Digestive Disease

— Written By Lethia Lee and last updated by Patricia Burch

May is National Digestive Disease Awareness month. If you would like to learn more about the disease, check out some of the organizations from the web-sites below. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease. www.niddk.nih.gov and Medline Plus at www. Nlm.nih.gov/MedlinePlus/.

Digestive Disease Awareness Celiac Disease affects the small intestine, which gets damaged when the body has an immune response to gluten. About 1 in every 141 people has Celiac Disease.

Crohn’s Disease is chronic inflammation of any part of the gastrointestinal tract. It most commonly occurs in the small intestine and the front of the large intestine.

Diverticular Disease occurs when small sacs (diverticula) in the colon either begin to bleed or become inflamed. It generally occurs in people over the age of 50.

Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) happens when stomach contents leak back into the esophagus at least twice a week for a few weeks.

Ulcerative Colitis is a chronic condition that causes inflammation and sores to develop in the inner lining of the large intestine. Eating foods that are low in fat and high in carbohydrates, such as pasta, rice, whole-grain breads and cereal, fruits, and vegetables, may help with this condition. Eating smaller meals more often, or eating smaller portions, may help.

Certain foods or drinks may make symptoms worse. Foods high in fat, some milk products, drinks with alcohol or caffeine, drinks with large amounts of artificial sweeteners, beans, cabbage, and other foods may cause gas. To find out if certain foods trigger your symptoms, keep a diary and track what you eat during the day, what symptoms you have, and when your symptoms occur.

If you have a chronic digestive disorder, here are some things that you can do to help manage your condition and improve how you feel. Try to locate areas of conflict in your personal relationships and reduce stress. Research shows that continuing to talk about problem areas — not withdrawing or blaming –results in much less personal stress, no matter how serious the issue. Be specific about the kinds of support you need from others. Explain that having a condition like yours requires you to be an active researcher — always looking for what does not help, and for what works best for you. Sorting all this out takes time and focus, and your efforts should be recognized and admired. Be aware that friends and family members may be projecting their own worries about health issues on to you. Point out where their comments seem not to apply to your health problems. Avoid sometimes unintentionally) laying blame on the other person with the digestive condition. Saying things such as you don’t eat right, or you worry too much, grows out of a desire to help, but places blame. It makes the person with the condition feel less in control because he or she knows how often even the best of self-discipline cannot always prevent an outbreak of symptoms. Always remember there is a personal relationship with any disorder especially a digestive disorder.

For more information concerning Digestive Disease, contact Lethia Lee at the Sampson County Cooperative Extension Office 910-592-7161.

**Editor’s Note:  Lethia Lee is the EFNEP Program Assistant for the Expanded Food Nutrition Education Program with the Sampson County Cooperative Extension Center.