Digestive health

26 April 2007

Myths about the digestive system

The human digestive system is a powerful tool without which we wouldn't be able to survive. Unfortunately, myths regarding this intricate system abound.

The human digestive system is a powerful tool without which we wouldn't be able to survive. Unfortunately, myths regarding this intricate system abound.

We distinguish fact from fiction:

Bowel regularity means a bowel movement every day.
The frequency of bowel movements among normal, healthy people varies from three a day to three a week, and perfectly healthy people may fall outside both ends of this range.

Habitual use of enemas to treat constipation is harmless.
The truth is, habitual use of enemas is not harmless. Over time, enemas can impair the natural muscle action of the intestines, leaving them unable to function normally. An ongoing need for enemas is not normal; you should see a doctor if you find yourself relying on them or any other medication to have a bowel movement.

Irritable bowel syndrome is a disease.
Irritable bowel syndrome is not a disease. It is a functional disorder, which means that there is a problem in how the muscles in the intestines work. New research shows that this problem is linked to the over- or underproduction of serotonin by the digestive system. Irritable bowel syndrome is characterised by gas, abdominal pain, and diarrhoea or constipation, or both. Although the syndrome can cause considerable pain and discomfort, it does not damage the digestive tract as diseases do. Also, irritable bowel syndrome does not lead to more serious digestive diseases later.

Inflammatory bowel disease is caused by psychological problems.
Inflammatory bowel disease is the general name for two diseases that cause inflammation in the intestines, Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. The cause of the disease is unknown, but researchers speculate that it may be a virus or bacteria interacting with the body's immune system. There is no evidence to support the theory that inflammatory bowel disease is caused by tension, anxiety, or other psychological factors or disorders.

- (Health24)

Read more:
Diet Zone
You and your digestive system


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Dr. Estelle Wilken is a Senior Specialist in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology at Tygerberg Hospital. She obtained her MBChB in 1976, her MMed (Int) in 1991 and her gastroenterology registration in 1995.

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