Despite the jokes, digestive issues can be serious



Join Healing Horizons for “5 Things Pharmaceutical Companies Don’t Want You to Know About Digestive Health” at 6:05 p.m. Wednesday. Limited seating available. Must call 256-8449 to pre-register.

Talking about poop is commonplace in my life. All day at work I talk about poop. Try not to judge me. Details regarding bowel movements can tell me a lot about a patient’s health and how I can help.

At home, my 6-year-old son makes insidious poop jokes all day long. While my son’s jokes are more limited to making comments like someone is a poop face, I found these slightly better jokes to share with you:

Did you know that diarrhea is hereditary? It runs in your genes.

Have you seen that new movie “Constipated?”  It’s not come out yet.

For those of you who are musically inclined, I found this joke:

Did you hear about the constipated composer? He had problems with his last movement.

It turns out that digestive problems are no laughing matter. According to the National Institutes of Health, gastrointestinal disease affects an estimated 60-70 million Americans annually. The cost spent on those diseases has been estimated at $142 billion a year in direct and indirect costs. 

My educated guess is that the institutes’ estimate is wrong and that the actual cost is much more than that — because digestive distress can be linked to many symptoms and disease processes outside of the GI system. The digestive system falls prey to over-worrying, excessive stress, eating “food” that is not really food (i.e. foods full of additives, food coloring, high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, artificial sweeteners, just to name a few). Complications in other organ systems, such as the liver, lungs and kidneys, also lead to digestive distress.

Once the digestion is compromised, the patient is unable to assimilate nutrients properly, leading to a multitude of health problems. 

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, one way this concept is illustrated is by a pathological factor called “dampness.” Dampness is a sluggishness that comes either from eating “damp” foods or the inability to digest food properly.

Loosely translated as “inflammation,” dampness can get lodged in joints and connective tissues, leading to conditions like arthritis and fibromyalgia. Similarly, from poor assimilation of key nutrients, tissues are not supported enough, leading to symptoms like tendonitis, muscle twitches and more. 

One aspect that gets limited attention is the importance of a healthy digestive tract on our hormones, or endocrine system. 

For example, the “feel good” hormone serotonin is 90 percent produced in the GI tract. Serotonin is in part responsible for regulating mood, appetite and sleep. It stands to reason that when the gut is compromised, serotonin regulation is also compromised. 

There are several key ways you can help your digestive tract today:

■ Avoid “cold” and “damp” foods that tend to weaken digestive function (excessive raw fruits and vegetables, soy, wheat, dairy, sugar, alcohol, artificial anything).

■ Eat foods that support digestive function (rice, sweet potato, oats, squash).

■ Find ways to alleviate stress.

■ Adopt strategies to worry and ruminate less (meditation, prayer, life-coaching, counseling, emotional freedom technique).

■ Seek care from a qualified acupuncturist or doctor of chiropractic. Both acupuncture and chiropractic can regulate digestive function by ensuring healthy nerve function from the spinal cord to the organs.

■ Supplements like prebiotics and probiotics, digestive enzymes and betaine may be helpful but should be advised by a trusted health care practitioner. Similar to pharmaceutical drugs, supplements do not fit a one-size-fits-all paradigm.

Your digestive system is at the center of your health picture. If you are not feeling well, it is extremely likely your GI tract is compromised.Quite often, acid reflux, diarrhea and constipation are your body’s way of getting you to pay attention. You have the power to increase your digestive health, often without pharmaceutical intervention.

Furthermore, when you are properly nourished, your physical, mental and emotional health will thrive.

Dr. April L. Schulte-Barclay is a doctor of acupuncture and oriental medicine and a licensed acupuncturist. She has been practicing in Grand Junction since 2004 and is an expert and leader in integrative and collaborative medicine.

Learn more at, or call Healing Horizons Integrated Health Solutions at 256-8449.


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