Your digestive questions answered

Dr. Yoni Freedhoff answers our host and viewer's burning digestive health questions.
What's the deal with gluten? Is the current craze being exaggerated?
  • There's no question that there are more people buying into gluten sensitivity than actually have a gluten sensitivity. 
  • One out of a hundred people are thought to have celiac disease, which means they truly need to avoid gluten. Beyond that one per cent, studies would suggest perhaps as many as 15 per cent of people have some degree of non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
  • Right now, the gluten-free rage is more a consequence of our societal desire for simple solutions to complex problems.
What are some solutions for bloating 
Usually bloating occurs consequent to the natural processes of digestion. Beyond manipulating diet itself, there are five straightforward things that can be done:
  • Chew food more throughly to help breakdown cell walls and speed up digestion.
  • Take smaller bites so that you're less likely to swallow larger, unchewed chunks
  • Play around with probiotic and fermented foods – these may change your gut flora which in turn can have an impact on bloat.
  • Stay away from fake sugars that end in “ol” (i.e. xylitol, maltitol). These are often found in meal replacement shakes/bars/artificially sweetened products.
  • Keep a diary to look for specific foods that may be causing the problem.
Is there a link between IBS and breastfeeding?
  • It may have to do with changes to bacterial flora in the intestinal tract and similarly to the treatment of regular IBS and bloating, changing diet may affect both symptoms and the bacteria in the gut itself.
  • Sometimes bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine can lead to a development of lactose intolerance and the hope would be that if diet changed the gut flora, you may see improvements in dairy tolerance. 
  • Broadly a higher fat, lower carbohydrate, low fiber diet might be useful as something called the low FODMAP diet, which is useful for IBS.
  • FODMAP stands for fermentable oligo-, di-, and monosaccharides and polyols.
  • The FODMAPs, when consumed, lead to more fermentation in the gut and the production of gas, which may be causing symptoms. Generally the recommendation for IBS or severe bloating is six to eight weeks of eliminating high FODMAP foods and then slowly reintroducing them to see which are tolerable. 

How often should you be going number two?
  • There's no right number for number twos. For some, their bowel movements are multiple times a day. Others maybe as infrequent as once a week.
  • Most important thing to consider about your bowel movement is change. Sudden and sustained colour change may be indicative of medical problems. For example, shiny and black poo suggests blood. 
  • Size matters: If width/girth shrinks down and is consistently pencil thin, that suggests the possibility of a mass and should be checked out.
How much damage do detox teas do to your stomach?
  • Detox is a make-believe term, as is the notion that our bodies aren't able to detoxify naturally via liver, kidneys and skin. 
  • It's important to note that there's virtually no regulation in the supplement industry and consequently, you never really know what you're getitng.
Why does eating raw vegetables cause a sore stomach?
Cellulose and insoluble fibre (like cellulose) are the tough outer shell of vegetables. Those fibres aren't digested by the body, however they get worked on by gut bacteria, which in turn generates gas and bloating. When vegetables are cooked, the cellulose is softened and allows the body to more effectively break down the cell walls and digest fully.
To salt or not to salt?
  • Studies on salt consumption in people with salt responsive conditions (i.e. high blood pressure) reveal that salt reduction is important.
  • For those who don't have those conditions, it's less clear, however there are benefits to everyone by not salting. 
  • Given that the majority of dietary salt is coming from processed foods, try to salt your food from fresh, whole ingredients and focus your health energies on reducing processed foods.
For more on Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, follow him on Twitter and check out his blog.
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