Health Conditions / Digestive Health

6 Ways Constant Anger Can Hurt Your Health Long-Term

6 Ways Constant Anger Can Hurt Your Health Long-Term

Here’s what you should know about the many ways anger can impact your body in the long run, and what to do if you’re concerned about how it might be taking a toll on your health. 1. Heightened inflammation A growing body of research suggests chronic stress, as well as the negative emotions associated with it, is strongly linked to higher levels of inflammation in the body and dysfunctional immune system responses. Your immune system is designed to attack potential threats to your body with inflammatory cells, Dr. Duijndam explains. “With chronic stress, including anger, these markers of inflammation increase as well.” So even if you don’t have, say, an infection brewing, these inflammatory cells may start to get rowdy and go after healthy cells instead if you’re a person who deals with lots of anger, she says. That, in turn, can set the stage for various health issues, especially as you age. For example, a 2019 study that followed 226 older adults for one week found that those who had higher levels of self-reported anger were more likely to have higher levels of inflammation and a higher risk of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, osteoarthritis, diabetes, and even certain cancers. On top of that, constantly feeling rage-y can also impact your everyday habits, some of which may lead to further inflammation, or simply damage your health in other ways. “The significant confound we have in any of this research is that people who are chronically angry tend to engage in lots of unhealthy behaviors,” Dr. Martin says, such as smoking, excessive drinking, and overeating or loading up on food that isn’t as nutritious as it could be. “Those unhealthy behaviors will have an impact too,” he stresses.2. Heart disease“The bulk of the evidence that we have on the health consequences of anger really has to do with the heart and [the rest of the] cardiovascular system, and we’ve known that for decades,” Dr. Martin says. Try to do a quick body scan the next time your blood starts to boil—that is, take a moment to notice how the various parts of your body feel, one by one—and it won’t be hard to understand why anger can do a number on your heart. “When you keep ruminating in a state of anger, it leads to poor cardiovascular recovery,” says Dr. Duijndam. Again, that’s because “it keeps you in a state of stress.” Anger can spike your blood pressure and heart rate, two factors that place immense pressure on your heart muscle and therefore heighten the risk of chronic hypertension. An influx of stress hormones can also boost your blood sugar levels and blood fatty acid levels, which can damage blood vessels and lead to plaque buildup in the arteries, respectively. That’s one reason why regularly getting and staying angry could potentially play a role in conditions like cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. 3. Reduced lung functionQuick and shallow breathing is one of the first physical effects anger triggers for many people. “When we need to ‘fight or flight’ from a situation that’s threatening, it makes sense,” Dr. Duijndam says. It’s your body’s way of trying to supply more oxygen to areas it perceives as essential, like the brain and muscles. It follows, then, that strong emotions like anger are a common trigger for asthma attacks in those who are susceptible. 

