Archive for the 'Gastrointestinal Disorders' Category

Animal Protein Associated with Irritable Bowel Disease

Beef burgersA diet heavy in animal protein appears to increase women’s risk of developing inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), according to researchers from Paris.

This study adds to a growing body of literature suggesting that diet might play a role in inflammatory bowel disease.  

Also there have been several studies linking vitamin D deficiency to IBD.

Inflammatory bowel disease is a general term for diseases that are marked by severe inflammation in the digestive system such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

Meat could contribute to inflammatory bowel disease risk because digestion of animal protein produces many potentially toxic “end products,” such as hydrogen sulfide and ammonia, the lead researcher said in an interview with Reuters Health. Also, a high-protein diet could alter the mix of healthy bacteria that live in the colon.

More Information:

SOURCE: American Journal of Gastroenterology, online May 11, 2010
SOURCE: “Meat, fish protein linked to women’s bowel disease”, Reuter’s Health, June 7, 2010

Can You Get Bad Germs From a Toilet Seat?

A toilet seat can harbor a variety of germsYes, a toilet seat can harbor a variety of germs. MRSA, pinworms, and viruses that cause diarrhea and vomiting are just some of the pathogens that can be transmitted to you by the toilet seat.   

Researchers are now describing a new wave of irritating and itchy rash on the upper thighs and buttocks of children.  Harsh chemical cleaners on toilet seats and/or exotic wooden toilet seats appear to be the main culprits causing this problem.  A recent study from Johns Hopkins Children’s Center documents recent cases of toilet seat dermatitis in children, some of whom suffered for years before being diagnosed.

Toilet seat dermatitis was first documented and described in 1927 when varnish, lacquers, and paints were used on wooden toilet seats.  In the 1980s and 1990s, plastic toilet seats replaced wooden ones and sanitary seat covers came into use.  These changes were associated with a dramatic decline in the condition.

Recently, however exotic wooden toilet seats, as well as harsh toilet seat detergents have made a resurgence in popularity.  Cleaners with ingredients such as didecyl dimethyl ammonium chloride and alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride, are being used as toilet seat cleansers although they have previously been documented to cause severe skin irritation.

To prevent any of these conditions, avoid sitting directly on a toilet seat or use a protective barrier in public restrooms.  Avoid harsh cleansers at home and replace all wooden toilet seats with plastic ones.

Read more about the Super Bug, MRSA 

Source: “Toilet Seat Dermatitis Making a Comeback”, MedPage Today, January 2010
Source: Center for Disease Control


Pollution Linked with Liver Disease

Pesticides being sprayed on a crop by a planeEnvironmental pollution may be contributing to the growing incidence of liver disease in the general U.S. population, according to researchers from the University of Louisville in Kentucky.  Their analyses found that at least some of this hazardous exposure may be attributed to banned organochloride pesticides and heavy metals such as mercury and lead.

Source: “DDW: Pollution May Explain Some Liver Disease in the U.S.”, MedPage Today, May 29, 2009
Source: Patel M, et al “Pesticide and heavy metal exposures are associated with ALT elevation in American adults: NHANES 2003-2004″ DDW 2009; Abstract 289.

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) Toxicity Is Leading Cause of Acute Liver Failure

The digestive system with the liver highlightedYour liver is a vital organ–you can’t live without it, and the symptoms of serious liver damage are extremely unpleasant, if not tragic. Liver disease is often preventable, yet the incidence is on the rise and very common — one in 10 Americans suffer from liver disease.

Many people think liver disease is solely alcohol-related.  Although alcohol is a common source of liver damage, there are many other causes of liver disease. In fact acetaminophen toxicity is the leading cause of acute liver failure, according to researchers from the University of Washington. 

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is the most widely used pain reliever and fever reducer in the United States, and it’s a common ingredient that’s readily available in most parts of the world, but it causes more overdoses and overdose deaths, due to liver toxicity, than any other drug in the United States.
This is due in part to it’s toxicity but also because it’s a common ingredient and very easy to obtain.

Some people deliberately take toxic doses of acetaminophen in suicide attempts, but a significant number of others have accumulated damaging levels of the drug unintentionally when they took two or more acetaminophen-containing products simultaneously.  Anything more than the Tylenol package-recommended 4 g/day — has been associated with severe liver damage.  Adding a glass of wine or two on top of the overdose adds even further insult to the injury.

In fact as few as three alcoholic drinks at one time, when combined with certain over–the–counter medications, such as those containing acetaminophen, may have toxic effects on the liver.

