Fact vs. fiction on digestive issues

Our digestive system is quite an amazing series of organs working together to digest and absorb our food.  Whenever we eat food or drink a beverage, our digestive system kicks into gear to help break down our food into various nutrients that will nourish and sustain our bodies.  Depending upon our food choices and the amount we are consuming, all can affect how smoothly our digestive tract will function.

Digestive issues can be a common problem for some people.  It seems like everyone has different ideas or suggestions on what to do when certain problems arise dealing with digestion.

The more we understand about how our food is digested, the more likely we can avoid digestive potential problems over the long run.  Here are some common food fallacies some people may have regarding how their digestive tract works with the food we eat. 

 1.       Fallacy – Spicy foods cause ulcers

Fact – Food choices neither cause nor cure ulcers.  Most ulcers are caused by bacteria called Helicobactor pylori, which are treated with antibiotics.  Spicy foods can irritate existing ulcers, but none of them is the cause.  Unless spicy foods – or any foods – cause repeated discomfort, there’s no need to avoid them. 

 2.      Fallacy – Enzyme supplements aid digestion

Fact – For most people, the body makes enough enzymes to digest food.  A lactase deficiency is one of the few exceptions; a lactase supplement, taken with dairy foods, aids digestion of milk.  When eating legumes, some enzyme supplements may help reduce gas from forming.  However, most enzyme supplements are broken down in your own digestive tract before they can work as digestive enzymes.

If there is no serious medical reason for your symptoms, try chewing your food better, get breath-tested for suspected food intolerances, take Beano if it helps for gassiness, and avoid foods that bother you.

3.      Fallacy – Our stomach is not able to digest carbohydrates and protein at the same time.  You need to separate foods such as fruits from the meal.

Fact – No matter how hard you may try, you cannot separate one nutrient from another even if you wanted to.  Most foods are mixtures of several nutrients.  Your stomach and small intestine secrete different digestive enzymes to break down carbohydrates, fat, and protein.  These enzymes are ready and able to work at the same time with no interference necessary.

4.      Fallacy – Will fiber supplements keep you regular?

Fact – Fiber supplements may offer some benefit for some people, but the better choice is to consume a high-fiber diet.  Fiber from food should be the body’s main fiber source.  Many fiber pills supply only small amounts of fiber, compared to what is found in food.  Those with more fiber may keep your body from absorbing important nutrients, such as minerals. Over time, your body might begin to depend on them.  Best advice – eat a high-fiber diet composed of at least 5 servings daily of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds.

5.      Fallacy - Highly-seasoned foods cause heartburn

Fact – Foods are not the cause of heartburn but they certainly can aggravate the problem by promoting acid production in your stomach.  The cause of heartburn is when stomach acids back up into the esophagus causing pain or discomfort.  Foods with a lot of acid in them such as citrus, fatty or highly-seasoned foods may also cause discomfort.  One way to help prevent the aggravation of heartburn by these foods is to take an over-the-counter product that neutralizes the acid in these foods.

6.      Fallacy – Drinking milk causes constipation

Fact – Not true.  In general, no one food causes constipation.  Constipation can happen for many reasons.  Drinking milk isn’t one of them so taking dairy foods out of your diet is not necessary. 

Depending on the reason for the problem, drinking at between 8-12 cups of water each day, eating high-fiber foods, such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes, along with regular exercise, might help ease the symptoms.