Dry Swallowing Pills: Why Taking Meds Without Water Is Risky

Dry Swallowing Pills: Why Taking Meds Without Water Is Risky

You’ve probably found yourself in this scenario before: It’s the middle of the night, and you suddenly wake up with a pounding headache. You stumble around trying to find any kind of pill that will squash the pain fast, so you hopefully wake up feeling a bit better. Perhaps you “dry” swallow the medication without water—or you glug it with a drink but lie back down instantly.But that’s a potentially risky thing to do, and a recent TikTok highlighting the possible dangers of taking medicine the wrong way explains one reason why. The video, posted by content creator and video producer Lucie Fink, shared the story of “a friend of a friend of a friend” who popped an over-the-counter pain reliever without water during the night, went back to bed, woke up with it lodged in their throat—and then had to be rushed to the hospital. The reason? The pill had burned a hole in their throat because “it was just sitting there.” “It really stuck with me,” Fink said in the video, which has garnered more than 459,000 views. And well…same.So how (and why) does this happen? To find out why it’s so important to take pills with plenty of water, SELF spoke with a pharmacist for their tips.Here’s why dry swallowing pills can be potentially dangerous.It’s true, what happened to the person in the TikTok story can happen to anyone, Matthew Britt, RPH, a pharmacist at Cleveland Clinic, tells SELF. “Taking oral medications with water is important to ensure that the drug passes through to your stomach and small intestine and does not become lodged in your throat,” Britt says. “This will allow the medication to be absorbed properly in the body and produce the desired effect.”You should also avoid crawling into bed, heading to the couch for a nap, or lying down at all right after taking any pills or tablets. That’s because “certain medications can cause irritation or damage” to the esophagus or your intestines if you don’t take them with a full glass of water and remain upright, sitting or standing, for at least 30 minutes after you swallow the drug, Britt says.In “extreme cases,” Britt explains, dry swallowing pills can sometimes lead to ulcers—which are crater-like sores that form when a layer of skin or tissue is removed—in any part of the digestive system. When this happens in the throat, it is called pill- or drug-induced esophagitis, and a 2014 paper published in the Turkish Journal of Gastroenterology found that “almost every kind of drug” can cause this type of ulcer, especially doxycycline (a commonly prescribed antibiotic). Over-the-counter pain relievers like aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, and acetaminophen are also frequent culprits. Why? The residue or coating from the medication also gets stuck in the throat when the pill doesn’t go down, which can have a toxic effect on the delicate mucosal lining of your esophagus. In other words: It’s definitely worth the effort to find and refill that water bottle.Can taking pills the wrong way make them less effective too?Absolutely, Britt says. For example, he says, “some medications work best if taken on an empty stomach, and others are more effective when taken with a snack or meal; certain medications should be taken alone to maximize effectiveness,” which is important to keep in mind if you’re juggling multiple prescriptions.To be on the safe side, you should always have a conversation with your prescribing doctor anytime your medication schedule changes. Then, check in again once you’re picking up your prescription. “Always consult your pharmacist when starting a new medication,” Britt says. “Pharmacists can help you determine a schedule to ensure you are taking all of your medications properly.”Thankfully, this seems like the kind of thing you only have to hear about once—for Fink, that one story seemed to be enough to influence her habits. “Now every time I take a pill in the middle of the night,” she said, “I drink like 12 ounces of water to make sure I’m really getting it down.”Related:

9 Possible Reasons You Always Wake Up Soaked in Sweat

9 Possible Reasons You Always Wake Up Soaked in Sweat

Back to top3. Menopause“If someone is having night sweats, my first thought is to ask them about their periods to see whether they are menopausal,” Barrie Weinstein, MD, an assistant professor of endocrinology, diabetes, and bone disease at the Icahn School of Medicine in New York City, tells SELF.Menopause can happen at any point in a person’s 50s, 40s, or even as early as their 30s if they experience premature menopause, according to the Mayo Clinic. Thanks to fluctuating hormones—specifically, reduced estrogen and progesterone—menopause can cause a slew of unpleasant symptoms, including hot flashes that lead to night sweats, chills, irregular or absent periods, mood changes, vaginal dryness, a slower metabolism, and thinning hair, among others, per the Mayo Clinic.Menopause is a completely normal condition that doesn’t automatically require treatment (unless it starts too early, which can be a different story), but that doesn’t mean you don’t have options if symptoms like night sweats are interfering with your life. “If patients are having night sweats that are intolerable, they can discuss with their doctor whether hormone replacement would be a good option for them,” Dr. Weinstein says. Different kinds of hormone therapy can help relieve various menopause symptoms, according to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). But if that’s not something you’re interested in or your doctor doesn’t recommend it as a safe choice for you, there are other medications, including some low-dose antidepressants, that can help decrease those dreaded hot flashes, according to the National Institute on Aging.Back to top4. Obstructive sleep apneaObstructive sleep apnea, or OSA2, is a common sleep disorder that causes your breathing to stop and start briefly while you’re snoozing. If you have OSA, your throat muscles relax when they shouldn’t, which interferes with your airway’s ability to get enough oxygen while you sleep.And yes, it can make you sweat. “One of my colleagues says it’s like you go to the Olympics every night because you’re working so hard to breathe,” Rafael Pelayo, MD, a clinical professor in the division of sleep medicine at Stanford University and author of How to Sleep: The New Science-Based Solutions for Sleeping Through the Night, tells SELF. Besides night sweats, other symptoms of OSA include loud snoring, excessive fatigue during the day, abruptly waking up during the night while gasping or choking, morning headaches, mood changes, a lower sex drive, and more. If that sounds concerning, well, you’re right on target. OSA can be serious and requires prompt treatment.Treatment options include lifestyle changes like using a nasal decongestant before you sleep or avoiding sleeping on your back, sleeping with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine to keep your airways open, using a mouthguard to do the same, and more intensive options, like surgery to remove the tissue that’s blocking your airways.Back to top5. Acid refluxAcid reflux happens when stomach acid travels back up into the esophagus, which commonly triggers the feeling of heartburn3. When this happens chronically—more than twice per week—it’s known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Anecdotally, some people who have acid reflux or GERD experience night sweats, which tend to resolve once the acid reflux is treated, Dr. Paauw says. There are very few studies exploring the link between night sweats and acid reflux, so experts aren’t 100% certain why the two are connected. However, Dr. Paauw believes acid reflux may trigger the autonomic nervous system4, which regulates bodily processes such as breathing, to increase heart rate. And an elevated heart rate may lead to excessive sweat, he says. When someone is lying down, they don’t have the benefit of gravity to help keep stomach acid from flowing into the esophagus, which may explain why people with acid reflux experience night sweats, Dr. Paauw says.

