Category Archives: Gastrointestinal (GI) Disorders

Could more fiber improve your diabetes?

fruits, vegetables, fiber, healthEat your veggies, they say. Whether you are trying to lose weight, improve your blood pressure, or just simply trying to live well, you may be told to eat more fiber in your diet. Fiber is not only good for managing weight or keeping your heart healthy though. A recent study has found that more fiber in your diet may actually help improve the health of those with type 2 diabetes.

What is fiber?

Fiber is a type of carbohydrate found in certain foods that is not digested in the body.  Therefore, when consumed, it provides many health benefits such as:

  • making you feel fuller longer
  • slowing down digestion so more nutrients can be absorbed from the foods you eat
  • bulking your stool, in turn helping improve digestive health
  • helping to lower cholesterol levels in the blood

In addition, fiber intake can help control blood glucose levels. A healthy, balanced diet should include such fiber-rich foods as:

  • fruits and vegetables
  • high-fiber cereals made with bran or whole grains
  • whole grains such as oats, quinoa, or corn
  • high-fiber pastas such as bean, lentil-based, or whole wheat
  • brown or wild rice
  • nuts, nut butters, and seeds such as flax seed, sunflower seeds, and chia seeds

A study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that people who consumed 50 grams of fiber each day were able to control their blood glucose levels much better than those who ate far less.  However, since most Americans only consume on average 15 to 18 grams of fiber each day, this task would be impossible. Therefore, most adults should consume between 20 and 35 grams of fiber each day for optimal health. If you consume between 2 cups of both fruits and vegetables each day, you can easily hit this daily goal.

Fiber and diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is the type of diabetes that develops when the pancreas makes too little insulin or the body cannot use insulin very well. In turn, people with type 2 diabetes have trouble controlling their blood glucose levels since insulin is a hormone in charge of using glucose for energy in the body.

Within the digestive system, certain bacteria are in charge of breaking down carbohydrates  in the body. These broken down carbohydrates produce short chain fatty acids that help reduce inflammation in the gut and control appetite. Recent study findings show that a shortage of these amino acids may increase risk of type 2 diabetes.

A recent study based in China looked at the effect of a high fiber diet on those with type 2 diabetes. One group of adults with type 2 diabetes were given standard dietary recommendations and patient education. The other group was given a high fiber diet. After 12 weeks, the group of patients on the high fiber diet had had greater reduction in their HgA1C, or three month average of blood glucose levels. In addition, their fasting blood glucose levels and weight dropped more than those not on the high fiber diet.

Other ways to help control your diabetes

In addition to consuming more fiber, there are several other ways you can help control your diabetes.

  • Know your numbers such as blood glucose levels, HgA1C, blood pressure, and blood cholesterol levels. Keeping track of these numbers will help you see where you stand in terms of heart health and controlling your diabetes. This way, if your numbers are reaching unhealthy levels, then you can take action before complications arise.
  • Stay active for at least 30 minutes a day of moderate activity most days of the week. Moderate activity includes walking, water aerobics, light dancing, and gardening, to name a few. A step counter or fitness tracking device can be helpful to keep track of your movements each day and keep you accountable.
  • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Also, when you are increasing your fiber intake, it is important to drink plenty of water to avoid constipation.  Water is an important nutrient to help flush waste out of the body and keep the body functioning effectively.
  • Meet with your healthcare provider on a regular basis to help control and treat your diabetes and keep track of any risk factors. In addition, your healthcare provider can provide support if you have any questions or concerns in regards to your overall health.
  • Take supplements as needed such as vitamins for any deficiencies you may have as well as supplements such as Glucarex by Vita Sciences. Glucarex contains ingredients such as alpha lipoic acid and cinnamon that have been shown to support healthy blood glucose levels.

-written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

Sources:

Joslin Diabetes Center (accessed on March 12, 2018) “How Does Fiber Affect Blood Glucose Levels?” 

National Center for Health Statistics (March 2017) “NCHS Nutrition Data.”

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (January 2016) “4 Steps to Manage Your Diabetes for Life.”

Rutgers University (March 8, 2018) “Fiber-fermenting bacteria improve health of type 2 diabetes patients.”


