Category Archives for Digestion

One of the Mints. Does Peppermint Help Digestion?

Christmas just finished and it is arguably the season of peppermints. The red and white stripes of candy canes and small round candies are everywhere! This is in-time for the bountiful feasts during this time of the year, and we’re here to answer the question of whether peppermint helps digestion or not.

Everybody is familiar with the smell of mint. After all, it is a common ingredient of toothpaste, mouthwashes, gums, and candies. But nobody will blame you if you sometimes get confused with the other mints. Mint has around 15 to 20 plant species under the Lamiaceae family. We’ll focus on one mint for this article, and that’s Mentha piperita, also called peppermint.

Fun fact: Peppermint is a hybrid plant from watermint and spearmint.

The Many Faces of Peppermint

This vibrant plant can have many forms, such as rubs, creams, fresh or dry leaves, and oil. You can eat it as raw leaves or turn into tea. Peppermint oil coated in enteric capsules for consumption is also available. 

For it to be used to flavor toothpaste and other products, it has to be steam distilled and turned into a concentrated essential oil. 

Peppermint’s major chemical component is menthol. Menthol gives the characteristic fresh and cooling property to the mint plants. The menthol in peppermint adds a fresh, minty flavor to toothpaste and mouthwashes. This freshens the breath of the person. But this is just scratching the surface of the uses of peppermint.

This caffeine-free tea serves as a refreshing alternative to coffee and black tea. Some people drink it for its possible health benefits.

Another health benefit claim of peppermint is headache and migraine relief. This is due to the muscle relaxant effect and the cooling sensation by menthol. In line with this, a study showed the efficacy of mint in reducing the pain and clinical signs and symptoms of painful dysmenorrhea.

Did you know, Peppermint oil can also reduce bacterial infections? It can kill Staphylococcus bacteria, along with common bacteria found in the mouth. It can also fight and prevent the growth of Listeria, Salmonella and E. Coli in pineapple and mango juices.

 

Does Peppermint Help Digestion?

You may have heard how peppermint can help in weight loss. There are a few studies about it but there is no definite answer to this topic. But, there are some studies about the effect of peppermint oil on Irritable Bowel Syndrome and other gastrointestinal ailments.

Peppermint oil has various mechanisms such as smooth muscle relaxation, visceral sensitivity modulation, anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory effect. It affects the esophagus, the gallbladder, colon, and the gastric and small bowel. 

Peppermint oil can reduce the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) such as pain, bloating, diarrhea and gas. It is a short-term, yet safe and effective treatment for IBS. It also helps improve the flow of bile, making it helpful for those with indigestion. 

The majority of the studies involve using peppermint oil. So, there is no definitive answer on whether peppermint tea and other derivatives can have the same effect. 

It’s all cool and dandy, but some risks and precautions must be observed. Here are some of the no-no’s of using peppermint:

  • People with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) must avoid mint for their digestion issues. Why? Mint acts as a trigger for this, sometimes increasing the symptoms of indigestion. It only affects the small percentage of GERD patients, but it’s better to avoid it anyway. 
  • If you have heartburn, do not take any form of mint. Mint acts as a muscle relaxant and can close off the stomach from the esophagus. This will only make your stomach acid flow back or stay longer in your esophagus.
  • Do not consume excessive amounts of peppermint oil since it is toxic.
  • Do not consume pure menthol, nor apply mint oil to the skin of a toddler or infant. 
  • Peppermint is not recommended to people with diabetes, hiatus hernia (it relaxes the colon), people taking antacids and other medications metabolized by the liver.

If you’re like me and you like minty food, here are some tips and tricks to make peppermint a part of your life:

  • Make your peppermint tea with one handful of torn peppermint leaves and two freshly boiled cups of water
  • Add it to your cucumber or lime drink for a minty fresh drink
  • Mix it with your chocolate chip cookies and other desserts
  • Add it to your fruit salsa for a different twist

Peppermint is a healthy ingredient and caffeine-free tea alternative. It is a natural product that has a short-term yet effective treatment for IBS. It also helps with digestion with its effect on different parts of the gut. So, does peppermint help digestion? Yes, it does. Not only that, it is available in different forms, safe and easy to turn into tea. Just remember to take everything in moderation and not to go overboard with the peppermint oils.

While you steep your peppermint tea, check out two other oils that you might have read recently: CBD and MCT oil.

Fruity Pebbles and Green Poop? – Here’s Why

Have you had an experience with green poop after eating Fruity Pebbles? Then you are in the right place!

