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There are more than 100 trillion bacteria living in your gastrointestinal tract. In fact, beneficial bacteria in the gut are essential for digestion, immune strength, brain function, and overall health.
Transcript: There are more than 100 trillion bacteria living in your gastrointestinal tract. And many of them influence...
There are more than 100 trillion bacteria living in your gastrointestinal tract. And many of them influence how your immune system functions, what diseases you can resist and which ones develop. In fact, beneficial bacteria in the gut are essential for healthy digestion, immune strength, brain function, and overall health. These bacteria, which we call PRObiotics, suppress the growth of other potentially harmful bacteria, improve nutrient absorption, influence how the body synthesizes certain B vitamins, prevent diarrhea and may be able to help relieve the symptoms of digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome. Unfortunately, many things can destroy the healthy balance of probiotics in the digestive tract. Perhaps the biggest culprit is antibiotics. While antibiotics successfully clear your system of BAD bacteria, they also rid it of good ones. A new study indicates that infants who are given antibiotics during their first six months are far more likely to develop allergic asthma later on - and researchers suspect it's a result of having lost important probiotics that they need for immune system regulation. Some people choose to up their probiotic count by taking supplements or eating probiotic-rich foods AFTER taking antibiotics, OR to IMPROVE constipation,lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn's disease and seasonal allergies. Some people say probiotics also promote weight loss, and protect against intestinal cancer. Probiotics, specifically Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, can be found in capsule, liquid, powder, or tablet form. You can pick these up at most local health food or vitamin stores. Many people favor a mixture of several strains of probiotics, hoping to re-establish the bio-diversity that seems to be the hallmark of the most healthy gut environment.You can also get probiotics from certain fermented foods such as dairy and non-dairy yogurt with specially added active live cultures, buttermilk, Kefir, tempeh, sauerkraut, kim chi and miso. Bananas, whole grains, garlic, flax, artichokes and honey contain PREbiotics, nutrients that probiotic bacteria need to make energy and function. Keep in mind probiotics may cause mild, temporary gas and bloating. And they do not always interact well with immunosuppressant medications. For more information on how to keep your digestive system functioning regularly, check out other videos in this series.More »
Last Modified: 2013-09-19 | Tags »
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Constipation is uncomfortable and painful but it can be cured. Check out this video, Constipation 101, to know its causes, symptoms and remedies.
Transcript: You know those days when things are moving along just fine and then, well, they're NOT? Or maybe, they're...
You know those days when things are moving along just fine and then, well, they're NOT? Or maybe, they're REALLY not? We all take our digestive systems for granted. That is, until something goes awry and our bodies get more "backed up" than we're used to. That unpleasant surprise is CONSTIPATION. Over 4 million Americans experience mild OR chronic constipation, though we may not talk about it much, aside from grumbling about a sore belly.Mild constipation is defined as occasionally having FEWER THAN 3 bowel movements per week and they're often painful. The best cure for mild constipation is often more fluids, and more fiber. While uncomfortable, it most often clears up within a few days. CHRONIC constipation is diagnosed if you have two or more of the following symptoms for at least 3 MONTHS: Straining during a bowel movement more than 25 percent of the time.Hard stools more than 25 percent of the time.Incomplete evacuation more than 25 percent of the time.Two or fewer bowel movements in a week. Children, pregnant women and the elderly are the most-often blocked up by chronic constipation. But how do you get constipated in the first place? What goes wrong? Often, nothing ACTUALLY goes wrong. You have a basically healthy digestive system, but it is not functioning at its best, all the time. During digestion, food is supposed to move through the colon, the biggest part of the large intestine. That's where water is extracted from food and a stool is formed. The muscles in the colon THEN push the stool toward the rectum where it is expelled. If the colon removes TOO MUCH water, or the colon muscle contractions are WEAK, then stools move too slowly through the intestines. And you get constipation. Common causes of constipation include: Poor nutrition, particularly a lack of FIBER;Not drinking enough fluids; Lack of physical activity; Resisting the urge to have a bowel movement; Stress; Change in routine, such as travel;And Irritable bowel syndrome. Constipation may also be a side effect of certain medications, or related medical conditions. Occasionally, it's not possible to identify the cause - this is called idiopathic constipation and it typically doesn't respond to standard treatments. Usually, however, occasional constipation is simply solved by drinking additional fluids and upping your fiber. If you're experiencing chronic constipation, your best bet is to consult with your doctor.More »
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Constipation means you can't go, but when do you need to see a doctor for constipation? Watch this video to learn about diagnosing constipation.
