Follow Your Gut
What digestive warning signs would warrant a visit to my healthcare provider?
You should see your doctor if you are having any of the following symptoms:
• Difficulty swallowing. It feels like what you eat or drink is getting stuck somewhere between your throat and stomach.
• Unexplained weight loss.
• Blood in your stool. It’s a misconception that if the blood is bright red, it’s not serious. In most instances, bright red blood represents a benign issue, but it warrants investigation.
• Black or extremely dark stools.
• A change in bowel habits, including frequent constipation or diarrhea, or a change in stool shape, such as pencil-thin or flattened stools.
• Frequent heartburn for extended periods of time, requiring continued use of medication. Patients with this type of issue often require an endoscopy, a procedure used to visually examine your upper digestive system.
How can I prevent acid reflux?
You can’t prevent it, but you can alleviate the symptoms. Acid reflux occurs when the valve or sphincter at the entrance to the stomach isn’t working as it should, allowing the gastric contents of your stomach to move up into your esophagus. The most caustic component of the gastric contents is acid. It can cause discomfort in your abdomen, chest or even your throat.
Lifestyle modifications can alleviate some of the distress.
To reduce acid reflux:
• Elevate the head of your bed six inches. This simple change has been shown to work as effectively as taking medication. It’s not enough to add an extra pillow under your head. You’ll need to put bed risers or bricks under the legs of the bed or a wedge under the mattress.
• Don’t eat close to bedtime.
• Eat a low-fat diet.
• Eliminate carbonated beverages, alcohol, chocolate, peppermint or spearmint from your diet.
If you only have symptoms two or three times a week, it’s OK to take over-the-counter medication as long as you’re being seen by a physician. Your doctor may recommend different kinds of drugs, including a foaming agent like Galvescon, H2 blockers or proton pump inhibitors.
Patients with intractable symptoms or complications from acid reflux may require surgery.
Richard Stewart, DO, is a board-certified gastroenterologist practicing with Beaufort Memorial Lowcountry Medical Group. He received his medical degree from the University of Medicine and Dentistry in Stratford, New Jersey, and completed his internship and residency in internal medicine, as well as a fellowship in gastroenterology, at Kennedy Memorial Health in New Jersey. He can be reached at 843-770-0404.
Should everyone eat gluten-free?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, which is hard for some people to digest. About 1-2 percent of the population has celiac disease, and these people MUST avoid gluten. About 1 in 7 people have a gluten sensitivity, which means they may exhibit symptoms ranging from GI upset, migraines, bloating, skin disorders, brain fog, fatigue, or anemia. Thus, if you have some sort of intolerance to gluten, it’s best to replace any whole wheat with gluten-free grains.
Gluten is not bad for everyone. Eat it in small amounts, and take note of how you feel. If something doesn’t feel right, going without grains for a few days may help you determine any concerns you may have. If you suspect you have problems, there are tests your health provider can run to make sure you are not gluten intolerant.
For those who do have gluten sensitivity, a gluten-free diet is helpful. While grocery aisles are full of gluten-free products—this is totally market driven. The majority of these products are not health foods. Many are highly refined carbohydrates. Eating gluten-free foods that are higher in fat, sugar and calories and low in fiber is not a healthy choice. Gluten-free does not necessarily mean healthy. A gluten-free cake is still a cake. EAT WHOLE FOODS.
Take away: Keep a record of your symptoms. See your provider about testing options. Eat whole foods, and eliminate processed foods.
How much fiber is a healthy amount, and why is it important?
Fiber (found naturally in vegetables, fruits, starch, beans, lentils and whole grains) helps fill you up, lowers your cholesterol, regulates your digestive system, stabilizes your blood sugar, and so much more.
It is recommended adults get 25-30 grams or more of fiber every day. However, the average American is consuming 15 grams or less each day.
Not all fiber is created equal. The kinds you see fortified in packaged foods are not ideal. The best way of getting fiber is from whole foods. If you eat a diet filled with unprocessed foods, and include plenty of fruits and vegetables, chances are you are covering your fiber needs. In the process of eating whole, unprocessed foods, you are also getting added nutrients, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Here are a few tips to help increase your fiber intake:
1) Don’t drink pre-made juices. Instead opt for whole pieces of fruits and veggies, including the skin (if edible).
2) Skip products with refined flour/grains. Eat only 100 percent whole grains that have their natural brans and germs intact.
3) Switch snacks to raw vegetables, hummus and fruit.
4) Eat a large salad with plenty of veggies, beans and nuts at least once a day.
5) Add healthy sources of fats, like avocados and seeds.
Jennifer Burks is an Advance Practice Registered Nurse and Certified Nurse Midwife (APRN, CNM) with over 25 years of experience. At Pure Medical Spa, Burks offers nutritional counseling, HCG Diet Counseling, MIC injections, adrenal testing and hormone balancing among other services for both men and women. At Pinnacle Women’s Health, Burks offers annual gynecologic exams, PAP smears, breast exams and family planning to women and adolescents. She specializes in bio-identical hormone replacement for menopausal and peri-menopausal issues. She can be reached at 843.815.6699.
Is there anything to detoxing?
Does it help?
What is the best way to detox?
Detoxing is a complex subject because a person first has to define what is “toxic” to their system, and then decide whether or not an intervention is needed.
In popular culture the term “detox” is apparently being used to describe diets or supplements that supposedly “flush toxins” out of one’s body. Without knowing exactly what is being tried it’s impossible to know whether or not it makes medical sense to try these methodologies. For the most part, most people do not need to take any herbs, powders, supplements or use enemas to stay healthy. There are, of course, exceptions to most rules. If you’re uncertain what to do, contact your physician with your specific issue.
Who needs to take probiotics?
A few studies have hinted probiotic pills might improve health, but most doctors say there is not enough evidence to say for sure. You probably should not take probiotics unless your doctor or nurse tells you to. In most cases there is no proven benefit to taking probiotic pills.
What are the top things to do for healthy digestion?
Eating foods with a lot of fiber may help improve digestion and may help to prevent heart disease and strokes. If you have type 2 diabetes, it can also help control your blood sugar. High fiber foods include: vegetables, beans, oatmeal, fruits and high fiber breads and whole grain cereals. It is recommended to eat about 30 grams of fiber each day. Try to eat fruits and vegetables at each meal and for snacks. Eat at least 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
Water intake is just as important as fiber for healthy digestion. Most people need at least 8 glasses of water each day.
We all need calcium and vitamin D to help keep our bones strong. Foods that have calcium and vitamin D include milk, cheese, kale, broccoli and yogurt. People who don’t get enough calcium and vitamin D in their diet may need to take a supplement.
Trans fats found in margarines, many fast foods, and other items are generally unhealthy. Trans fats can raise your cholesterol and your chance of getting heart disease. Try to avoid eating foods with trans fats. Polyunsaturated fats found in fish, on the other hand, seem to be healthy and might reduce a person’s chance of developing heart disease. When you cook, consider oils with healthier fats such as olive and canola oils.
Michael Gilbreath, MD, Board Certified Gastroenterologist.
Offices on Hilton Head Island and New River/Hardeeville.
He can be reached at 843-681-6668.