  • Are You Eating Enough Fruits and Vegetables?

    fruits, vegetables, produce, fresh, colorful, antioxidantsDo you think you eat enough fruits and vegetables every day?  You may track your macronutrients, have an apple a day, and be free of digestive concerns but still be missing the mark.  A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has found that most adults in the United States could stand to eat a lot more fruits and vegetables each day.

    Health Benefits of Fruits and Vegetables

    Studies have shown that the more fruits and vegetables people eat, the less likely they are to have heart disease. This is because a diet rich in fruits and vegetables contains a lot of fiber and nutrients, which in itself can help many aspects of health including:

    • improvement of blood pressure
    • lowering cancer risk
    • decreasing risk of getting diabetes
    • prevention of constipation
    • keeping the digestive system healthy
    • maintaining eye health

    More recently, it has been found that the phytonutrients from fruits and vegetables provide many of its health benefits. For example, the carotenoids found in many brightly colored fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes and carrots have many health benefits. One of the carotenoids, lycopene, has shown potential for reducing risk of prostate cancer. Furthermore, research has shown that another phytonutrient, lutein, has been shown to reduce risk for cataracts. However, more studies need to be done to show the full health benefits of such phytonutrients.

    What is the recommended intake for fruits and vegetables daily?

    According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), most people should consume about 2 cups of fruits and 2.5 cups of vegetables every day.  This amount of produce would help you to reach the recommended daily fiber intake of most adults, which is around 21 to 30 grams.  However, some may think that fiber supplements will do the job if they don’t want to eat fruits and vegetables. Although fiber supplements may be helpful for filling the gap of your daily fiber needs, they should not be relied upon for your full daily intake of fruits and vegetables. This is because the fiber supplements will not provide the many health nutrients that fruits and vegetables provide.

    CDC Fruit and Vegetable Intake Report

    A recent report from the CDC found that only 12-percent of Americans are eating enough fruits and vegetables. High cost and limited access to fruits and vegetables seem to be the biggest barriers to meeting daily recommended intakes.  However, a report by the USDA found that it is possible to meet such intakes for about $2.10 to $2.60 per day.

    Fresh apples, orange, and carrots were found to be some of the lowest cost produce. Also, frozen green beans, canned corn, romaine lettuce, and Roma tomatoes were some of the least pricey produce options.  However, this amount may still be a lot for more low-income families. In those cases, the following tips may be helpful in ensuring everyone can get in their daily dose of fruits and vegetables.

    • Buy produce when it is in season. This is because if more of a type of produce is being harvested, the cost will be less for you. An added bonus is that in-season produce will also be more flavorful.
    • Check to see what Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits provide.  Recent benefits provide funds to purchase produce at local farmer’s markets.  For this reason, such funds could help offset any produce costs you may incur at the supermarket.
    • Buy frozen produce in bulk. You can often find family size bags of frozen veggies at lower cost than their smaller size counterparts. In addition, frozen produce will not go bad as quickly, so you do not have to worry about any waste if you do not eat it right away.

    Fitting More Fruits and Veggies in Your Day

    Follow the tips below to get more fruits and vegetables into your daily routine.

    • Slice up some apples with a side of peanut butter for a sweet and salty treat.
    • Keep it simple with some salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Toss veggies in these simple ingredients, then bake on a cookie sheet for 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 25-45 minutes, depending on the thickness of the produce you are cooking. This roasted cooking method will bring out the natural sweet and savory flavors of produce.
    • Pair a cup of baby carrots with some hummus or Greek yogurt dressing for a salty, crunchy snack.
    • Load up your lunch bowl with salad greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, and top with nuts and seeds for extra fiber power.
    • Replace your nighttime chocolate piece with a cup of grapes or berries over Greek yogurt for a filling sweet treat.
    • Use veggies as a foundation for your favorite recipes to add fiber. Use spaghetti squash or spiralized zucchini instead of spaghetti or riced cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes.

    If you are having trouble meeting your daily fruit and vegetable needs, add a daily multivitamin such as Zestia by Vita Sciences. Zestia contains a potent mix of superfood complexes, fruit and vegetable compounds, probiotics, and digestive enzymes to help support optimal overall health.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

    Sources:

    Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (September 5, 2017) “Easy Ways to Boost Fiber in Your Daily Diet.”

