Category Archives: Digestive System

U.S.-African diet swap has dramatic impact on colon cancer risk | Reuters


Illustration of the colon from Gray's AnatomyBlack Americans who switched to a high-fiber African diet for just two weeks saw a dramatic drop in risk factors for colon cancer, a study published on Tuesday found.

A group of Africans who went the other way and started eating American food rich in animal proteins and fats saw their risks rise over the same short period, according to the paper in the journal Nature Communications.

Source: U.S.-African diet swap has dramatic impact on colon cancer risk | Reuters


Should America go vegan to ward off obesity and save the environment? Medical News Today


Brocolli ThumbThe researchers placed employees of the auto-insurance firm GEICO who had type 2 diabetes and a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or above on a low-fat, low-glycemic, high-fiber vegan diet.

The employee cafeteria menu featured vegetable hummus sandwiches, seasonal leafy green salads, black bean chili and various fruits and vegetables rich in vitamins and minerals during the study period.

The authors report that study participants lost an average of 10 lb and experienced a 13-point drop in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, as well as improved blood sugar control.

via Should America go vegan to ward off obesity and save the environment? Medical News Today.


Avoid raw milk, it’s just not worth the risk, says CDC

Photo by Maciej Lewandowski

Photo by Maciej Lewandowski

From the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Raw milk can carry harmful germs that can make you very sick or kill you. If you’re thinking about drinking raw milk because you believe it has health benefits, consider other options.

Developing a healthy lifestyle requires you to make many decisions. One step you might be thinking about is adding raw milk to your diet. Raw milk is milk that has not been pasteurized (heating to a specific temperature for a set amount of time to kill harmful germs). Germs include bacteria, viruses, and parasites.

Making milk safe
Milk and products made from milk need minimal processing, called pasteurization. This process includes:

  • Heating the milk briefly (for example, heating it to 161°F for about 15 seconds)
  • Rapidly cooling the milk
  • Practicing sanitary handling
  • Storing milk in clean, closed containers at 40°F or below

While it is possible to get foodborne illnesses from many different foods, raw milk is one of the riskiest of all.

When milk is pasteurized, disease-causing germs are killed. Harmful germs usually don’t change the look, taste, or smell of milk, so you can only be confident that these germs are not present when milk has been pasteurized.

Remember, you cannot look at, smell, or taste a bottle of raw milk and tell if it’s safe to drink.

Risks of drinking raw milk

Raw milk can carry harmful bacteria and other germs that can make you very sick or even kill you. While it is possible to get foodborne illnesses from many different foods, raw milk is one of the riskiest of all. Getting sick from raw milk can mean many days of diarrhea, stomach cramping, and vomiting. Less commonly, it can mean kidney failure, paralysis, chronic disorders, and even death.

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Illnesses due to raw milk on the rise


From the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

Photo by Maciej Lewandowski

Photo by Maciej Lewandowski

The average annual number of outbreaks due to drinking raw (unpasteurized) milk have more than quadrupled – from an average of three outbreaks per year during 1993-2006 to 13 per year during 2007-2012. Overall, there were 81 outbreaks in 26 states from 2007 to 2012.

As more states have allowed the legal sale of raw milk, there has been a rapid increase in the number of raw milk-associated outbreaks.The outbreaks, which accounted for about 5 percent of all food-borne outbreaks with a known food source, sickened nearly 1,000 people and sent 73 to the hospital. More than 80 percent of the outbreaks occurred in states where selling raw milk was legal.

As more states have allowed the legal sale of raw milk, there has been a rapid increase in the number of raw milk-associated outbreaks.

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‘Gluten-Free’ now means what it says


Bread and grainsA Consumer Update from the FDA

In August of last year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a final rule that defined what characteristics a food has to have to bear a label that proclaims it “gluten-free.”

The rule also holds foods labeled “without gluten,” “free of gluten,” and “no gluten” to the same standard.

Manufacturers had one year to bring their labels into compliance. As of August 5, 2014, any food product bearing a gluten-free claim labeled on or after this date must meet the rule’s requirements.

Without a standardized definition of “gluten-free,” these consumers could never really be sure.

This rule was welcomed by advocates for people with celiac disease, who face potentially life-threatening illnesses if they eat the gluten found in breads, cakes, cereals, pastas and many other foods.

Andrea Levario, executive director of the American Celiac Disease Alliance, notes that there is no cure for celiac disease and the only way to manage the disease is dietary—not eating gluten.

Without a standardized definition of “gluten-free,” these consumers could never really be sure if their body would tolerate a food with that label, she adds. Continue reading


E. coli outbreak linked to raw clover sprouts


Alert Icon with Exclamation Point!Clover sprouts eaten raw are likely source of E. coli illness outbreak

Washington state health officials are warning consumers not to eat raw clover sprouts from an Idaho producer that have been linked to an outbreak of E. coli infections in the Northwest.