Acetaminophen is widely available in over-the-counter preparations for headaches, colds, allergies, osteoarthritis, and other conditions. A person who is miserable from a cold might take Tylenol to relieve their headache, for instance, and then take a combination cold remedy which also contains acetaminophen.  This can easily amount to an acetaminophen overdose.  To make things even worse, drinking a glass of wine on top of the acetaminophen overdose would potentially deliver even more serious damage to the liver.

Acetaminophen is also found in prescription narcotics used for pain control, such as Percocet (acetaminophen and oxycodone) and Vicodin (acetaminophen and hydrocodone). 

Read more: “Six Facts Everyone Should Know About Tylenol” from Bay Area Medical Information

Image courtesy of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health.

Source: Larson AM et al Acetaminophen-Induced Acute Liver Failure: Results a United States Multicenter, Prospective Study. HEPATOLOGY 2005;42:1364-1372.
Source: American Liver Foundation



Ginger Relieves Nausea Due to Chemotherapy

Ginger Half a teaspoon of ground ginger a day can significantly reduce the nausea associated with chemotherapy, according to researchers from the University of Michigan Integrative Medicine.   In a recent randomized controlled trial, researchers found that ginger reduced nausea by 40%, when taken along with standard antinausea medications, in patients undergoing chemotherapy.

In the study the participants took the spice in capsules, but it should “theoretically” also work in cookies or soft drinks — as long as the ginger flavor isn’t artificial. The optimal dose of ginger was 1.0 gram per day in this trial, which is equivalent to about half a teaspoon of ground ginger, dried or fresh. 

The rhizomes and stems of ginger have had significant roles in Chinese, Japanese, and Indian medicine since the 1500s.  In the U.S., ginger tea and ginger ale, has long been used as a folk remedy for upset stomach and diarrhea.  It is also frequently found in over-the-counter digestive products, as well as antitussive, antiflatulent, laxative, and antacid products.   

The herb is believed to affect receptors in the digestive tract for the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is the action similar to conventional antinausea drugs, according to the leading researcher Dr.  Suzanna Zick. “Ginger has been shown to be effective in a number of clinical trials against nausea and vomiting associated with motion sickness, pregnancy, and postoperative recovery,? said Dr. Zick in an article on the website of the National Cancer Institute. Some researchers discourage large doses of ginger during pregnancy, however, due to concerns about mutations or abortions.

Caution: Ginger can be a problem for those on the anticoagulant warfarin (Coumadin). The herb increases the anticoagulation of Coumadin which could increase the bleeding risk.

Source: “ASCO: Ginger Eases Chemo-Related Nausea”, MedPage Today, May 14, 2009
Source: “ACP: Garlic, Ginseng, Ginkgo Biloba, and Ginger All Bad Actors with Coumadin”, MedPage Today, April 9, 2006


One Out of Four Americans Get Food Poisoning Each Year

Food-borne pathogens are seen only under a microscopeFood poisoning can occur from either a virus, a bacteria, or a parasite. By far the most common cause of food poisoning are the Noroviruses, which are widespread in the community but also are well known for sickening cruise-ship passengers, according to the CDC. A virus does not respond to antibiotics, whereas bacteria are treatable with antibiotics.

The symptoms of norovirus illness usually include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and some stomach cramping. Sometimes people additionally have a low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, and a general sense of tiredness. Symptoms of norovirus illness usually begin about 24 to 48 hours after ingestion of the virus, but they can appear as early as 12 hours after exposure. The illness is usually brief, with symptoms lasting only about 1 or 2 days.  Most people get better within 1 or 2 days, and they have no long-term health effects related to their illness. However, sometimes people can become dehydrated and may need special medical attention.

The next most common type of food poisoning come from two types of bacteria, campylobacter and salmonella. Both of these bacteria are diagnosed by a simple stool culture which must be ordered by a health care provider.

Salmonella has been in the news quite a bit lately. Earlier in 2008, salmonella poisoning was linked to hot peppers and tomatoes from Mexico that sickened more 1,400, and the recent peanut-related salmonella outbreak has triggered one of the largest food recalls ever in the United States. It has been linked to nine deaths and caused 654 confirmed illnesses in 44 states so far. The salmonella-peanut butter outbreak is continuing, though the numbers of new cases have declined modestly since December.  This outbreak was traced to Peanut Corp. of America, which is now undergoing bankruptcy proceedings.  To date, more than 2,100 products in 17 categories have been voluntarily recalled by more than 200 companies, and the list continues to grow. 

Salmonella is a bacteria that invades a person’s gastrointestinal system (stomach and intestines). It can be in drinking water or food, but it also can occur from coming in contact with infected animals or contaminated surfaces.    Most people with a Salmonella infection develop a diarrhea illness within 6 to 72 hours from the ingestion of the bacteria. Diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, and fever occur in varying degrees of severity, depending on a number of factors. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, although mild cases may only last 1-2 days. In some cases, the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized, however most persons recover without treatment.

