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Digestive Diseases and Eating Habits

“When weight loss succeeds, the impact is significant upon comorbid conditions. It’s not unusual to see the need for medications literally melt away with the pounds for the treatment of conditions like GERD, type 2 diabetes, pain and hypertension.”

Dr. Steven Condron
Gastroenterologist

Today’s epidemic – obesity – is responsible for many diseases and worsening pre-existing conditions, especially in the digestive tract. Several gastrointestinal complaints, including gas, bloating, indigestion, upset stomach, constipation and diarrhea, can be caused by obesity and poor eating habits.

‘Good’ bacteria in the intestines help break down food. However, an abundance of unhealthy food and antibiotics in the digestive tract may result an outbreak of ‘bad’ bacteria, which cause the discomfort patients feel. Research suggests bad bacteria may even prevent people from realizing they are full, ultimately leading to overeating and perpetuating the problem.

Some digestive conditions, such as NASH and reflux disease, that stem from poor nutrition and/or obesity could be worsened without intervention.

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease occurs when fat accumulates around the liver. If left untreated in its most serious form, nonalcoholic steatosis (NASH), it can lead to inflammation and cirrhosis. Eventually, the person may face liver failure, liver cancer, the need for a liver transplant and death.

An increasing BMI may cause an increased risk of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). In serious, untreated cases, a constant flow of acid can lead to Barrett’s esophagus, a precancerous condition. Barrett’s may develop into adenocarcinoma of the esophagus. Those most at risk for adenocarcinoma are older Caucasian males with lower body obesity.

Nutrition and weight loss counseling are the emphasized treatment strategies when obesity is a suspected factor in the development and/or worsening of gastrointestinal issues. Eating yogurt or taking probiotic supplements also maintains good bacteria. Adequate exercise encourages weight loss as well as keeping digestive activities regular.