The sprouts have been linked to seven confirmed and three probable cases of E. coli O121 illnesses in Washington and Idaho.

Five of those patients were hospitalized; there have been no deaths.

For more details about the outbreak:  Continue reading


Women’s Health – Week 34: Obesity


From the Office of Research on Women’s Health

tacuin women

Obesity is about more than just your looks. Today, two out of three adults in the United States are considered overweight or obese.

Obesity puts people at increased risk for chronic diseases, such as heart disease,  type 2 diabetes,  high blood pressure,  stroke,  and some forms of cancer. Continue reading


Women’s health — Week 29: Fecal incontinence


tacuin womenFrom the Office of Research on Women’s Health

Fecal incontinence, or loss of bowel control, can be devastating. People may feel the urge to have a bowel movement and not be able to hold it until they get to a toilet or stool may leak from the rectum unexpectedly, sometimes while passing gas. Continue reading


Women’s Health — Week 22: Eating Disorders — Anorexia and Bulimia


tacuin womenFrom the Office of Research on Women’s Health

Eating disorders are marked by extremes. An eating disorder can be an extreme reduction of food intake or extreme overeating, or feelings of extreme distress or concern about body weight or shape.

A person with an eating disorder may have started out just eating smaller or larger amounts of food than usual, but at some point, the urge to eat less or more spirals out of control.

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Women’s Health — Week 20: Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)


Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) develops when a muscle at the end of the esophagus does not close properly. In adults, this causes frequent heartburn, also called acid indigestion. When the esophagus is not fully closed, acidic digestive juices can rise up from the stomach. Refluxed stomach acid in the esophagus causes a burning-type pain in the throat, chest, behind the breast bone, and/or in the mid-abdomen.tacuin women

Occasional heartburn or reflux is common and does not necessarily mean you have GERD. Persistent reflux that occurs more than twice a week is considered GERD, and it can eventually lead to more serious health problems. People of all ages can have GERD. Some adults and most children under 12 years of age have GERD without heartburn. Instead, they may have a dry cough, asthma symptoms, or trouble swallowing. Why some people develop GERD is still unclear. Factors that may contribute to GERD include obesity, pregnancy, and smoking. Continue reading


Use certain laxatives with caution, FDA warns


Alert IconThe US Food and Drug Administration warns that laxatives containing sodium phosphate are potentially hazardous if not taken as directed. People with certain health conditions or taking certain medications are at particularly high risk. The FDA has issued the warning after there have been dozens of reports of serious side effects, including 13 deaths, associated with the use of sodium phosphate laxatives. Continue reading

tacuin women

Women’s Health – Week 19: Digestive System Overview


Digestive System_v02_ORWH_62309From the Office of Research on Women’s Health

Everyone has digestive problems from time to time: an upset stomach,  gas,  heartburn,  constipation,  or diarrhea. Many digestive problems can be controlled with simple changes in diet. Digestive disorders commonly affect women. The digestive system is made up of the digestive tract – a series of hollow organs joined in a long, twisting tube from the mouth to the anus – and other organs that help the body break down and absorb food.

Organs that make up the digestive tract are the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine (also called the colon), rectum, and anus. Inside these hollow organs is a lining called the mucosa. In the mouth, stomach, and small intestine, the mucosa contains tiny glands that produce juices to help digest food.

The digestive tract also contains a layer of smooth muscle that helps break down food and move it along the tract. Two digestive organs, the liver and the pancreas, produce digestive juices that reach the intestine through small tubes called ducts. The gallbladder stores the liver’s digestive juices until they are needed in the intestine. Parts of the nervous and circulatory systems also play major roles in the digestive system by preparing the stomach for digestion and absorption of food.

Tips for your health
Take the following steps to help keep your digestive system healthy: 

  • Do not smoke.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Eat a balanced diet.
  • Get regular exercise.
  • Learn how to reduce your level of stress.

For more information:


Keep germs off the guest list at holiday meals


Uncooked turkey in a pot

Keep all your guests healthy by following these food safety tips from the Snohomish Health District.

Proper planning.

Make sure your kitchen has everything you need for safe food handling, including two cutting boards (one for raw meats and seafood and the other for ready-to-eat foods), a food thermometer, shallow containers for cooling and storage, paper towels and soap.

Store foods in the refrigerator at 41°F or below or in the freezer at 0°F or below. Check the temperature of both the refrigerator and freezer with a refrigerator thermometer.

Safe shopping. 

At the grocery store, bag raw meat, poultry and seafood separate from ready-to-eat foods like fruit, vegetables and bread. Don’t buy bruised or damaged produce, or canned goods that are dented, leaking, bulging or rusted, as these may become a breeding ground for harmful bacteria. Buy cold foods last and bring foods directly home from the store.

