Your digestive system plays a major role in your overall health and brings essential nutrients your body needs so when it's in trouble, you will experience uncomfortable symptoms like bloating, abdominal pain, indigestion and more. Digestive health is vital to your well-being and knowing the signs that indicate you should have your digestion checked is key to staying healthy and feeling great. Read on to learn what experts told us about digestion—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Why Digestion is Important
Stephen Riggs, MD at MercyOne tells us, "Your digestive system extracts energy and nutrients from your food, detoxifies toxins, kills unwanted bacterial and viral invaders, selectively absorbs water and nutrients while getting rid of waste products, and provides necessary vitamins and minerals."
What to Know About Your Digestive System
Dr. Riggs says, "We are becoming aware that even more than absorption of nutrients, our gut and the trillions of bacteria that live there have wide ranging effects on our health and appears to be key to everything from diabetes, obesity, fatty liver disease, dementia, cancer, and heart disease plus a host of mental health disorders from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder to anxiety and depression. As Hippocrates said, 'All disease begins in the gut.' Turns out he was right!"
Common Digestive Issues
Dr. Matt Fabian, a bariatric surgeon at MercyOne says, "The common issues we see our patients dealing with are heartburn/reflux, food sticking, vomiting, belly pain, too much burping, not enough or too many bowel movements, and excessively passing gas."
When Digestive Issues are Considered Serious
According to Dr. Fabian, "Digestive issues should be considered serious when you notice the following issues, painful swallowing, worsening difficulty with bowel movements or severe sudden pain lasting for more than two hours. Other symptoms you'll want to watch for include waking up at night coughing, vomiting undigested or partially digested food on a regular basis, bloody or black tarry stools and vomiting blood."
How Digestive Issues Can Affect Overall Health and Daily Lives
Dr. Fabian says, "Digestive issues can reduce productivity at work, make social situations embarrassing, and make sleep difficult. More serious issues could be life threatening or require medications and/or surgery. "
Warning Signs Your Body is Trying to Give You About Digestion
Dr. Riggs explains, "Abdominal pain, bloating, excessive gas, chronic constipation, diarrhea and all signs of GI disruption. Though the treatment and specific diagnosis can be complex and you need to seek medical attention for these symptoms, a major improvement can be seen in many people by avoiding sugar and processed food. Also, we are not cows; do not graze. Eat only when hungry and if you're not hungry don't eat!"
What Causes Digestive Problems
Dr. Fabian shares, "Causes for digestive problems could come from eating too much food, not drinking enough water or lack of chewing our food to a puree consistency prior to swallowing. Additional factors that can cause digestive problems are: Consuming beverages containing acid or taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID), infections, food allergies, gallstones, hiatal hernia, eating too many fermentable foods like lactose, fructose, gluten, other beans/veggies, or even cancer."
Mary Steffensmeier, a registered dietitian at MercyOne adds, "There are many digestive diagnoses, so the first thing to do is to work with a medical professional who can order diagnostic tests. This could lead to a nutrition prescription of an individualized nutrition plan developed by a registered dietitian. A registered dietitian will review the diagnostic tests and help narrow down the list of foods to eat or avoid. These could include such changes as adding or eliminating fiber; fructose restriction; fat reduction, gluten restriction; dairy elimination; or eliminating certain carbohydrate types. These restrictions can be confusing and challenging so work with an experienced team who can help guide you through any challenges."
How to Help Prevent Digestive Issues
Dr. Fabian tells us, "One of the best ways to prevent digestive issues is to follow a daily routine that could include bedtime at 10 p.m. and waking up at 6 a.m. Start each morning by drinking 32 ounces of water before you do anything else. Include 30 minutes of exercise into your day. Throughout your day, drink another 32 ounces of water. Try to avoid eating or drinking after 6 p.m. Foods called FODMAP (fermentable foods like lactose, fructose, gluten, other beans/veggies) can cause symptoms such as cramping, bloating, gassiness, diarrhea, and other uncomfortable issues."
Other Things to Keep in Mind
Dr. Fabian shares the following tips.
"Bowel movements should be of soft serve ice cream consistency.
Eat 60-100g protein each day.
Eat or drink 1 serving of fruit each day.
Eat or drink 2 servings of non starchy veggies each day.
Consider lactose intolerance. Milk has 10x lactose compared to cheese or yogurt.
Keep body weight within the normal range.
Avoid carbonated beverages.
Do not sip on pop or fruit flavored beverages throughout the day.
Do not consume too much caffeine."