Transcript: Alright, you're constipated. You just can't "go." But how BADLY are you constipated? And do you need...
Alright, you're constipated. You just can't "go." But how BADLY are you constipated? And do you need to see a doctor? IF - regardless of what remedy you've tried -- your constipation lasts for two to three weeks, and you get bloating, sharp or severe abdominal pain, rectal pain, occasional diarrhea, and unexplained weight loss, it's time to see a doctor. Your best bet for an accurate diagnosis is to be explicit about your symptoms, and your medical history. It might be embarrassing to talk about these issues, but your doctor can't help you without the right information. Most commonly, a lack of dietary fiber is the root cause of constipation. But it's possible that your symptoms may call for a rectal examination, where the doctor examines the anus to uncover tenderness, bleeding, or an impacted stool that stretches the rectum. Additionally, if further diagnostic testing is needed, your doctor could suggest: *A sigmoidoscopy. This examines the rectum and lower portion of the colon with a lighted flexible tube. * A colonoscopy, which is similar to the sigmoidoscopy, but examines the entire colon. *A barium enema X-ray, in which the rectum, colon and sometimes a part of the small intestine are coated with a radioactive substance to IDENTIFY ABNORMALITIES. Also, your doctor may suggest a simple blood test to rule out thyroid disease or other disorders that may cause constipation. To restore regularity, your doctor may suggest lifestyle changes including drinking MORE water and LESS alcohol and coffee. He may also prescribe a stool softener or a high-fiber compound that you dissolve in water and drink once a day. If you ARE suffering from extended constipation, take it seriously, and consult with a doctor. While constipation is often not serious, it can sometimes point to greater health concerns.More »
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Diarrhea is the condition that no one wants to talk about, but everyone has had. Learn the basics, and what to do if diarrhea is serious.
Transcript: Diarrhea. No one wants to talk about it, but everyone's probably had it at least once. And...well, it...
Diarrhea. No one wants to talk about it, but everyone's probably had it at least once. And...well, it can sometimes be inconvenient, and embarrassing. However, whether it comes on because of a once-in-a-while spasm, as a symptom of an infection, or because of a chronic intestinal problem, diarrhea is a potential health hazard. Untreated it can lead to dehydration and deprive you of needed nutrients. The most common type of diarrhea happens if your colon doesn't absorb enough water from the food and liquid you take in, or if undigested food passes too quickly through the small intestine and colon for enough water to be removed. This kind of diarrhea may be triggered by: viral and bacterial Infections or parasites such as Giardia; certain medications, such as antibiotics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, heart and high blood pressure drugs, antacids containing magnesium, and chemotherapy; food intolerances, such as those to milk or to some sugar substitutes, and food allergies; stress and anxiety; and exercising in the heat or running long distances can also bring on an episode. Conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, or diseases such as Crohn's or celiac, as well as any laxative and alcohol abuse, are also known causes. If you have diarrhea you'll know it. Not only because you've made your bathroom home base, but because on top of urgency you'll probably have abdominal bloating or cramps. In rare cases you may get nausea and vomiting. In most cases, diarrhea will clear up on its own - just remember to drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated. If your diarrhea lasts for more than two days, or if you see blood in your stool, it's time to call the doctor.To learn how to prevent and treat diarrhea, check out other videos on this site.More »
Last Modified: 2012-10-18 | Tags »
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Anyone who has suffered with food poisoning knows how painful it is. Check out our video where we discuss this condition in detail.