Food Safety Experts Are Begging You to Stop Washing Your Raw Chicken Already

Food Safety Experts Are Begging You to Stop Washing Your Raw Chicken Already

You’re getting ready to make your go-to chicken breast recipe. All the veggies are washed and ready to go. Now it’s time to prep the poultry—but, wait, are you supposed to wash chicken?“Your first inclination is to rinse it off and remove all the goop that’s on there,” Keith Schneider, PhD, a professor and food safety microbiologist at the University of Florida, tells SELF. But the ickiness of raw chicken is cosmetic as long as you plan on cooking it thoroughly. “You’re just making it look prettier by washing,” Dr. Schneider says.In fact, washing your chicken can actually make you or your dinner guests sick with a nasty case of foodborne illness. But don’t feel alone if you wash your bird first. Nearly 70% of 1,504 people surveyed said they washed or rinsed their poultry before cooking it, according to a 2015 study published in the Journal of Food Protection1.Interested in learning why this common practice isn’t a great idea? SELF talked to food safety experts about why you shouldn’t wash your chicken.So, what is the safest way to cook chicken to avoid getting sick?Chicken is ready to cook right from the package. You want to focus on cooking poultry properly because heat will kill bacteria lingering on your meat. “There’s a reason we don’t eat chicken and turkey sushi,” Dr. Schneider says. Chicken and other types of poultry should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). While you may think you can tell when food is cooked properly by analyzing its color or texture, the only way to know for sure is to use a food thermometer.For an accurate reading, Christine Venema, EdD, a food safety educator at Michigan State University Extension suggests sticking the thermometer into the thickest part of the breast or the thigh or leg of a whole bird. Don’t touch the bone, which is a different temperature than the rest of the chicken.Back to topWhat are the health risks of washing chicken before cooking it?Raw chicken (and other poultry or meat) can be contaminated with bacteria that may cause foodborne illnesses such as campylobacter and salmonella, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “When you hit that [raw] chicken with water, there’s a tendency for the water to bounce off the chicken and spray everywhere,” Dr. Schneider says. And that raw chicken water can splash bacteria onto anything nearby, such as countertops, cooking surfaces, and other food2 (shudder). Hello, cross-contamination.“If you have any food product nearby, it can become contaminated with the bacteria that flies away from that sink,” Dr. Venema tells SELF. The USDA estimates that water can launch bacteria-filled droplets up to three feet around your sink.If you have been washing your chicken for years without any consequences, consider yourself lucky. But continuing to do so opens you up to food poisoning or the stomach flu, which can cause diarrhea, fever, stomach cramps, and vomiting, among other unpleasant symptoms, according to the CDC. Individuals who have a higher risk of developing serious cases of food poisoning, like people who are immunocompromised or pregnant, should really avoid washing raw chicken. The only time it might make sense to wash chicken before cooking is if you’re, say, on a farm, and washing the chicken far from where you prepare food, Londa Nwadike, PhD, an assistant professor and extension food safety specialist at Kansas State University, tells SELF. She grew up on a farm and remembers slaughtering chickens for food in her backyard when she was younger. That might then require washing feathers or blood away from the meat. “But the meat from the chicken you buy at [the] grocery store should be clean,” Dr. Nwadike says.

