07 February 2009

How Can I Avoid a Toxic Gut?

Does passing gas embarrass me? Yes. But it happens to all of us. And I just blame it on my little friends (and sometimes not so friendly), bacteria (1). Abdominal pain and diarrhea? If it were continual I'd start to worry, but I'd rest assured I wasn't alone. One in five of us is suffering from an inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs) such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn's (2). The pain and diarhea could also indicate Celiac disease or, if accompanied by nausea, pancreatits. Unfortunately if I had Celiac, it may be genetic, linked to leukocyte antigens (1). Pancreatis might mean gallstones, liver disease, or a viral infection (1). Mostly I worry about heartburn, which could become chronic and lead to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), but I'm happy to hear FDA just approved Kapidex, a new proton-pump inhibitor that has already helped 6,000 patients with healing (3).

With a little luck and a well-planned diet, I think I can avoid most of these conditions of digestion (except the gas) in the future. That old Mexican doctor who saved my life when I was in Puebla would agree. After I tried to take advantage of a few too many delicious chile rellenos and ended up in his Urgent Care office suffering from the worst diarrhea and vomiting of my life, he told me, "Your stomach is so inflamed you might've died. No more spicy foods." Then he gave me a shot back in the you-know-what. My bland diet of the last few years has kept the epithelial lining of my gut mucosa pretty healthy so far, but I could do more.

If I expect this tube I call my GI tract (from my mouth to my anus) to digest and absorb nutrients until I'm ancient, then I've got to eat smaller, gut-manageable meals (1p60). I can also drink my water between meals, not during to keep the meals small (1p60). Also, I can balance the macronutrients in my meals. For example, by keeping each meal higher in protein and lower in fat, I'd be doing myself a favor. Too much fat can weaken gastroeseophageal sphincter pressure potentially leading to reflux, and the extra protein could increase pressure helping me to avoid reflux (1p59). I'd avoid excess protein and alcohol because both can overstimulate hydrochloric acid secretion (1p59).

Other good news of a diet higher in protein and low in fat is that if I happen to suffer from IBDs or pancreatitis. Both conditions affect fat digestion and absorption necessitating a lower-fat diet, and the extra protein can correct any protein loss due to malabsorption of amino acids (1p60-61).

Luckily (cross my fingers) my Argentine mother provided me with the genes to handle the gluten. Pasta and pizza are staples in Argentine culture. But if Celiac disease does turn out to be a problem for me, then wheat and barley are out. I can't have my small intestine inflamed or my lymphocytes and cytokines to destroying my enterocyte absorptive surface (1p60-61). I'd end up switching to rice-flour Argentine food.

1. Gropper SS, Smith JL, Groff JL. Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth, 2009.

2. Mayo Clinic. "Irritable Bowel Syndrome." Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/irritable-bowel-syndrome/DS00106.

3. Hitti M. "FDA OKs New GERD Drug Kapidex Once-Daily Formula Approved to Treat GERD and Erosive Esophagitis." WebMD Health News. Available at: http://www.webmd.com/heartburn-gerd/news/20090206/fda-oks-new-gerd-drug-kapidex.

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