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The Healthier Stomach – WCVB Boston

Pain, constipation, bloating, gas and other digestive issues – definitely not dinner table talk in most houses. But , they are common, and in some cases, very serious matters for women that need frank and honest answers. “Many women believe that you just don’t talk about excretory functions because they’re taboo symptoms, ” says Jacqueline L. Wolf, MARYLAND, a gastroenterologist in the Division associated with Gastroenterology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and writer of the book: “A Women’s Explained a Healthy Stomach. ” “We’re told to be lady-like. ” But , referring to digestive health is important and beneficial. Dr . Wolf runs down the top circumstances women should be talking about.


“Once a woman gets pregnant throughout reproductive years, issues of gastrointestinal health are very important, ” says Dr . Wolf. Nausea and vomiting as well as constipation, reflux and acid reflux, are common symptoms with pregnancy and there appears to be no harm to the child as long as the mother can maintain good nutrition. However , they can be very upsetting for the mother-to-be. There are many over-the-counter remedies that exist that are not harmful to the child but may be very beneficial for mom.

A more uncommon and serious gastrointestinal condition in pregnancy could be liver disease. If there are brand new abnormal liver function tests during pregnancy, a woman should consult with a specialist within liver disease.

Several gastrointestinal symptoms may exist before pregnancy. If they do, a woman needs to think about how to manage the symptoms and talk with her doctor about how the medication might affect the fetus and her ability to nurse after the infant is born.


Endometriosis is really a painful condition in which tissue that will lines the inside of a woman’s womb grows outside of the uterus. This problem occurs in five percent of women in their reproductive years. Its symptoms include pain during or in between a woman’s menstrual cycle, diarrhea or even constipation. Dr . Wolf says in a more serious situation, endometriosis can cause scar tissue that, in some women, can result in infertility. In rare cases, she says it can cause bleeding in the bowel.

“It’s important to detect it, ” says Dr . Wolf. “But, there is no way to prevent it, so far as we know. ” There are, however , ways to control the pain. A physician might recommend hormones, a hormone secreting IUD or birth control. If those methods aren’t successful, laparoscopy might be carried out to remove mild to moderate endometriosis.

Colorectal Cancer

Dr . Wolf calls colorectal cancer an important concern for anyone over the age of 50. The cancer develops when some of the cells that will line the rectum or intestinal tract become abnormal and grow. According to the American Cancer Society, this cancer is the third most common for both males and females in the U. S. Polyps usually occur before the cancer. By eliminating the pre-cancerous polyps, the risk of cancer is significantly decreased.

Women and men are different with the timing associated with polyp growth. Dr . Wolf says women don’t tend to develop polyps – growths on the surface of the large intestine – as early as men. That may be due to hormones.

Most of the time, colorectal cancer is also preventable. “The incidence of colorectal cancer appears to be decreasing, ” says Dr . Wolf. “And part of that is probably because of greater attention being paid in order to screening. ” So , when in case you get a colonoscopy?

  • Age 50: this is the present recommendation for anyone with an average risk.

  • Age group 40 or 10 years prior: when you have a family member that has or has had colorectal cancer or pre-cancerous polyps.

  • Consult a physician: if multiple family members have or have had colorectal cancer or other types of cancers.

Aspirin and exercise furthermore appear to decrease the risk. There are many research looking at diet as a way to prevent colorectal cancer as well. “I would recommend that people eat a low fat diet and that they eat a diet – if tolerated – high in vegetables and lean meats and fish. ”

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

This condition contains abdominal pain, diarrhea or obstipation, gas and bloating. While irritable bowel syndrome is not life threatening, Dr . Wolf says it is serious. “It causes a lot of discomfort and decreases quality of life. ” People struggling with IBS may seek medical attention more regularly and might have to frequently stay home.

Dr . Wolf points out that will nutrition for a person with irritable bowel syndrome plays a major part and that there are several studies looking at the hyperlink to diet. A diet low in fermentable, oligosaccharide (wheat, garlic, onion), disaccharide (dairy), monosaccharide (certain fruits, high fructose corn syrup) and polyols (sweeteners like sorbitol or fruits with pits like avocado, cherry, plums) – low FODMAP – has been shown to greatly reduce or remove the symptoms in people with IBS. You can read more about a low FODMAP diet and it is benefits by clicking here.


Constipation is a condition in which a person experiences difficulty emptying the bowels and can cause severe discomfort. It is defined as a decreased number of bar stools from the normal number, stools which are hard to eliminate, stools that are tough, or fewer stools than 3 per week. “Constant constipation is more persistent and common in women. ” Dr . Wolf calls it a major problem.

Several reasons may contribute to this issue, including a poor diet plan, poor fluid intake, or slow moving/poorly functioning bowels. While a change in food and drink might solve the condition, some cases may require physical therapy to improve the elimination of the stool from your rectum.


“Ten in order to twenty percent of people in the Western world have problems with reflux, ” says Dr . Wolf. Reflux occurs when the contents from the stomach – food, bile, water or acid — travel online backup the esophagus (the tube top down the chest). Reflux may be very unpleasant or asymptomatic, but can also result in such damage as laryngitis, esophagitis, chronic inflammation, or narrowing from the esophagus.

Certain medications and foods can contribute to reflux, and if your stomach doesn’t empty well, it can add to the condition. Dr . Wolf points out that obesity can make reflux more likely and fatty food items cause the stomach to empty more slowly.

“Diet is important, ” points out Dr . Wolf. To avoid or lessen reflux, she recommends not eating three to four hours before lying down or going to bed. “I furthermore tell patients to stay away from great because it relaxes the high-pressure area between the esophagus and stomach and to avoid caffeine – which includes chocolate — because it can increase acidity secretion. ” Other foods and drink to keep out of your diet consist of alcohol, garlic and onions.

Lactose Intolerance

A person who is lactose intolerant doesn’t possess the enzyme or substance to break down the lactose – or even, milk sugar – found in whole milk and other dairy products. It’s a common problem and the symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating or constipation. “The condition won’t damage your health, however it can be painful and impact your wellbeing, ” she says. “And, being a woman ages, the tendency to shed the enzyme increases. ” Furthermore, an infection – such as a norovirus – might cause a person to lose part or even most of the enzyme temporarily or permanently.

Lactose intolerance is no more common in women than men. Stopping the condition can be as simple as staying away from products with lactose. “If someone is complaining about bloating or abdominal pain, one of the first things I do is change diet. ” But , Dr . Wolf cautions that alternatives along with soy might also cause bloating.

Getting information

Dr . Wolf credits the Internet and social media for assisting in the discussion about women’s our digestive health. “There’s a lot of information out there. The new technique is how to figure out if it is accurate. ” She points to reliable sources like hospitals and educational institutions. And, of course , there is no substitute for your personal doctor. “My feeling is if you want to consider something and it doesn’t have a downside or side effect, there is no harm. ”

Dr . Wolf furthermore points out that, in most cases, diet and exercise are key to good health. “Eating can be quite enjoyable. Good food is wonderful and makes life fuller. But , you need to eat food that is healthy for you. ”

Dr . Wolf is also part of a non-profit called Foodicine Health, Inc. It provides, simply, diet recommendations for people with medical conditions in which a new regime would be beneficial.

Get more information on these typical women’s digestive health issues as well as the Division of Gastroenterology at

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