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Can a Gut Check Boost Sleep, Sex and Brain Power?
05/02/12 10:27 AM

Can a Gut Check Boost Sleep, Sex and Brain Power?

By Treacy Colbert
April 27, 2012

Americans feel it in their guts. Poor health, that is, the combined consequences of an unwholesome diet, stress, aging, and not drinking enough water.

Every year, more than 90 million Americans seek help from a doctor for gut-related problems such as acid reflux, pancreatitis, gallstones, and irritable bowel syndrome, according to the American College of Gastroenterology. With a few simple and straightforward steps, you can improve your GI tract function, boost your overall health, and perhaps avoid being one of those 90 million in the doctors office.

Your gut not only digests your food, but is integrally linked to brain function, hormones associated with sleep and thinking, sex drive, the heart, the bodys muscles, and immune function, according to Steven Lamm, M.D., internist and clinical faculty member at New York University Medical Center. His book, No Guts, No Glory (Basic Health Publications, 2012), outlines a plan for treating your gut with the respect it deserves.

Three Squares

Where to start? Lamm suggests beginning with a regular meal schedule. Skipping meals, rich, late-night repasts, and erratic snacking throughout the day tax your system. Try the old standby, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, which almost seems like a quaint concept in our world where food is everywhere.

Take Time to Eat

Enjoying your food also helps you digest it properly, Lamm maintains. If youre in the habit of absently stuffing something in your mouth at your desk so that you can keep working, consider slowing down. Take the time to savor and chew your food. Hastily swallowing food without chewing it properly can also sets the stage for digestive problems.

Eating and Sleeping

Rest is an integral part of healthy digestion. The National Sleep Foundation reports that 20 percent of Americans say they get six hours or less of sleep a night, a level of sleep deprivation that can contribute to a host of health problems, including digestive issues. Aim for eight to nine hours. Impossible, you say? Switch off the television, smartphone, and computer in the evening, and log the extra time in bed rather than on the screen. Your gut will thank you.

Eating and Drinking

You need water, and plenty of it, to digest your food well. Sip throughout the day, and dont wait until thirst strikes. Coffee or beer wont count as part of your healthy liquid intake. In fact, easing up on alcohol will improve your health, and limiting your caffeine can help you feel less stressed.

The Raw Truth

Overly processed and refined foods trigger many gut-related illnesses, Lamm says. He advises swapping out one cooked meal with a meal made with raw ingredients every day. Raw fruits and vegetables contain important enzymes needed for digestion, and these enzymes are often destroyed in the process of cooking. Try oatmeal with fruit or a smoothie for breakfast, and make lunch a crisp salad, fresh fruit, or veggie wrap. If youre considering switching to a mostly vegetarian diet, try a gradual approach to avoid having a lot of gas at first.

Relax

Butterflies, a knot, churning, flip-floppingthese terms describe the effect of stress on the gut. Taking a relaxing walk after a healthy meal is a good antidote to stress, Lamm notes. Build some form of regular relaxation into your daily schedulea few minutes of gentle yoga stretching, a pause to meditate or listen to musicthis act of unwinding helps cut your stress level.

Changes with Age

Digestive changes or problems arent inevitable with age, says Thai-Van Nguyen, M.D., a gastroenterologist with Gastroenterology Consultants in Los Alamitos and on staff at Los Alamitos Medical Center. Some older adults have problems with constipation or diarrhea, she says, but this is frequently linked to certain medications, immobility, dietary restrictions, or other medical conditions, and not necessarily a result of getting older.

Many older adults taking blood pressure pills, proton pump inhibitors, or certain antacids can experience medication-related changes in digestion, says David A. Drake, M.D. a gastroenterologist with Long Beach Gastroenterology Associates and on staff at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center. He frequently sees patients admitted to the hospital for ulcers or bleeding in the GI tract from nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, which are often used to treat arthritis. A lot of older folks end up on multiple medications, he notes. It can be hard to tell whats in the soup and how the medications are interacting.

Slowing Down on Supplements May Help

Roughly half of all Americans reach for vitamins or other dietary supplements with a goal of improving their health. But sometimes supplements can result in stomach discomfort, says Drake. Fish oil is very popular now, but it can cause flatulence and bloating, he notes. Menopausal women who take calcium may experience constipation, and a calcium-magnesium supplement produces the opposite, diarrhea from the magnesium. I sometimes ask patients to stop all supplements for a week or two to see if their symptoms change, Drake says. Then Ill ask them to add the supplements back one at a time.

