Health In The Bay – AILMENTS – Digestion
Digestion is the process by which our body takes food we ingest and breaks it down for the use of its components. There are different stages of digestion at which different components of food are broken down, and as such there is potential for many issues with digestion. With so many processed foods as well as medications that impact our digestion, it has become extremely common to have changes in our digestion affecting our health. Improving digestion can be simple, and can have far-reaching effects on symptoms and overall health.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Irritable bowel syndrome is a common disorder of the Gastrointestinal tract that commonly presents as abdominal pain and bloating with altered bowel habits such as constipation, diarrhoea or both.There may also be mucus present in stools. The cause of IBS is unknown, but certain factors are known to aggravate the symptoms. These include emotional stresses, and certain foods including chocolate, fatty foods, grains, lactose and caffeine. Studies have also shown that symptoms in women can be aggravated during their menstrual period and hence that hormones may play a role.
Visiting a Nutritionist is a great place to start as they can assist you is having the best diet while avoiding food triggers. It can also be a good idea to see an Acupuncturist that can help normalise the digestion, and balance hormones if they are a factor.Acupuncturist is also great for stress relief as is regular exercise.
Food allergies and food intolerances often get confused, as the symptoms of food intolerances can be similar to mild food allergies, but not exhibits symptoms similar to a severe allergic reaction i.e anaphylaxis. Food intolerance is a chemical reaction to certain foods, while food allergy is your immune system reacting to a harmless food.
Symptoms of food intolerances include:nervousness, tremor, sweating, palpitations, rapid breathing, headache, migraine, diarrhoea, burning sensations on the skin, tightness across the face and chest, breathing problems – asthma-like symptoms, allergy-like reactions. Allergic symptoms include: itching, burning and swelling around the mouth, runny nose, skin rash (eczema), hives (urticaria – skin becomes red and raised), diarrhoea, abdominal cramps, breathing difficulties – including wheezing and asthma, vomiting, nausea.
It can be very useful to seek advice and assistance from a Nutritionist to help in different aspects of living with and dealing with both food intolerances and allergies, such as identifying the allergen or food responsible for the reaction, eliminating and reintroducing it, as well as, if pregnant potentially minimising the chance of your baby having issues.
Crohns is an autoimmune disorder that involves inflammation of any part of the gastrointestinal tract, anywhere from the mouth to the bowel. It affects the lining of the tract causing ulcers, which results in poor absorption of food and nutrients. Common symptoms are pain, cramping and weight loss. People suffering from Crohns will experience periods of flare ups and remissions. There is no cure but some things may help in reducing flare ups. Certain foods may aggravate the condition and hence avoiding those foods are recommended.
It can be useful to see a Nutritionist who can help make sure you get the correct nutrition while avoiding foods that are aggravating. Having a diet and possibly supplements that can improve gastrointestinal health and/or reduce general inflammation can also be important.
Acupuncture can also be helpful in reducing the symptoms and possibly the frequency of flare ups.
Abdominal bloating is a condition where the abdomen feels uncomfortably full and may be swollen. There are many causes of abdominal bloating, ranging from minor health issues to serious life threatening issues. Common causes are food allergies or intolerances, as well as bacterial or parasitic infections can result in abnormal gas production and hence bloating. Other bowel conditions such as IBS, Crohns, Intestinal obstruction, and also Liver disease and cancer can all cause bloating.
Once you have ruled out any serious or life threatening cause for your bloating, it can be useful to see a Nutritionist who can help you understand what foods are helpful while avoiding foods that are aggravating. Having a diet and possibly supplements that can improve gastrointestinal health can make a big difference. A Nutritionist can also send you for tests to further determine any allergens or sensitivities, or pathogens (bacterial or parasitic).
Acupuncture can also be helpful in improving gastrointestinal health and reducing the symptoms.
Flatulence is the medical term for the release of gas that has built up in the gastrointestinal tract. The gas builds up in 2 ways, either by swallowing air while eating or drinking, or by the process of digestion, digestive gases are produced. The Mayo Clinic estimates that most people pass gas about 10 times a day. If you pass wind more frequently than this on a regular basis, you could have excessive flatulence, which has a number of causes. It may be due to the foods you are eating. Foods that don’t break down easily and readily such as beans, cabbage, broccoli, lentils, apples and prunes. It can also be caused by a number or health conditions such as food intolerances (eg lactose) or Irritable bowel syndrome or celiac disease (although these are rare causes).
The best thing that you can do is address the diet, and a Nutritionist can help you with that. They can help determine which foods are creating the flatulence, as well has help determine if there are any intolerances also contributing to the problem. It may also be useful to improve the digestion as a whole, and for that Acupuncture is very effective.