Transcript: If you've never come down with food poisoning, consider yourself lucky. This stomach ailment -- typically...
If you've never come down with food poisoning, consider yourself lucky. This stomach ailment -- typically caused by eating food or drinking fluids contaminated with bacteria, parasites, viruses, or toxins - can result in: A fever or chills, Headache, Nausea, Stomach cramping, Vomiting, Diarrhea and fatigue within 2 to 6 hours of eating or drinking the contaminated food. Really, it's no picnic. However, some people have been known to come down with food poisoning after eating at a picnic or large social functions; in school, work or other cafeterias; at restaurants, especially buffets or from street vendors. In the U.S., bacteria such as Staphylococcus or Escherichia coli -- E. coli are commonly responsible for most food poisoning cases, but foodborne parasites such as protozoa, roundworms, and tapeworms can also be to blame. These bacteria and parasites can contaminate: Raw seafood; Undercooked meats or eggs; Meat that has been improperly processed or has come in contact with intestinal bacteria; Unrefrigerated dairy products; Fruits and vegetables that have not been washed properly; Food prepared by a person who did not wash his or her hands properly; Food prepared with contaminated utensils. Most people fully recover within 12 - 48 hours, as long as they drink plenty of fluids and make sure they protect their electrolyte balance with replacement drinks like Gatorade. But if you get hit with this gut-wrenching problem and are pregnant, have a serious medical condition, such as kidney disease or diabetes, a weakened immune system or have recently traveled out of the U.S., you'll want to see your doctor. You'll also want to see a doctor if: There is pus or blood in your stool; Diarrhea lasts more than 5 days; Your heart is racing, pounding, or skipping beats. The doctor may take a stool culture and draw blood to rule out any other conditions. If your symptoms are from food poisoning, the doctor probably won't prescribe you anything. In most circumstances, you don't want to take something that stops diarrhea. You want to expel the toxins. Instead, the doctor will probably suggest nutrient-rich fluids and some bed rest until you recover. To learn about other common digestive ailments, check out other video in this series.More »
Last Modified: 2013-06-12 | Tags »
food poisoning, eating, contaminated food, bacteria, parasites, viruses, toxins, diarrhea, fatigue, staphylococcus, Escherichia coli- E, E coli, foodborne parasites, protozoa, roundworms, tapeworms stomach, intestines, fever, chills, headache, nausea, vomiting digestion, digestive system, digestive problem hydration, medical assistance
Did you know hemorrhoids are caused by pressure on the anal veins? Over the counter remedies can be helpful in treating hemorrhoids. Watch this to see what they are.
Transcript: Hemorrhoids are swollen or inflamed veins in the anal canal that can be rather painful, and at times...
Hemorrhoids are swollen or inflamed veins in the anal canal that can be rather painful, and at times itch and sting. If severely inflamed, they can bleed when stool is passed. They happen because of pressure on the anal veins FROM chronic constipation and physical inactivity OR as a result of pregnancy or obesity. Sometimes hemorrhoids erupt externally and protrude out of the anus. Others are entirely internal. Doctors often recommend that EXTERNAL hemorrhoids, which are typically more painful, be treated with over-the-counter remedies to temporarily relieve pain and itching. These include ointments, suppositories or pads that contain witch hazel or hydrocortisone. Just don't rely on them for more than a week. They can cause a skin rash and additional inflammation, as well as skin damage. Eating more fiber, drinking more water and taking a stool softener to relieve constipation is also recommended. For TEMPORARY relief, you can also try soaking regularly in a warm bath, using moist towelettes to wipe instead of dry toilet paper, applying cold compresses and taking oral pain relievers. Sometimes a simple surgery is required to remove a blood clot that forms in the inflamed veins. INTERNALl hemorrhoids call for other treatments. Since there is a lack of pain receptors in the anal canal, most people don't know they even have internal hemorrhoids until they see bright, red blood with their stool. Untreated internal hemorrhoids can lead to two severe forms of hemorrhoids: prolapsed, when they distend out of the anus, and strangulated, in which the anal sphincter muscle cuts off blood supply. To prevent these problems, a doctor may recommend you have a minimally invasive procedure to remove the hemorrhoids. Rubber band ligation cuts off circulation to the damaged vein, causing it to shrivel up and fall off within a week. Sclerotherapy uses an injected a chemical solution to shrink the hemorrhoid. And coagulation uses a laser, infrared light or heat to shrink the hemorrhoid. If these procedures don't keep hemorrhoids from coming back, a a hemorrhoidectomy is suggested to remove the chronically inflamed veins and surrounding tissue. For more information on common digestive issues and how to treat them, check out more videos on this site.More »
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Looking and reading your poop might sound strange but it is a very good habit to have. It can help you diagnose a lot of health related issues. Click here to learn more.