9 Reasons Your Poop Smells Next-Level Bad

9 Reasons Your Poop Smells Next-Level Bad

The smell of poop isn’t exactly the most pleasant scent. It’s not supposed to smell good. But if the stench of your stool suddenly becomes so out-of-this-world, you may wonder, “Why does my poop smell so bad?” First, don’t panic. A stench that overpowers what’s already considered pungent must signal something is wrong, right? Not exactly.“The way poop smells can indicate a wide variety of things,” Christine Lee, MD, a gastroenterologist at Cleveland Clinic, tells SELF. Most of the time, a foul scent alone isn’t indicative of anything worrisome. But if there is an acute change in the smell of your number two that coincides with one or more symptoms like diarrhea, fever, chills, or unexplained weight loss, it could signal something more serious, Dr. Lee says.Below is everything you need to know about what can change the smell of your poop, and when a wince-worthy sniff may signal something is off.What causes foul-smelling poop?Becoming acquainted with the scent of your poop sounds less than appealing, but establishing what’s abnormal from your baseline can help determine when your bowel movements are especially rancid, Dr. Lee says. Here are some of the main causes of particularly bad-smelling poop:1. Sulfur-rich foods“The first thing you might want to do is think back to what you ate,” Dr. Lee says. “Whether it was eggs, Brussels sprouts, or tuna fish, those kinds of things can change the smell of the stool.” Foods high in sulfur (think: meats, eggs, dairy, garlic, and cruciferous veggies like broccoli)1 are more difficult to digest, according to the Cleveland Clinic. When these foods move undigested into the large intestine, sulfur-metabolizing bacteria try to break it all down. This process creates odorless hydrogen and carbon dioxide gas (and sometimes methane) as well as odorous hydrogen sulfide—which mix into your poop and add an extra stench.2. Medications, supplements, and vitaminsLike food consumption, taking some daily medications, supplements, and vitamins can cause your poop to smell particularly off, Dr. Lee says. Antibiotics, for example, strip your colon of good and bad bacteria and open up the possibility of infections like C. diff, Nipaporn Pichetshote, MD, a board-certified gastroenterologist at UCLA Health, tells SELF. This can cause uniquely foul-smelling stool. Some supplements and vitamins, like fish oil, can also result in a smellier-than-usual bowel movement, adds Dr. Lee. This is because vitamins can attach to undigested fat in your stool, causing it to stink2.3. InfectionThe next thing you want to consider is whether you might have a viral, bacterial, or parasitic infection. While a telltale sign is the accompaniment of other symptoms such as diarrhea, chills, fever, or unexpected weight loss, each infection can be identified by the unique scent of its chemical makeup of gasses. A few examples include:Giardia, which is a parasitic infection that can be acquired from swallowing contaminated water and is known for its particularly pungent odor that’s hard to describe, Dr. Lee says.Bacterial infections like Clostridium difficile, or C. diff, which can be contracted via hospital contamination and antibiotic usage, according to the Mayo Clinic. As a result, you may have sweet-smelling poop—but not in a good way. Viral infections like rotavirus, which can make poop smell foul, can be transmitted through contaminated food or if you touch a contaminated object and don’t wash your hands3.4. Dehydration“Being dehydrated increases your propensity to be constipated,” Dr. Lee says. Feces consists of about 75 percent water and 25 percent organic matter (we’re talking undigested carbohydrate, fiber, protein, and fat)4. When you’re properly hydrated, that fluid helps your poop move more easily through the digestive tract and facilitates a healthy bowel movement. When you’re in a state of dehydration, the fluids that usually help digested food pass through the intestines are absorbed by your stool instead5. “Constipated stool tends to have a different smell because it’s been in your colon for so long,” Dr. Lee says.5. Lack of fiberBy now, you may have realized that the characteristics of your poop are largely dependent on what you consume. That said, some foods better aid in digestion than others. “Fiber can work in two ways: as a bulking agent in patients who have looser stools and as an osmotic laxative in those who are constipated,” Dr. Pichetshote says. If you lack the necessary fiber to aid in bowel regulation, there’s a chance you could become constipated or experience stool that’s looser than usual.With the former, which causes your stool to sit in your colon for longer, stool can begin to further ferment or break down6 and continue to yield gas such as hydrogen, methane, and carbon dioxide that lead to greater flatulence and more foul-smelling poop7.6. MalabsorptionThe job of your small intestine is to absorb food’s nutrients (vitamins, minerals, carbs, fats, and proteins) as it makes its way through your digestive tract. In certain medical conditions like Crohn’s disease, where the small intestine lining is inflamed and sometimes damaged, nutrients may not be easily digested. Similarly, if you can’t easily absorb lactose, a sugar found in milk products, then it can remain undigested and end up in the stool, where it ferments and gets stinky, Dr. Pichetshote says.7. Inflammatory bowel diseaseInflammatory bowel disease (IBD) includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, which are disorders that involve chronic inflammation of the digestive tract. When the digestive tract lining is inflamed (like in Crohn’s disease) and the large intestine and rectum inflame and line with sores (like in ulcerative colitis), diarrhea, rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, fatigue, and weight loss can occur, per the Mayo Clinic. These symptoms can make it difficult to eat or for your intestines to properly absorb nutrients, leading to excess fat in the stool. Poop that contains excess fat produces more gas, which makes it especially foul-smelling.8. Metabolic disordersYour metabolism serves to convert food into energy and remove toxins from the body. A metabolic disorder is when the process of either becomes disrupted and leads to a series of chain reactions. For example, in cystic fibrosis, the disruption comes in the form of thick mucus that blocks the digestive enzymes in the pancreas from reaching the small intestine, according to the Mayo Clinic. Chronic pancreatitis is another metabolic disorder that decreases the number of digestive enzymes produced, which are key in the breakdown of sugars, fats, and starches, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. The result is malabsorption and foul-smelling stool.9. Blood in the stoolPoop that smells like metal is usually a result of blood in the stool, according to Dr. Pichetshote, who adds that the scent is often accompanied by black stool or apparent blood. If your stool is black, you’re likely having issues in your upper digestive tract, she says. If it’s bright red, the problem is probably in the lower portion, particularly the colon or rectum.

