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Increasing fiber intake relieves constipation and can be good for you

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August 6, 2021 3:45 p.m.

Yan Bi, MD, Ph.D., Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research

Posted: Aug 6, 2021 3:45 PM

Updated: August 6, 2021 10:36 p.m.

DEAR MAYO CLINIC: I have constipation almost every week and eating bran flakes every day doesn’t help. Are fiber supplements safe to use regularly and over the long term? Is there anything else I can do? I am a 53 year old woman and otherwise in excellent health.

ANSWER: When consumed in the recommended amounts, fiber is widely recognized to have health benefits, including relieving constipation. Adult women under the age of 50 should consume at least 25 grams of fiber per day. Women aged 51 and over should consume at least 21 grams per day. Adult men need at least 38 grams of fiber per day if they are younger than 50 and at least 30 grams of fiber per day if they are 51 and older. Ninety percent of the US population consume well below these recommendations, averaging just 15 grams of fiber per day.

High fiber foods include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Many grains, such as bran flakes, are good sources of fiber. While fiber supplements can fill the daily fiber gap, they usually only contain one type of fiber rather than a variety of fiber and micronutrients, and they may not offer all of the health benefits associated with fiber in food. So, first, increase your fiber intake in your diet by eating a wide variety of high-fiber foods.

If you still can’t get enough fiber to meet the daily recommendation, consider using a dietary supplement. But remember that not all fibers have laxative effects. Unfortunately, some can even cause constipation.

Fibers can be divided into soluble versus insoluble, fermentable versus non-fermentable, and coarse versus fine. In general, fermentable fiber can increase gas and wind without relieving constipation. Finely ground wheat bran and solid / fermented wheat dextran have been shown to exacerbate constipation. Coarse wheat and psyllium can increase stool water and stool mass and can be used to relieve constipation.

Before taking any fiber supplement, ask your doctor or pharmacist to review your medication. Dietary fiber supplements can reduce your intake of certain medications, including drugs used to treat thyroid disease, depression, diabetes, high cholesterol, seizures, and various heart conditions. Common drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and penicillin can also be affected by an increase in fiber. You can take your medication an hour before or two hours after consuming fiber to minimize the interactions.

Some fiber supplements may not be suitable for people with certain medical conditions. For example, if you have celiac disease, you may need to avoid wheat fiber. If you have diabetes, you may need to use a tasteless formula to avoid added sugar. Contact your doctor for information on the appropriate fiber supplement.

Go slowly when you start fiber therapy. Fiber supplements can cause gas, cramps, and gas, especially when you start on a high dose. Start with a low dose and gradually increase the amount of fiber. Do not add more than 50 grams of fiber per day to any dietary supplement, as this can affect the way your body absorbs nutrients. Your doctor can help you figure out what is right for you.

Drinking plenty of water and exercising regularly can also relieve constipation. You may also want to consider non-fiber products, such as stool softeners, stimulant medications that contract your bowels, enemas, or suppositories.

If increasing fiber does not improve your symptoms, see your doctor. Constipation can be a symptom of various underlying medical disorders, such as pelvic floor muscle dysfunction, slow gastrointestinal motility, anatomical abnormalities, or an endocrine disorder that may require other treatment.

(Mayo Clinic Q&A is an educational resource and does not replace regular medical care. Email a question to MayoClinicQ&A@mayo.edu. For more information, visit www.mayoclinic.org.)

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MOV Parent: Time for the lunch bell | News, Sports, Jobs

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The summer months are coming to an end and school is getting closer and closer. When you go back to school it can be difficult to start or continue a healthy lifestyle. It’s easy to choose unhealthy lunch and snack ideas. However, I want to share with you the importance of packing a healthy lunch and preparing a healthy snack when your kids go back to school.

1. Eating a healthy diet can improve your health today and for years to come. Think about how your food choices will be made up throughout the day or week to help you create a healthy eating routine.

2. It is important to eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, as well as dairy and fortified soy alternatives. Choose options for meals, drinks, and snacks with limited added sugar, saturated fat, and sodium.

Some of the negative effects that unhealthy school lunches have on children are mental and physical problems. Eating the wrong diet can lead to obesity or other weight problems. A child with poor diet is more likely to develop diabetes, kidney stones, and heart disease. Without proper nutrition, a child’s academic performance will decline. Sleep behavior is also affected when children do not eat enough nutritious foods. These children may also exhibit more aggressive behavior and lower attention spans.