What about probiotic supplements? Probiotics are bacteria that prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and maintain the balance in your intestinal system. Of the roughly 400 kinds of probiotic bacteria in your system, the type found in the largest amount is lactic acid bacteria. When you eat yogurt with live cultures, youre taking in this type of probiotic. Look for yogurt with the fewest ingredients, and with live active cultures on the label.

David Drake observes that selecting a probiotic supplement can be bewildering, as health food store shelves are jammed with multiple varieties, some of which are very pricey. The trials investigating the role of probiotic supplements have been small, notes Thai-Van Nguyen. Well have a better idea in the future about probiotic pathways and their role in the bowel when more research is done, she says.


http://belmontshore.patch.com/articles/gut-check-1a95b0b-health-can-boost-sleep-sex-brain-power-digestive-health-doctors-say-long-beach

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Heather is the Administrator of the IBS Message Boards. Shes the author of Eating for IBS and The First Year: IBS, and the CEO of Heather's Tummy Care. Join her IBS Newsletter. Meet Heather on Facebook!

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. * Treatment options in irritable bowel syndrome HeatherAdministrator 09/26/04 02:57 PM
. * Diagnostic approach to suspected irritable bowel syndrome HeatherAdministrator 09/12/04 03:38 PM
. * Dyssynergic Defecation: Demographics, Symptoms, Stool Patterns, and Quality of Life HeatherAdministrator 09/12/04 03:35 PM
. * Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth - A Framework for Understanding IBS HeatherAdministrator 08/30/04 01:46 PM
. * New views - and some respect - for IBS HeatherAdministrator 08/30/04 01:25 PM
. * Categorization of dysmotility in patients with chronic constipation HeatherAdministrator 08/08/04 02:54 PM
. * Prevalence of IBS according to different diagnostic criteria HeatherAdministrator 08/08/04 02:50 PM
. * Irritable Bowel Can Follow Dysentery HeatherAdministrator 08/08/04 02:37 PM
. * Irritable Bowel Syndrome Remains a Difficult Condition to Manage HeatherAdministrator 07/24/04 02:09 PM
. * Intolerance to visceral distension in functional dyspepsia or irritable bowel syndrome HeatherAdministrator 07/24/04 02:17 PM
. * Bacillary dysentery as a causative factor of irritable bowel syndrome and its pathogenesis HeatherAdministrator 07/24/04 01:42 PM
. * Irritable Bowel Syndrome Linked to High Rates of Various Surgeries HeatherAdministrator 07/11/04 02:15 PM
. * Drug-Free Ways to Treat IBS HeatherAdministrator 07/11/04 01:47 PM
. * Irritable Bowel Syndrome - An Evidence-Based Approach to Diagnosis HeatherAdministrator 06/27/04 01:14 PM
. * Biases Affect Treatment of IBS HeatherAdministrator 06/04/04 06:45 PM
. * Moms with Bowel Symptoms Take Baby to Doctor More HeatherAdministrator 05/25/04 11:53 AM
. * Natural History of Irritable Bowel Syndrome HeatherAdministrator 05/10/04 02:36 PM
. * Intestinal Gas May Contribute to IBS Symptoms HeatherAdministrator 05/10/04 02:29 PM
. * Are Your Bowels Irritable? IBS Awareness Month is Here HeatherAdministrator 04/09/04 07:11 PM
. * Heartburn May Not Reflect Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease Severity HeatherAdministrator 03/30/04 02:43 PM
. * A link between irritable bowel syndrome and fibromyalgia HeatherAdministrator 03/30/04 01:46 PM
. * Diverticular Disease: Electrophysiologic Study and a New Concept of Pathogenesis HeatherAdministrator 03/09/04 11:48 AM
. * New Syndrome Connects Gallbladder Dysfunction And Chronic Diarrhea HeatherAdministrator 03/09/04 11:45 AM
. * Researchers Pioneer Accessible, Cost-Effective Treatments for IBS HeatherAdministrator 03/08/04 06:48 PM
. * Splitting IBS: from original Rome to Rome II criteria HeatherAdministrator 02/10/04 02:35 PM
. * Utilization patterns and net direct medical cost to Medicaid of IBS HeatherAdministrator 02/10/04 02:34 PM
. * Family practitioners' attitudes and knowledge about IBS HeatherAdministrator 02/10/04 02:32 PM
