Freedom from Digestive Distress

A Book Promoting Medicine-Free Relief From Heartburn, Gas, Bloating, And IBS

Freedom From Digestive Distress
Freedom From Digestive Distress. Photo © The Philip Lief Group, Inc., and Gary Gitnick, M.D.

Freedom from Digestive Distress is written by Gary Gitnick, MD, who attended medical school at the University of Chicago and was an intern at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He served his residency at the Mayo Clinic, and is currently Professor of Medicine and Chief of the Division of Digestive Diseases at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine.

A Focus on Lifestyle Changes

In his book, Dr. Gitnick advocates starting with diet and lifestyle changes to combat digestive disorders such as heartburn, gas, bloating and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

The book begins by explaining the causes of several digestive problems, which include lifestyle choices such as smoking and nutrition, as well as deeper issues such as psychological and social factors.

By taking the reader through several examples from his patients, Dr. Gitnick illustrates important lifestyle changes that can alleviate symptoms. The case studies are intriguing, and truly give an insight into how digestive disease is much more than "something I ate." Instead, problems can be caused by a variety of factors that work together.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

For instance, there is a type of hormone produced in the brain called a neurohormone. In people with IBS, this hormone may have a negative effect on motility in the colon. Additionally, people with IBS have more sensitive colons than other people. This leads to the problems that people with IBS have with pain, as well as with constipation and/or diarrhea.

Dr. Gitnick also maintains that diet has a significant effect on the symptoms of IBS. He outlines the types of foods that can work on the colon of people who have IBS as triggers. Additionally, other factors to reduce symptoms, such as stress reduction, are discussed.

The heart of the book is the section "10 Principles Guaranteed to Get Your Gut Out of That Rut." These ten tips are discussed in detail, and examples are given at every point.

Some examples of the ideas Dr Gitnick suggests range from "Keep a Journal" to "Build in Appropriate Rewards." Not just dietary changes, these are guidelines to changing a lifestyle, which is arguably the most difficult part of managing many digestive conditions.

Food Journals and Stress

Dr. Gitnick goes on to describe a skill that people with digestive conditions should really have, but one that's not usually taught at the doctor's office: how to keep a food journal. By analyzing the food journal, he suggests creating a "food pyramid." Not the kind of food pyramid we're used to seeing, but a more personalized food pyramid outlining the foods that can trigger symptoms, and the foods that are safe to eat.

The fifth chapter of the book is called "Managing Life Outside Your Digestive System." This chapter gives practical advice about how to deal with the stress we all have in our lives. Again, Dr. Gitnick offers ten tips to handling situations, including whether or not to tell other people about medical conditions.

Overall, I found this book to be positive and informative. Throughout the book Dr. Gitnick uses examples from his medical practice to make his point clearer. This also serves a secondary purpose -- it shows that the guidance he offers his patients truly helps them.

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