Gut Health, or Digestive Health, Is Important to Whole-Body Health
View All Section Pages
Our gut, or digestive system, is not always the hottest topic for conversation—especially at the dinner table—but it’s imperative to know how it works, general problems and preventive measures we can take to ensure it’s healthy.
Abram Eisenstein, MD, Cooper Clinic Director of Gastroenterology explains a few of the most common disorders our gut can experience. But first we’ll look at how the digestive system works.
You may hear our gut referred to as gastrointestinal (GI) tract or digestive system. These terms are synonymous and involve one integrated system with different organs. This includes the esophagus, stomach, small intestine and large intestine. Supporting these main organs are the liver, gall bladder and pancreas.
The main function of the digestive system is what you might expect: to digest food. We then absorb essential nutrients the body need for nourishment.
Equally as important as food absorption, the body’s immune system is very much controlled and influenced by the gut. Therefore keeping a healthy digestive system leads to a healthier immune system.
The gut also makes many different hormones. These hormones have roles in how the gut works and functions.
Frequent digestive problems cause millions of Americans to suffer daily and limit quality of life. Here are a few of problems many Americans experience.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
This is the most common and recognized disorder of the gut. Approximately 25-30 percent of GI patients have this condition. In fact, the majority of people with IBS never see a physician and would rather just live with the mild to moderate discomfort. Those with more severe symptoms often get diagnosed.
IBS is a function disorder meaning it’s a group of specific symptoms that don’t have a clear-cut explanation. Therefore there’s no simple cure. The symptoms often include abdominal discomfort, bloating, gas, diarrhea and/or constipation. The symptoms can continue for six months to years. It’s a chronic condition and discomfort for individuals.
Although the cause is not certain, many believe it is stress related. For those who experience severe symptoms, see a physician and seek possible help for stress and psychological issues. Other conditions could mimic IBS such as a bacterial infection, an inflammatory bowel disease or cancer, so it’s best to always see a physician.
Peptic (Stomach) Ulcers
Benign ulcers are very ordinary in the lining of the stomach or first part of the small intestine. Anywhere from 10-20 percent of people may develop a stomach ulcer in their lifetime. Symptoms include a burning pain in the middle or upper stomach in-between meals or at night, bloating and nausea, to name a few.
The most typical cause of stomach ulcers are H. Pylori bacteria. This germ lives in about 50 percent of humans’ stomachs but remains silent and is usually acquired as a child. The second most common cause of stomach ulcers is anti-inflammatories or nsaids such as Ibuprofen, Aleve, Advil and Motrin used in excessive amount.
Treatment for the bacteria-causing ulcers includes antibiotics. If the problem is excessive use of nsaids, the best treatment is to drastically reduce the amount consumed or stop altogether.
Hepatitis is the inflammation of the liver. The number one cause of hepatitis is a fatty liver. About one third of the U.S. population has excess fat in their liver, and a significant portion of that population develops hepatitis. Other causes include excessive alcohol use or hepatitis viruses A, B and C.
To treat the hepatitis viruses, medications are prescribed. A fatty liver is caused by obesity, which can be managed by practicing a healthy lifestyle.
Keeping a Healthy Gut
Keeping your gut healthy is fairly simple. Regular exercise helps the gut function smoothly and correctly. Oftentimes we eat too much, too fast and too late. This can cause gut disorders and discomfort. Therefore maintaining a healthy diet is great for your gut. It’s also important to manage stress which is beneficial to your entire body. Each of these solutions is a part of Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper’s 8 Steps to Get Cooperized™.
For more information about Cooper Clinic gastroenterology services or to book an appointment, click here or call 972.560.2667.
Article provided by Cooper Aerobics, Marketing and Communications.