Is Food Poisoning Contagious? Here’s How It Actually Spreads

Is Food Poisoning Contagious? Here’s How It Actually Spreads

If you regularly take a chance on food—say, an iffy room-temperature burger—you’ve probably paid the price with food poisoning once or twice. And, if you’re firmly in the “risk it and eat the burger” camp, you’re not alone: About 48 million people in the U.S. have food poisoning each year, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease (NIDDK). Although the pathogens that cause food poisoning are best known for lurking in food left out too long, handled improperly, or contaminated during processing, you can also get this gut-wrenching illness from another person. So the answer to your burning question (Is food poisoning contagious?) is yes, the bugs that can cause food poisoning are contagious.While you can’t avoid all possible food poisoning scenarios, there are things you can do to reduce your risk. Because trust us, when we say gut-wrenching, we mean forceful bouts of vomiting, diarrhea, or both at the same time (a situation you want to avoid at all costs).What is food poisoning?Food poisoning and foodborne illness are often used interchangeably but, if we’re splitting hairs, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) points out that foodborne illness technically can encompass allergens that are consumed and cause allergic reactions. On the other hand, food poisoning is a form of foodborne illness that occurs only when you consume specific toxins.The contamination process can happen at any point during processing or production. It can also happen at home if you’re not handling food correctly or if you eat uncooked or undercooked food. The biggest culprits of food poisoning seem to be infectious organisms (including parasites, fungi, viruses, and bacteria) or their toxins, according to the Mayo Clinic. Some common food culprits include raw fruits and vegetables, eggs, meat, poultry, and seafood.Back to topIs food poisoning contagious?“Yes, food poisoning can be contagious,” Chantal Strachan, MD, an internist at ColumbiaDoctors and Columbia University Irving Medical Center, tells SELF. More specifically, she says, norovirus, a common cause of food poisoning, is very contagious. “You can become infected from eating contaminated foods and from exposure to bodily fluids (diarrhea or vomit) of an infected person, which is why these outbreaks can be common in densely populated areas like cruise ships or day cares,” Dr. Strachan says. She also says E. Coli and Salmonella are common bacterial causes, with Salmonella being very contagious (generally from fecal matter getting into your mouth). These are typically found in things like ground beef (particularly E.Coli), and contaminated egg yolks, milk, and poultry (looking at you, Salmonella).Back to topHow is food poisoning different from a stomach bug?Both food poisoning and the stomach bug, also called viral gastroenteritis, can wreak havoc on your G.I. system—with symptoms like stomach cramps, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and fever—but there are some key differences worth noting. One is that a virus is responsible for the stomach flu (not actually influenza though, so it’s a bit confusing), while bacteria, viruses, parasites, and other toxins are responsible for the various types of food poisoning. Food poisoning symptoms can also vary in severity and may take anywhere from a few hours to a few days to develop symptoms after ingesting contaminated food or drink, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).The dreaded stomach bug wreaks havoc on your intestines, and in addition to the symptoms mentioned above may also include mild muscle aches. This bug tends to surface one to three days after you’re infected, according to the Mayo Clinic.Recovering from both a stomach bug and food poisoning often requires rest and hydration. Occasionally, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics for certain kinds of bacterial food poisoning, especially if your symptoms are severe. For example, listeria may need treatment with intravenous antibiotics and hospitalization, according to the Mayo Clinic. Since the stomach bug is a virus, antibiotics will not help.Back to topHow long does each last?The stomach bug moves fast and furious, with symptoms generally appearing one to three days after infection and lasting for a day or two. However, some people get hit hard and may deal with symptoms for up to 14 days, per the Mayo Clinic.Food poisoning is generally short-lived, with symptoms surfacing within a few hours to several days and lasting only a day or two, depending on the cause of food poisoning. On occasion, some illnesses lead to hospitalization, especially in high-risk individuals like older adults, pregnant people, children under five years old, and people with weakened immune systems, according to the CDC.

