World Digestive Health Day

(DougCookRD.com)

Every May 29th, the World Gastroenterology Organisation (WGO), in collaboration with the WGO Foundation (WGOF), celebrates World Digestive Health Day (WDHD) and initiates a year-long, worldwide, public health campaign. Each year focuses upon a particular digestive disease and/or disorder in order to increase general public awareness of prevention, prevalence, diagnosis, management and treatment of the campaign’s disease and/or disorder.

 

The 2018 campaign is titled “Viral Hepatitis, B and C: Lift the Global Burden“. Viral hepatitis causes inflammation of the liver due to a viral infection. Most cases of viral hepatitis are caused by one of five viruses including, hepatitis A virus (HAV), hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), hepatitis D virus (HDV) and hepatitis E virus (HEV).

 

All five hepatitis viruses can cause acute hepatitis, however only HBV, HCV, and HDV can cause chronic hepatitis to the point where it can lead to liver cirrhosis and to liver cancer.

Digestive health, more than you think

Most people think that digestive health only involves the stomach and intestines but it’s SO much more than that; it includes everything that plays a part in digestion. In addition to the organ of this year’s campaign, the liver, digestive health also includes the:

  • esophagus
  • stomach
  • small & large intestines, and the rectum
  • pancreas
  • gallbladder

All work together to ensure optimal digestion, absorption and utilization of the food we eat. In very simple terms, the liver helps to metabolize the digested & absorbed nutrients we get from food, repackage them, and send them back into the blood stream where they are carried to our cells to be used as fuel and for repair and maintenance.

 

In order to be its best, the liver must be as healthy as possible. This includes avoiding infections like any of the hepatitis strains, as well as, feeding it well and minimizing the intake of things that can damage it.

Reducing the risk for hepatitis

Hepatitis A & E

  • Hepatitis A and E are excreted through the feces of an infected person. You can become infected with hepatitis A or E if you ingest contaminated food or water.
  • Vaccines are available to protect you against hepatitis A

Hepatitis B, C & D

  • Hepatitis types B, C, and D are spread primarily through contact with infected blood. Sexual transmission is a less common but still important route of exposure, especially for hepatitis B.
  • Vaccines are available to protect you against hepatitis A
  • No vaccines are available to prevent hepatitis C, D or E, however hepatitis C is now curable for many people due to new and effective anti-viral medications

Prevention is still the best strategy

  • Keep in mind that when traveling to an area with an unsafe water supply, water contamination may not be obvious to the naked eye. Always avoid tap water, ice cubes, and raw fruits and vegetables that may have been washed in contaminated water.
  • Brushing your teeth or washing with contaminated water may also put you at risk; use bottled water that was factory-sealed to brush teeth and avoid ingesting any water when taking a shower or swimming.
  • Don’t forget to wash your hands regularly, because frequent hand washing can help protect you against hepatitis types A and E. If the tap water available for washing is likely to be contaminated, use hand sanitizer instead.
  • Although contact with blood is the primary route of transmission for hepatitis C, unprotected sexual contact also puts you at risk as well. Using a condom and practicing safer sex can minimize that risk.

Non-viral causes of hepatitis

Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver and inflammation can be caused by other means, not just viral infections. Substances that are toxic to the liver can cause inflammation and over the long run, cirrhosis and liver damage:

  • Toxins include excessive alcohol and over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol); the damage is compounded when Tylenol and alcohol are co-ingested; some prescription drugs and herbal supplements can also be hard on the liver and lead to hepatitis.
  • Since the risk for liver problems increases with time (and with the quantity of alcohol consumed), it’s best to drink alcohol only in moderation. If you do tend to drink heavily or you have pre-existing liver problems, ask your doctor about the liver safety of any new prescriptions and avoid acetaminophen.

Eating for liver support

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that it doesn’t matter what you eat, drink or put into your body because it does, big time. The liver needs dozens and dozens and dozens of nutrients for it to be in tip top shape and for those biochemical reactions that take care of detoxification to work. The liver also needs antioxidants to protect itself from the very act of detoxifying. These include vitamins & minerals such as C, E, B complex, magnesium, zinc, manganese, selenium, sulphur and amino acids like cysteine, glycine, taurine and glutamine, glutathione and innumerable phytonutrients found in plant foods to name but a few.

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