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Gastrointestinal problems are among the most common complaints heard by doctors today. Still, many people fail to look beyond the symptoms when seeking relief, and as a result problems can worsen over time. Knowing that roughly 80 percent of our natural immune defenses are found in the digestive tract, it is time to reconsider how we deal with digestive issues—and with that comes getting a better understanding of certain things that can affect a healthy gut.

 If you have persistent gas and bloating, abdominal pain, or chronic constipation or diarrhea, here’s something you should know: More and more Americans are finding out that sensitivity to gluten may be at the root of their problems. But is it just gluten sensitivity or is it celiac disease? And what’s the difference? The following is a brief overview:

 Gluten sensitivity is a broad term used to include many different types of sensitivity to gluten, a protein found in wheat. People who are sensitive to gluten may experience a wide range of symptoms, from mild inflammation of the intestinal lining to abdominal discomfort and occasional irritable bowel, but not everyone with gluten sensitivity develops celiac disease (those who don’t are considered Non-celiac Gluten Sensitive, or NCGS).

 However, people with gluten sensitivity may be experiencing the beginning stages of celiac disease. In essence, gluten sensitivity implies that the immune system cannot tolerate gluten in the diet. As a result, it forms protective antibodies to try to neutralize the gluten, in the same way it reacts to harmful bacteria or viruses. When these autoimmune reactions cause intestinal damage, a person is then considered to have celiac disease.

 Celiac disease is genetic and in some cases may be triggered by a traumatic physical or emotional event. More than 2 million Americans suffer from celiac disease, which can include severe abdominal pain and bloating, chronic diarrhea, constipation, weight loss, fatigue, and in some cases even severe anxiety and depression, skin problems, as well as bone and joint pain.

 The bottom line is this: If you have unexplained, persistent gastrointestinal issues and you and your doctor can’t seem to figure out why, gluten sensitivity may be the culprit. The best way to determine if you are truly gluten sensitive or if you have celiac disease is to have a simple stool test performed. Visit www.enterolab.com to find out more, and once you have the results you and your health care practitioner can take the next step toward better gastrointestinal health.

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It sounds like a plot summary from the latest sci-fi novel: Super strains of harmful bacteria impervious to even the strongest antibiotics. But recent evidence of an antibiotic-resistant gene originating in India has medical experts on high alert and was a topic of much discussion at a recent American Society for Microbiology conference in Boston.

Three people from the U.S. and two from Canada—all of whom had recently traveled to India—became severely sick as the result of the gene scientists are calling NDM-1, which seems to prefer latching on to bacteria that cause intestinal or urinary tract infections. India is well known for its overpopulation and widespread disease, and in each case the individual had either received emergency medical care while visiting or had gone there for medical treatment.  

In recent decades drug-resistant bacteria have become a growing concern, and many experts worry that America’s hygiene obsession and dependence on antibiotics will soon backfire, breeding more and more “superbugs” that don’t respond to normal antibiotic treatment. Essentially, antibiotic resistance happens when our bodies actually become resistant to the effects of a certain antibiotic (or antibiotics) over time because of misuse or overuse of those particular drugs. Widespread use of antibacterial soaps and cleansers also adds to the problem by actually increasing the resistance of certain harmful bacteria.

In addition to practicing good hygiene, experts recommend only taking antibiotics when absolutely necessary, always completing the prescribed dose, and never taking antibiotics prescribed for someone else. Taking a daily probiotic supplement is also recommended to help strengthen the body’s natural defense system, much of which is found in the gut.

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