Published On: Fri, Feb 8th, 2013

Debunking Common Myths about Your Digestive System

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Debunking Common Myths about Your Digestive SystemOne of the universal truths that unites us all, people need food to function. However, without a properly working digestive system, the foods and drinks we consume would do our bodies very little good. A malfunctioning digestive system can cause a variety of health problems, including constipation, gas, bloating, acid reflux, and even a failure to properly absorb the needed nutrients contained in the foods you eat.

Fortunately, as the case with most of the body, our digestive systems are remarkably resilient, and have the ability to overcome much of the punishment people tend to dish out. In fact, our digestive systems are so adaptable that a lot of myths get spread around about how well they really function. With that in mind, we have decided to debunk a few of the more common digestive system myths that a lot of people commonly mistake as true.

Myth: It Takes 7 Years to Digest Gum

A popular myth that has been spread around playgrounds for decades (perhaps started by parents who didn’t want their children filling up on gum before dinner), gum doesn’t take years to digest if swallowed. In truth, gum actually never gets digested. It passes right through your digestive system like everything else you eat, and comes out the other side. While it may take a few days, swallowed gum will eventually pass through, and be eliminated from the body in your stool.

Myth: Spicy Foods Cause Ulcers

Spicy foods were once considered to increase a person’s risk of developing an ulcer, but recent research has dispelled this notion as true. Most stomach ulcers are the result of either an infection caused by the bacterium Helicobacter pylori or from the frequent use of pain medication such as naproxen, ibuprofen, or aspirin. So while eating spicy foods may aggravate a preexisting condition, it won’t contribute to you developing any new ulcers.

Myth: Nuts can Inflame Diverticulitis

Diverticulitis is a condition where pouches located on the wall of your colon become infected and inflamed, which can lead to severe abdominal pain. Doctors used to recommend that patients with this condition avoid eating popcorn, corn, nuts, and any type of food that featured small seeds such as kiwi or strawberries. Doctors worried that the pain associated with the condition was, in part, caused by these indigestible pieces of food becoming lodged into these inflamed colon pouches. However, a study conducted in 2008 actually showed the opposite to be true; that individuals who ate diets high in fiber were actually less likely to suffer from diverticulitis.

Myth: Beans are the Most Musical Food

While the butt (pun very much intended) of many jokes, beans are not the most flatulence causing foods you can eat. That dubious honor actually belongs to dairy foods. The older we get, the harder time our bodies have breaking down lactose (the type of sugar found in milk), which leads to excessive gas. If you notice yourself becoming a little too gassy following a meal rich in dairy, try switching to products that advertise as lactose-free.

Myth: Being Lactose Intolerant Means No Dairy

Individuals who suffer from lactose intolerance have a difficult time breaking down the sugar after consumption. But just as with allergies, people have varying degrees of intolerance to dairy products. While some people might not be able to digest any dairy, others might be able to enjoy one glass of milk or a few pieces of cheese prior to feeling ill. So being lactose intolerant doesn’t mean swearing off all dairy, it just means you need to learn your limit.

Myth: Smoking can Easy Heartburn

Even though smoking has long carried a fictitious reputation for calming indigestion, research has actually shown that cigarette smoke may contribute to heartburn. Nicotine helps to relax the lower esophageal sphincter, the muscle that runs between the stomach and esophagus, which allows the acidic contents of you stomach to splash back up into your esophagus- contributing to your heartburn.

Myth: Aging Leads to Increased Constipation

While true that people experience constipation more frequently the older they become, age actually has little to do with why. Usually, seniors take a variety of medications to treat other ailments that feature constipation as a side effect. Seniors also tend to get less exercise, eat a properly balanced diet, and don’t consume enough fluids, all of which can lead to constipation.

Timothy Lemke blogs about the latest health trends for Astoria Family Dental, a family dental practice in Astoria, Oregon. 

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