Why is digestive health so important?

According to the Foundation for Digestive Health and Nutrition, more than 70 million Americans suffer from digestive disorders that interfere with their work and their lives.

A healthy digestive system is the core to health. Having an optimal digestion allows our body to digest and absorb nutrients from our food, which in turn, gives us energy, stabilizes our mood, and maintains our body’s health. Heart burn, gas, bloating, constipation or diarrhea, irritable bowel are all signs of poor digestion.

Most digestive issues have one thing in common – lifestyle choices. Your lifestyle choices can play a significant role in the quality of your digestive health and whether or not you develop a digestive disorder or disease. Eventually, poor digestion can lead to long term chronic diseases such as cancer, osteoporosis, anemia, skin rashes, allergies, and migraines.

What causes heart burn or indigestion?

When refluxed stomach acid touches the lining of the esophagus, it causes a burning sensation in the chest or throat called heartburn. The fluid may even be tasted in the back of the mouth, and this is called acid indigestion.

Heartburn is generally caused by one of three categories:

  • Dietary Habits: The amount and type of food you eat.
  • Lifestyle Choices: Being overweight, a smoker or inactive can all contribute to heartburn symptoms.
  • Medical Causes: Certain medications you may be taking, being pregnant, or having a hiatal hernia may make you more prone to developing gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) which leads to more episodes of heartburn.

One of the common causes of heartburn or indigestion is eating too fast and putting too much food in the stomach. The longer food sits in the stomach, the more stomach acid your body will produce to help break down that food. If you don’t have enough digestive enzymes to break down the food, the food will stay in the stomach and irritate the junction between the esophagus and the stomach, which may lead to reflux and the symptoms of heart burn.

The most common foods associated with reflux include: citrus fruits, garlic and onions, chocolate, caffeinated beverages, fried and fatty foods, spicy foods, mint flavorings, and tomato-based foods (e.g. pizza, spaghetti sauce, chili).

What is in yogurt that keeps us regular?

Probiotics are the good bacteria or “good bugs” that keep our intestinal tract balanced and healthy. The largest group of probiotic bacteria in the intestine is lactic acid bacteria, of which Lactobacillus acidophilus, which can be found in yogurt. The normal human digestive tract contains about 400 types of probiotic bacteria that reduce the growth of harmful bacteria and promote a healthy digestive system. These beneficial bacteria help digest and absorb the nutrients in the food we eat, as well as:

  • Treat diarrhea, especially following treatment with certain antibiotics
  • Prevent and treat vaginal yeast infections and urinary tract infections
  • Treat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Reduce bladder cancer recurrence
  • Shorten the duration of intestinal infections
  • Prevent and treat inflammation following colon surgery
  • Prevent eczema in children

Probiotics also help maintain a healthy immune system. In a recent study, researchers reported that children who received probiotics developed 60% fewer colds, needed fewer antibiotics and missed fewer days of school than the children who did not take probiotics.

Answers provided by Dr. Sonja Fung of Live Well Clinic. If you have a health related question you would like addressed in a future Q & A please email info@livewellclinic.org.

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