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Early signs of digestive problems in women

Laura Owens is a freelance writer who specializes in natural health, mood balancing, psychology, social trends and motherhood. She lives in Orlando, Florida. You can reach her at laao@cfl.rr.com or http://lauraowens.wordpress.com.

Grumble, grumble

When there's inflammation, constipation or any distress, your intestinal tract can’t do its job. Listening to your gut’s SOS is a sure way to cure what ails your belly and to prevent potentially serious health hazards down the road.

Woman with stomach pains

Although your brain is the head honcho of your body, your digestive tract is the central processing unit. From beginning to end, a healthy digestive tract is critical to feeling good, functioning well and avoiding some pretty serious diseases. The digestive tract is designed to take in nutrients to feed every cell of your body; it also serves as a key support system for your immune system.

Early symptoms

What's noteworthy is how often your symptoms appear, when (always after eating?) and to what degree. If you experience any of the following symptoms on more than an ate-and-drank-too-much-last-night basis, it's time to pay close attention:

  • Regular upper indigestion or heartburn
  • Regular gas, bloating or flatulence
  • Partially digested food or oils in the stool
  • Intestinal cramping or pain with foods or with defecation
  • Joint pain or stiffness and skin problems
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Vomiting
  • Belching, regurgitation, throat clearing, sore throat
  • Occult (hidden) blood in stool

 

Health Issues That Affect Digestive Functioning

When your GI tract is constantly off kilter, you run the risk of actually creating systemic (throughout your body) inflammation, which can lead to an overactive immune response, increased oxidative stress, insulin resistance and increased fat tissue deposits. Be aware of the following types of issues:

  • Malabsorption. This is your body's inability to absorb adequate nutrients. Your weight may actually increase although you're starving your body of the nutrition it needs.
  • Immune system issues. A poor immune function, chronic infection and other issues can trigger autoimmune diseases that strike the GI tract.
  • Food sensitivities or food allergies. Food sensitivities are common and often the cause of digestive problems.
  • Common allergies or sensitivities include gluten, dairy, eggs and MSG, and can lead to intense cravings for the very food that causes the imbalance.
  • Lactose intolerance is caused by your body's inability to make the enzyme that digests the lactose sugar in milk. Eating foods with lactose causes many of the intestinal or abdominal problems of malabsorption. Lactose intolerance is often an early warning sign of potential gluten intolerance. And in turn, unchecked gluten intolerance can lead to the more serious celiac disease.
  • Progressive deterioration of the intestinal wall. This can lead to leaky gut syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diverticulitis or Crohn's disease.

Diverting Digestive Distress

The cause of many digestive disruptions and GI diseases is often poor nutrition, which leads to an imbalance in the intestinal flora of the gut. The friendly bacteria living in our digestive tracts are almost like organs in our bodies, and critical ones at that. Yet our regular, high-carb American diet heavy on sugars and processed foods creates the perfect recipe for dysbiosis, a condition that results when bad bacteria and yeast have overgrown in the intestinal tract. Dysbiosis is often linked with yeast infections, irritable bowel syndrome and rheumatoid arthritis. A round of antibiotics can cause dysbiosis because they kill the bad and the good bacteria. It's good practice to supplement with probiotics after a course of antibiotics to replace the good bugs.

Other ways to improve your digestive health include:

  • lowering your sugar, wheat and dairy intake
  • eating well-balanced, nutritious meals
  • taking a high-quality nutritional supplement, a digestive enzyme with meals and an active-culture probiotic to restore proper bacterial balance
  • drinking lots of water
  • chewing your food thoroughly.

If your gut is chronically telling you something, learn to listen. Maintaining strong GI health is a critical pathway to overall well being and in many cases, disease prevention.

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