Microplastics Have Been Found in Human Blood and Lungs

Microplastics Have Been Found in Human Blood and Lungs

The majority of us don’t purposefully eat plastic, but that doesn’t mean we’re not consuming it every day. Microplastics, which are tiny plastic fragments, are everywhere—including inside of our bodies, according to mounting research. For the first time, researchers found that 17 out of 22 people had microplastics originating from common products in their blood, according to a May 2021 paper published in the journal Environment International1.“This is the first study to identify plastics that we know are in containers, plastic bottles, clothing, and other products that we use, inside of people,” Andrea De Vizcaya-Ruiz, PhD, an associate professor in the department of environmental and occupational health at the University of California Irvine, tells SELF. The two most common types of plastic found in the study were polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is used to make plastic water bottles and clothing fibers, and polystyrene, which is found in food packaging, disposable utensils, and straws.In March 2022, researchers published a paper with another original discovery: 11 out of 13 people had microplastics in their lungs, according to the study published in The Science of the Total Environment2. Numerous other studies support that we’re regularly consuming plastic, Kelly Johnson-Arbor, MD, a medical toxicologist at MedStar Health in Washington, D.C., and co-medical director at the National Capital Poison Center, tells SELF. “Microplastics have been found in human saliva, scalp hair, and feces, suggesting that we are all likely exposed to these plastic fragments on a regular basis,” she says.Researchers are still exploring what this means for human health, but SELF talked to experts about what we do know.What are microplastics?Microplastics are tiny particles of plastic, less than 5 mm long, that are created in two ways. Primary microplastics3 are manufactured to make things like microfibers4, which are found in synthetic fabrics, or plastic microbeads, which are in some cosmetics. Secondary microplastics are formed after breaking off from larger plastic products like water bottles, car parts, and product packaging.Biodegradable items such as a banana naturally break down until they finally dissolve. But many plastics never decompose completely. They get smaller and smaller over time, but the pieces remain in our environments as pollution for hundreds of years, resulting in secondary microplastics, Dr. De Vizcaya-Ruiz says.Ok, but why are microplastics inside our bodies?Microplastics can be found in our water, air, food, and soil, so they’re unavoidable.“When humans consume food, drink water, or breathe air that is contaminated with microplastics, the plastic fragments can enter the body,” Dr. Johnson-Arbor says. Some estimates show that people in the U.S. consume and breathe in between 74,000 and 121,000 microplastic fragments each year5, according to Dr. Johnson-Arbor.But how exactly do these plastics get into our blood? After consuming food or water containing microplastics, researchers suspect those tiny particles make their way to the gut, through the intestinal membrane, and into the bloodstream, Dr. De Vizcaya-Ruiz says. Something similar may happen when microplastics enter the bloodstream after being inhaled and passing through the membrane of the lungs.How are microplastics affecting human health?Plastic may be ubiquitous now, but it’s only been widely used for the past 70 years or so6, meaning there aren’t a lot of studies examining what types of plastics may affect human health and in what quantities.

What Does Following a Celiac Disease Diet Really Look Like?

What Does Following a Celiac Disease Diet Really Look Like?