There has been a lot of concern about Fruity Pebbles causing green poop but not all that much information online, so we decided to do a little investigating here at Gut Advisor to get to the bottom of things.

Some people claim to have been experiencing green poop for weeks after switching to a Fruity Pebble diet for their morning breakfast; some mothers have been concerned after seeing unnatural green colors in their child's diapers; and some people have enjoyed as little as one bowl of the tasty cereal only to end up being alarmed on their next trip to the toilet.

It is so common that the term "fruity poop" has been coined for such an occurrence at UrbanDictionary...

screenshot

It's fairly common. That's a bit relieving... but is there any cause for concern?

After all, we are not talking about the naturally green-looking poops that come from eating a bunch of green leafy vegetables. We're are talking about unnatural looking feces that sometimes appear to be bright and almost fluorescent green.

And it's not just Fruity Pebbles that are the problem. There have been similar occurrences reported after the consumption of other foods/candies/drinks such as fruit chews, Kool-aid, Trix cereal, etc.

The common theme here seems to be the artificial dyes, so we decided to check it out.

Artificial Dyes in Fruity Pebbles

Apparently the Flintstones don't live as naturally as you might expect cavemen to live. Fruity Pebbles aren't colored by natural fruits... it's all artificial... well, mostly anyhow.

Fruity Pebbles

Unlike the cereal giant General Mills who did away with artificial colorings in 2017 due to the negativity associated with them, Post continues to use artificial dyes.

Fruity Pebbles' nutrition facts and ingredients can be found at PostConsumerBrands.com or of course on the side of the box. Below is what it contains...

Fruity Pebbles Ingredients

The dyes included here are...

  • Red 40
  • Yellow 6
  • Turmeric Oleoresin
  • Blue 1
  • Yellow 5
  • and Blue 2

All of them are artificial except for the Turmeric Oleoresin, which is a turmeric extract that is often used as a natural food coloring.

Study Suggests This Dye Causes Green Poop

Surprisingly, there isn't really all that great information available on different colored poops and the dyes that cause them, however there is some... and we did a lot of digging around to get to the bottom of things.

It's been said around the internet that the blue dye is the main problem here, but how true is this really?

Well, a single-blind study was carried out on 24 volunteers consuming anywhere from 1 to 24 glasses of Kool-aid (which is relevant because this particular kind contained Blue #5 dye and dye-lake red). The results, as hypothesized, was that stool was brighter green with increased consumption of the Kool-aid by participants. 

You can find the full study at PoopReport.com.

Upon briefly looking more into Kool-aid causing green poop it appears there are lots of occurrences. And we're talking about your normal purple Kool-aid here, which contains blue and red dye (these colors make purple when combined).

According to PoopReport, the science behind it is that the blue die combines with bile and forms the bright, unnatural looking, green color.

This goes along with other reports of the blue dyes being the causes, such as reports of green stool after eating a lot of blue-dyed tortilla chips.

Stool color is influenced by what you eat as well as how this interacts with bile pigments and enzymes. This is why eating something blue can create a green color.

Should You Be Concerned?

Probably not.

Under Chapter VII, section 721 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act artificial food dyes are required to go through strict FDA testing before being allowed on the market. More information on this can be found here.

Additionally, all of the dyes used in Fruity Pebbles are common. It's not like they are some new formulations that have just hit the market. Lots of foods/drinks use them, it's just that it takes a lot of them to create the brightly colored Fruity Pebbles.

That said, artificial dyes are sometimes called the "rainbow or risk" and many that are used in the US are actually banned in countries like Norway, Finland, France, the UK, and Austria. There is no strong evidence that they are harmful, but there is concern.

Other Potential Causes of Green Stool... Still Not Much Cause for Concern...

If it isn't the dyes then green stool may be coming from:

  • Stool passing through the intestines too quickly - This doesn't allow enough time for the bile to digest and break down, which is responsible for the normal brown colored stool.
  • A diet rich in green vegetables
  • Spirulina and chlorella supplements
  • Iron supplements - Normally too much iron will turn stool black, but green is still a possibility.
  • Viral infections (okay, this should be concerning... but you if you don't feel sick then this isn't the cause)

However, these are going to cause a more natural green color... not the bright green that is caused by artificial food dyes.

So while the bright-green stool may seem alien-like and give you a scare, it's probably nothing serious. If you still have concerns then contact your doctor. This is the recommended route to take.