When I was in school I packed my own lunch. Most of the time I just tossed everything I could find into a bag and called it lunch. I would wrap anything from cookies to leftover pizza. It wasn’t until I got a little older that I understood why I should choose healthier options. I decided to work on a healthier lifestyle and now cucumber and melon are my favorite food when I wrap lunch.

Becoming more aware of what to give your child for lunch, what your child is packing for lunch, and what groceries you bring around the house can help them feel better, be better, and be healthier.

As a parent, you can help your child choose healthier options by:

1. Regular family meals

2. Serving a wide variety of healthy foods and snacks

3. Be a role model by eating healthily yourself

4. Avoid fighting over food

5. Include children in the process

Figuring out the best lunch options for your child can be difficult. You could try some of these options:

* Turkey + cheddar roll-up, fresh berries, yogurt and trail mix

* Cheese quesadilla, guacamole, salsa, tortilla chips and strawberries

* Peanut butter and jelly sandwich, graham crackers, cheese spread and a peach cup

* Turkey slices, cheese cubes, pita wedges, hummus, baby carrots and celery

To make lunch more attractive to your child, try different foods. Some ideas include:

* Make potato salad or pasta salad multi-colored. Use fun noodles or add hard boiled eggs, beans, peas or small cubes of meat for extra protein.

* Cut raw vegetables like carrots, celery, green peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, and cucumbers. Send them with a small container of low-fat dip.

* Add a piece of fruit for dessert, washed and ready to eat, or a packet of fruit salad.

* Try reduced-fat cheese cubes or cheese spreads with whole grain crackers.

* Few children can resist yogurt, a good source of protein and calcium that is now available in many different flavors and shapes.

* Choose healthy snacks. Pack pretzels, popcorn, rice cakes, whole grain crackers, dried flakes, or trail mix.

After a long day at school, your children will be hungry. Having healthy snacks for your children after school is important. You can have a snack ready and waiting for them or allow them to choose from the healthy options you have around the house.

The American Heart Association has a list of healthy snack options divided into categories based on cravings. Some of these snacks are:

* Apples and pears

* Bell pepper slices

* Popcorn

* Nuts and seeds

* Carrots and celery sticks

Make sure you find the right ones that suit your family’s needs.

While I was in grades 3-12, I got involved in post-school sports. It was important to have a healthy snack before training and games. The snacks I always chose were apples and peanut butter or bananas and peanut butter.

I also enjoyed applesauce. My parents bought the sugar-free version and I added cinnamon. These were simple and healthy snacks that I could grab on my own.

“There is nothing unhealthy about educating young people about nutrition.” – Pierre Dukan

***

Megan Zwick is a program assistant in Family and Consumer Sciences at Ohio State University Extension, Washington County. She can be reached at zwick.54@osu.edu.

***

resources

* Stadler, M. (2018, August). Back to School Kids Lunch Ideas. (2018, August 14).

* Hopkins, A. (2019 August 15). 15 Healthy After School Snacks Your Kids Will Actually Eat

* What is MyPlate?

* Dukan, P. (n.d.). Healthy eating quote. 34 Best Quotes About Healthy Eating For You And Your Children.

* Schuna, C. (no year). The Effects of Children Eating Unhealthy School Lunches. LIVESTRONG.COM.

* Ben-Joseph, EP (Ed.). (2018, June). Healthy nutrition (for parents) – nemours kidshealth. Children’s health.

* School lunches. Harvard Health. (2015, July 16).

* Healthy snacking. www.herz.org. (nd).

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7 Ways to Improve Your Gut Health

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When your stomach is fine, you never think about it – but when you don’t, it’s hard to think about anything else. The group of microorganisms that live in and make up your gastrointestinal tract play a role in almost every aspect of your health, from preventing chronic disease to maintaining your immune system. So it’s no wonder that you feel lousy when things get out of hand.

But what exactly is your gut feeling? And is it possible to improve your gut health? Here is everything you need to know.

What is the intestine?

The human intestine is much more complex than even experts once realized – it comprises a multitude of internal organs that are involved in the digestive process to absorb nutrients from food and excrete waste, explains Rushabh Modi, MD, a certified physician in both internal medicine and Gastroenterology and Hepatology and Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at USC’s Keck School of Medicine. “Typically, this refers to the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and colon, with the pancreas and liver being crucial as supporting organs that help make digestive enzymes,” he says.