Transcript: Everybody poops. Almost everybody looks at it. And that's smart. Its shape, color, consistency and buoyancy...
Everybody poops. Almost everybody looks at it. And that's smart. Its shape, color, consistency and buoyancy can tell you a lot about your digestive and overall health. In fact, it's so informative that there is an official diagnostic chart -- The Bristol Stool Chart -- that describes feces in three categories: Those indicating constipation are: * Separate hard lumps, like nuts. Usually hard to pass. * Sausage-shaped but lumpy. Those indicating that everything is operating optimally: * Sausage-shaped but with cracks on the surface. * Sausage-shaped or snake-like, usually smooth and soft. And those that are too soft or that indicate diarrhea. They range from soft but formed shapes to entirely liquid without solid pieces. Color also matters: Normally feces are brownish. That's from the digestive fluids, bile and bilirubin, that are in them. Yellow indicates either an infection, such as Giardiasis, that's caused by a parasite, or Gilbert's Syndrome, that comes from excess bilirubin. A whitish, clay color indicates a lack of bilirubin and is a sign of a medical emergency. Black indicates the presence of digested blood, typically due to bleeding in the upper digestive tract, such as from a peptic ulcer. Medications including those for indigestion and dietary supplements, such as iron pills, can turn feces black. Eating foods high in animal blood, and those containing beetroot, black licorice, or blueberries can turn feces black, too. If you have black, tar-like sticky stool, you should see a doctor immediately since this could indicate internal bleeding. Bright red indicates the presence of undigested blood, either from lower in the digestive tract, hemorrhoids, or from a more active source in the upper digestive tract. Beets could also be responsible. If you see large amounts of blood in the toilet, go to the doctor immediately. Green indicates the feces moved too rapidly through the intestines or that there is a large amount of unprocessed bile in the digestive tract. It could also be the result of consuming too much green or blue food dye. Blue indicates too much consumption of foods and drink containing blue food dye. Food may sometimes make an appearance in the feces. Common undigested foods found in human feces are seeds, nuts, corn and beans, mainly because of their high dietary fiber content. Some people even spot parasites such as pinworms and/or eggs in their feces. This indicates an infection. As for buoyancy, your feces can either sink or float. Now while most people think it's an increase in fat content that makes feces float, it's actually an increase in gas caused by either malabsorption of nutrients or an infection. Getting your feces to sink may be possible by some probiotics into your diet. Remember though, all changes in feces should always be mentioned to your doctor, especially if they occur for more than a week. For more information on common digestive issues, check out other videos in this series.More »
Last Modified: 2013-05-17 | Tags »
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Women can have more severe and frequent digestive problems as compared to men. Watch this video to get detailed information about women’s digestive issues.
Transcript: We ALL experience unpleasant digestive issues - diarrhea, constipation, gas and heart burn. Women, however,...
