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More Myths About Digestive Disorders

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Here's a discussion of common myths about heartburn, constipation, and diverticulosis. For more digestive disorders myths, see Three Popular Myths About Digestive Disorders.

Before the advent of modern medicine, the average person relied on folklore, old wives’ tales, and remedies handed down from previous generations to treat various ailments of the digestive tract. Today, despite extensive research, misunderstandings about the causes and treatments of many digestive diseases still persist. Here, then, are three common myths, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse -- and the real truths based on the latest research findings.

Digestive Disorders Myth #1: Smoking a cigarette relieves heartburn. Truth: The opposite is true: Cigarette smoking exacerbates heartburn by relaxing the lower esophageal sphincter -- the muscle between the esophagus and the stomach -- which allows stomach acid to travel backwards and enter the esophagus.

Digestive Disorders Myth #2: Constipation can increase the risk of colon cancer.

Truth: Some alternative health practitioners believe that feces that remain in the colon for too long produce toxins, which are then absorbed by the body and can cause colon cancer and other diseases. That’s why these practitioners recommend the regular use of laxatives, enemas, colonics, or fasts to cleanse the colon of feces. But according to mainstream medical experts, there is no evidence that feces produce toxins or that using laxatives and other colon-cleansing techniques to speed the elimination of fecal matter will reduce the risk of colon cancer or other diseases.

Digestive Disorders Myth #3: Diverticulosis is a serious but uncommon problem.

Truth: Diverticulosis, a digestive disease in which small sacs or pouches called diverticula develop in the wall of the colon, is actually a very common disorder in people over age 60. In fact, more than half of all people between the ages of 60 and 80 have diverticulosis, and nearly everyone over age 80 has the condition.

Fortunately, few people develop symptoms from diverticulosis, unless the diverticula become infected or inflamed (a condition called diverticulitis), bleed, or perforate the colon.

Posted in Digestive Health on May 19, 2008
Reviewed September 2011

Medical Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute for the advice of a physician. Click here for additional information: Johns Hopkins Health Alerts Disclaimer

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