How your gut keeps your body healthy

In addition to absorbing and transporting nutrients to all tissues in the body, the intestine is critical to maintaining fluid and salt levels and eliminating waste, explains Dr. Modes. “Many vital nutrients and vitamins such as B12 and iron have special transporters that only exist in the intestine,” he adds. Iron, for example, needs stomach acid to be absorbed effectively – and B12 also needs certain receptors in the stomach and middle intestines to be absorbed. “These nutrients are difficult to obtain in any other way and they are essential for normal physiological function,” adds Dr. Modes added.

The gut is also one of the body’s most important disease control systems. “The acid in the stomach kills the bacteria and viruses that can inadvertently be ingested through food, and the digestive tract is an important way of introducing antigens to boost immune function and protection in the body,” says Christine Lee, MD . Gastroenterologist at the Cleveland Clinic. “The digestive tract also digests the foods ingested and extracts the essential nutrients that the body can absorb for vital use.”

New research has even uncovered a link between poor gut health and several neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, autism, and depression. One such study from the Université de Genève found that people with Alzheimer’s have different types of bacteria in their gut than those who do not have the disease.

8 signs your gut is suffering

If your gut is unhealthy, you are likely to have one or more of the following symptoms, even if it’s mild or rare:

  1. gas
  2. Flatulence
  3. Acid reflux
  4. heartburn
  5. diarrhea
  6. constipation
  7. Changes in stool
  8. Inexplicable weight loss
    1. “Since food digestion and waste production are the two most important functions of the intestine, if there are problems in these areas, the intestine can often be the cause of the problem,” explains Dr. Modes. Acid reflux and heartburn have also been linked to the gut, although you may feel the pain further from the core of the problem. Flatulence is also becoming more common, so Dr. Modi notes that patients view them as almost a normal reaction to eating certain foods.

      If you experience unexplained weight loss despite eating regular meals, it may indicate that your body is unable to digest or absorb the nutrients in the foods you eat and that there is a problem in your digestive system, according to Dr. Lee.

      How to improve your gut health

      The good news is that there are simple steps you can take to support your gut health. Here are some of the strategies doctors recommend.

      Eat a wide variety of healthy foods

      A diet made up of several different food types can result in a more diverse microbiome made up of more types, according to a report published in the journal Molecular Metabolism. This, explains Dr. Lee, strengthens our microbiome and increases its resilience.

      The best foods for gut health are fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains, especially those with the highest fiber content that help your digestive tract function properly. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, women should aim for 25 grams of fiber per day and men 38 grams per day.

      And cut down on unhealthy foods. “The more fat, fat, and salt you eat, the worse your gut health gets,” said Scott David Lippe, MD, chief of gastroenterology at Bergen Regional Medical Center in Paramus, NJ and assistant professor of medicine at Rutgers Medical School. This is especially important to keep in mind at dinner, as restaurants tend to consume salt, fat, and fat because they taste good.

      Try to leave out dairy products

      If you experience gas, gas, or loose bowel movements after drinking milk or eating cheese, you may be lactose intolerant. “This affects many adults, especially those who have no Northern European ancestry,” says Dr. Lip. “A quick and easy test is to drink a glass of regular milk – if you feel unwell, you are lactose intolerant.” If you are not ready to give up dairy products, you can also try taking lactose tablets before consuming dairy foods take.

      Consider a probiotic

      These tiny little microorganisms aid your metabolism and help rebalance your microbiota, says Douglas A. Drossman, MD, gastroenterologist and Professor Emeritus of Medicine and Psychiatry, UNC Division of Gastroenterology at the UNC School of Medicine. He recommends taking them when you have symptoms of an unhealthy bowel; however, there can be no other benefit. In fact, there isn’t a lot of research to prove the benefits of probiotics for the gut.

      For example, a review published in Therapeutic Advances in Gastroenterology found that probiotics positively affect the gut microbiota of people with certain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and diabetes, but do little to improve the gut microbiota of healthy people. “If you are taking antibiotics or have diarrhea, taking probiotics can be very helpful,” adds Dr. Lip. However, he recommends trying to get your fair share of probiotic-rich foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi first.

      Include more prebiotics in your diet

      “Prebiotics are not bacteria, they are foods that good bacteria like to eat,” explains Dr. Milstein. “We have to feed the good bacteria and starve the bad bacteria.” He recommends eating foods rich in bacteria such as walnuts, berries, bananas, flax seeds, legumes, artichokes, onions, garlic, chicory, dandelion greens, asparagus, leeks and whole grain products. “The diet is personalized, but putting some fruits and vegetables and fiber on our plate with every meal helps keep gut and brain health,” adds Dr. Milstein added.

