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Digestive Health

Digestive Health

 

Digestion is a complex process that is occurring in our bodies all the time. It is responsible for breaking down the food that we eat and converting it into nutrients that can be absorbed by the body. Digestion starts in the mouth, and involves the oesophagus, stomach, gall bladder, large intestine, small intestine and anus.

 

Common digestive problems include:

nausea and vomiting,  

heartburn,  

reflux,  

diarrhoea,  

constipation,  

gas, and  

abdominal pain and bloating.      

 

Causes  

There are a range of things that can cause digestive complaints including problems digesting particular foods, certain medications, surgery and medical conditions.  

 

Common medical conditions which may affect your digestion include coeliac disease and crohn’s disease.  

 

Food intolerances are common causes of complaints about the digestive system. They occur when our body doesn’t make enough enzymes to break down certain natural sugars properly. This results in Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) which may cause diarrhoea, gas, abdominal pain and/or bloating.  An Accredited Practising Dietitian can help you determine which sugars your digestive system is struggling with, and help you to reduce these from your diet to minimize symptoms, then build up your tolerance once again.  

 

Eating too quickly, eating portion sizes which are too large and consuming a diet high in spicy foods are common triggers for reflux and heartburn. A diet low in fibre can increase your risk of conditions such as constipation, hemorrhoids, diverticular disease and bowel cancer.      

 

Diagnosis and treatment  

Diagnosis of digestive disorders usually involves a review of your symptoms with your health care professional. It may mean eliminating certain foods from your diet, or undergoing further diagnostic tests such as a colonoscopy to look for any abnormalities in your digestive tract. Treatment then depends upon the problem identified and may require a simple lifestyle change or medication.      

 

Prevention 

Some simple steps can be taken in order to maintain a healthy digestive system. Ensure that you:  

  • eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruit, vegetables, and grains,  
  • drink plenty of water,  
  • participate in regular physical activity,  
  • maintain a healthy weight,  
  • monitor your stress levels, and  
  • avoid or quit smoking.      

 

Disclaimer  

The content displayed on this webpage is intended for informational purposes and is a guide only. It does not replace or substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Information contained on this webpage must be discussed with an appropriate healthcare professional before making any decisions or taking any action based on the content of this webpage.      

 

Sources

http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/the-healthy-woman/digestive_health.pdf http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Digestive_system

http://patients.gi.org/topics/digestive-health-tips/

 

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