    Centers for Disease Control (accessed on November 20, 2017) “Top 10 Reasons to Eat MORE Fruits and Vegetables.”

    Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (accessed November 20, 2017) “Vegetables and Fruits.”

    Mayo Clinic (September 26, 2015) “I find it difficult to eat enough fruits and vegetables. Is there any harm in taking a fiber supplement every day?”

    Medline Health News (November 16, 2017) “CDC Wants America to Eat Its Fruits & Veggies.”

    United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service (2017) “Fruit and Vegetable Recommendations Can Be Met for $2.10 to $2.60 per day.”

    United States Department of Agriculture (August 2, 2017) “SNAP and Farmer’s Markets.”


  • Could Probiotics Improve Health Outcomes After Injury?

    probiotic, fermented food, yogurt, sauerkraut, apple cider vinegar, gut health, digestion

    Fermented foods can provide natural sources of good bacteria.

    From hearing your stomach grumble when it’s hungry to the gurgling sounds of indigestion, the gut reminds us everyday of its important presence in our health. Gut bacteria are vital to keeping balance in the body. Also, gut bacteria make sure that any food consumed is being used for energy.  However, recent research has shown that gut bacteria may also be crucial for positive health outcomes after injury.

    What is gut bacteria?

    Gut bacteria is part of a community of microorganisms such as fungi and viruses that live in the gut microbiome. Also, gut bacteria get along well with the cells of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and are not known for causing disease. Functions of gut bacteria include:

    • breaking down nutrients to be used for energy
    • protecting the body from toxic invaders
    • breaking down and eliminating drugs from the body

    Imbalances of gut bacteria in the body can lead to conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).  Also, gut bacteria live in harmony with the immune system and work together to keep the body safe from “bad” bacteria. However, an imbalance in “good” versus “bad” bacteria in the gut could have an impact on immune system function.

    Gut bacteria and Injury

    A study of 12 critically injured adults in the journal Trauma Surgery & Acute Care Open looked at the status of gut bacteria health over time. Stool samples were taken 24 hours and 72 hours after admission to the hospital.  After 72 hours, three types of bacteria had been depleted in the injured group, while two types of bacteria had risen.  More studies need to be done to explore this finding more. However, the researchers suggest that gut bacteria structure could affect patient outcomes after traumatic injury.  Furthermore, probiotics may be one future treatment to help improve patient outcomes in these cases.

    What are probiotics?

    Probiotics, which means “for life,” are live microorganisms meant to have positive health benefits.  You may see on store shelves many probiotic medicines containing bacteria from the groups Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.  However, since each strain of bacteria benefits a different function in the gut, the more types of strains in a probiotic, the potentially greater health impact. Probiotics may be helpful in preventing diarrhea caused by infections and antibiotics as well as in treatment of those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Basic functions of probiotics may include:

    • maintaining a diverse community of microorganisms
    • maintain a protective barrier for the gut to keep out pathogens
    • recover balance after infection, antibiotic treatment, or other disturbances
    • Stop growth of and fight off unwanted microorganisms
    • Nourish and strengthen the immune system

    Biovia30 by VitaSciences provides 30 million colony forming units per dose of diverse strains to help restore balance in the gut and promote immune system strength. Furthermore,  Biovia30 contains various strains of Bacillus, Lactobacillus, and Bifidobacterium to help you build up “good” bacteria stores and keep “bad” bacteria out.

    Other ways to protect the gut

    • Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and other fiber-rich foods to help promote diversity of gut bacteria.
    • Stop smoking or don’t start since smoking can negatively affect gut bacteria and the immune system. Not only does smoking constrict blood vessels, but it also causes inflammation in the body which can cause cell damage.
    • Find healthy ways to manage stress such as yoga, meditation, or exercise since stress can alter gut bacteria populations. Stress is one of the contributing factors of IBS.
    • Lower saturated fat intake to help lower numbers of inflammatory microbes in the gut.
    • Consume phytonutrients such as polyphenols and tannins found in colorful berries, beans, nuts, seeds, and teas. These compounds can nourish microbes in the digestive tract.

