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Myth: Digestion Happens in the Stomach

 

Most of us have a blurry idea of how digestion works: we eat food, break it down (that’s the scientific term, right?) and, somehow, profit. But without a better understanding of what goes on in there, we’re liable to believe a few bizarre myths that have become common.

Our digestive tract is a complex system with many parts that communicate with each other and the rest of our body. It’s also very adaptable to what we consume, and doesn’t need specific food combinations or “cleanses” to keep working at its best. Here is a myth about digestion, debunked by Dr. Bhatti.

Some digestion happens in the stomach, but food passes through a series of stations on its way through our body, of which the stomach is only one. Here’s the cheat sheet:

 

  • The mouth is the first stop, and actually plays an important role. Tastes and smells signal the rest of the digestive system that food is on its way. We chew food to give it more surface area (the better for enzymes later on to do their job) and saliva helps us taste and swallow, as well as keeping our mouth healthy in between meals.

  • A swallow sends food on a trip down the esophagus, which pushes it tube-of- toothpaste style toward the stomach. (The trip takes about eight seconds.) This motion, called peristalsis, ends by triggering the stomach’s entrance to open.

  • In the stomach, food is drenched in an acid wash. This helps to kill microbes and partially unravel proteins. A few enzymes, specialized to work in the acid environment, can do their jobs: mainly chopping up proteins.

  • The small intestine is actually where most of this action happens: enzymes breaks down fats, proteins, and carbohydrates into their components (fatty acids, amino acids, and sugars, respectively). Giving the body tiny building blocks instead of large chunks of macronutrients, allowing the small intestine’s cells to absorb them and pass them through to the bloodstream. From there, they are transported to where they are needed. We either burn them for energy, store them as fat, or in some scenarios, use them to build components of our own bodies—like when we use the amino acids from food protein to build more actin and myosin in our muscles.

  • In the large intestine, trillions of microbes devour what we couldn’t—mainly fiber and other “prebiotic” carbohydrates. That’s good news for us, since these microbes’ waste products are essential to our health. They’re where we get most of our vitamin K, for instance.

The whole process of digestion is mysterious and awesome, and way bigger than what happens in any one organ. The entire route your food takes is known as your gastrointestinal (or GI) tract, and scientists often call it simply the “gut.” 

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Causes of Stomach Pain after Eating




That little “tummy ache” could be attributed to eating too much or too fast, but it could also be a sign of a more serious health problem. Let’s take a look at the possible causes of stomach pain after eating:

1. Over eating: Stomach pain can result when you consume your food too fast. When you overeat, you might not take the time to chew through your food properly and you might notice that the food generally disappears from your plate very quickly.
2. Food intolerances: It is estimated that nearly 20% of the population is intolerant or sensitive to certain foods. Stomach pain and cramping are common symptoms of food intolerances or sensitivities, which are often associated with dairy, gluten, nuts, yeast, and tomatoes.
3. Food allergies: Dairy products, nuts, eggs, peanut butter, soy, corn, wheat, and gluten are common food allergies that can cause symptoms such as stomach pain. A food elimination diet or an allergen-specific immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibody test can be conducted to determine whether you are allergic to a particular food or substance.
4. Celiac disease: Stomach pain is a common symptom of celiac disease. The condition is characterized by gluten sensitivity. People with celiac disease will immediately react to a specific protein found in gluten called gliadin—it is found in wheat, rye, barley, spelt and oats.
5. Irritable bowel syndrome: This is a common gastrointestinal disorder that affects approximately 15% of the population. Some symptoms include gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, cramping, abdominal pain, or stomach pain after eating. Candida, food allergies, and food sensitivities are also associated with irritable bowel syndrome.
6. Pancreatitis: Stomach pain after eating can also indicate pancreatitis, especially when the pain lasts for over six hours. Pancreatitis is known as pancreas inflammation. People with pancreatitis will experience pain that begins around the upper abdomen; the pain will then spread to the back. Other pancreatitis symptoms include fever, nausea, and vomiting.
7. Diverticulitis: Diverticulitis is a condition where pouches in the colon become inflamed from bacteria. The pouches are also known as cysts or diverticula. Some symptoms include fever, constipation, diarrhea, bloating, nausea, bowel habit changes, and cramping pain, especially around the lower left area of the abdomen. Stomach pain after eating is also common.
8. Intestinal obstruction: When there is a blockage in your colon or small intestine, it can be difficult for foods to be digested properly. When you eat too fast, large pieces of food may not be broken down. A hernia or tumor can also lead to intestinal obstruction.
9. Chronic candida: Abdominal pain can also be a symptom of chronic candida—a condition also known as yeast overgrowth. Other common symptoms associated with candida include chronic fatigue, bloating, gas, and depression.
10. Heartburn: Heartburn is also sometimes referred to as acid reflux, or acid indigestion. Heartburn is the result of too little stomach acid, and it can produce burning chest pain after eating. The pain may only last a few minutes, or up to several hours. Stomach pain after eating can also be attributed to gallstones, eating spicy foods, a stomach flu, lactose intolerance, food poisoning, appendicitis, pelvic inflammatory disease, Crohn’s disease, and peptic ulcers. Stomach pain after eating may also be the result of a blocked blood vessel.

