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Common Digestive Diseases

Among the important digestive diseases, the following diseases are commonly diagnosed:

  • Gastro- esophageal reflux disease (GERD),
  • Gastroenteritis,
  • Gastritis,
  • Irritable bowel syndrome,
  • Diverticular disease and
  • Colorectal cancer.

Gastro- esophageal reflux disease or GERD is caused by an impaired barrier between the esophagus and stomach that allows the reflux of gastric content into the esophagus, which causes heartburn, a burning sensation beneath the breastbone, and can lead to mucosal damage in the esophagus.

  • Gastroenteritis is a condition usually caused by infection from certain viruses, but it can also result from bacterial infections often due to improperly prepared or bacterially contaminated foods (food poisoning). This leads to inflammation of both the stomach and small intestine, which leads to acute diarrhea.
  • Gastritis is inflammation of the stomach mucosa. There are many causes of this condition, including bacterial infection, often from Helicobacter pylori, smoking, excess alcohol and caffeine consumption, and stress. Symptoms of gastritis include upper abdominal pain or discomfort, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome is characterized by abdominal pain associated with frequent bouts of diarrhea, constipation or a change in bowel habits. Since these symptoms overlap with many other possible conditions affecting the gastrointestinal tract, the diagnosis is made by exclusion of any other evident gastrointestinal abnormalities.
  • Diverticulosis is caused by an out- pouching of the colonic tissue due to an underlying weakness in the muscle layers beneath the wall of the colon. The incidence of this disease is low in people under age 40, but increases significantly after the age of 40.
  • Colorectal cancer is caused due to the cancerous growths in appendix, colon and rectum.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease can easily be confused with the more common and similarly sounding irritable bowel syndrome. Inflammatory bowel disease is a more severe condition than irritable bowel syndrome. Inflammatory bowel disease is a serious inflammatory condition that affects the gastrointestinal tract. The two most common forms of inflammatory bowel disease are called ulcerative colitis, which affects primarily the colon and rectum, and Crohn’s disease, which can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract, but mostly starts in the ileum, the area of the lower small intestine.

Aging and Diminished Nutrient Utilization

  • The recommended micronutrient intake for many essential and nonessential dietary components is increased in the elderly. For example, governmental recommendations for vitamin D, vitamin B12 and calcium intake in the elderly population are higher than for younger people.
  • In addition, higher intakes of essential and nonessential antioxidants, such as vitamin C, vitamin E, and various antioxidant bioactive food components would likely benefit this older population, due to the increase in risk of chronic diseases that can raise up the oxidant stress or change the nutrient utilization.
  • However, because daily energy intake usually decreases in older people, while micronutrient requirements either increase or remain stable, older people have a particularly strong need to consume more nutrient-rich diets. This can often only be achieved using low-calorie micronutrient- fortified products or dietary supplements.
  • Moreover, because nutrient absorption or utilization may be compromised in the elderly, especially among the “oldest old” (≥80y), who are the fastest growing segment of the elderly population, delivery of highly bioavailable micronutrients in a low-energy package is especially important.
  • Other prevailing conditions, such as the higher prevalence of digestive diseases in the elderly, may lead to the desire to create micronutrient- fortified food products that are targeted to have the beneficial disease-specific food components, like dietary fiber, for example.
  • However, experience shows that the combination of certain types of dietary fiber with some micronutrients can have a negative impact on micronutrient bioavailability.
  • The complexity of developing appropriate fortification premixes to, on the one hand, meet specific food component demands of a new market-targeted product while, on the other hand, maintaining optimal micronutrient bioavailability and component compatibility can raise difficulties in the manufacturing process that could benefit from consultation with specialists in the micronutrient fortification field.

The Gut-Immune System Health Connection

  • There is a very close connection between a person’s immune system and the gut. Cells of the immune system are in the process of constant pushing the gut environment to aid in protecting the body from unwanted bacterial and viral attack.
  • There are many good bacteria living in the colon that are required to maintain a healthy immune system and may also be helpful in the fight against cancer or other diseases.
  • The critical balance of bacteria living in the gut can be affected by many factors like antibiotic use and old age.

New information also suggests that certain bacteria may have a positive effect beyond the gut by affecting the microecology of the oral cavity, stomach, and vaginal tract. There is increasing interest in manipulating the body’s microflora to attain certain health benefits.

There are three basic approaches that are believed to be able to change the microflora in the lower intestine: probiotics, prebiotics and symbiotic.

Probiotics consist of supplements of live bacteria of naturally occurring gut bacteria, often consisting of the genera Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, which are felt to be beneficial for health. Oral delivery of these bacteria is done to help alter the balance of bacteria in the colon in a more beneficial direction.