    Probiotics shown great promise for helping to treat various health conditions. However, potential benefits of probiotics must be confirmed by further research. Please contact your healthcare provider before starting any new supplement regimen.

    Sources:

    Conlon, M. A., & Bird, A. R. (2015). The Impact of Diet and Lifestyle on Gut Microbiota and Human Health. Nutrients, 7(1), 17–44. http://doi.org/10.3390/nu7010017

    Jandhyala, S. M., Talukdar, R., Subramanyam, C., Vuyyuru, H., Sasikala, M., & Reddy, D. N. (2015). Role of the normal gut microbiota. World Journal of Gastroenterology : WJG, 21(29), 8787–8803. http://doi.org/10.3748/wjg.v21.i29.8787

    Medline Plus (October 26, 2017) “Gut Bacteria May Change Rapidly After Severe Injury.”

    National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (October 2016) “Probiotics: In Depth”


  • Vitamin B12 Deficiency with Crohn’s Disease: 3 Risk Factors

    Vitamin B12 Deficiency with Crohn’s: Vitamin B12 deficiency is a condition that is often comorbid with Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and other forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). For prevention, it’s important to test for vitamin B12 deficiency in its earliest stages.

    Vitamin B12 Deficiency with Crohn’s Disease

    There are many risk factors that increase your odds for vitamin B12 malabsorption, the leading cause of vitamin B12 deficiency, and many of them occur with Crohn’s disease and other forms of gastrointestinal illnesses.

    Here are three basic risk factors for vitamin B12 deficiency that correlate with Crohn’s disease:

    Three basic risk factors are:

    1) Digestive tract damage

    With Crohn’s, damage to the digestive tract makes it difficult for the stomach cells to produce intrinsic factor (IF), a necessary enzyme for digesting vitamin B12 from the foods you eat. The less IF you have, the fewer vitamin B12 molecules make it into your blood stream. Instead, vitamin B12 passes through your digestive system, unabsorbed. Lack of intrinsic factor is the main cause of pernicious anemia, a condition that occurs with long-term vitamin B12 deficiency.

    2) Gastro surgery

    If you have had gastrointestinal surgery to treat Crohn’s disease, such as removal of the ileum, then you are also at risk for dangerously low vitamin B12. This is because the ileum plays a crucial role in the last step of vitamin B12 absorption- detaching the B12 molecules from intrinsic factor and depositing it into the blood stream. Bariatric surgeries such as gastric bypass are also high risk factors for vitamin B12 deficiency caused by corrective surgery.

    3) Medications

    Some of the medications used to treat Crohn’s disease can ultimately interfere with vitamin B12 absorption, as well.  Long-term antibiotics,protein pump inhibitors (PPIs), and other acid reflux medications are included in a list of drugs that interfere with vitamin B12 absorption, resulting in vitamin B12 deficiency.

    Treating B12 deficiency

    If you suspect you have vitamin B12 deficiency, then take the following steps.

    Get tested

    Don’t put off getting a blood test to check your vitamin B12 levels; in fact, you should be testing a few times per year, if you aren’t already. A routine blood test can tell you if you are have medium-low or severely low serum vitamin B12 levels.

    Symptoms of B12 deficiency

    Don’t rely on blood tests alone to determine if you are approaching vitamin B12 deficiency, as the tests are not always accurate, and don’t measure complete “active vitamin B12” molecules.

    To catch vitamin B12 deficiency in its earliest stages, it’s good to recognize the symptoms:

    • Crushing fatigue
    • Dizziness
    • Depression
    • Anxiety
    • Brain fog
    • Memory problems
    • Painful numbness and tingling in the fingers, toes, hands, and feet

    Take daily B12

    With vitamin B12 malabsorption, you will not get enough vitamin B12 from foods or from pills that you swallow. Instead, your doctor will recommend taking large doses of vitamin B12 in a non-dietary form, such as vitamin B12 injections and/or similarly potent vitamin B12 supplements that are absorbed directly into your blood through the skin.

    What’s your take?

    If you’ve been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, has your doctor fully explained the risk factors for vitamin B12 deficiency?

    Do you feel that you get just the right amount of vitamin B12 that you need to keep symptoms at bay, or do you feel that your prescription should allow for more vitamin B12 injections than you’re currently receiving?

