Digestive Health Archive


Beyond hot flashes

Around menopause, a decline in estrogen can trigger low-grade inflammation that leads to unexpected symptoms from head to toe. Symptoms can affect the digestive tract, skin, joints, eyes, ears, and heart, among other areas. A 2022 study found that estrogen loss can even fuel the jaw pain known as temporomandibular disorder. A year or longer can pass before many women connect symptoms with menopause. Women can take lifestyle measures to lower inflammation, such as eating more fruits and vegetables, avoiding processed foods, and exercising.

Travel tummy troubles: Here's how to prevent or soothe them

Digestive troubles are no one's idea of fun, but having them occur while traveling or vacationing is even worse. Here's a closer look at three common digestive upsets, how to prevent them, and what to do if you have one.

Hospitalized patients can bring home infections

Clostridioides difficile, a bacterium that causes severe diarrhea and colon inflammation, is common in hospitalized people. New research suggests that even patients who are not diagnosed with the infection in the hospital can bring it home and expose family members.

How a fiber-rich diet promotes heart health

Fiber-rich diets may lower the risk of heart attack and stroke, in part by decreasing inflammation. This benefit appears to be facilitated by the breakdown of prebiotic fiber in the gut microbiome to create short-chain fatty acids. These compounds circulate through the bloodstream and interact with specific receptors on cells that quell inflammation. Short-chain fatty acids may also play a role in keeping blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels in check, as well as helping to prevent harmful blood clotting.

Inflammatory bowel disease and family planning: What you need to know

Inflammatory bowel disease is commonly diagnosed at a point in life when many people are planning families. People who have been diagnosed with IBD are likely to have questions and concerns regarding fertility, conception, pregnancy, delivery, and breastfeeding.

What's the best sleep position to combat heartburn?

Among people with chronic heartburn, sleeping on the left side appears to help backed-up stomach acid leave the esophagus faster than sleeping on the right side or back, according to a study in the February 2022 issue of The American Journal of Gastroenterology.

Is it okay to use proton-pump inhibitors on demand?

When doctors say that it's okay to take proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) "on demand" for chronic heartburn, the advice doesn't apply to everyone. PPIs inhibit the production of stomach acid, which can back up into the esophagus and can cause pain (heartburn) and damage the lining of the esophagus. People with damage to the esophagus often stay on PPIs long-term to prevent further problems. People without damage to the esophagus can take a short course of PPIs as needed.

Taking the air out of bloating

Everyone feels bloated at times after eating. Bloating is a feeling of tightness, fullness, or pressure in the belly that comes along with abdominal swelling and mild to intense pain. Excessive gas buildup from a sluggish digestive system and problems digesting certain foods are the leading causes. While most bloating goes away after a while, for regular occurrences, people should examine their diet for trigger foods and use over-the-counter anti-gas remedies as needed. In cases of frequent or extended bloating, a doctor should see if other problems are present.

Could stress be making my acid reflux worse?

Emotional stress can aggravate gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a condition in which gastric acid washes backward into the esophagus from the stomach. Managing stress through meditation or exercise can help.

What's the connection between the gut and brain health?

Gut bacteria may influence our emotions and cognitive capabilities. For example, some bacteria make oxytocin, a hormone the body produces that encourages increased social behavior. Other bacteria make substances that cause symptoms of depression and anxiety. Still others make substances that help people to be calmer under stress. Gut bacteria also have been shown to influence people's vulnerability to certain brain diseases, including Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and autism. For example, a substance found in the brains of people with Parkinson's disease (synuclein) is made by gut bacteria and can travel via nerves from the gut to the brain.

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