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Monday, May 29, 2006

Agita over the ADA

The blog ‘Disability Law’ has a VERY interesting post dubbed Gastrointestinal Disorders and the ADA. Every reader of this blog should read it.

It abstracts a recent article by Lawrence D. Rosenthal, titled Can't Stomach the Americans with Disabilities Act? How the Federal Courts Have Gutted Disability Discrimination Legislation in Cases Involving Individuals with Gastrointestinal Disorders and Other Hidden Illnesses.

It’s sad and true: People suffering from “hidden” GI-related illnesses such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease face an uphill battle when attempting to pursue disability-based discrimination claims under current ADA regulations.

So what makes a person sick enough to qualify? Though their ailments are not as apparent as deafness, blindness, or dismemberment, people with gastrointestinal disorders experience significant pain and distress, with symptoms including frequent fevers, bloody diarrhea, nausea, severe abdominal cramps, anemia, fatigue, loss of body fluids, and nutrient depletion.

As a result, people with GI disorders often require special treatments and accommodations to help make their days more comfortable and productive—or at the very least, less painful.

And the need for these special requirements can lead to job discrimination. Hence the need for protection under the ADA—which, apparently, the Courts are not supporting, based on the abstract of Mr. Rosenthal’s article.

I’m a nutritional biologist, not a lawyer, so I can’t speak to the legal ramifications of this debate. But I can say that GI disorders, when left untreated, can develop into serious medical conditions that not only affect a person’s daily routine, but significantly decrease their quality of life, and require special accommodations.

Losing your job, or being discriminated on the job, simply because you’re suffering with a GI condition, strikes me as un-American. A disability is a disability, and aren’t we all entitled to equal protection under the law—including disability law?

Monday, May 22, 2006

Cause of Death: FARTING!

I’ve been on a talk radio tour over the past few weeks, sharing diet and digestion insight to enraptured gassy listeners around the country.

Among all the (gas) burning questions I fielded, Dr. Ken Kronhaus, the host of ‘Heart Talk Live’ on WBZT-AM, asked me something particularly explosive: Has anyone ever died from farting?

The answer is probably yes—not from the flatulence itself, but from the complications, er, behind it.

IBS; GERD; Crohn’s disease; ulcers; strictures (narrowing) of the esophagus; cancer of the esophagus, colon, and stomach; and diabetes are all digestive complications that produce excessive gas and bloating.

Each and every one of these diseases and conditions can lead to potentially fatal complications. But the good news is all of these diseases and conditions can be treated if caught early enough.

Almost everyone has a digestive problem at some point in his or her life. If you haven’t farted, you haven’t lived! If you experience occasional farting, bloating, constipation, the runs, have no fear. This is normal.

But if you experience any of these symptoms in excess, or with bleeding or extreme discomfort, see your doctor right away. Because death can be a gas.

In addition to seeing your doctor, check out some of my previous posts on how to change your diet to cut down on cutting the cheese.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Organics Fight GI Cancer

The optimal way to treat a disease is to cut it off at the pass. And a recent journal article in Basic and Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology (everyone’s favorite light bathroom reading) discusses just that: chemoprevention in gastrointestinal cancers.

Chemoprevention is a fancy way of saying, “Let’s get it before it gets us.” This relatively new field seeks to identify natural or synthetic substances that reduce the risk of developing cancer.

This particular study showed that Aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (a-k-a NSAIDS), and calcium demonstrated the most significant reductions of risk for colorectal neoplasia.

NSAIDs also consistently appeared to protect against esophageal and gastric cancer, according to study lead Maria V. Grau and her colleagues at Dartmouth Medical School. Grau also cited vitamin D as a promising intervention agent, among others.

This is evidence that simple supplements, coupled with healthy eating, can decrease your risk of GI-related cancers. Now, I’m not an advocate of over-the-counter self-medications. But acetylsalicylic acid, sold since 1899 under the Bayer trademark of ‘Aspirin’—has organic origins.

It was first used as a bitter powder extracted from willow bark and, later, other plants. Bayer developed a chemical process that made the powder’s active ingredient—salicin—tolerable to the stomach.

And certainly calcium and vitamin D aren’t high-falutin’ pharmaceuticals. Rather, they’re organic compounds found in balanced diets, natural supplements, and—if you’re following the advice on this blog—in your refrigerator.

Certainly even the healthiest diet is not a guarantee against GI cancers. But if this study is to be believed, a healthy diet coupled with judicious use of nutritional supplements can make a difference, and better your odds.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Farting: The Documentary

Here's hard evidence that uncontrollable farting can be bad for your health.

Monday, May 08, 2006

*POP* Goes the Soda

Uh-oh! The major soft drink companies have agreed to stop selling their sugar-laden, empty-calorie-packed beverages to public schools.

It’s well known that soda causes gas. After all, all those little bubbles have to go somewhere.

But the soda ban deserves three hearty toots for a reason that isn’t just a load of air: The ban is a long-overdue step in the right direction to filter unhealthy foods out of our diet.

One can of soda has about 10 teaspoons of sugar, 150 calories, 30 to 55 milligrams of caffeine, and is loaded with artificial food colors and sulphites.

Besides excess gas, drinking too much soda causes other detrimental side effects. Soft drinks contain more than 100 percent of the recommended dietary allowance of sugar.

High sugar consumption is linked to diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and tooth decay. All that sugar racks up the calories and packs on the pounds.

And caffeine causes a mess of problems, including dehydration, stomach aches, headaches, sluggishness, jitters, insomnia, high blood pressure, and irregular heartbeat.

Aspartame, which is used as a sugar substitute in diet soda, is linked to dozens of dangerous side effects, including diabetes, brain tumors, and birth defects.

And then there are the sugar alcohols, which are also used to sweeten sugar-free sodas and other drinks. These are a huge cause of uncontrollable gas (see my recent detailed post on this topic).

And most sodas contain phosphoric acid as well. Phosphoric acid has been shown to interfere with calcium absorption, which can weaken bones over time.

So if you’re a soda junkie, here are two ways to fizzle the habit:

(1) Try mixing orange juice (or another fruit juice) with club soda. This will satisfy your sweet tooth, and provide a good vitamin C boost. Cut the club soda part until you’re drinking nothing but fruit juice.

(2) If it’s pure carbonation you crave, drink sparkling mineral water instead.

Encourage your kids to adopt these habits too.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Canary in a Coal Mine

What is smaller than a cell phone … fitted with a crocodile clip for your pockets … and sensitive to noxious fumes? No, it’s not the Dog Gas Thong (good guess, though.)

Give up? It’s the new Draeger X-am 2000, an ergonomic, lightweight, and easy-to-use gas detector specially designed for ‘personal gas monitoring’.

As we head into summer—a season brimming with barbeques, where over-processed hamburger rolls will set people’s gluteus maximus buns ablaze—the Dreager X-am 200 will maintain its high level of sensitivity to combustible organic vapors, and will issue dependable warnings to you in the event of SBDs and other explosive hazards.

In short, it’s the perfect way to ward off your relatives’ stinky side effects from Aunt Bertha’s mayo-laden potato salad. So don’t delay; get your personal gas monitor today.