Di­ges­tive prob­lems could be solved by ‘ad­di­tion diet’

The Sentinel-Record - - HOT SPRINGS/FYI - Copy­right 2017, Univer­sal UClick for UFS Eve Glazier, M.D., MBA, is an in­ternist and as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of medicine at UCLA Health. El­iz­a­beth Ko, M.D., is an in­ternist and pri­mary care physi­cian at UCLA Health. Send your ques­tions to ask­the­do­c­tors@medne

Dear Doc­tor: Are there foods and drinks that can help firm up loose stool, so that there isn't an oc­ca­sional "sur­prise" when pass­ing gas? Pro­bi­otics haven't helped, and mul­ti­ple tests have proven neg­a­tive for any­thing but chronic in­flam­ma­tion.

Dear Reader: We're glad to hear that your doc­tor has ruled out a med­i­cal cause for your ex­pe­ri­ence with loose stools. And since you haven't ref­er­enced di­ar­rhea, we'll as­sume that's not rel­e­vant to the is­sue you're hav­ing.

In many cases, this is the re­sult of some­thing in the diet, so let's start with the ba­sics of di­ges­tion.

For the most part, di­ges­tion is a "wet" process. Food goes into our mouths and we chew, adding saliva to sub­stances that, to some de­gree or other, al­ready con­tain mois­ture. In the stom­ach, the chewed food gets fur­ther bro­ken down by pow­er­ful acids, which de­liver a liq­uid slurry to the small in­tes­tine.

Here, di­ges­tive juices from the pan­creas, liver and in­tes­tine fin­ish the dis­man­tling process. The di­gested nu­tri­ents are then ab­sorbed by the walls of the small in­tes­tine, where they en­ter the blood and are de­liv­ered to the rest of the body.

As the waste prod­ucts that are left be­hind be­gin to move through the large in­tes­tine, the stool is formed. The job of the large in­tes­tine is to ab­sorb wa­ter from these waste prod­ucts, along with any stray nu­tri­ents. This process changes the waste from a liq­uid form into the firm mass of the stool. This is then stored in the rec­tum un­til a bowel move­ment oc­curs.

The up­shot is that loose stool is the re­sult of ex­cess wa­ter that was not re­moved by the large in­tes­tine. Since ill­ness and in­fec­tion aren't the cause, let's look at diet.

Di­etary sug­ars, which can in­crease the ab­sorp­tion of wa­ter, may ex­ac­er­bate loose stools. That's in part be­cause su­gar is hy­gro­scopic, which means it at­tracts and ab­sorbs wa­ter. In ad­di­tion, some peo­ple lack ad­e­quate en­zymes to di­gest cer­tain sug­ars. These sug­ars can in­clude sor­bitol, which is found in prunes, peaches and ap­ples; man­ni­tol, which is found in pineap­ples and as­para­gus; and xyl­i­tol, a su­gar present in let­tuce and straw­ber­ries. Each of these can have a lax­a­tive ef­fect. The sug­ars in wine and beer can cause loose stools, as can lac­tose, the su­gar found in milk prod­ucts.

Caf­feinated bev­er­ages, fried foods, fatty meats and ad­di­tives like MSG and ar­ti­fi­cial sweet­en­ers can also cause prob­lems. In fact, for many in­di­vid­u­als who ex­pe­ri­ence di­ges­tive prob­lems, the ques­tion may be not what to add to your diet, but what to elim­i­nate from it.

If you're up for it, you might try an ad­di­tion diet. Start with a small but nu­tri­tious range of foods that re­sult in nor­mal bowel move­ments. Think lean meats, small por­tions of veg­eta­bles, and potas­sium-rich foods like ba­nanas. Then, one by one, be­gin to ex­pand the range of foods in your diet. There are prob­a­bly cer­tain foods that your body ab­sorbs bet­ter than oth­ers.

By pro­ceed­ing slowly and keep­ing a food di­ary, you may be able to pin­point the cul­prits and tai­lor your diet to your spe­cific needs.

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