Unfortunately, these grains and their derivatives can be found in what seems like everything, so it can be helpful to know exactly what foods to avoid. The good news is there are many gluten-free alternatives to the favorites on this list. According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, these are gluten heavy hitters:Breads, such as loaves, bagels, pita, and flour tortillasPastries, such as croissants, muffins, and donutsPasta, such as spaghetti, ravioli, and gnocchiNoodles, such as egg noodles, ramen, and chow meinBaked goods, such as cookies, cakes, and piesBreakfast foods, such as cereals, granola, and pancakesSnacks, such as candy bars, crackers, and pretzelsCondiments, such as dressings, sauces, and gravyEven foods that don’t naturally contain gluten, such as oats, can be risky if they’ve potentially been cross-contaminated. “Regular oats are highly contaminated with gluten from growing and processing, so one can only consume oats that are labeled gluten-free,” says Smith.Back to topWhat naturally gluten-free foods can you eat on a celiac disease diet?At first glance, a celiac disease diet can seem really restrictive (Really, no bread?!), but you might be surprised to learn just how many foods are naturally gluten-free. In fact, the Celiac Disease Foundation points out that people with celiac disease can still enjoy plenty of eats.While the main action item on this diet is to avoid gluten, it’s still equally important to eat a diverse range of foods to get all your essential nutrients, says Dr. Jossen. Let’s dive into what that might look like with these four naturally gluten-free food groups.Fruits and vegetablesIn general, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend eating at least 2.5 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit per day.2 Here’s the even better part: Not only are fruits and vegetables naturally gluten-free, but they are chock-full of important nutrients, so feel free to fill your plate with as many as possible. Throw some broccoli into your egg scramble, mix some cauliflower rice into your taco bowl, or roast some Brussels sprouts to have with your dinner for a little veggie boost.Meat, poultry, and seafoodWhen it comes to protein choices, meat, poultry, and seafood are all naturally gluten-free. These animal products are great sources of essential nutrients, especially protein and B vitamins. That being said, if you’re gluten-free and also vegetarian or vegan, you’ll want to fill your protein needs from plant-based sources like beans, tofu, legumes, nuts, and seeds instead.Milk, eggs, and dairyAccording to an older study published in the journal Digestion, lactose intolerance is often associated with celiac disease.3 However, not everyone with celiac disease is lactose intolerant, and milk, yogurt, and cheese are great sources of B vitamins, vitamin D, and calcium—especially if you’re on a gluten-free diet. If you can’t tolerate milk and dairy, still consider the humble egg. Not only are eggs naturally gluten-free, but they are a great source of protein.Legumes, beans, nuts, and seedsEven if you’re not vegetarian or vegan, diversifying where you get your starches from can help boost the nutrition of your meals. You may be surprised by how many gluten-free starches are out there, too. Choose gluten-free products made from a variety of grains when you can, this includes not just rice and corn but also quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, and teff, Dr. Jossen says. Let’s not forget legumes, like black beans, chickpeas, and peas, all varieties of potatoes, and nutrient-rich nuts and seeds, either.

Here’s What to Expect Before, During, and After a Colonoscopy

Here’s What to Expect Before, During, and After a Colonoscopy

If anyone in your family has had colon cancer, or if you’re nearing the age of 45, you’ve probably already been told about the importance of scheduling a colonoscopy. You may even have grown tired of your doctor telling you that it’s something you need to consider.But the prospect of having your bowels explored on camera doesn’t exactly have most people running to book an appointment. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), less than half of adults in their early 50s have had a colonoscopy or any type of colorectal cancer screening.This is bad news because colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in the United States. A colonoscopy—a procedure doctors use as a tool to diagnose and screen conditions of the colon—is particularly useful for its early diagnosis. When colon cancer is found in its early stages, the five-year survival rate is 90%, according to the American Cancer Society.Unfortunately, four out of 10 cases of colon cancer are found when cancer has already spread to other areas of the body. Rates of colon cancer are also rising significantly in younger people, according to 2020 statistics published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.1 That’s why, beginning in 2016, the American Cancer Society recommends anyone with average risk to start screening for colon cancer at age 45, or sometimes earlier depending on personal health history.Colon cancer isn’t the only condition that a colonoscopy can catch, though. Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, both autoimmune conditions that fall under the umbrella of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), can be detected with this test. If you’ve already been diagnosed with one of these conditions, you do have an increased risk of colon cancer, so getting regular screenings is especially important, according to a 2018 study published in the journal Clinics of Colon and Rectal Surgery.2SELF spoke with doctors who perform colonoscopies to give us the details on what they wish people knew about this potentially life-saving screening procedure.What is a colonoscopy, exactly?A colonoscopy basically is what it sounds like: a camera (scope) on a flexible rod explores your large and small intestine, looking for inflammation and pre-cancerous lesions called polyps that can grow on your intestinal walls, Matthew Bechtold, MD, a practicing gastroenterologist and professor of clinical medicine at the University of Missouri, tells SELF.“The whole idea of screening is to prevent colon cancer from forming,” Dr. Bechtold says. “With screening, you can go in and take out these polyps or growths. Those polyps would otherwise likely grow into colon cancer over five to 15 years. So that’s why we want to go in there, find them, and take them out before they even have a chance of becoming colon cancer.”If a polyp is spotted during the course of a colonoscopy, it gets removed and retrieved for further testing. If you do have one (or a few) removed, don’t worry. Polyps are common, and many found during a colonoscopy are later determined to be benign, according to a 2016 study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology.3Colonoscopies are also the go-to diagnostic test for conditions that affect your lower bowel, including Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and others. Your doctor might take a biopsy—remove a small piece of tissue—in your colon, which will then be looked at closely in a lab. They’ll check for signs of inflammation or changes associated with IBD.Back to topWhen should you get a colonoscopy?The answer varies, but in general, if you are considered “average” risk of colon cancer—that is, you don’t have a history of bowel disease, a family history, or symptoms of concern, such as abdominal pain—it is advised that you get your first colonoscopy at or around age 45, says Keri Pinnock, MD, a gastroenterologist at Austin Regional Clinic in Texas.Dr. Pinnock adds that if you have a history of colon cancer in your immediate family—that means a parent or sibling—you may be recommended to start getting screened earlier. “If your family member was diagnosed before 60, the guidelines are that you are recommended to have a colonoscopy at age 40 or ten years prior to the age that that family member was diagnosed with colon cancer, whichever is sooner,” she says.