We ALL experience unpleasant digestive issues - diarrhea, constipation, gas and heart burn. Women, however, experience these more often -- about once a month more often. You see, experts think the hormones associated with a woman's menstrual cycle, pregnancy AND menopause could trigger these digestive reactions. For instance, some women experience diarrhea two to three days before the start of their menstrual period, while others struggle with constipation. Gas and bloating are also common before and during a woman's period. During pregnancy, especially early on, hormones are thought to trigger bowel changes and diarrhea. As pregnancy progress, the uterus expands, putting pressure on the intestines. This can interfere with bowel movements and cause painful constipation and eventually hemorrhoids. Additionally, some women experience heartburn because of the pressure put on the stomach. It's estimated that about 85 percent of women experience heartburn during pregnancy. When it comes to MENOPAUSE, diarrhea, constipation and gas can be problems. If hormone replacement therapy is being used, the symptoms may become more irritating. After menopause, women's most common digestive issue is malabsorption of nutrients from food. This is thought to be from age-related changes in the digestive system and the body as a whole, not specifically because of hormonal changes.Unfortunately, premenopausal women may write off repeated digestive problems as part of their hormone cycle when they actually have an underlying condition, such as irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, gallstones or colon cancer. Up to 75 percent of those diagnosed with Irritable bowel syndrome are women. Experts think this may be because women's digestive systems are more sensitive than men's. It is important to note though that women who suffer from IBS often have irregular menstrual cycles and symptoms of IBS typically get worse right before the start of their period. For more information on these digestive conditions and how to treat them, check out other videos in this series.More »
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Everybody burps, farts and gets a little bloated from time to time. Watch this to see what's causing the gas, bloating and burping and how to relieve it.
Transcript: Everybody burps, farts and gets a little bloated from time to time. These are all normal parts of your...
Everybody burps, farts and gets a little bloated from time to time. These are all normal parts of your digestive sound track. As your body digests food, you can get a build-up of hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and, in about one-third of all people, methane in the stomach and intestines. They need to be released, and that's when you get burping and flatulence.Common triggers of a temporary gas build-up include lentils, beans, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, onions, bananas, prunes, and eggs. also fuel the gas pipeline. When your body becomes accustomed to these foods, the gas often subsides. Carbonated beverages also fuel the gas pipeline. Possible causes of CHRONIC burping or farting include food intolerances and allergies, constipation, stomach or bowel obstructions, a lack of good bacteria - called probiotic organisms - in intestinal tract, and hormonal changes, especially during menstrual cycles and menopause. Whether you are gassy after a meal of beans and rice or you struggle with frequent burping, when it comes to treating and preventing burping, farting and bloating doctors often suggest: Eating more slowly and chewing food thoroughly before swallowing; Not drinking through a straw or chewing gum - excess inhaled air can power the burps; And If you can't PREVENT a gas attack, you can try over-the-counter remedies containing simethicone after meals or enzyme supplements before you eat. While sometimes embarrassing, gas is rarely cause for alarm, unless it becomes painful. Burping that occurs with other symptoms, such as pain, heartburn, nausea, a decreased appetite, or weight loss, may have a more serious cause, such as gastroesophageal reflux or GERD, ulcers, gallstones, cystic fibrosis, heart attack and cancer. It is normal to pass gas from six to 20 times a day-most of it passes unnoticed. But if your gas is accompanied by painful bloating nausea, decreased appetite, weight loss or bloody, mucus-coated feces you should make an appointment with your doctor. For more information on other common digestive issues, check out more videos on this site.More »
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Diarrhea and abdominal pain indicate that you have a digestive problem, but which one? Watch our video to learn about diagnosing digestive issues.
Transcript: Your stomach and guts are not feeling good. How do you know WHAT'S causing the problems or if they are...