Reflux / Acid Reflux
Acid reflux occurs when some stomach acid travels up the esophagus and irritates the lining. It results in a burning sensation in the chest, or heartburn. At the junction of the esophagus and the stomach is a valve that opens to let food and drink pass through and then closes immediately. Sometimes it doesn’t close completely which then allows the acid up into the esophagus. If you experience this heartburn sensation more than 2 times per week you are considered to have acid reflux disease, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
One of the most common causes is a hiatus hernia, where the beginning of the stomach pushes up through the diaphragm, and therefore the valve is not able to close properly. Other causes include eating large meals, being over weight, pregnancy, lying down shortly after eating a meal, smoking, eating. Research has shown that reflux or GERD is often associated with some gut disorder. Possibly is due in part by bacterial overgrowth, namely Helicobacter Pylori.
If you are suffering from reflux or GERD it can be useful to visit a Nutritionist as they can help improve any digestion issues, and advise you on lifestyle changes that may also help.
You are considered to be constipated if you have difficulty having a bowel movement or they are less regular than what is normal for you. There is a great variation in what can be normal, from a few times a day to only once or twice a week. Symptoms of constipation include fewer bowel movements, straining to have a bowel movement, small hard stools, the sense you haven’t have a complete bowel movement, swollen abdomen, and even vomiting. There are many causes of constipation, the more common ones include certain medications, a diet lacking in water or fibre, being inactive, pregnancy, or some digestive disorders or diseases.
There are a few simple things you can do that may improve your constipation such as increasing your water intake, or being more active. If that isn’t enough to create some change it can be helpful to visit a Nutritionist who can advise on dietary and lifestyle changes as well as suggest supplements if required.
Parasites are organisms that live in or on another organism (its host) and benefits by deriving nutrients at its host’s expense. Some don’t obviously affect the host, while others grow, reproduce or give off toxins that make the host sick,resulting in a parasitic infection. Some parasites include Giardia, worms, mosquitoes and ticks. Parasitic infections can be spread in a number of ways including water, waste, fecal matter, blood, and through food. It can also be passed through sexual contact. Some infections are spread because an insect, such as a mosquito, acts as a carrier of the disease and transmits it while feeding on the host. As there are a variety of parasites and they can act in different ways, symptoms can vary greatly. Symptoms can include diarrhea, gas, upset stomach, greasy stools, dehydration, stomach cramps or pain, nausea, vomiting, fever, and weight loss, irritability and fatigue, and even flu-like symptoms, pain or swollen lymph nodes, and muscle aches or pains that last for over a month.
The treatment for parasites may also vary, with many responding well to herbal remedies. A Nutritionist is a good place to start when wanting to address parasites with the use of herbal remedies. Sometimes these are not strong enough, in which case antibiotics might be required.
Abdominal (or stomach) pain is pain felt anywhere from below your ribs to your pelvis. The abdomen houses many organs, including your stomach, liver, pancreas, small and large bowel, and reproductive organs. There are also major blood vessels in the abdomen. Stomach pain can be a symptom of a large number of issues, some serious (such as appendicitis and pregnancy problems), but most are harmless.
The type of pain can vary greatly. It can be sharp, dull, stabbing, cramp-like, it can be constant or intermittent, or there only on movement.
Some common causes include eating something that is off, IBS, Crohns, constipation. Some other causes include gallstones, ulcers, infections, even from heart attacks and pneumonias, conditions in the pelvis or groin, some skin rashes like shingles, and problems with stomach muscles like a strain. The pain may occur along with problems in passing urine or with bowel motions, or period problems.
If the pain seems to be digestion related then seeing a Nutritionist can be very useful to improve digestive health. Acupuncture can also be very effective in improving digestive health and minimising causes of pain.
Proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and most fluids are absorbed in the small intestine. Malabsorption syndrome occurs when something prevents the bowel from absorbing important nutrients and fluids.
Factors that may affect the digestion of food and cause malabsorption syndrome include prolonged antibiotic use; conditions such as Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, chronic pancreatitis, or cystic fibrosis; lactase deficiency, or lactose intolerance, congenital (birth) defects affecting or blocking important steps in digestion,;diseases of the gallbladder, liver, or pancreas; damage to the intestine (from infection, inflammation, trauma, or surgery); parasitic diseases, or radiation therapy (which may injure the mucosal lining of the bowel).
Symptoms of Malabsorption syndrome vary depending on the nutrient that is not absorbed and that passes through the digestive tract, or because of the deficiency of a certain nutrient. They can include strange coloured or smelling stools, fluid retention, hair loss, flatulence, diarrhea, anemia, low blood pressure.
Treatment for Malabsorption varies depending on the cause, but it is important to see a Nutritionist to ensure you are getting enough nutrients. They can help determine which you are lacking and work out the best strategy for you.