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5 Simple steps to start eating healthier today.

 

1. Everything in moderation.
The foremost step in eating healthy is learning to relish all your preferred foods in moderation. You don’t have to forego your favorite treats all at once. Healthy eating is about balance and giving your body the nutrients it needs to function while also pleasing your taste buds.

2. Eat the rainbow.

Make your meals like the rainbow – full of an array of natural color. You should eat double the amount of fruits and vegetables as you do proteins and carbohydrates. Reach for your favorite fruits and veggies, but try some outside of your comfort zone as well, and find ways to incorporate them into your favorite meals.

3. Don’t skip meals!

Within four to six hours of your last food intake

  • The brain starts experiencing fuel shortage. 
  • You become tired, sluggish, moody and irritable.
  • Your cognitive functions are affected, and you might have difficulty with attention, memory, concentration and general mental functioning.

If you know you get hungry around certain times, make sure to pack a healthy snack to help control your hunger until your next meal. 

4. Water is life.
This one isn’t news. Water is indispensable for your consistency. Water aids digestion and other bodily parts. The benefits of drinking water include less fatigue, younger looking skin and feeling full longer, which saves you from feeding when your body isn’t hungry.

5. Choose whole grains.
Whole grains contain healthy fibers, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that are removed from processed grains, such as . eating a well-balanced meal that includes whole grains has been demonstrated to decrease your risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

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RELIEF FROM HEARTBURN

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Heartburn is the most common symptom of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). Other symptoms include regurgitation of food, a burning feeling in the chest or throat, difficulty swallowing, and sometimes chest pain. (Note: there can be similarities between heartburn and heart attack symptoms. If you have chest pain that lasts for more than a few minutes or any warning signs of a heart attack. seek immediate medical attention.)

There are a number of common culprits that cause heartburn including fatty foods, late night meals and overeating.  A loaded cheeseburger at 10 pm is not a good idea if you’re prone to heartburn. Specific foods that are known to cause heartburn include:

  • Onions, garlic, mustard and other spicy foods/condiments
  • Chocolate
  • Citrus fruits like grapefruit and oranges
  • Caffeinated drinks including, coffee, tea and soft drinks
  • Peppermint
  • Tomatoes
  • Some medications and some forms of exercise can also set off heartburn

Relief starts by being aware of the foods or activities that trigger heartburn for you:

  • Avoid specific foods and beverages that you know cause discomfort.
  • Consider a diet if you’re overweight. Extra weight increases pressure on your stomach, forcing more acid into the esophagus.
  • Eat 4–6 small meals instead of 2-3 large ones.
  • Research options for over-the-counter medications.


Depending on the severity of your heartburn and other symptoms; treatment for  heartburn and other GERD- related symptoms may include lifestyle changes, medicines, or surgery.  If lifestyle changes or medication don't help, Dr. Bhatti may perform an EGD to biopsy or obtain images your upper GI tract. 

 
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Be Good To Your Liver

Be Good To Your Liver

Your liver is one of the hardest working organs in your body.  Think of it as your own personal filtering system as it cleans your blood and helps you digest food.

Everything you eat or drink passes through your liver.  It’s the liver’s job to help breakdown the nutrients in food and spread the nutrients throughout the body via the bloodstream and eliminate the toxic waste that’s left.  

Taking care of your liver is a critical part of maintaining overall good health. Exercising and eating right are important.  Some liver-friendly foods are also quite tasty:

  • v Garlic
  • v Grapefruit
  • v Avocado
  • v Beets
  • v Apples… to name a few.   

Unfortunately, we are seeing an increase in the number of people with liver disease and according to the American Liver Foundation about 1 in 10 people have some form of liver disease.

Some liver disease may be inherited. And some problems arise when certain viruses or harmful chemicals infect your body.  Too much alcohol can lead to Cirrhosis, and some medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol)  can create issues if you take too much.  Mistreating your liver can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, chronic fatigue, headaches and digestive problems. 

Dr. Bhatti is one of the few Gastroenterologists in Minnesota who specializes in treating liver disease.  Some of the liver conditions that we commonly treat include:

Hepatitis

Cirrhosis

Jaundice

Liver Tumors

Your liver is an amazing organ that helps your immune system fight infections, removes bacteria from the blood and makes bile, which is essential for digestion.

