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Our digestive tract is considered to be the largest organ in our body where digestion and absorption takes place.
It provides a home for 50 trillion bacteria. Our small intestine is approximately 23 feet (the size of a football pitch), neatly coiled up in our abdomen and linking to the large intestine or colon which is approximately 5 feet long. There are many digestive conditions which can have a real impact on day to day life and there are lots of different factors influencing digestive conditions. Diet can be a major cause, but linked to this, there is also stress, general health, family history and medical history.
CONSTIPATION Do you suffer with constipation? Constipation is defined by the Roman Criteria as people suffering with two or more of the following symptoms:-
- Fewer than three bowel movements per week.
- Hard stool in more than 25% of movements.
- A feeling of incomplete evacuation in more than 25% of movements.
- Excessive straining in more than 25% of movements.
So what can cause constipation?
- Low dietary fibre intake
- Low fluid intake
- Side effects of medication
- Symptom of another condition such as IBS
IRRITABLE BOWEL (IBS)
Do you suffer with Irritable Bowel? The Roman III Criteria describes three IBS groups:-
- Diarrhoea predominant (IBS-D)
- Constipation predominant (IBS C)
- Mixed diarrhoea and constipation sufferers (IBS-M)
IBS is thought to affect up to 15% of the population in Europe and North America. Many are not medically diagnosed. Sufferers of IBS can experience:-
- Pain during defecation.
- Irregular defecation.
- Bloating and unintended weight loss
Conventional treatment of IBS includes antibiotic courses, steroids and antispasmodics for the pain, but these can have side effects as well as becoming addictive. Advice should be given on dietary intake of fibre, regular mealtimes and intake of sufficient fluids.
What is Diverticulitis?
Diverticulitis is the presence of sac-like protrusions of mucosa along the colon which become inflamed and can bleed. Diverticulitis is very common in the elderly, but can be found in younger adults below the age of 40.
So what causes it?
Evidence suggests that low fibre intakes are a causal factor. Low dietary fibre reduces the stool size which results in less pressure along the colon wall allowing the sacs to be formed.
Management of diverticulitis includes dietary changes, antibiotics and in some cases surgery. Alternative solutions: If the condition can be managed without the dependence of drugs, then it has to be better for the patient. Increasing daily fibre intake will have the effect of normalizing stool size and regulating peristalsis (the contraction of the smooth muscles) to propel contents through the digestive tract. This can result in regular bowel movements.
* It is worth consulting a Nutritionist alongside your Doctor as they may prescribe a specific diet and nutritional aids to soothe the condition.