Dietary Counseling and Consultations

Digestive Health

What You Should Know about Your GI System- part one

Published September 15th, 2014 in Digestive Health

By Tammera J. Karr, PhD

Here in America we like to abuse our digestive tract with processed fats, sugars, caffeine, artificial colors and sweeteners, medications and stress. Digestive disorders are placing a “growing burden” on Americans, causing an unprecedented number of clinic visits and hospitalizations, says Stephen Bickston, an American Gastroenterological Association fellow and professor of internal medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Heartburn is among the most common digestive ills. In a Swedish study, 6 percent of people reported experiencing reflux symptoms daily and 14 percent had them at least weekly. Such frequent symptoms may indicate a person has GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease. Aside from being painful, GERD can harm the esophagus over time or even lead to esophageal cancer.

Approximately 25 million Americans will get an ulcer at some point—consider getting tested for Helicobacter pylori, experts advise if you are experiencing an increase in digestive distress. By disrupting a protective layer of mucus, H-pylori causes ulcers, which are sores in the lining of the stomach or first portion of the small intestine. Other causes include smoking; excessive NSAID use and alcohol all elevate stomach acidity. The worst thing to do if a Peptic Ulcer, is to take aspirin or other NSAID [nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug] pain reducers; which worsen a person’s condition and could lead to internal bleeding and infections.

Possibly today’s’ number one contributor to ulcers researchers are suggesting is stress. Stress comes in many sizes and packages. It is easy for us to say “Oh just get a grip”, but getting a grip isn’t always about emotional stress. Illness, breathing air, aging, physical exertion, trauma, and the environment are all sources of stress. I routinely see individuals’ diets as a major contributor to their stress. When everything you eat causes pain and discomfort the food quickly becomes the enemy. This is frequently the case for clients with autoimmune digestive disorders.

Stress can aggravate symptoms of digestive disorders and delay healing. This is largely due to how stress affects hormones that contribute to healthy immune function; melatonin, cortisol, and many other hormones are actively involved in keeping the digestive system working. Approximately, 85% of a humans immune system cells reside in the digestive tract, what we eat and how we handle stress has a large impact on these cells ability to control bacterium such as H-pylori from taking over.

Ahh Gallstones

Only a quarter of individuals with gallstones typically require treatment. Every year nearly 1 million Americans are diagnosed with gallstones, which are primarily made of cholesterol and bile salts. Medical treatment is typically the removal of the gallbladder, one of the most common U.S. surgeries.

Gallstones are often blamed for symptoms caused by other, more elusive culprits, such as irritable bowel syndrome, says Robert Sandler, chief of the division of gastroenterology and hepatology with the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. An ultrasound test might pick stones up while missing the real problem. If you are told you need to have the gallstones removed but they are not bothering you, get a second opinion, he advises.

Removal may be necessary if the stones instigate inflammation or infection of the gallbladder, pancreas, or liver. This happens if a stone moving out of the biliary ducts becomes lodged obstructing the flow of bile into or out of the gallbladder.

The pain of a gallstone lodged in a duct usually comes on quickly—in the right upper abdomen, between the shoulder blades, or under the right shoulder—symptoms may also include; fever, vomiting, nausea, or pain lasting more than five hours. Gallbladder removal can be performed laparoscopically and more recently has been done without an external incision by going through the mouth or vagina.

Obesity is a risk factor for gallstones, for many gallstones develop because of a shortage of fiber in the diet and an excess of processed fats. Losing weight—then regaining it—also seems to set the stage for gallstones. In a 2006 study of men, the more frequent the weight cycling and the larger the number of pounds shed and regained, the greater the odds of gallstones. Women, especially those who are pregnant or taking birth control pills, face increases in gallstone as well.

Ill cover more on this topic and what you can do in your diet to improve your GI health in part two.

To Your Healthy GI System and Good Health.