Your stomach and guts are not feeling good. How do you know WHAT'S causing the problems or if they are serious? Rule of thumb: If you're experiencing repeated diarrhea, constipation, bloating, abdominal pain or nausea, go see your doctor, right away. Those symptoms may be stress-related or the sign of a virus, OR they could indicate a more chronic problem that requires medical attention. Inflammatory bowel disease. Ulcerative colitis. Stomach and intestinal polyps .Diverticulosis. Crohn's disease. Esophageal reflux. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). Food sensitivities such as lactose intolerance, etc. Cancer of the esophagus, stomach, pancreas and colon. During the visit, the doctor will ask you a few questions about your eating habits, your work, home and sleep routines, and what kind of pain you have been experiencing. Make sure to include information about what time of day you have the pain or bowel problems, if they happen soon after eating and if you've been losing weight unintentionally. This information may help the doctor decide if you need a CT scan or an endoscopic examination of your intestines. Often, these tests are not necessary. A LOWER GI tract X-ray uses a barium ENEMA to assess the rectum, colon and sometimes part of the lower small intestine. It can identify polyps, tumors, or other structural abnormalities. An endoscopic exam can detect inflammation, infection and cancer in your digestive system. A thin, flexible tube equipped with a small camera is passed through your mouth and into the stomach and the upper small intestine. Endoscopic exams can also offer a look at the lower part of the large intestine and colon via the rectum. Ultrasound scans use sound waves to produce images of the digestive organs, capturing abnormalities such as cysts and tumors. CT scans, which take multiple X-rays of the body from different angles, can pick up cancerous or noncancerous tumors, changes in blood vessels, and inflammation -- particularly of the appendix or diverticula of the intestines. MRIs use large magnets and radio waves to produce similar images of the digestive system. Remember, the sooner you get tests done, the sooner your doctor will be able to diagnose and treat you. So, if you experience abdominal pain, chronic constipation, diarrhea, vomiting or rectal bleeding for more than three days, make a doctor's appointment. For more information on diagnosing and treating specific digestive issues, check out other videos in this series.More »
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When the body fails to metabolize lactose into glucose, it is known as being lactose intolerant. Watch this video for more information.
Transcript: Is your morning bowl of cereal or end of the day scoop of ICE CREAM leaving you feeling a little gassy?...
Is your morning bowl of cereal or end of the day scoop of ICE CREAM leaving you feeling a little gassy? Or even worse, causing you to high-tail it toward the bathroom? Well, you MAY be lactose intolerant. A food intolerance is typically caused by a deficiency in a digestive enzyme needed to break down a specific food. The most common deficiency is of an enzyme called lactase. Its job is to metabolize lactose, a sugar found in dairy products, into glucose. When your body can't do that, you become lactose intolerant. 30 to 50 million people in the US alone claim to be lactose intolerance, and put up with the abdominal bloating, cramps, flatulence, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting that eating dairy can cause. If you are lactose intolerant, you want to avoid all dairy products, including milk, butter, yogurt and cheese. You also need to keep a close eye on food labels,since lactose is a common food additive and can even be found in some medications. To confirm lactose intolerance, your doctor will initially recommend that you eliminate all milk and milk products from your diet to see if your symptoms go away. Additionally, a diagnosis can be confirmed with the Hydrogen Breath Test. This test checks for levels of hydrogen in your breath - which is a sign that you have a lot of undigested lactose in your system. Smoking and certain foods and medications may affect the accuracy of the results. Since lactose intolerance can't be cured, treatment focuses on managing the condition. It's typically suggested you cut out all dairy products from your diet, replacing them with lactose-free, plant-based substitutes such as, soy, rice, almond, coconut, hazelnut, oat, or hemp milk and with tofu products. Low-lactose or lactose-free products can also be used in place of regular dairy. And over-the-counter lactase enzyme drops or tablets can help ease symptoms if you're planning to consume any milk products. For more information on other common digestive issues, check out more videos on this site.More »
Last Modified: 2012-10-18 | Tags »
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Hiccups are a nuisance. And everyone has a remedy for getting rid of them. But what are hiccups, actually?
Transcript: Hiccups are a nuisance. And EVERYONE has a new trick for getting rid of them. But what are they, actually?...