6 Signs This Underdiagnosed Condition Is Causing Your Gut Issues

6 Signs This Underdiagnosed Condition Is Causing Your Gut Issues

Lea Ann Chen, MD, assistant professor of medicine and director of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Translational Research at the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, tells SELF there are “many reasons” why EPI is underdiagnosed. “EPI symptoms are nonspecific and overlap with other more common GI diagnoses,” she explains. “Also, the tests to evaluate for EPI are very specific, so it is unlikely to be diagnosed incidentally.”That means your doctor would specifically need to suspect that you have EPI and order the appropriate tests to verify it versus accidentally stumbling upon a diagnosis while testing you for other conditions—and they likely would not do that specific testing unless you had one of the above conditions associated with a higher risk of EPI or red flag symptoms, like unexplained weight loss or nutrient deficiencies (which we’ll explain more in-depth below). “For patients whose EPI is mild or is not caused by chronic pancreatitis, the condition can be missed,” Dr. Chen says.Back to topWhat are the most common exocrine pancreatic insufficiency symptoms?Because the signs and symptoms of EPI can overlap with those of other GI conditions, you can imagine they’re not exactly fun to deal with. “If EPI is untreated, the symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable,” Mohamed Othman, MD, professor of medicine – gastroenterology at Baylor College of Medicine, tells SELF. However, there are a few tip-offs that you may be dealing with EPI symptoms compared to those of another health condition2.You have unexplained diarrhea after you eat.Diarrhea is a common issue that is usually caused by something you ate, a stomach bug, or a more serious condition like inflammatory bowel disease, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. However, diarrhea is also an issue in people with untreated or under-treated EPI, Dr. Othman says, and there are a few reasons for this. One is that the food you’re eating doesn’t get properly absorbed in your gastrointestinal tract. This allows the bacteria that naturally hang out in your gut to ferment that undigested food, he says. At the same time, water collects around it which can make your stool more liquidy.There’s also this to consider: That undigested food can include fat, Amy Tyberg, MD, a professor of gastroenterology at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, tells SELF. “The fat subsequently stays in the GI tract and acts as a laxative as it travels through the intestines,” she says. Cue the constant diarrhea.Your poop looks “fatty.”EPI can also lead to fatty poops, which are literally bowel movements that have a higher fat content than usual. Medically known as steatorrhea4, these poops are often paler than usual, oily, and smellier than you might be used to, per the Cleveland Clinic. “It’s a result of the lack of absorption of fat in the intestines,” Philip Hart, MD, a gastroenterologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, tells SELF.So, if your body has difficulty absorbing fat in your diet due to EPI, it simply comes out in your stool. Heads up: You might also see fat or oil droplets in your poop or an oily residue floating on top of the toilet water after you go, Dr. Othman says.You’re losing weight without trying.When your body can’t break down nutrients in the food you eat, you can’t properly absorb them—and that can cause you to lose weight without trying, Dr. Othman says. Diarrhea caused by EPI can also lead to weight loss if it’s constant.Your stomach hurts.This tends to be a more indirect symptom. EPI can cause excessive gas and bloating due to digestion issues, so your stomach may not feel great as a result. Your body’s difficulty absorbing fat can be a major reason for this symptom, Dr. Hart says.

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