Please be good to your liver so your liver is good to you.   And call us if you have any questions or concerns about your liver.  952-368-3800

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Exercise to Promote Good Digestion

Exercise to Promote Good Digestion

You probably know that eating fruits, vegetable and foods that are high in fiber can help your digestion.   But exercise can also help optimize your digestive process.  Exercise improves blood flow throughout the body –including your digestive tract.  

A consistent exercise routine will help keep your digestive process moving and can alleviate constipation, gas, and bloating.    Different types of exercise have different effects on the body. For example, riding a bike or breathing exercises can help reduce heartburn.  Certain yoga poses like gentle twists can stimulate your abdominal organs.   But the best kind of exercise is the exercise you enjoy because you will be more motivated to get moving.  National recommendations for physical activity say that adults should exercise about 150 minutes per week.  That is less than ½ hour per day – and enough for your digestive health.

Alternatively, some types of extreme exercise can have negative effects on digestion. Endurance athletes often report gastrointestinal issues such as is nausea, vomiting, cramps and diarrhea. It’s important to talk with a doctor before implementing a new exercise regimen, especially if you have health issues.  

Eating right, exercising and staying hydrated are all important parts of general health that impact your digestion.  Please contact us anytime you have questions or concerns about your digestive health: 952-368-3800

 

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Colon Cancer Awareness

March was designated Colon Cancer Awareness Month in the year 2000 by President Bill Clinton. 

 In the United States, Colon Cancer is the third most common cancer taking the lives of over 50,000 people each year.  
It affects both men and women of all ethnic groups and is most often found in people over the age of 50.  Unfortunately, it can –and does affect young people too.

 Colon cancer occurs when healthy cells in the colon or rectum develop errors in their DNA.  These mutated cells – or cancer cells divide and grow to form a tumor.  If left unchecked, the tumor (cancer) will continue to grow and destroy normal tissue – and can also travel to other parts of the body.

There is no one specific cause for colon cancer, but there are certain risk factors including family history.  Symptoms of the disease include:

•A change in bowel behavior - including diarrhea or constipation that lasts for several weeks.

•Bleeding from the rectum or blood in your stool

•Persistent discomfort, such as stomach cramps, gas or pain

•A feeling that your bowel doesn't empty completely

•Unexplained weight loss

The good news is that when discovered early, colon cancer is highly treatable. There are currently more than one million colon cancer survivors in the U.S.

A Colonoscopy Can Save Your Life. There are numerous types of colon cancer screening, but colonoscopy is the gold standard for detecting cancer of the colon and rectum.  Screening should begin at age 50 -- or earlier if you have a family history.  If you are 50 or older and have not yet had a colonoscopy, please remember that early detection can save lives. 

At Bhatti GI we make it easy.   Patients can be seen within a week and we offer pre-op physicals on the same day as your colonoscopy.  Screening colonoscopy with no findings is covered by most insurance plans at no cost to the patient.  If you have any questions or concerns, or would like to schedule a colonoscopy, please call us at:  952-368-3800.  Learn more at Bhattigi.com.

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Your Digestive System And How It Works

Every time we eat or drink something, our digestive system goes to work to help our bodies absorb the nutrients we need
to stay strong and healthy.

It all starts in our mouth.  As we chew our food, saliva is produced and our food starts to break down. Once swallowed,
food moves down our esophagus and into our stomach.

The stomach is a curved organ that stretches when we eat or drink and it connects the esophagus to the small intestine.  Muscles at the top of our stomach relax to let food enter while muscles at the bottom of our stomach go to work to mix the contents of our stomach with digestive juices or acids that primarily break down proteins. 

Next, the contents of the stomach, which is now called chyme, enters the small intestine.  Digestive juices created by the small intestine, along with bile from the liver (which is stored in the gall bladder) and enzymes from the pancreas all go
to work to further break down the food into carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. The walls of the small intestine absorb these nutrients and – via the bloodstream - deliver these nutrients to cells throughout the body.  Meanwhile, the remaining chyme passes into the large intestine.

Once in the large intestine (also called the colon), there are very few nutrients left in the chyme.  Water and electrolytes are removed and microbes go to work to continue the digestive process.   What’s left now is waste, which passes through the final part of the large intestine, called the rectum and exits through the anus.

This vital and amazing process takes place every time we eat or drink. And the nutrients absorbed into our bodies through digestion help all parts of our body - from our organs to our hormones.

You can help keep your digestive system working well by drinking lots of water and eating a healthy diet that has lots of fiber-rich foods like fruit and vegetables.

As a gastroenterology clinic, we specialize in caring for people who have digestive issues.  Please contact us if you have concerns about your digestive health.  

 

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