Hiccups are a nuisance. And EVERYONE has a new trick for getting rid of them. But what are they, actually? Hiccups are involuntary contractions of your diaphragm -that small, dome-shaped, muscle at the base of your lungs that helps you breathe. When you have hiccups, contraction of the diaphragm triggers a sudden closure of your vocal cords, which causes that little "hic" that gives the condition its name. There is no obvious CAUSE for hiccups. Like bad luck, they sometimes just happen. But there are certain triggers that can encourage an attack. They include: A large meal, carbonated drinks, too many alcoholic beverages, being suddenly excited, stress, or experiencing a quick change in temperature. Unfortunately, there's no certain CURE for the hiccups. While great aunts and complete strangers will suggest all sorts of crazy tricks, from drinking water upside down to scaring the living daylights out of you, it is best to calmly sit down and wait out the onslaught. An average attack lasts only a few minutes. If you feel stressed, however, some home remedies that could help include breathing into a paper bag, gargling ice water, or just holding your breath. On rare occasions, hiccups have been known to last as long as 48 hours and, in incredibly rare situations, for months. If your hiccups last more than two days, make an appointment with your doctor. Prolonged hiccups - while rare -- may point to more serious health issues, such as a cyst or tumor in the neck or something irritating the nerve connected to the diaphragm. While these complications are rare, it's smart to get checked out to make sure that your symptoms are just a minor health hiccup. For more information on other common digestive issues, check out more videos on this site.More »
Last Modified: 2013-07-26 | Tags »
hiccups, carbonated drinks, excess alcoholic beverages, cyst, tumor vocal cord, diaphragm digestion, digestive system, digestive problem no cure
From the first to the last bite of your dinner, your digestive system is busy performing a myriad of functions. Find out more about digestive system basics in this video.
Transcript: Do you know what happens inside you after you finish that last bite of dinner? Well, I'm going to take...
Do you know what happens inside you after you finish that last bite of dinner? Well, I'm going to take you on a tour of your entire digestive system - from the mouth to the stomach and through your 24 feet of the intestines. And it won't take the 24 to 72 hours that it takes food to make the journey. Digestion begins in the mouth, even before you chew. Three pairs of glands secrete saliva, coating the food with digestive enzymes that start to break it down into its chemical components, such as sugar and protein. The teeth and tongue join in and when the food is broken down enough to swallow, it passes down the esophagus, a narrow muscular tube about 8 to 11 inches long, and into the stomach. In the stomach, gastric acid, pepsin and other digestive enzymes turn partially digested food into a liquid. It is also where vitamin b-12 and alcohol are absorbed into the bloodstream and where many microorganisms that hop a ride on the food we eat are killed, so that they can't make us sick. Although the stomach is filled with extremely caustic digestive fluids and hydrochloric acid, it isn't damaged by their digestive powers. That's because its inside lining is a thick mucosal layer that lubricates food and prevents the acid from eating away the wall of the stomach. When food leaves the stomach it flows into the small intestine, where a majority of digestion and absorption of nutrients takes place. The small intestine is made up of three parts.The duodenum is where liquefied food is mixed with bile, a digestive enzyme produced by the liver and stored in the gallbladder. Its job is to break down fats so they can be absorbed. In the duodenum food is also mixed with pancreatic juice made by the pancreas and intestinal enzymes, including maltase, lactase and sucrase -- all three of which breakdown sugars. The other two parts of the duodenum, the jejunum and ileum, contain small, finger-like structures called villi that improve the absorption of nutrients by increasing the surface area of the intestine. It is these villi that are damaged when a person has celiac disease and that damage leads to malnutrition. This is also where an undulating muscle motion called peristalsis sends digested food material to the large intestine. In the large intestine - which is shorter but wider than the small intestine --- digested food undergoes fermentation with the help of gut bacteria. All remaining nutrients and fluid are absorbed as they pass through the colon. The remaining unabsorbed components of the food you ate are turned into feces. They pass in to the rectum where they are ready to be excreted.For more information on common issues affecting the digestive system, check out more videos in this series.More »
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