Some cases of salmonella may cause severe illness, hospitalization and even death in susceptible people such as children under 5, the elderly, and people who have lowered natural resistance to disease. In some cases, arthritic symptoms may follow 3-4 weeks after the onset of the gastrointestinal symptoms. 

Campylobacter is also a bacteria that can be a food-borne illness, but it can also be spread to humans from infected animals.  Most people who become ill with campylobacter get diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain, and fever within two to five days after exposure to the organism. The symptoms can be severe and the diarrhea may be bloody and sometimes accompanied by nausea and vomiting. The illness typically lasts one week. The severity varies from person to person. Some people who are infected do not have any symptoms at all, while those with compromised immune systems may have an infection so severe that it spreads to the bloodstream and causes a serious life-threatening infection.

There are a number of very important precautions you can take to prevent food poisoning.

Read more: 

Source: CDC, February 2009 

The Truth About Coffee

Cup of coffeeMost of us truly love our coffee and especially look forward to that first cup in the morning.  It’s delicious, it helps you wake up, and quite honestly, most of us are addicted to this wonderful brew.  But are we going to regret this delicious indulgence some day? 

A number of researchers have recently investigated the health benefits of coffee and found that drinking regular coffee on a routine basis was associated with many important health benefits such as a decreased risk of stroke, diabetes and dementia.  Also, several studies have found that people who drink coffee on a regular basis are up to 80% less likely to develop Parkinson’s.  Other research shows that compared to not drinking coffee, at least two cups daily was linked to a 25% reduced risk of colon cancer, an 80% drop in liver cirrhosis risk, and nearly half the risk of gallstones.

Coffee has been found to be helpful in people who have asthma.  It also has been known to stop a headache,  improve mood, increase concentration and give you that extra energy needed to get through the day.  

Some of the health benefits of coffee are merely from the caffeine.  An eight ounce cup of drip-brewed coffee contains about 85 mg of caffeine, whereas eight ounces of black tea only has about 45 mg of caffeine and 12 ounces of Coke has 35 mg of caffeine. Many of the so called “Sports/Energy Drinks” on the market are loading up on caffeine for that extra jolt and may contain over 150 mg of caffeine.

Researchers believe that most of the health benefits from coffee probably originate from substances other than caffeine. Phenolic compounds in coffee have strong antioxidant properties, which may improve endothelial function.  Caffeinated coffee appears to have beneficial effects on glucose metabolism, inflammation, and endothelial function which would account for protection against diabetes and stroke.

Of course adding cream which is loaded with fat may counteract some of the health benefits of coffee, and pouring several spoons full of sugar into the cup adds another carbohydrate load that is not beneficial. 

While these studies are very good news for coffee drinkers, be aware that coffee can lead to a number of health problems. These can include fast heart rate, tremors, irritable bladder, excessive urination, stomach irritation, gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), nausea, vomiting, restlessness, anxiety, depression,  and difficulty sleeping.

Caffeine is notorious for interfering with much-needed sleep. Many people get in a viscious cycle of using caffeine to mask their sleep deprivation, but then the excess caffeine keeps them from falling asleep the following night. The best way to break this cycle is to avoid all caffeine eight to ten hours before your desired bedtime.  Drinking coffee later in the day is more likely to cause insomnia as well as stomach irritation and reflux for many people. 

Another drawback of coffee is that certain drugs can interact with caffeine. Pregnant women and people with coronary heart disease or peptic ulcers are often advised to restrict or avoid using caffeine altogether. 

Contrary to the popular belief that coffee will sober you up after drinking too much alcohol, it can actually worsen the problem.  A recent study found that a high caffeine energy drink mixed with vodka actually reduced the participants’ perception of motor coordination compared with vodka alone.  This could obviously lead to disasterous consequences in a person who is drinking heavily away from home and has several cups of coffee to sober up before driving home.

So, is coffee good for us?  It depends on who you are, how much you drink, and when you drink it.  It’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about the amount of coffee you drink. 

Source: “High Coffee Consumption Linked to Lower Stroke Risk for Women”, MedPage Today, February 17, 2009
Source: Lopez-Garcia E, et al “Coffee consumption and risk of stroke in women” Circulation 2009; 119: 1116-1123.

Caffeinated Coffee May Be Linked with Lower Stroke Risk

CoffeeDrinking caffeinated coffee regularly may be linked with a lower stroke risk, according to Harvard and Madrid researchers. Women who drank two to three cups a day had a 19% reduction in the risk of all strokes but consumption of tea and caffeinated soft drinks was not significantly associated with a lowered stroke risk. The association was significant only in women who had never smoked or who had quit.