. * The Effect of Somatization on Gastrointestinal and Extraintestinal Symptoms of IBS HeatherAdministrator 01/26/04 03:26 PM
. * Surgery and IBS HeatherAdministrator 01/26/04 03:21 PM
. * IBS Subgroups by Bowel Habit Predominance HeatherAdministrator 01/26/04 03:13 PM
. * Visceral perception thresholds in irritable bowel syndrome HeatherAdministrator 01/07/04 11:56 AM
. * Electric activity of the colon in irritable bowel syndrome HeatherAdministrator 01/07/04 11:52 AM
. * Irritable Bowel Syndrome's Possible Genetic Link HeatherAdministrator 01/07/04 11:40 AM
. * Intestinal gas distribution determines abdominal symptoms HeatherAdministrator 12/16/03 12:27 PM
. * Faecal incontinence - Many treatment options now exist HeatherAdministrator 12/16/03 12:17 PM
. * Abnormal Colonic Propagated Activity in Patients with Constipation HeatherAdministrator 12/16/03 12:07 PM
. * Colonic Propulsive Impairment in Intractable Slow-Transit Constipation HeatherAdministrator 12/16/03 12:03 PM
. * Overlapping upper and lower GI symptoms in IBS patients with constipation or diarrhea HeatherAdministrator 12/01/03 05:51 PM
. * Familial aggregation of irritable bowel syndrome HeatherAdministrator 12/01/03 05:49 PM
. * Outlook affects bowel disorder patients HeatherAdministrator 11/18/03 03:30 PM
. * Doctors unmoved by bowel misery HeatherAdministrator 11/18/03 03:28 PM
. * Travelers' Diarrhoea Can Trigger Irritable Bowel HeatherAdministrator 11/04/03 03:21 PM
. * Mind-Body Technique Eases Kids' Gut Pain HeatherAdministrator 10/30/03 11:17 AM
. * Molecular Alterations In Patients With Irritable Bowel Syndrome HeatherAdministrator 10/20/03 03:46 PM
. * Three in Four People With IBS Also Have Functional Dyspepsia HeatherAdministrator 10/15/03 03:28 PM
. * Infectious Gastroenteritis Linked to Irritable Bowel Syndrome HeatherAdministrator 09/30/03 02:27 PM
. * Association Between Pain Episodes & High Amplitude Pressure Waves in IBS HeatherAdministrator 09/16/03 03:54 PM
. * Constipation and its management HeatherAdministrator 09/16/03 03:41 PM
. * Contributions of suggestion, desire, and expectation to placebo effects in IBS patients HeatherAdministrator 09/16/03 03:28 PM
. * Do published guidelines for evaluation of IBS reflect practice? HeatherAdministrator 08/30/03 02:40 PM
. * Cognitive-behavioral therapy versus education and desipramine versus placebo for IBS HeatherAdministrator 08/12/03 12:54 PM
. * Distinctive features of postinfective irritable bowel syndrome HeatherAdministrator 07/28/03 03:18 PM
. * UCLA/CURE Neuroenteric Disease Program Newsletter HeatherAdministrator 07/23/03 10:38 AM
. * Bacterial Overgrowth in IBS HeatherAdministrator 07/18/03 12:15 PM
. * Diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome. HeatherAdministrator 07/18/03 11:54 AM
. * Eradication of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth reduces symptoms of IBS HeatherAdministrator 07/18/03 11:44 AM
. * Antibiotics increase functional abdominal symptoms. HeatherAdministrator 07/18/03 11:41 AM
. * Treatment of the irritable bowel syndrome. HeatherAdministrator 07/15/03 11:02 PM
. * Extraintestinal symptoms in IBS and IBD HeatherAdministrator 07/15/03 06:21 PM
. * Postinfectious irritable bowel syndrome. HeatherAdministrator 07/15/03 06:19 PM
. * Dieting severity and GI symptoms in college women. HeatherAdministrator 07/15/03 01:13 PM
. * Functional GI disorders and eating disorders - Relevance of the association HeatherAdministrator 07/15/03 11:14 AM
. * Features of eating disorders in patients with IBS HeatherAdministrator 07/15/03 11:12 AM
. * New and Important Insights Into IBS HeatherAdministrator 07/14/03 03:24 PM
. * The Irritable Bowel Syndrome-Fibromyalgia Connection HeatherAdministrator 07/14/03 03:19 PM
. * Update on Treatment of Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders HeatherAdministrator 07/14/03 02:55 PM
. * Irritable bowel syndrome in primary care: The patients and doctors views HeatherAdministrator 07/14/03 02:43 PM
. * Inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome: separate or unified? HeatherAdministrator 07/14/03 02:32 PM

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