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Check out these newly released Special Health Reports from Harvard Medical School
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You can't buy good health but you can buy good health information. Check out these newly released Special Health Reports from Harvard Medical School:

The Sensitive Gut

Your “gut” is the series of organs—mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and colon—that transform the food you eat into the nutrients your body needs to live and to thrive. If you’ve ever had an upset stomach, constipation, heartburn or gas, you know how sensitive the gut can be.  These “gut reactions” can be painful, disruptive, and sometimes embarrassing.

Fortunately, you can do something about almost all gastrointestinal disorders and achieve a calmer, quieter coexistence with your digestive system.  You can address, prevent, and treat the most common troublemakers, including acid reflux, functional dyspepsia, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, diarrhea, and excessive gas.

This report gives you strategies to prevent and treat heartburn, which is the key symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and the most common gastrointestinal malady.  You’ll discover which pain relievers—from Prilosec and Nexium to Zantac and Tums—are the safest and fastest-acting remedies. You’ll be alerted to six diseases that can mimic the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), be briefed on new diagnostic tests and find ways to eliminate the triggers and manage this vexing condition.

In The Sensitive Gut, you will gain an empowering understanding of your digestive system, how it works, and what you can do when it acts up. The report explains the brain-gut connection and the effect stress can have on your digestive system. It shares the best ways to treat constipation without laxatives, tells you how simple mealtime changes can spare you from indigestion without forgoing the foods you love, and much more.

Prepared by the editors of the Harvard Health Publications in consultation with Lawrence S. Friedman, M.D., Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Chair, Department of Medicine, Newton-Wellesley Hospital; Assistant Chief of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. 49 pages. (2012)

  • Inside the gut
    • The digestive journey
    • The aging GI tract
  • Special section: The Stress Connection
    • The second brain
    • Stress and the functional GI disorders
    • Treating the whole body
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease
    • Causes of GERD
    • Diagnosing reflux
    • Complications of reflux
    • Self-help for reflux
  • Antireflux drug therapy
    • Herbal remedies
    • Surgical options for reflux
  • Functional dyspepsia
    • Diagnosing FD
    • Tests and medication
    • Causes of FD
    • Treating FD
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
    • What is IBS?
    • Causes of IBS
    • Diagnosing IBS
    • Managing IBS
  • Constipation
    • How constipation happens
    • Frequency of bowel movements: What’s normal?
    • Causes of constipation
    • Diagnosing constipation
    • Treating constipation
  • Diarrhea
    • What is diarrhea?
    • Causes of diarrhea
    • When to call the doctor
    • Diagnosing diarrhea
    • Treating diarrhea
    • Preventing diarrhea
  • Excessive gas
    • Where does gas come from?
    • A gas primer
    • Diagnosing and treating aerophagia and flatus
    • Treating belching
    • Treating flatulence
  • Glossary
  • Resources
  • Organizations

Treating the whole body

Stress-related symptoms in the GI tract vary greatly from one patient to the next, and treatment can vary as well. For example, one person with GERD might describe an occasional, mild burning sensation in the chest, while another complains of excruciating discomfort night after night. As the severity of symptoms varies, so should the therapies, medications, self-help strategies, or even surgeries used to relieve them.

Many patients have mild symptoms that respond quickly to changes in diet or medications. If symptoms do not improve, your clinician may ask you more questions about your medical history and perform some diagnostic tests to rule out a physical abnormality, infection, or cancer. For some people, symptoms improve as soon as a serious diagnosis has been ruled out (another example of how emotional stress affects the gut!). Your doctor may also recommend symptom-specific medications. But sometimes these treatments are not enough. As symptoms become more severe, so does the likelihood that a patient is experiencing some sort of psychological distress.

Often, patients with moderate to severe symptoms, particularly those whose symptoms arise from stressful circumstances, stand to benefit from psychological treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy, relaxation techniques, and hypnosis. Some patients are reluctant to accept the role of psychosocial factors in their illness. But it’s important to know that emotions cause real, chemical and physical responses in the body that can result in pain and discomfort. Behavioral therapy and stress reduction treatments do not directly reduce pain or improve symptoms in the way that drugs do. Rather, the goal is to reduce anxiety, encourage healthy behaviors, and help patients cope with the pain and discomfort of their condition.

The following reviews have been left for this report. Log in and leave a review of your own.

A great health report. Contains a lot of very helpful information. Specifically I liked page 25: "IBS: What else could it be." I was a young man in 1970, and spent two months in hospital. The doctors decided I had colitis, AS and uveitis. 22 years later colitis was changed to Crohn's disease and iritis. The latter or uveitis claimed my left eye. But I recovered. It feels rather good to have all this info now, some 42 years on. But shouldn't we have some info about liquids, how does fluids end up in the bladder? Some of it goes into the intestines? /LA
As someone who has suffered from a variety of GI issues over the years, I found this report to be not only an extremely helpful and in depth primer on the digestive system, but necessary reading for anyone who has suffered from GI distress. Thanks to the authors for so clearly explaining so many of the possible causes of these problems: from anxiety and stress to medication to eating habits and food intolerance -- as well as a wide range of solutions from medical to self-help. This is the first time I've come across much of this information, and it's written in a language that is easy to understand.
While the booklet is loaded with technical info, it doesn't aim at the average layman., and isn't worth the $18. pricetag.
"The Sensitive Gut" is well written, very informative and is extremely beneficial to anyone who needs accurate, up-to-date information that will assist with identifying solutions to several problems. "The Sensitive Gut" is written to provide important technical information but is written in a way that people who are not familiar with medical terminology can understand easily.
Excellent and well understood information. It is very helpful for me to understand a deal with my GERD and IBS conditions.
I've has IBS for over 50 years, and this is one of the most helpful reports on it that I've ever read. I particularly liked the list of treatments and their side effects. Of course it does seem like when you take one medication to address one problem, it exacerbates another. But still. I plan to take this to my doctor at my next annual physical.
This was very informative and helpful. Written so that the information is easy to understand, it encompasses several different stomach ailments so that it is easier to narrow down my particular issues. Its wonderful to have so much information in one place with information that I can trust.

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