Other recent studies have also found that drinking coffee was associated with a decreased risk of diabetes as well as dementia.  

Researchers believe the health benefits from coffee probably originate from substances other than caffeine. Phenolic compounds in coffee have strong antioxidant properties, which may improve endothelial function.  Caffeinated coffee appears to have beneficial effects on glucose metabolism, inflammation, and endothelial function which would account for protection against diabetes and stroke.

While these studies are very good news for coffee drinkers, be aware that more research needs to be done.  Also keep in mind that some people should not drink coffee at all, and for others, drinking too much coffee can be problematic and lead to a number of health problems.  

Source: “High Coffee Consumption Linked to Lower Stroke Risk for Women”, MedPage Today, February 17, 2009
Source: Lopez-Garcia E, et al “Coffee consumption and risk of stroke in women” Circulation 2009; 119: 1116-1123.

Simple remedies are the best for IBS

IntestinesPeppermint oil, soluble fiber, and certain antispasmodic drugs are the most reliable and effective treatments for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), according to a new study from McMaster University. Peppermint oil appeared to be the most effective therapy of those reviewed, the researchers found. There were no serious side effects associated with any of these treatments, in this study.

Irritable bowel can cause either constipation or diarrhea.  For those with pain and diarrhea the antispasmodics may be useful. People with constipation should try either fiber or peppermint oil, the researchers found.

Peppermint oil is sold over-the-counter and can be taken directly, swallowed in capsules, or applied to the skin once diluted with another oil.  Common oral dosages are 1 to 2 capsules 3 times a day for irritable bowel syndrome.   Peppermint oil has been used over the years for a variety of health conditions, including nausea, indigestion, cold symptoms, headaches, muscle and nerve pain, and stomach and bowel conditions. A word of caution, however, allergic reactions can occur, strong vapors of menthol or peppermint can cause breathing problems for some, especially infants, and it is known to worsen acid reflux in certain people.

Ispaghula husk, also known as psyllium, was found to be the best soluble fiber in this study.  Optimal dosage was 20 grams per day in another related study on IBS. There was no added benefit to increasing up to 30 grams per day.  Ispaghula Husk is a bulk-forming laxative and is used to treat constipation, but can also be useful in treating diarrhea. It is sold over-the-counter and is available in cereals and in dissolvable granule and powder form.  On the package, ispaghula husk may be labeled as Fybogel, Isogel, Ispagel, and Regulan. Brand names include Metamucil®, Perdiem®, Bran Buds® cereal, Heartwise® cereal, Effersyllium®, Fiberall®, Fybogel®,  Hydrocil®, I-so-gel®, Konsyl®, Lunelax®, Minolest®,  Prodiem Plain®,  Regulan®, Serutan®, Vi-Siblin®, and Yerba Prima® psyllium husk powder.

For antispasmodics, the most effective was found to be hyoscine, which is available only by prescription as Donnatal, Levsin, and NuLev. Image courtesy of National Cancer Institute

via Kumar A, Kumar N, Vij JC, Sarin SK, Anand BS, “Optimum dosage of ispaghula husk in patients with irritable bowel syndrome: correlation of symptom relief with whole gut transit time and stool weight” Gut 1987 Feb;28(2):150-5

via “Peppermint Oil, Fiber Can Fight Irritable Bowel”, Health Day, November 2008

via “Peppermint Oil” National Center for Complementary and Herbal Medicine

Mylicon drops for infants recalled

Infants’ Mylicon Gas Relief Dye Free Non-Staining Drops have been recalled due to the potential for contamination with metal fragments generated during the manufacturing process. The simethicone drops are sold in one-ounce plastic bottles with one of two lot numbers: SMF007 and SMF008.  The lot numbers are located either on the bottom of the box containing the product or on the lower left side of the label on the bottle.

The bottles were distributed throughout the U.S. after Oct. 5. The recall does not affect any Original Infants’ Mylicon Gas Relief products (1/2 oz- or 1-oz size) or the half-oz size of Infants’ Mylicon Gas Relief Dye Free Non-Staining Drops.

The manufacturer, Johnson & Johnson Merck Consumer Pharmaceuticals, has said the potential for adverse events is low, and those that do occur are expected to be temporary and resolve without complication. Parents who have given the product to their infant should immediately stop using the product and are advised to contact their health care provider immediately.  The company can be contacted by calling 1-800-222-9435 (Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. EST) or via the internet at 

via FDA, November 7, 2008