    In addition to getting vitamin B12 shots, what other forms of vitamin B12 do you use?

    Please feel free to leave comments below. We love to hear from you!


  • The Most Overlooked Risk of Stomach Bloating

    Gassy, painful stomach bloating from indigestion may mean that you need more of an essential vitamin in your blood supply. If your gut feels like a war zone, then experts recommend getting tested for vitamin B12 deficiency, a form of anemia linked to gastritis.

    The Most Overlooked Risk of Stomach Bloating

    Stomach bloating? Check your B12.

    B12 deficiency in the gut

    To digest vitamin B12 from food, you need to have a healthy ecosystem in your gastrointestinal tract. Good bacteria winning the battle over the bad, proper absorption of nutrients, and all that.

    But for many, damage to the parietal cells of the stomach, acid reflux, and medication overuse lead to a vicious cycle of vitamin B12 anemia that feeds into constant symptoms of fatigue, stomach bloating, sore muscles, dizziness, and memory problems.

    Symptoms of pernicious anemia include stomach bloating, and also diarrhea, heartburn, brain fog, painful numbness in the hands and legs, cognitive impairments, and more.

    Stomach bloating and other symptoms

    The following symptoms, if they occur often, may indicate a breakdown in your digestive system that requires immediate treatment in order to prevent vitamin B12 deficiency anemia:

    • Acid reflux
    • Heartburn
    • Vomiting
    • Abdominal pain
    • Chest pains
    • Shortness of breath
    • Nausea
    • Stomach bloating
    • Hardening of the stomach
    • Loss of appetite
    • Difficulty swallowing
    • “Lump” in your throat
    • Diarrhea
    • Constipation
    • Frequent burping
    • Flatulence

    Vitamin B12 malabsorption

    Foods that contain vitamin B12 are meats, chicken, fish, milk, and eggs. Generally, as long as you eat a steady non-vegan diet, you’re guaranteed a plentiful supply of vitamin B12 for good health…

    …Unless you suffer from vitamin B12 malabsorption. The inability to break down vitamin B12 happens when you don’t have enough intrinsic factor, a digestive enzyme produced in your stomach that helps to grab vitamin B12 from food and “escort” it through your intestines and into your blood supply.

    Gastritis (stomach inflammation) is one of the most common causes of vitamin B12 malabsorption.

    Yes- stomach damage can cause vitamin B12 deficiency.

    What Causes Vitamin B12 Malabsorption?

    Gastrointestinal disorders

    If you suffer from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, then your risk of becoming ill from pernicious anemia– severe vitamin B12 deficiency- is greater than most.

    Damage to the walls of the stomach and intestinal tract, particularly the bottommost part (ileum), makes it impossible to get crucial vitamin B12 into your blood stream without direct insertion of nondietary liquid vitamin B12 supplements.

    Other illnesses that cause enough gastrointestinal distress to interfere with vitamin B12 absorption include fibromyalgia, migraines, celiac, lupus, and chronic stomach ulcers.                       

    Gastro surgery

    If you’re an IBD patient who has elected for corrective surgery to treat chronic stomach bloating, indigestion, ulcers, and stomach pain, then you must supplement with high doses of vitamin B12 from a reliable source, in order to prevent becoming anemic.

    Weight loss surgery recipients who undergo gastric bypass are also included in that risk category for pernicious anemia.

    Autoimmune disorders

    You may not able to get enough vitamin B12 simply because your body identifies intrinsic factor as a danger, and attacks it. If you suffer from immune system dysfunctions such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or celiac disease, then it’s important to get your vitamin B12 levels checked regularly.

    Better yet, begin a routine of supplemental vitamin B12 as a preventive measure against pernicious anemia. There’s no danger of taking too much vitamin B12, since it is safe in all amounts.

    Please tell us…

    Have you been experiencing stomach bloating and other signs of digestive disorders, but didn’t realize they were connected to vitamin B12 deficiency?

    If you suffer from gastrointestinal issues such as Crohn’s disease, gastroesophageal disorder (GERD),  or ulcerative colitis, do you feel that you ‘re getting enough vitamin B12 from your doctor to combat deficiency?

    Image by Ohmega1982