Digestive Myths: Get the Facts

Myth: It Takes Years to Digest Gum

It may seem possible that gum could stay in your stomach for a long time, since it doesn’t dissolve in your mouth like other foods and your stomach can’t break it down like other foods, but there’s no truth to this claim. Gum doesn’t stick to your insides; your digestive system moves it along, just like everything else passing through, and it is eliminated in your stool in a few days.

Myth: Spicy Foods Cause Ulcers

In the past, spicy foods were thought to increase the risk of developing an ulcer. But this is no longer considered true. The majority of stomach ulcers are caused either by infection with a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) or by use of pain medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen, (NSAIDs). Spicy foods may aggravate existing ulcers in some people, but they do not cause ulcers.

Myth: Heavy Lifting Causes Hernias

Lifting heavy objects is not the sole cause of hernias. Hernias are caused by a combination of pressure and an opening or weakness in muscles lining the abdominal cavity. An organ or fatty tissue then bulges out through the opening. The most common types of hernias are: inguinal (inner groin), femoral (outer groin), umbilical (belly button), and hiatal (upper stomach).

Myth: Only Alcoholics Get Cirrhosis

We may associate alcoholism and cirrhosis — a condition in which healthy cells in the liver become damaged and replaced by scar tissue. It is true that alcoholism is the most common cause of cirrhosis cases in the U.S., but there are other causes, too. And although excessive alcohol consumption almost always leads to some liver damage, it does not always lead to cirrhosis. Other frequent causes of cirrhosis are hepatitis B and C.

Myth: Nuts Lead to Diverticulitis

In the past, people with diverticulitis, a condition in which pouches in the wall of the colon become inflamed and infected, were told to strictly avoid nuts, corn, and popcorn, and food with small seeds, like strawberries.. The fear was that indigestible pieces of these foods would lodge in the pouches and cause pain.

Myth: Beans Cause the Most Gas

Despite the many jokes about beans and flatulance, beans are not the No.1 culprit of gas. Dairy foods actually have that honor, particularly as we age and our bodies are less able to absorb the sugar in milk (lactose). So if you find yourself “tooting” after eating dairy, you’re not alone. Look for lactose-free products or take the over-the-counter enzyme lactase before you eat dairy foods.

Myth: No Dairy for Lactose Intolerant

People with lactose intolerance differ in their ability to tolerate dairy products. While one person may get symptoms from one glass of milk, others may be able to drink up to two. Some people can tolerate yogurt or ice cream, but never straight milk. Aged cheeses, such as Swiss and cheddar, are often better-tolerated dairy choices. It’s often a matter of trial and error to find out which dairy foods — and how much — are “safe” for you.

Myth: Smoking Relieves Heartburn

Contrary to the popular belief about a calming smoke, cigarette smoking may actually contribute to heartburn. Nicotine can relax the lower esophageal sphincter, a muscle between the esophagus and stomach, allowing the acidic contents of the stomach to splash back (reflux) into the esophagus. This increased acid reflux is the basis of heartburn.

Myth: Aging Causes Constipation

People are more likely to experience constipation as they get older, but the aging body itself is not to blame. Older adults are often taking medications to treat other conditions that can be constipating. They’re also less likely to be exercising enough, eating well, and taking in sufficient fluids, all of which contribute to constipation.

Myth: Fiber No Help With Diarrhea

On the surface, it seems counterintuitive that fiber, which is so well-known for improving constipation, could also aid with the flip side — diarrhea. But it’s true. Eating fiber-rich foods helps regulate the stool so that it’s not too hard or too loose. Fiber in the body works by either pulling more water from the colon to loosen stools (for constipation) or absorbing some of the fluid that is in the intestine to firm up stools (for diarrhea).

Myth: You’d Know If You Had Cancer

Colon cancer often has no symptoms at all until its later stages, which makes early detection so important. In general, screening of people at average risk begins at age 50 and include routine colorectal screening should include fecal occult blood tests annually, a flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years, and a colonoscopy every 10 years.

Myth: Heartburn? Sleep Sitting Up

There’s no medical backing to the claim that heartburn sufferers must sit up in bed to avoid the symptoms of heartburn the next morning. You may find some relief in elevating your head and chest 4-6 inches, either with pillows under your head or with a block under your bed. But that’s as upright as you need to go.

Myth: IBS Is All About Your Diet

Although certain foods can trigger irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms, changes to the diet are generally not enough. Sometimes just the act of eating can cause the abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, or constipation that IBS is known for. And stress and anxiety are other key components of IBS, often just as responsible for triggering symptoms. Keep a food and symptom journal to help you identify your specific triggers.

Myth: IBD Is Caused by Stress

While stress can aggravate many chronic conditions, the cause of inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD, remains unknown. IBD is a term that refers to both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, conditions in which there is inflammation in the lining of the small and/or large intestines. Genetics appear to play some role, as do changes in the body’s immune system, possibly from bacteria or a virus.

Myth: Celiac Means Ongoing Pain

Although the best known celiac disease symptoms include bloating, gas, and diarrhea, many people with the condition never have any of these symptoms. Celiac disease — an intolerance to the protein gluten — is frequently misdiagnosed when a health professional only looks for the classic symptoms. Other symptoms, which are just as prevalent, but unrelated to the gut, include: anemia, osteoporosis, depression, growth problems, and a skin rash called dermatitis herpetiformis.

SOURCE: http://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/ss/slideshow-digestive-myths


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