      Monitor your vitamin D levels

      Recent research in Nature Communications has examined the relationship between gut bacteria and vitamin D levels and found that deficiency in the nutrient plays a key role in increasing the risk of certain diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease, cardiovascular disease and cancer, plays. Any form of disruption of the GI barrier, according to Dr. Drossman commonly referred to as “leaky gut,” which can increase a person’s risk of developing infectious, inflammatory, and functional GI diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. “Most people with leaky gut have very low levels of vitamin D and very low levels of the two most important omega-3 fatty acids – EPA and DHA,” he says. He recommends that most people consume at least 5,000 IU (125 µg) of vitamin D3 daily and consume sufficient fish oil (or the vegan equivalent) of 1,000 mg DHA per day. Be sure to talk to your doctor before taking any supplements.

      Manage your stress level

      Stress not only puts a strain on your mental health, but also on your physical well-being. Chronic high stress can, according to Dr. Drossman directly affect your gut health. While removing stressors from your life isn’t always possible, stress management strategies like diaphragmatic breathing, meditation, or yoga can help, says Dr. Drossman. “It’s also a smart idea to see a psychologist to see if brain and gut therapies (cognitive behavioral therapy, hypnosis, mindfulness) can be used,” he adds.

      Get a good night’s sleep every night

      When you don’t get enough sleep, your whole body is affected, including your intestines. In fact, new research shows how closely your gut microbiome and the quality of your sleep really are. A study by Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida found that poor sleep, for reasons as yet unknown, can negatively affect your gut microbiome, which can then manifest itself in a variety of other health problems, including autoimmune diseases and mental illnesses. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night.


      Jenn Sinrich is a veteran writer, digital and social editor, and content strategist specializing in health, fitness, beauty, and relationships.

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    YOUR HEALTH: When heart health is a matter of race

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    PITTSBURGH – Up to 1 in 500 American adults have cardiomyopathy.

    Their hearts have enlarged, thickened, or stiffened, making it difficult for the heart to pump blood around the body.

    Now, new research examines racial differences in the outcomes of these heart patients.

    “If we don’t give patients good medicines and the like over time, they will develop into what is known as clinical heart failure, where they develop symptoms of shortness of breath and leg swelling,” said Dr. Shazli Khan. Internal Medicine Physician at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

    People with cardiomyopathy may not have any symptoms at all, or their symptoms may be very mild to begin with.

    Dr. Khan examines racial differences in cardiomyopathy outcomes.

    She and her colleagues looked at data from 18,000 patients over a period of six years.

    “What we actually found was that black patients in our cohort had a much higher prevalence of many chronic diseases,” said Dr. Khan.

    “So more chronic kidney disease, higher blood pressure, higher diabetes rates.”

    If black patients are on optimized heart failure therapy and continue to have symptoms, they can get additional benefit from taking hydralazine and isosorbide dinitrate, known under the brand name BiDil.

    Previous research suggested that black patients had a much higher prevalence of chronic illnesses, including chronic kidney disease, higher blood pressure, and higher rates of diabetes.

    “In fact, they died more than the white cardiomyopathy patients,” said Dr. Khan.

    Researchers found that black patients diagnosed with cardiomyopathy were 15% more likely to die than white patients.

    Dr. Khan says the study results suggest that providers should emphasize earlier interventions.

    “That they come in to fill their medication, make appointments, give them resources, and educate them about the long-term effects of certain medical conditions.”

    Patients are advised to focus on eating more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins like chicken or fish.

    Also, focus on maintaining a healthy weight by balancing caloric intake with physical activity to reduce the risk of heart disease.

    Doctors will perform a physical exam and ask questions about your personal and family medical history.

    You will also be asked when your symptoms are occurring, such as whether exercise is causing your symptoms.

    If your doctor thinks you have cardiomyopathy, several tests may be done to help confirm the diagnosis, including an X-ray test to see if your heart is enlarged.

    Several blood tests may be done, including those to check your kidney, thyroid, and liver function, and to measure your iron levels, and a treadmill test to see your heart rhythm, blood pressure, and breathing while you run on a treadmill.

    Your doctor may recommend this test to evaluate symptoms, determine your physical fitness, and see if exercise is causing an abnormal heart rhythm.

    If this story affects your life or has caused you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.

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