Prebiotics are non-digestible food substances that will reach the lower GI tract and aid to serve as substrates for the growth of beneficial bacteria like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Common prebiotics used in various products are inulin, fructo- oligosaccharides and lactulose. Prebiotics also aid in increasing calcium and magnesium absorption. It can positively affect postnatal immune development and increase fecal secretory immunoglobulins in infants. Prebiotics also may influence the appetite control and lipid metabolism by maintaining the secretion of gastrointestinal peptides. Resistant starch is the starch that escapes the digestion in the small intestine, also has prebiotic properties that will help in the microbial production of beneficial short-chain fatty acids in the colon.

Symbiotic represents a novel concept which has a combination of both prebiotics and probiotics and are synergistically used to obtain a maximum benefit by giving beneficial bacterial strains along with a prebiotic to stimulate their growth.

Micronutrients and Bioactive Food Components

  • Micronutrients and various bioactive food components are beneficial in combatting digestive disease. Folic acid, calcium and vitamin D are beneficial in lowering the risk of colorectal cancer. Calcium and vitamin D should be given together to achieve more benefit.
  • Vitamin D, along with omega-3 fatty acids, act as anti-carcinogenic nutrients by regulating the growth of colon progenitor cells. The anti-inflammatory properties of vitamin D helps in inflammation-based disorders related to GI tract.
  • High intakes of cruciferous vegetables have been specifically associated with lower risks of colorectal cancer. The anti-carcinogenic effect of this subclass of vegetables is often attributed to their content of glucosinolates, which are inactive themselves but can be hydrolyzed to a variety of bioactive compounds, such as isothiocyanates and indoles, by the gut microflora.
  • Amino acids, like glutamine, glutamate, arginine, glycine, and histidine play a very major role in promoting gut health.
  • Vitamin A, as well, is important for gut immunity and epithelial integrity.
  • Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation can be beneficial in the maintenance of remission in the chronic inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Prebiotic supplementation may be efficacious in the treatment of mucosal inflammatory disorders, such as inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Probiotics may have a beneficial effect on the type of irritable bowel syndrome that develops after a bout of infection and is accompanied by a low-grade inflammation and activation of the immune system.
  • Among the many different types of dietary fiber, water-soluble, non-gelling fibers, such as partially hydrolyzed guar gum, provides clinical benefit to both constipation-predominant and diarrhea-predominant forms of irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Zinc supplementation reduces the risk of developing gastroenteritis and lessen the severity of the disease. The addition of probiotics may also be of benefit.

New Products Aimed at Improving Gut Health

  • Interest in Gut Health is High
  • Gut Health is an Important Concept Area of New and Existing Functional Food Claims: One a day shots
  • Fruit-based gut health beverage products
  • These products would combine the already well-accepted antioxidant health benefits of superfruits such as açai, goji, pomegranate, and mangosteen, with a healthful combination of prebiotics and probiotics.

Future Food Prospects for Good Gut Food Products?

  • Seniors are often plagued by several chronic ailments, including problems and concerns with their digestive tract. Elderly have increased micronutrient needs that should be addressed by providing nutrient-rich, low-calorie products. Inclusion of soluble dietary fiber would be useful for both controlling blood sugar and can have positive GI benefits.
  • Toddlers are the other prime target group for the scope of development of good new guts products. Parents are less concerned at this age in causing of specific intestinal diseases affecting their child, but they are very much aware of the necessity of promoting a healthy and good immune system in their children through their diet, who are likely to encounter other children in the neighborhood, who may be ill or who may be the source of carrying germs that can affect the gastroenteritis.
  • New micronutrient- fortified gut health products marketed to emphasize their general immunity boosting potential would likely appeal to parents.
  • Moreover, this target population may be particularly amenable to the development of new antioxidant-rich, fruit-based, gut healthy juice-in-the-box-type beverages, or other convenient product types, which would appeal to younger children and allow for innovative new product development beyond the usual dairy shelf gut healthy alternatives.

The Future Good for Your Gut Food Products:

  • Dairy products
  • Bars like energy bars
  • Baked products
  • Chocolates
  • However, manufacturers must design their product by keeping in mind the expectation of the consumer about the product’s look, feel, and taste.
  • To overcome the numerous formulation challenges that need to be addressed to deliver a product with great consumer appeal, scientific expertise in fortification technology and proper ingredient selection needs to come together with marketing throughout the entire production process.
  • Both need to rely on the other to ensure the basic four manufacturing criteria of any successful food product, which include good taste, consistent product quality/texture (mouthfeel), acceptable ingredient stability, and adequate shelf life, are all met.
  • Developing a customized nutrient premix specifically for a particular delivery vehicle will definitely reduce the health challenges and will aid to ensure success in the market.

One Comment

  1. A lot of research is being done on the significance of gut health with respect to brain health. A clean diet comprising of fresh vegetables and fruits is a good way to go ahead.

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