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Dietitians Tackle Misinformation About Digestive Health

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How to keep your digestive system healthy is such a hot topic these days -- with questions about probiotics, gluten-free diets and other matters -- that registered dietitians and nutritionists have a lot of information to keep up on.

Part of their task is to help clients move past any misconceptions they might have about food intake and the body’s reaction, as an article in the April 2011 issue of Today’s Dietitian pointed out.

Titled “Cracking Myths -- Experts Bust Digestive Health’s Top Misconceptions,” the article noted that Americans seem to be “a little preoccupied with their gut.” The good news is that many people are taking more care with their food choices and listening to doctors’ advice on digestive matters. The not-so-good news is the public’s tendency to fall for products touting better digestive health, even when those products don’t have solid scientific data in their favor.

Dietitian Sharon Palmer interviewed a number of experts for their take on various myths. Here are just a few of those misconceptions and the evidence to dispel them:

“Spicy foods cause ulcers.” In reality, said Kate Scarlata, RD, LDN, the more likely causes are either Helicobacter pylori bacteria or overuse of pain medications -- like aspirin and ibuprofen -- which irritate the stomach lining. “Spicy foods may aggravate an ulcer but not cause it,” said Scarlata, who wrote The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Eating Well With IBS.

“You must detox to clean your gut.” This myth has prompted many people to try “detox” and “cleanse” diets, fasts, supplements and enemas. But the fad is a source of confusion, said one expert, and the human body does just fine with its own detoxification system, starting with the lungs and lymphatic system and moving through to the kidneys, colon and liver. The idea that a change in diet can release toxins stored in organs and fatty tissues is not supported by science, the article stated.

“A gluten allergy is the cause of all my troubles.” If only it were that easy to pinpoint the cause of not just digestive distress, but also general aches, pains and fatigue.

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