You might be familiar with the beneficial by-products that result from our gut bacteria feeding on indigestible carbohydrates, like fiber. But, what happens to undigested protein that ends up in your large intestine (aka your colon), and why should you care?
I’m happy to share that April 1st marked the beginning of IBS Awareness month.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic gastrointestinal condition that affects an estimated 30 million Americans and millions more worldwide—men, women and children. IBS is not well understood in the medical community and not always easy to talk about.
As a result, many people are forced to suffer in silence.
People with IBS can experience abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea and/or constipation, fecal urgency, excessive and uncomfortable gas, mucus in the stool, and a feeling of incomplete bowel movements. These physical symptoms take a serious toll on one’s quality of life as do the psychological and financial burdens. Because IBS is not a life-threatening illness, too many people, mostly women, are quickly dismissed by their physicians, often made to feel like they’re crazy.
Ingredient1, a fun mobile food app, asked me to identify and comment on a “tummy upset” that I felt all of their readers should know about, and I chose small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).
SIBO, a major contributing factor to IBS, occurs when excessive amounts of bacteria end up in the small intestine, where it doesn’t belong. These bacteria can contribute to a variety of gastrointestinal symptoms, notably gas, bloating and irregular bowel movements.
Physicians are often too quick to dismiss the possible role of diet in causing and managing IBD, so it’s a nice surprise to see a whole group of medical doctors involved in the design and execution of this study. Continue reading →
Not too long ago I was asked to present to a group on the importance of diet and nutrition for preventing and managing diverticular disease, a condition that affects roughly 50 percent of Americans between the ages of 60 and 80 and just about everyone in the United States over the age of 80.
Diverticular disease includes diverticulosis and diverticulitis. Diverticulosis is the presence of diverticula, or bulging out-pouches, in the colon. Diverticulitis is when these pouches become inflamed. This state can be very serious, even requiring surgery for some patients.
Learn what you or a loved one can do to help prevent and manage diverticulosis by reviewing the answers to these popular nutrition questions. Continue reading →
A recent study out of North Carolina suggests that people with Crohn’s disease who eat more fiber are less likely to flare.
However, many people with Crohn’s disease are instructed by health care providers and other resources to limit or avoid dietary fiber.
So, what gives?
You might recall from last week’s post that fiber is an undigested carbohydrate in the sense that humans do not have the necessary tools to break it down. Therefore it’s available to nourish the trillions of microbes in our intestines. Many of us are familiar with the sometimes embarrassing gas that results from our gut bacteria feeding on fiber, but what’s less obvious are the healthy by-products of their feeding frenzies, including short-chain fatty acids that help fight inflammation.
This current study of roughly 1,600 adults with IBD in remission at baseline suggested that people with Crohn’s disease who regularly ate bran cereals were about half as likely to flare over six months than those who did not eat the cereal. Also, participants with Crohn’s who did not identify as avoiding high-fiber foods were about 40% less likely to flare than fiber avoiders.
My brief but remarkable three weeks as a dietetic intern at a clinic specializing in digestive disorders has further cemented the notion that a “proper diet” can take on many meanings and forms depending on the individual.
One patient from my first week at clinic comes to mind. The patient had tried a variety of dietary approaches for persistent gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms without noticeable improvement. That’s until she was introduced to the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD).
In a nutshell, the SCD eliminates grains, lactose and sugar. Most fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, oil, honey and lactose-free dairy, such as butter, homemade yogurt and some cheeses are allowed. The emphasis is on real foods without unnatural additives and excessive processing.
The thinking is grounded in the belief that removing certain carbohydrates starves the intestinal microbes responsible for many common digestive diseases. Eliminating certain environmental factors, say chemicals associated with highly processed foods, may also lower the likelihood of gastrointestinal issues.
Salmonella has been a hot topic on my Twitter feed this past month in response to the recall of contaminated cucumbers, raw cashews, Macadamia nuts and nut butters, pet food and shell eggs. This is all in the wake of the Chipotle salmonella outbreak in 2015 that was linked to Florida tomatoes.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Salmonella bacteria is responsible for roughly one million foodborne illnesses in the U.S. every year, with 19,000 hospitalizations and nearly 400 deaths.