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Show 1179: What Should You Do About Digestive Distress?

Listen to find out when your digestive distress might signal a serious problem and when you could manage it at home with simple remedies.
Nicholas Shaheen, MD
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What Should You Do About Digestive Distress?

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Have you ever had horrible heartburn or a really bad bellyache? Most of us have experienced digestive distress at one time or another. When do you need to seek medical attention for your problem?

What Causes Digestive Distress?

When the gastrointestinal tract is working as it should, you chew your food and swallow it. Then it traverses the esophagus and goes into the stomach through a valve (the lower esophageal sphincter). After being agitated and acidified in the stomach, the food proceeds to the small intestine so that nutrients can be absorbed in the course of its 20+ feet. Finally, what has not been digested and absorbed goes on to the large intestine for final processing by gut microbes. What could possibly go wrong? We’ll get the answers step by step from our guest, gastroenterologist Nicholas Shaheen.

When Should You Worry?

Some symptoms are common and should not alarm you. Which ones should get your attention immediately? We’ll find out what could be a problem and why.

We’ll also discuss when and how often you should be screened or “scoped” to detect problems such as Barrett’s esophagus or colon cancer. How does Cologuard compare to colonoscopy? Which symptoms of digestive distress could indicate a problem with the liver or pancreas? When should you suspect appendicitis and go to the emergency department?

Join the Conversation:

Our lines are open for your questions and comments this week. Call 888-472-3366 between 7 and 8 am EDT on Saturday, September 7, 2019. You can also reach us by email: radio@peoplespharmacy.com.

This Week’s Guest:

Nicholas J. Shaheen, MD, MPH, is the Bozymski-Heizer Distinguished Professor of Medicine at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, and Chief of the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at UNC. Dr. Shaheen is a recognized expert in esophageal diseases and endoscopy. He is author of multiple treatment guidelines for gastrointestinal illnesses. He is co-author of a recent article: “Management of Barrett esophagus following radiofrequency ablation.” Gastroenterology & Hepatology, July 2019.

If you like this interview, you might also want to listen to our previous interview with Dr. Shaheen. It is Show 1144: New Ways to Heal Your Digestive Tract.

Listen to the Podcast:

The podcast of this program will be available the Monday after the broadcast date. The show can be streamed online from this site and podcasts can be downloaded for free. CDs may be purchased at any time after broadcast for $9.99.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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I watched my brother get a CT yesterday and saw them use contrast. I have heard anecdotes of people dying of renal failure after procedures where they got contrast during medical imagining procedures.

What diet should I suggest my brother take up after his procedure to give his kidney a lighter work load while they work on filtering out the contrast?


Why can’t you just tell me the answer to the question in this letter?

Different forms of trouble call for different responses. That’s why we asked Dr. Shaheen to spell it out for you in the interview.

As a celiac patient and the president of a local celiac support group, I know celiac inside and out. I waited the entire hour for Dr. Shaheen to get to the gluten topic. And when he did he said that celiac was an allergy to gluten!!! Sorry, but Celiac 101 makes it very clear that celiac is an intolerance to gluten, not an allergy! I would have thought an expert in the field would have known better. This may sound petty, but I can assure you that those of us who live with and understand this insidious disease know the difference, and we are vocal about getting it correct!

I suffered from severe heartburn for years. I gave up all sweet things (as a penance for a favour I needed). Within a month the heartburn had gone. It has stayed that way for over two years now, and I can bring back the discomfort just by going on the sweeties again. In particular anything with glucose syrup has an almost instant negative effect.

Many people, especially those middle aged and over, need digestive enzymes. I am one and it took too many years to figure it out. My son was a shrimp and even the Pediatrician was concerned. Thinking about my problem, I decided to try digestives. He was too young for taking pills but I found chewable and started him on them.

What an amazing difference in mood and height. When he got older I gave him tablets. He grew to an adult height of 6 feet and one inch.

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