Digestive Health Archive


Spring cleaning? Prioritize your fridge and pantry

Food-borne illnesses are common, sickening 48 million Americans each year, hospitalizing 128,000, and killing 3,000. One way to keep food safe is to clean the refrigerator and pantry regularly to cleanse surfaces and purge dated and possibly contaminated products. The process should include taking all items out of food storage areas, washing all surfaces, checking expiration dates, assessing products' smell and appearance, marking dates packages are opened, and avoiding cross-contamination between raw and ready-made foods.

Antidepressant may help manage irritable bowel syndrome symptoms

A 2023 study suggests that taking low doses of amitriptyline, a tricyclic antidepressant also used to treat nerve pain, may be one of the best pharmacologic choices to help improve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.

Does your gut affect your risk for Alzheimer's disease?

A 2023 study of lab animals suggests that the population of microbes in an individual's gut may influence the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. Researchers found that healthy lab rats developed signs characteristic of Alzheimer's disease when they were injected with gut microbe samples from people with Alzheimer's. Rats that received samples from the most severely affected Alzheimer's patients developed the greatest brain abnormalities and memory problems. Rats did not develop these problems when they were injected with samples from people who had no signs of the disease.

Why does coffee help with digestion?

For some people, drinking coffee has a laxative effect. Coffee triggers colon contractions and stool movement, a process heightened by its caffeine content. Women prone to constipation might find a morning cup of coffee helpful, but drinking excessive amounts may worsen the symptoms of certain health conditions.

Prebiotics in plant-based foods may help control unhealthy eating

A 2023 study suggests eating more prebiotics—compounds found in plant fiber that nourish healthy bacteria in the gut—may affect the brain's reward network in a way that helps people make healthier food choices.

Chest pain: Causes other than the heart

Most cases of chest pain don't signal heart problems. While chest discomfort of any kind should never be ignored, many conditions can trigger it. These include gastroesophageal reflux disease, gallstones, asthma, ulcers, anxiety, COVID, esophagus spasms, costochondritis, pulmonary embolism, pleurisy, aortic dissection, and pericarditis. Chest pain is likely to be unrelated to the heart if it's brief, triggered by eating, doesn't worsen with exercise, occurs only with movement, coughing, or breathing deeply, or it's localized to one spot.

Curcumin supplements might ease meal-related discomfort

A small randomized trial in 2023 found that taking two 250-mg capsules of curcumin four times a day was as effective at relieving dyspepsia symptoms as taking one daily 20-mg dose of the heartburn medication omeprazole (Prilosec, Zegerid).

Long-lasting C. diff infections: A threat to the gut

Virtually everyone carries the bacteria Clostridioides difficile, or C. diff. But half a million Americans a year develop a serious C. diff infection due to a gut microbiome imbalance. It disproportionately strikes people in hospitals and nursing homes, and can recur repeatedly.

Staying regular

"Regular" bowel movements can mean something different for each person. Some people have a bowel movement once or twice daily; for others, it's once or twice weekly. People should see a doctor if they notice a dramatic change in bowel habits or other symptoms, including fatigue, pain, unintended weight loss, bloody stool, or a change in stool consistency. People can promote digestion by maintaining a toileting schedule, heeding their body's signals, and using a toilet stool.

How a healthy gut helps your heart

Following a plant-based eating pattern and cutting back on highly processed foods can help promote a more diverse, healthier microbiome. A healthy gut microbiome may decrease inflammation that promotes heart disease. Most fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains are good sources of prebiotic fiber, which is broken down by gut bacteria to create short-chain fatty acids. These fatty acids are linked to lower inflammation and reductions in other heart disease risk factors.

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