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How Food Can Affect GI Problems

It’s not uncommon for individuals to take the leap into changing their diet and make the decision to be healthy. For some, this decision stems from personal reasons; whether it is to lose weight or to make healthier lifestyle choices. However, many individuals are unable to have the luxury of eating any foods they desire. Those who suffer from gastrointestinal issues have to be extremely particular about what foods they consume. Because a segment of the population is negatively affected by certain types of foods, deciding what to eat each day is more of a job than a spontaneous act.

“The digestive system includes the 25-foot-long tube that processes food and nutrients, plus the liver, pancreas and gallbladder,” says Joyann Kroser, M.D., FACP, FACG, AGAF, CKHS gastroenterologist. “These organs break down and absorb the food we eat so that the nutrients can be transported into the bloodstream and delivered to cells throughout the body. ‘Good’ digestive health indicates an ability to process nutrients through properly functioning gastrointestinal organs, including the stomach, intestine, liver, pancreas and gallbladder. When these organs do not function properly, patients may need to see a gastroenterologist.”

Along with diagnosing rare disorders of the digestive system, gastroenterologists diagnose or treat the following common conditions:

• Colorectal cancer, including determining whether you have a genetic risk
• Viral hepatitis
• Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
• Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
• Diverticulitis, diverticulosis and ischemic bowel disease
• Celiac disease and food intolerances
• Heartburn and GERD
• Chronic vomiting and gastroparesis
• Functional illness, such as constipation, diarrhea, vomiting, belching and flatulence
• Peptic ulcer disease and Helicobacter pylori
• Acute and chronic pancreatitis
• Gallbladder disease
• Appendicitis
• Nutritional deficiencies
• Obesity
• Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
• Cirrhosis
• GI infections caused by viruses, bacteria, fungi and protozoa

Some people who have Irritable Bowel Syndrome have trouble digesting certain small carbohydrates (called FODMAPS) that cause gas and bloating. Reducing the intake of FODMAPS improves symptoms in the majority of patients. Examples of FODMAPS are:

• Apples
• Mangoes
• Pears
• Persimmons
• Watermelon
• Apricots
• Avocado
• Blackberries
• Cherries
• Nectarines
• Peaches
• Plums
• Prunes
• Sugar Snap Peas
• Artichokes
• Asparagus
• Beets
• Brussels Sprouts
• Cabbage
• Fennel
• Garlic
• Leek
• Legumes
• Okra
• Onions
• Peas
• Radicchio lettuce
• Shallots
• Cauliflower
• Mushrooms
• Snow Peas

Keep in mind that a high-fiber diet may improve chronic constipation, hemorrhoids, diverticular disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and colorectal cancer risk. The recommended amount of fiber intake is 20-35 grams per day. However, the average American’s intake is 10-15 grams per day. Therefore, try to double your daily fiber intake. Fruits that are highest in fiber are apples, pears (with skin), berries (blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries), dates, figs and prunes. Vegetables that are highest in fiber are beans (baked, black, lima, pinto), broccoli, chickpeas, lentils, artichokes, parsnips, peas, pumpkin, rutabaga and winter squash.

Abdominal bloating and discomfort may be due to intestinal sensitivity or symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. To relieve symptoms, avoid:

• Broccoli
• Baked beans
• Cabbage
• Carbonated drinks
• Cauliflower
• Chewing gum
• Hard candy

Foods that are likely to form gas include:

• Milk, dairy products and medications that contain lactose--If your body doesn't produce the enzyme (lactase) to break it down.
• Certain vegetables--baked beans, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage
• Certain starches--wheat, oats, corn, potatoes. Rice is a good substitute.

Eating high-fiber foods is a healthy choice for most people. However, if you have ever received medical treatment for a digestive problem, it is very important that you check with your doctor to find out if a high-fiber diet is the right choice for you.

To find out more information about Crozer-Keystone’s gastroenterology services, or to make an appointment, call 1-877-CKHS-GI1 (1-877-254-7441), or visit and fill out an appointment request form.

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