Nutrition and gastrointestinal diseases


There are numerous roles for nutrients in various gastrointestinal diseases.

Bowel Motility
Calcium carbonate, niacin, and B vitamins reduce the frequency of bowel movements, and possibly vitamin A, while magnesium oxide, safflower oil, vitamin C, and lecithin increase bowel frequency. Diets high in fruit, bran, and vegetables increase bowel frequency, while diets high in protein, cheese, and sugar reduce bowel frequency. Other alterations in treatment include the mildly toxic atropic drugs (Lomotol, Modium) and Pepto Bismol. Kaopectate (pectin, bananas, apples) is probably the best treatment of diarrhea besides vitamins. Fiber is the most important treatment of irritable bowel syndrome (diarrhea and constipation) and has the additional effect of protection for the heart and cardio-vascular disease by reducing cholesterol.

Gall Bladder
Gall stones are a common occurrence in overweight, forty-year-old women. This predisposition is due to high estrogens in the diet i.e. dairy and meat (hormone injections). A diet high in vegetables may reduce gall bladder disease. Furthermore, patients with cholestosis (bile duct blockage) need more fat soluble vitamins, i.e. vitamin E, A, D and K. Methionine has been a useful therapy for cholestosis in some patients. Taurine, which conjugates bile may also have a role. Most large stones do not pass spontaneously, yet even large stones often remain asymptomatic for a long time. There are new techniques to dissolve them (chemical and ultrasound) to avoid surgery.

Crohn's Disease
This disease is an inflammation of the small intestine (ileum) is marked by potassium, magnesium, zinc, vitamin A, and thiamine deficiency. Crohn's may be marked by such severe malnutrition that parenteral feeding may be necessary. Antioxidants and the anti-inflammatory fish oil (EPA) may be other useful therapies for Crohn's disease. Primrose and saturated fat may increase inflammation.

Ulcerative Colitis
This inflammatory disease of the large bowel is treated like Crohn's. Yet, fish oil may increase bleeding and copper may be useful for anti-inflammatory effect. Antioxidants are extremely important for protection against the increased risk of cancer associated with ulcerative colitis.

High vegetable diets reduce the risk of appendicitis. Vitamin C and other antioxidants in vegetables-are probably responsible for the reduced risk.

Motion Sickness and Nausea
Ginger is helpful for motion sickness, as is the niacin flush (atropinescopalamine-like effect). Vitamin B6 has been used in certain preparations for treating nausea of pregnancy and may be deficient in patients with frequent nausea.

Chronic Hepatitis
This is due to the after effects of hepatitis B-virus or a drug toxicity. Rather than steroids, methionine and other antioxidants may be helpful.

Pancreatic diseases
Zinc is highly concentrated in the pancreas where it is depleted by alcoholism or any pancreatic disease. Low plasma zinc is the trademark for pancreatic disease. Folic acid also may be an important nutrient in healing the pancreas.

It is easy to interpret the above information to conclude that a proper diet and the supplementation of nutrients will help in reducing intestinal diseases. Treat your body, mind and spirit with the proper attention and you'll reap healthy dividends.


by Eric R Braverman, M.D.

Dr. Eric Braverman is director of a multi-specialty medical clinic and non-profit foundation in Princeton, New Jersey.

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