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Concerned about Gastrointestinal Upsets
by our Health Guru

"From time to time, and with increasingly regularity lately, I experience gastrointestinal upsets. What can I do to eliminate, or at least manage, them, and should I be concerned that they are signs of something more serious?"

our Health Guru's Answer:
Nearly all of us experience gastrointestinal upsets from time to time. Often they are not serious. But, since you've indicated that your problems have been increasing lately, I recommend that you meet with your physician because GI problems can be signs of more serious health issues, including cancer. So your first step is ruling out something more serious. To do this, your physician will most likely schedule you for testing. Useful tests include stool testing, which can screen for cancer, and also parasite infection, which is far more common in the United States than most people realize.

If you are over age 45, I recommend that you also consider a colonoscopy. Other possible causes of the symptoms you are experiencing include GERD, food allergies and/or sensitivities, irritable bowel, hiatal hernia, and diverticulosis and diverticulitis. Depending on the nature of your symptoms your doctor may want to have you tested for one or more of these as well.

If you test negative for the above health issues, your next step should be to examine your eating habits. By all means, seek to eat only healthy, nourishing foods, and be sure to include fiber-rich foods such as vegetables and complex carbohydrates in every meal. I also recommend that you try to minimize your fluid intake as you eat, as this can interfere with your body's ability to digest food. Try to drink most of your beverages at least 20 minutes before or after you eat. And you should, of course, also avoid eating unhealthy food products, as well as any foods for which you might be sensitive.

If you experience symptoms such as gas or heartburn after you eat, I also recommend that you consider supplementing with digestive enzymes, taking one capsule just before you eat each meal.

However, given that you did not mention what type of symptoms you have, and that you are experiencing them with greater frequency, it bears repeating that the first thing you should do is consult with your physician so that he or she can more properly advise you of your best course of action.

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