Now it's your turn: What has your experience been like with Fruity Pebbles? Leave your story down below. We like to hear back from our readers 🙂

Why Corn Is So Hard to Digest – Explained

Corn... it was first domesticated in southern Mexico somewhere around 7,000 - 10,000 years ago, it's a great food for a cookout, and it is has become the second most consumed cereal grain in the world.

But we're not talking about corn chips and Corn Flakes here... we're talking about whole corn.

Anyone who has eaten corn likely knows that it sometimes can come out whole, or what looks like whole, in their poop. But why is this?

Why is corn so hard to digest? And should you be concerned? 

The answer to the second question is probably not, but we'll talk about when it is a reason for concern in a bit.

The Science Behind It

All organisms strive to survive, including plants like corn. And while corn is a highly domesticated crop and can't even reproduce on it's own (dependent on man), it still retains basic evolutionary adaptations to survive.

The hull, bran, or more scientifically, the pericarp, refers to the outer shell that covers a seed. This is the outermost part of the corn kernel and is there to protect the embryo.

[Source: psu.edu]

Every organism wants to protect their future offspring... and so corn evolved to have a protective pericarp, which is mostly made up of cellulose.

Cellulose is not able to be digested by animals and this this is the reason you see corn in your poop... because the body cannot digest the outer layer.

This is the same reason you might find that you poop out whole flaxseed and chia seeds, if eaten whole.

The Solution = Chew More

If you simply swallow corn kernels without chewing at all, then there is a good chance they will come out completely whole.

However, this isn't the case most of the time. Unless you are a newborn baby eating corn, you probably chew... and what you see in your poop is just the outer corn layer made of cellulose, kind of like little empty plastic bags with nothing in them.

If you don't want to see any undigested corn in your stool then the solution is to simply chew more. 

While our digestive systems can't break down the cellulose in the outer layer, our teeth certainly can.

If you chew more there will still be undigested fragments of the cellulose-made pericarp in your stool, it just won't be noticeable.

Undigested Corn Is a Good Thing

Yes, that's right... according to Dr Joanne Slavin, a professor from the Department of Food Science and Nutrition at University of Minnesota, the more undigested corn the better... stating that "the lack of digestibility of corn would be considered a positive rather than a negative, generally" [Source: BestFoodFacts.org].

Why is this? Well, it's because of the fiber. 

That cellulose pericarp that corn has is a good source of dietary fiber, and American's don't get nearly enough of it... with the average fiber intake in the US being only about 15 g per day when it should be close to twice that much. 

Additionally, corn also is a good source of resistant starch, another type of dietary fiber. All in all, corn fiber comprises about 9% of a corn kernel and 91% of the pericarp.

Of course eating too much can be a bad thing, but generally speaking Americans should be eating more corn. 

When to Be Concerned

Now we know why corn doesn't digest entirely and we know that this is completely normal.

So, for most people there is no reason for concern here.

However, if the occurrences of undigested corn are accompanied with diarrhea and/or weight-loss, then there is something more serious going on here and you should seek professional advice from a doctor. 

Corn & IBS

There is some controversy surrounding the matter of corn and IBS, while some say it is not a problem at all, others claim it does cause flareups.

Our best advice would be to simply monitor corns affects on your IBS symptoms personally.

Corn is high in fiber and also contains sorbitol, a sweetener... both of which can cause problems for IBS sufferers.

Conclusion - Eat More Corn

Overall, corn is a good and healthy food that you shouldn't avoid. Corn in your poop is a good thing, and besides the fiber that it provides, you also get good amounts of protein, vitamins, and minerals.

According to NutritionValue.org, one 100 g serving of yellow corn (about 2/3 cup) will supply:

  • 9.4 g of protein (19% of the DV)
  • 7.3 g of dietary fiber (26%)
  • 4% of the DV for vitamin A
  • 15% of the DV for iron
  • 48% of the DV for vitamin B6
  • 35% of the DV for copper
  • 32% of the DV for magnesium
  • and good amounts of selenium, zinc, phosphorus, thiamin, niacin, and riboflavin

That said, the calories can get pretty high... all of this from a 100 g serving of yellow corn comes with 365 calories.

So don't go out and fill yourself up with corn. A healthy diet is all about balance and eating in moderation.

Now It's Your Turn:  What has your story with corn been like? Let us know in the comment section below!

Got Flax Seeds & Chia Seeds In Your Poop? – What You Should Know

Do you or have you had seeds in your poop? Flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, etc.

If you are the type of person that spends a lot of time worrying about their poop then the sight of undigested seeds may stir some worry.

If you aren't the type of person that spends time worrying about their poop, well, you should... after all... healthy poop often means a healthy individual.

So does this mean you are unhealthy if you have seeds in your poop? Did you just try eating a healthy meal with chia seeds, flax seeds, and maybe even hemp seeds... only to find out that you might not be healthy?

The good news is that undigested seeds found in poop is a normal occurrence and there is a perfectly good explanation for this. So don't panic... you don't have to rush to the doctor and this doesn't mean you have something wrong with you.

The bad news is that those undigested seeds aren't doing a thing for you. All of that potential nutrition that they contain went right through you without being absorbed.

Seeds In Poop and The Reason Behind It

As you probably already know, seeds often have a hard outer layer. This is to protect the seeds from an evolutionary standpoint so that they can survive their early days.

This hard outer layer is called the 'seed coat', and its sole purpose is to help protect the fragile embryo with hopes that it will go on to grow and reproduce. 

Some seeds, like those in tasty berries, such as blueberries and blackberries, have evolved to withstand the digestion of animals after being eaten.

Chia seeds, flax seeds, etc. may not have evolved hard out shells for this particular reason, but the fact of the matter is that they still have hard outer shells for protection in one way or another, making them difficult for us humans to digest.

Chia Seeds vs Flax Seeds

While all seeds have some general characteristics that are the same, there still can be a lot of difference.

If you put whole flax seeds into water you aren't going to notice anything special. However, if you put whole chia seeds into water you will notice that they form a gel-like substance around them. Flax seeds will get a bit goey on the outside, but not near the level that chia seeds do.

The reason for this is because their outer shells are penetrable by water. They absorb water and soften at the same time.

Soaking your seeds in a liquid before consumption, such as by adding them to a smoothie, will help soften before they enter the digestive system and can help with overall digestion--although the inner portion of the seeds that didn't soften still might not get digested... which leaves us with the same problem of having undigested (or not fully digested) seeds that we aren't getting much nutrition from.

Warning: Don't eat dry chia seeds and then drink water right after. They can absorb 10-12x their body-weight (some sources say up to 27x) and can cause a dangerous blockage in your throat.

The Solution

Chia seeds and such can be softened through water absorption to aid digestion, are there any better solutions? What if this still doesn't work for you and you still get undigested seeds?

The solution...

Eat gravel. Some birds, such as pigeons for example, swallow huge amounts of gravel as they eat seeds to help grind the seeds during digestion.

JOKE!

But in all seriousness, birds often do consume rocks, shells, and other hard objects to help aid seed digestion. 

Of course us humans aren't going to be doing this however. But we still need to break down that outer shell in some cases to help out our digestion.

The solution is to eat cut or ground seeds... simple as that. These are seeds in which the hard outer shell has already been broken down, by mechanical intervention.

The Best Solution... Which Is Slightly Inconvenient

The easy solution is to simply buy ground seed at the store. It is usually pretty easy to find ground chia, flax, hemp, etc. seed in your local Walmart and other large supermarkets.

However, if you want to get the most nutritional benefit out of your seeds then this might not be the best solution.

Seeds are usually high in fat and this fat can start to oxidize, which will cause loss of nutrition and it will also cause the taste to be bit off.

While most sources state that chia and flax seeds can last for years before 'expiring' (doesitgobad.com suggests up to 2 years for chia seeds), there is some controversy here and others claim they can go rancid quicker than you think... or at least 'semi-rancid' where their nutritional value would decrease.

So this means that you should probably eat your seed as you go--and definitely don't stockpile a bunch just because there is a sale.

The slightly more inconvenient alternative which may be the best of all is to simply grind or cut your seeds yourself. This way you are getting the freshest cut/ground seeds possible.

A coffee grinder can be a quick and easy tool for doing such. 

*There is no need to change your life around in order to ensure your chia and flax seed doesn't go bad--but don't store it in the basement for ages like you might canned beans.

The Takeaway

- Having undigested chia seeds and flax seeds in your poop is normal.

- This is because the outer layer of seeds is hard to digest, which helps to ensure their survival.

- The problem here is that you are likely eating the seeds for nutritional purposes and if they are coming out whole then this means you aren't getting any of that good nutrition!

- The solution is to cut/grind your chia/flax seed to break down the shell--letting them soak in liquid is another alternative but it won't be as effective.

We appreciate your time and hope you experience the great digestion you deserve! Please leave your comments/questions below...