Always refrigerate perishable foods, such as raw meat or poultry, within two hours. Thaw frozen turkey in the refrigerator or under cold-running water. Never defrost the turkey at room temperature.

Working in the kitchen. 

Got extra helpers in the kitchen? Make sure everyone washes their hands thoroughly with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling food, visiting the restroom, or changing a baby’s diapers. Keep all work surfaces sanitized, too. Spray or wipe on a solution of 1 tsp of unscented bleach per gallon of cold water.

When baking holiday treats, remember that no one should eat raw cookie dough or brownie batter containing raw eggs. Make eggnog with pasteurized eggs and pasteurized milk, or simply buy it ready-made with those ingredients.

Adding a nip of brandy or whiskey will not kill the germs. When making homemade eggnog, be sure to cook the mixture to 165°F, then refrigerate.


Food is safely cooked when it reaches a high enough internal temperature to kill the

harmful bacteria that cause illness. Cook your turkey to a minimum of 165°F as measured with a food thermometer, including the stuffing.

The healthiest method is to prepare and cook the stuffing separately – outside the bird. Test the bird’s temp in the thickest part of the thigh, the breast, and the inside. Don’t let the tip of the thermometer rest against bone.

Potluck contributions. 

Remember to keep hot foods hot (135°F or higher) and cold foods cold (41°F or below). To help keep foods hot wrap dishes in foil, cover them in heavy towels, or put them in insulated containers designed to keep food hot.

For cold foods, put them in a cooler with ice or freezer packs, or use an insulated container with a cold pack so they remain at 41°F or lower, especially if traveling for more than half an hour.

Buffet, anyone? 

If you set up food in a buffet line, take care to put spoons in each dish for self-service, and assist children in filling their plates. No fingers allowed!

Wrap it up! 

Throw away all perishable foods, such as meat, poultry, eggs and casseroles, left at room temperature longer than two hours. Refrigerate or freeze other leftovers in shallow, air-tight containers and label with the date it was prepared. Reheat leftovers to 165°F.

Divide large amounts of leftovers into shallow containers for quicker cooling in the refrigerator. Keeping a constant refrigerator temperature of 41°F or below is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of an at-home food-borne illness.

Eat cooked turkey and stuffing within 3-4 days and gravy in 1-2 days. Cooked turkey keeps up to 4 months in the freezer. Reheat leftovers to 165°F as measured with a food thermometer, and bring gravy and sauces to a boil before serving. Microwaved leftovers shouldn’t have cold spots (bacteria can survive). Cover food, stir and rotate for even cooking.

Following these food safety steps at your house will make the meal a happy memory for everyone. Happy, healthy holidays from the Snohomish Health District!

Additional resources:

Free kit

The Holiday Food Safety Success Kit at provides food safety advice and meal planning in one convenient location.

The kit includes information on purchasing, thawing and cooking a turkey; a holiday planner with menus, timelines, and shopping lists; and dozens of delicious (and food-safe) recipes. ]

The kit also has arts and crafts activities and downloads for kids so they can join the holiday fun.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration

1-888-SAFEFOOD: For questions about safe handling of the many foods that go into a delicious holiday meal, including eggs, dairy, fresh produce and seafood.

Escherichia Coli_NIAID E Coli BacteriaNothing can ruin a party quite like food poisoning. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are 31 pathogens known to cause food-borne illness.

Every year there are an estimated 48 million cases of illness, 128,000 hospitalizations, and 3,000 deaths in the United States due to food-borne diseases.

Typical symptoms of food-borne illness are vomiting, diarrhea, and cramps which can start hours to days after contaminated food or drinks are consumed.

The symptoms usually are not long-lasting in healthy people—a few hours or a few days—and usually go away without medical treatment.

But food-borne illness can be severe and even life-threatening to anyone, especially those most at risk such as infants and young children, pregnant women, older adults, people with HIV/AIDS, cancer or any condition or medication that weakens the immune system.


Start at the store


FoodEvery year, 1 out of 6 people gets sick from foodborne illness!

Thankfully, you can take action at the grocery store to stay healthy.

When shopping, pick up non-perishable foods first, followed by refrigerated/frozen items, and deli counter items last.

Make sure you’re purchasing food that is fresh, the sell-by date is current, and that it has been kept at the correct temperature.

Place cold items together in the cart to retain coldness.

Have meat and poultry bagged separately from other food items.

Refrigerate all perishable items immediately upon returning home.

This week, try to plan your shopping ahead of time so that you can make your grocery run quick, efficient, and most importantly, safe!


About the Monday Campaigns:

The Healthy Monday Tips is produced by a national health promotion initiative called the Monday Campaigns.

The thinking behind the initiative derives from two studies done at the Center for a Liveable Future at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health by Jullian Fry and Roni Neff.

In one study, they reviewed the scientific studies that looked at ways to get people to adopt healthy habits.

