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Gut health

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Collagen has been deemed one of the most popular gut and beauty supplements, found in products ranging from lotions to tonics. With a quick Google search, you can find “proof” that collagen is a useful supplement for a myriad of gut health issues – leaky gut, liver health, IBS, acid reflux, IBD, inflammation, digestive upset, stomach ulcers, and regulating acid secretion – as well as a beauty fix, purportedly improving nail, hair, skin, and teeth health, and even boosting weight loss. But can a supplement really deliver all of these benefits? Let’s delve into the research and find out. What is Collagen? Collagen is the most widely found protein in the body, making up 25 to 35% of all body protein, and is present in our bones, teeth, skin, muscles, tendons, blood vessels, and even in our digestive organs. While 28 different types of collagen have been identified in the scientific literature, type 1 collagen…

Probiotics significantly improve chemotherapy-induced diarrhea, a common and often severe side effect of chemotherapy drugs, which can threaten the effectiveness of treatment. The study included 291 patients undergoing chemotherapy (Fluropyrimidines and/or Irinotecan specifically) -145 participants received a twice-daily dose of a high potency probiotic powder and 146 participants received a placebo powder twice daily. Treatment began 14 days before chemotherapy and continued 2 weeks following the third cycle of chemo. Results showed successful reduction in incidence of diarrhea (mild to moderate) and in patient inflammatory patterns. European Society for Medical Oncology  Takeaway: This study shows promising results from a high potency, multi-strain probiotic in reducing diarrhea in cancer patients receiving chemotherapy. Hopefully this will result in a better quality of life, a more balanced microbiome, reduction in sickness and death related to diarrhea, and more effective cancer treatment. However, probiotics are living organisms and can be problematic in immunocompromised patients, including some cancer…

Did you know that it may not be what you’re eating, but what you’re not eating that’s causing your GI distress? Most of us embark on dietary changes by omitting the culprits we believe cause us harm. Whether it’s gluten, dairy, processed sugar, or alcohol, our main focus is usually on subtracting the “bad” from our diets, rather than adding in the “good”. Even my SAD GAS diet encourages omitting those things that most often cause bloating and inflammation – soy, artificial sweeteners, dairy, gluten, alcohol, and sugar. While this subtraction can be an important and necessary step in healing, it’s not the only step, and it may not actually be the most important change to promote gut and microbial health. As a gastroenterologist, I’ve come to realize that in many cases, it’s not what you’re eating, but what you’re not eating that can be at the root of your symptoms. For example, the patients…

Did you know since laparoscopic technique was introduced into popular practice in the 1990s, the number of cholecystectomies (surgery for gallbladder removal) in the US has almost doubled? Laparoscopic cholecystectomy minimized what was a large incision to a few tiny punctures, reduced infection rates, scar tissue, hospital stay, and surgery time, and sped up healing and recovery. But is it an incredible coincidence that just as the surgery got easier, so many more people developed gallbladder problems—or are there additional reasons to explain why people are losing their gallbladders in record numbers? Technological advances in medicine always generate excitement, and doctors don’t always follow guidelines designed to prevent unnecessary procedures. Plus, some doctors believe an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and so have a low threshold for whipping out your gallbladder, even when the indication for surgery may be murky. If you aren’t asking lots of…

Did you know the recommended age for colorectal cancer (CRC) screening is now 45 for the general population (or those at average risk)? The age recommendation (previously 50) changed in May 2018 after researchers analyzed data and found that the rate of new CRC cases is increasing in younger adult populations. This new age recommendation will result in earlier CRC detection and will save more lives. While colonoscopy is the gold standard test for CRC screening and recommended every 10 years between ages 45 and 75 for those at average risk, stool-based tests can also be used, as long as immediate follow-up with a colonoscopy is performed in the presence of an abnormal test. These tests include an annual highly sensitive fecal immunochemical test (FIT), an annual highly sensitive guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT), and a multi-targeted stool DNA test (MT-sDNA) every 3 years. For some, screening is recommended…

Did you know women have longer colons than men – on average four to five inches longer? That may not seem like much but it can cause a lot of extra looping and twists and turns – what I like to call: The Voluptuous Venus Colon. Women also have a wider, deeper, pelvis in order to accommodate a fetus during pregnancy. This means that in women, the colon is located low down in the pelvis, where it has to compete for space with the reproductive organs. Men have a narrower pelvis so most of their colon ends up in the roomier abdominal area, and when it is in the pelvis, the only other thing taking up space there is a very small prostate gland. Men also have higher levels of testosterone, which causes their abdominal muscles to be tighter and stronger. In women, lower testosterone levels means a weaker abdominal wall…

Did you know that the enteric nervous system (ENS – the nervous system that controls the functions of the gut) has half a billion neurons – that’s five times the amount than in your spinal cord – which is why the gut is often referred to as “the second brain”? 90% of your “feel good” hormone, serotonin, and 50% of your dopamine is also located in the gut. The food you eat alters the response of your enteric nervous system, and this can have large impacts on your entire body.

Those who use antidepressants are significantly more likely to experience severe gastrointestinal bleeding, and the risk is increased in those who take over-the-counter pain relievers (such as Advil, Motrin, Aleve, Coumadin, aspirin, and Plavix). The 2019 review study looked at selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), prescribed to 13% of Americans 12 years and older and the most commonly prescribed medication in the United States. After a complete review of the literature, scientists found that those on SSRIs are 40% more likely to experience severe gastrointestinal bleeding and are at a higher risk of life threatening intracranial bleeding. Journal of the American Osteopathic Association →Takeaway: If you’re taking antidepressants and are wondering if you’re experiencing gastrointestinal bleeding, bright red blood in the stool or tarry stools are signs you can look for. If you experience either of these symptoms, contact you’re healthcare provider immediately. No matter how safe or harmless a medication seems, all…

Ultra-processed food and drinks (fish sticks, chicken nuggets, cookies, sweetened drinks, etc.) increase the risk of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and functional dyspepsia (FD or chronic indigestion). A recent French study analyzed dietary data from over 33,000 participants and found that approximately 16% of food consumed (by weight) was made up of ultra-processed foods, which account for more than 50% of caloric intake in the US, Canada, and the UK. The more processed foods consumed, the higher the risk of IBS and FD. The American Journal of Gastroenterology →Takeaway: If you suffer from IBS or chronic indigestion, eliminate processed foods from your diet by crowding them out with additional fruits and vegetables. If you have a craving for cookies, chicken nuggets, or any other processed food favorite, make a healthier version at home!

Daily calcium supplements are linked to an increased risk of colon polyps. 2,000 participants (aged 45 to 75), all with a history of polyps, were randomly assigned to take a daily calcium supplement, a daily vitamin D supplement, both, or neither for 3 or 5 years. Those who took the calcium supplement, both with and without vitamin D, experienced a significant increased risk of forming polyps 6 to 10 years after the start of the study. Calcium intake through food alone was not associated with an increased risk of polyps. Gut →Takeaway: While more research is needed to confirm these results, the reality is that supplements come with risks. Whenever possible, obtain your vitamins and minerals through whole foods – not only does this negate risk, it increases nutrient absorption when compared to synthetic sources. If you need additional calcium, consider these sources first: white beans, figs, Bok Choy, kale, black eyed peas,…