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Nutrition & Fitness Newsletter

Digestive Distress

Do you often suffer from gastrointestinal (GI) upset?  Does your stomach not feel right sometimes?  Everyone on occasion suffers from some sort of GI issue at some point in their lives.  When the symptoms are chronic (on-going, long-term) it's time to delve deeper and see a medical professional.  Some GI issues can come from foodborne-illnesses like E Coli, Salmonella or stem from other disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Celiac disease, Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) and Food allergies/intolerances/sensitivities.  Let's shed some light on what some of these problems are, what causes them and possible ways to manage them.

  • Food Allergies/Intolerances/Sensitivities — Food allergies are different from food intolerances/sensitivities, in that allergies are an immune response, most are immunoglobulin E(IgE) mediated.  With this response, the food is identified by the immune system as an allergen and reacts by producing antibodies.  Symptoms can be mild itching or hives to anaphalaxis - difficulty breathing, dizziness, loss of consciousness and potential death.  Treatment for food allergies are to completely avoid the offending food, especially critical if there is a potential response as severe as anaphalaxis.  Whereas, a food intolerance is an inability to digest a food, due to a deficiency of an enzyme or reaction to a chemical in the food.  A common intolerance is lactose intolerance, due to lacking the lactose enzyme to digest dairy foods.  Another type of adverse food reaction can be called a "food sensitivity" which if often used interchangeably with food intolerance.  The sensitivity can be less consistent when an intolerance is more reproducible.  Common symptoms of a food intolerance are nausea, stomach pain, bloating, vomiting and/or diarrhea.  Some symptoms of food sensitivities are nausea, stomach pains, vomiting, bloating, diarrhea, headache, irritability, joint pain, eczema, fatigue and more.  Treatment for food intolerances or sensitivities are to initially avoid the offending food for a period of time then gradually reintroduce in small amounts to determine a threshold response or to completely eliminate from diet, depending on your response level.

  • Bacterial Food Poisoning or Intestinal Parasites — These are foodborne illnesses, getting sick from contaminated foods that have been improperly sourced, stored, prepared and/or processed.  We are most familiar with Salmonella, Listeria and E.coli.  Symptoms can be abdominal pain and cramps, vomiting, nausea, headache and high fever.  Severe cases are seen with the elderly, young and immune-compromised.  Immediate medical attention may be necessary.  Stool culture along with medical, diet and travel history are used to diagnose the type of illness.  Education on safe food handling and preparation are important for prevention as well as knowing how to drink and eat safely while traveling. 

  • Celiac Disease – This is a an autoimmune disorder, when a person with celiac disease eats gluten the body produces an immune response.  This response damages the lining of the intestine and when this happens nutrients cannot be properly absorbed, over time serious nutrient deficiencies can occur.  Digestive symptoms are prevalent in infants and children, only 1/3 of adults with celiac disease show symptoms.  Symptoms can be similar to IBS and iron deficiencies with unidentified cause.  Celiac disease is diagnosed by intestinal biopsy and immunoglobulin A (IgA) tests.  Managing celiac disease requires a lifelong gluten-free diet and adjustments for potential nutrient deficiencies.

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) — Symptoms include diarrhea, constipation, or alternating episodes of diarrhea and constipation, abdominal cramps usually in the lower half of the belly, and gas or bloating.  Stress can exacerbate these symptoms.  See a doctor to rule out food allergies, intolerances, medication reaction, infection, digestive deficiencies or other inflammatory bowel diseases.  Treatment can be individualized depending on triggers, adjustments to lifestyle, stress management, eating habits and food avoidance may be recommended.

  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) — This is a group of intestinal disorders in which the intestine become red and swollen (inflammation) due to a potential immune response.  The two types include Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.  Both of these have symptoms that have times of flare-ups and remission.  Symptoms are abdominal pain, fever, bloody stools, and urgent and incomplete bowel movements.  Diagnosis is made from an endoscopy for Crohn's and colonoscopy for ulcerative colitis, stool samples and blood tests are used to rule out other conditions.  Treatment is usually with medications, avoiding trigger foods and improving nutritional deficiencies.  Nutrient absorption is typically compromised with this disease so it is important to reduce inflammation and have a high quality diet to improve nutrient absorption.  Hydration, small frequent meals, limiting caffeine and sugar, having prebiotic and probiotic foods are beneficial.  A low FODMAP diet may be recommended.

  • Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) — While the small intestine typically has bacterial growth.  However, this is an excessive growth of bacteria which can affect absorption of nutrients.  The symptoms can appear similar to IBS such as gas, bloating and pain.  In addition SIBO can overlap with other conditions such as diabetes, Crohn's disease, short bowel syndrome and IBS.  Given this, SIBO can be difficult to diagnose.  Currently there is no standard for SIBO diagnosis, breath tests for exhaled hydrogen and methane are often used.  Other indications of SIBO could be deficiencies of fat-soluble vitamins, iron and B12.  Treatments can be antibiotics, discontinuing proton pump inhibitors if using, dietary support with proper hydration, correcting nutrient deficiencies, probiotics and managing symptoms with a low FODMAP diet.

If you're looking for an individualized approach to improving your life: from improving digestion, maintaining your brain, healthier food swaps, to ways to burn additional calories, eat well for the planet and incorporate "green exercise" into your routine, contact Sheri.
Happy 4th of July!

Here are few reasons to see a nutritionist/personal trainer/health coach: assess nutrient intake, disease prevention through diet, and exercise, maximize exercise performance, improve sleep quality, enhance mental clarity, optimize digestion and nutrient absorption, establish long-term healthy habits, meal planning for a whole foods diet and eat in a way to sustain the planet.  Please consider Sheri for nutrition counseling and/or fitness appointments to help you develop a healthier lifestyle for you and the planet. 


Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria on Meat

Environmental Working Group (EWG) looked at testing data on meat from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and found that more 3/4 of American supermarket meat had antibiotic-resistant bacteria.  Maybe it's time to go meatless Monday through Sunday?  To find out more go to Environmental Working Group News and Analysis

Sheri is a Certified Nutritionist with a master's degree in nutrition, with over 15 years of clinical counseling experience, an ACE-certified Personal Trainer with advanced certifications in medical exercise, senior fitness and health coaching.  All nutrition consultations include exercise guidance, dietary analysis and meal plans to meet your individual lifestyle, calorie and nutritional needs.

Free introductory 15-minute appointments are also available.

To schedule an appointment with Sheri Mar, email:  or call:  206.789.6440

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