Digestive Health Archive

Articles

Was it something you ate? Follow these steps when food makes you sick

Symptoms of food-related illness can show up hours or even days after ingesting a harmful microbe or toxin. Symptoms of food-related illness might include intense nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea, or possibly a low-grade fever (below 101° F). Someone with food-related illness should rest as much as possible, stay hydrated, and avoid sugary drinks or alcohol. A person who develops a high fever, bloody stool, severe abdominal pain, or severe dehydration should go to the emergency room.

IBS in the crosshairs

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) affects up to 45 million Americans, two-thirds of whom are women. IBS is categorized into three types depending on which symptoms dominate: diarrhea, constipation, or a mix of both. Possible contributors include changes in gut bacteria, faulty nerve signals between brain and intestine, pelvic floor problems, and genetics. Newer treatment approaches target pathways involved in symptoms. Doctors are also repurposing older drugs for IBS, including certain antidepressants and the antibiotic rifaximin (Xifaxan).

Do our microbes affect our behavior?

Scientists wonder if gut microbes might influence behavior in animals, including humans. Some studies suggest a link. For example, a 2022 study suggested that gut microbes can influence an animal's motivation to exercise. Scientists speculate that the same might be true in humans. Other studies have found that a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii is tied to risky behavior in lab mice and risk-taking behaviors in humans. Scientists now even consider it conceivable that gut microbes might influence things like human intelligence, attitudes, empathy, and more, although the idea has yet to be proved.

Can long COVID affect the gut?

Some people who have been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19  have experienced lingering effects like low energy and brain fog. Could gastrointestinal problems be another aftereffect of the virus?

A pain in the rear

Everyone is born with the blood vessels that underlie hemorrhoids, but they may become problematic when they enlarge. Half of people have symptoms by age 50 that include pain, itching, swelling, and bleeding. Home remedies such as pain relievers, topical creams and ointments, sitz baths, and cold compresses don't eradicate hemorrhoids. In-office procedures can cut off blood supply to internal hemorrhoids, allowing them to fall off. Surgery is the only definitive treatment option for external hemorrhoids visible at the anus.

Healthy gut, healthy heart

The gut is home to trillions of microbes, collectively known as the gut microbiota, which help with digestion, manufacture certain nutrients, and release various substances that have wide-ranging health effects, including on cardiovascular health. As diet plays a significant role in the composition of the gut microbiota, people's diet can indirectly affect heart health. Following a plant-based diet that emphasizes less red meat and more fiber can support the gut and its heart-healthy benefits.

You don't say? Facts about flatulence

It's normal to accumulate and release gas; in fact, the average person releases two liters of gas per day. Certain foods can increase gas production since they take longer to digest.

Prune juice for constipation? A new study says yes

Drinking about one cup of prune juice daily may help relieve chronic constipation, according to a 2022 study.

Heart disease and heartburn: What's the overlap?

Heartburn can cause chest pain that may be mistaken for a heart attack, and vice versa. Heartburn causes more a burning sensation and is more likely to occur after a large meal. Heart attacks are often described as a feeling of tightness or pressure and are more likely to occur after physical activity or stress. People who aren't sure about their symptoms should get to an emergency room for an evaluation as soon as possible.

Free Healthbeat Signup

Get the latest in health news delivered to your inbox!

Sign Up
Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Thanks for visiting. Don't miss your FREE gift.

The Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness, is yours absolutely FREE when you sign up to receive Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Sign up to get tips for living a healthy lifestyle, with ways to fight inflammation and improve cognitive health, plus the latest advances in preventative medicine, diet and exercise, pain relief, blood pressure and cholesterol management, and more.

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Get helpful tips and guidance for everything from fighting inflammation to finding the best diets for weight loss...from exercises to build a stronger core to advice on treating cataracts. PLUS, the latest news on medical advances and breakthroughs from Harvard Medical School experts.

BONUS! Sign up now and
get a FREE copy of the
Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Stay on top of latest health news from Harvard Medical School.

Plus, get a FREE copy of the Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness.