Awareness grows about troubled tummies
In today’s fast-paced, hyperactive world, it is easy for people to let diet and digestive issues fall to the wayside. Meals are rushed, skipped or modified to fit packed schedules, while relaxation, sleep and stress control are neglected.
However, medical experts and food companies alike are bringing a new focus to gastrointestinal distress, a condition that affects 81 million people, according to the Boulder County Business Report.
And stomach problems aren’t limited to middle-age workaholics.
“Digestive disorders can happen at any age,” said Chelsea Jowell, a holistic health counselor and natural food chef. “College is a time where you are putting yourself through something difficult, which creates stress in the body that could manifest itself into a physical condition.”
From January 2007 through present, Wardenburg Health Center received a total of 78 visits from students with common digestive disorders, said Alissa Baumbach, assistant to the director at Wardenburg.
A slew of conditions, including ulcers and colitis, fall under the category of abdominal problems, Baumbach said, but according to Innovative Healing, Irritable Bowel Syndrome is the most common gastrointestinal complaint.
Categorized by symptoms of bloating and gas, abdominal cramping and constipation and/or diarrhea, IBS is a digestive problem that affects almost one in seven adults, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Dr. Pam Talley of Wardenburg said that while many students come in with abdominal pain, exact numbers of IBS diagnosis are hard to come by because many other conditions must be ruled out first, requiring several visits.
Typical treatments, Talley said, include taking fiber supplements, drinking lots of water and reducing stress.
From other medicinal perspectives, the term Irritable Bowel Syndrome is more of a catchall term though, used for any digestive condition for which doctors can’t make a more specific diagnosis.
“If people don’t know what the diagnosis is, it falls into IBS,” Jowell said, mentioning allergies and stress issues as conditions that may be misdiagnosed as IBS.
Holistic medicine instead looks at many digestive problems as a result of a person’s diet and lifestyle.
“They really go hand in hand,” Jowell said. “Eating in stressful situation over a period of time it can really disrupt the way we digest.”
Jowell added that the lifestyle of college students, including irregular mealtimes, stress over homework and lack of sleep, could also be contributing factors to digestive problems.
Kirsten Tidik, a sophomore environmental studies major, sees a direct connection between stomach pain and stress.
“The pain was most constant and most severe when I was most stressed,” Tidik said, “and it disappeared whenever I went home for vacation.”
She said that she finally just learned to eat and deal with the inevitable stomach ache afterwards.
Jowell recommended that people suffering from digestion problems consider readjusting not only their lifestyle but also their diet, avoiding suspect foods such as caffeine, chocolate, alcohol, processed foods, sugar, dairy, fried foods and carbonated drinks.
Different foods aid in digestion as well, Jowell said, including fennel, ginger, cinnamon, peppermint, turmeric, and chamomile.
She added that probiotics, healthy bacteria in the intestinal tract, are also helpful to take in supplements.
With awareness growing about digestive problems, several companies have begun to pursue the concept of foods supplemented with probiotics to help support digestive function. New products include cheese, yogurt and event fruit juice drinks supplemented with probiotics.
With a growing amount of information and treatment ideas for digestive problems, the solution for many people comes down to reprioritizing, Jowell said.
“People need to look at their lives and find ways to reduce stress and look at what they are eating,” she said. “It’s all about creating health as a priority.”
Contact Campus Press staff writer Emery Cowan at email@example.com