In that review, they found that one of the most effective ways to keep people on track is simply to remind them from time to time to stick to it.

But when would be the best time send those reminders?

Fry and Neff decided to look at Monday, which many of us consider the start of our week.

To better understand how we thought and felt about Monday, they reviewed the scientific literature as well as cultural references to Monday in movies, songs, books and other forms of art and literature, even video games.

They noted that a number of scientific studies have found that we may suffer more health problems on Monday. For example, a number of studies find that Americans have more heart attacks and strokes on Monday.

There is also evidence that we have more on-the-job injuries on Monday, perhaps because we are not quite back into the swing of things, or are still recovering from our weekend.

Fry and Neff also found that while many of us, facing the return to work, may dread Mondays, Monday is also seen as a day for making a fresh start.

Fry and Neff concluded that Monday might be a good day for promoting healthy habits. Calling attention to the health problems linked to the first day of the work week, such as heart attacks and on-the-job injuries, makes Monday a natural day to highlight the importance of prevention.

And the Monday’s reputation as a day to make a fresh start offers the opportunity to help people to renew their efforts to adopt healthier habits.

Fry and Neff’s findings are put into practice by the Monday Campaigns, which helps individuals and organizations use Monday as a focus for their health promotion efforts, providing free research, literature and artwork, and other support.

To learn more about Healthy Mondays:

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Photo by Sanja Gjenero

Salmonella in eggs: An unwelcome summer visitor

Photo by Sanja Gjenero

Photo by Sanja Gjenero

CDC Features

Eggs and summer go together: deviled eggs, homemade ice cream, and potato salad.

But, just a few hours outside of the refrigerator and your eggs can create lasting memories that you’d rather forget.

This summer, make sure that eggs carrying Salmonella don’t come to your next outing.

Summer is the perfect season for Salmonella, a germ that commonly causes foodborne illness–sometimes called food poisoning.

Warm weather and unrefrigerated eggs or food made from raw or undercooked eggs create ideal conditions for Salmonella to grow.

Many germs grow to high numbers in just a few hours at room temperature.

Although anyone can get Salmonella food poisoning, older adults, infants, and people with weakened immune systems are at increased risk for serious illness.

A person infected with Salmonella usually has a fever, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea beginning 12 to 72 hours after consuming a contaminated food or beverage.

The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, and most people recover without antibiotic treatment. But, in rare cases, people become seriously ill.

In the United States, Salmonella infection causes more hospitalizations and deaths than any other germ found in food, resulting in $365 million in direct medical costs annually.

Wondering if you haveSalmonella food poisoning?

salmonella on cultured human cells

Salmonella / CDC

See your doctor or healthcare provider if you have:

  • Diarrhea along with a temperature over 101.5°F
  • Diarrhea for more than 3 days that is not improving
  • Bloody stools
  • Prolonged vomiting that prevents you from keeping liquids down
  • Signs of dehydration, such as
    • Making very little urine
    • Dry mouth and throat, and
    • Dizziness when standing up

Salmonella can be sneaky

You can get Salmonella from perfectly normal-looking eggs. Salmonella can live on both the outside and inside of eggs that appear to be normal. Chicken feces on the outside of egg shells used to be a common cause of Salmonella contamination. To counter that, regulators in the 1970s put strict procedures into place for cleaning and inspecting eggs. Now, Salmonella is sometimes found on the inside of eggs; it gets there as the egg is forming.

Good news for egg lovers

Professionals from public health, government, and the food industry are continually working to reduce the risks of Salmonella in eggs. Here are just a few contributions made thus far:

Be proactive. Reduce your risk.

Did You Know?

Eating raw or undercooked eggs can be especially dangerous for young children, pregnant women, older adults, and those with weakened immune systems.

Salmonella can contaminate more than poultry and eggs. It sneaks its way into many foods—ground beef, pork, tomatoes, sprouts—even peanut butter. Here are six tips to make eggs and other foods safer to eat.

  1. Like other perishable foods, keep eggs refrigerated at or below 40° F (4° C) at all times. Buy eggs only from stores or other suppliers that keep them refrigerated.
  2. Discard cracked or dirty eggs.
  3. Do not keep eggs or other foods warm or at room temperature for more than two hours.
  4. Refrigerate unused or leftover foods promptly.
  5. Avoid restaurant dishes made with raw or lightly cooked unpasteurized eggs. Although restaurants should use pasteurized eggs in any recipe containing raw or lightly cooked eggs –such as Hollandaise sauce or Caesar salad dressing—ask to be sure.
  6. Consider buying and using shell eggs and egg products that are pasteurized. These are available for purchase from certain stores and suppliers.

 Photo of eggs courtesy of Sanja Gjenero

More Information

For more information about Salmonella, foodborne illness, and food safety, call 1-800-CDC-INFO, e-mail, or visit these web sites: