  Certain foods like chocolate, peppermint, and coffee tend to relax the LES, also causing reflux.
Peptic ulcers are caused by a breakdown in the stomach’s protective lining, allowing the acids from digestion to eat away at the walls of the stomach.  Kind of like a bad rug burn on the inside of your stomach, ulcers can be very painful.
Gallbladder disease, as the name implies, occurs in the gallbladder (see diagram below).  The gallbladder stores bile, a fluid necessary in the digestion of fats, before it moves to the small intestine.  If too much bile builds up, it can harden into a gallstone, blocking the secretion of the bile and forcing the gallbladder to expand, causing extreme pain.

OT: What’s the best thing someone can do for indigestion?
CM: Eating small meals throughout the day can help.  Each person will have different symptoms with different foods, so keeping track of problematic foods and avoiding them is helpful. Greasy foods should be avoided with gallbladder attacks.  It’s common for reflux to be worse at night when laying down in bed; gravity will allow the acids to creep up into the esophagus.  A common mistake is to prop a pillow or two under the head, however, this makes things worse by putting a bend in the waist which increases pressure on the stomach.  A quick fix is to raise the head of the bed 6-8 inches with an old book or a block.  This will keep the body straight and use gravity to keep the acid in the stomach where it belongs.  You can also sleep in a chair.
Gas and bloating can be treated by avoiding foods that bring on those symptoms.  The bacteria in our colon differs slightly from person to person, so certain foods may be worse for some than for others.  If you have to have that second helping of Pad Thai from Thai Bowl try taking an over-the-counter anti-gas pill (Simethicone), and for diarrhea try Pepto-Bismol, Kaopectate, or Imodium.  Overall, indigestion is a fact of life, sometimes you just have to deal with it.

OT: What are the worst foods to be eating in terms of indigestion?
CM: Anything high in acidity is going to cause problems.  Primarily citrus, hot peppers, ground beef, onions, chili, etc. (See the complete list)  This is just another reason people are always told to stick with healthy, natural foods.  If you absolutely must have that third cup of rocket fuel coffee in the morning, be sure to eat some food to buffer the stomach and help absorb some of that extra acid, e.g., toast, bagels, a donut (if you must).

Remember: If you have consistent pain in your stomach, pain that is gnawing or shooting to your back while eating, vomiting blood, or blood in the stool, be sure to immediately contact your physician or go to the nearest emergency department for an evaluation.

So, all-in-all this week, we’ve covered the different aspects of digestion, showing you the effects of different foods, how to take digestion to a new level, traditional methods of easing the process, a sport centered around gluttony, and the basics holding it all together.  Keeping the belly in good health is important for everyone and we hope you can incorporate some of these suggestions into your daily life.