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What the Body Needs in Order to Thrive

We all want to live as long a life as possible, and a healthy life at that, but in order for that to happen we need to make sure we’re doing everything we can to take care of our bodies both physically and mentally.

Diet
In order to stay healthy, we need to provide our bodies with good quality, nutrient-rich foods. The most important nutrients necessary to achieve that include carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals. Without these 5 essential nutrients, or bodies simply wouldn’t survive. In order to get these nutrients, you also need to have a well-balanced diet. The best way to do this is to take a look at Canada’s Food Guide. Per day (and depending on age), you should have anywhere from 4 to 7 servings of vegetables, 3 to 7 servings of grain products, 2 to 3 servings of milk and/or alternatives, and 1 to 3 servings of meat and/or alternatives. Along with healthy eating, the body also needs water. Not only does it keep you hydrated, but it also helps to circulate nutrients throughout your body, and even helps with digestion. Click here to learn more about the health benefits of drinking water.

Physical Activity
Part of staying healthy also means staying fit. If you live a sedentary lifestyle and aren’t getting enough exercise, you’re more likely to develop health problems, including things like poor circulation, an increased risk of heart disease, and you may also find that you’re gaining weight weight. Physical activity often goes hand in hand with good nutrition. Regular exercise will not only help you maintain a healthy body weight, but it will also help reduce the risk of the aforementioned problems, as well as maintain bone mass, decrease blood sugar, regulate blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Studies have also shown exercise to improve your quality of sleep. In order to stay as healthy as possible, your exercise routine should consist of the following: Cardiovascular exercises, flexibility and balance exercises, agility exercises, as well as strength training. This includes walking, running, bike riding, yoga, swimming, and weight lifting.

Sleep
You might not think it, but how much sleep you get plays an integral role in your overall health and wellbeing. It’s recommended that you get at least 8 hours of sleep each night, though that number may vary based on the individual as well as their age group. Lack of sleep can lead to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and can even contribute to an increased chance of motor vehicle accidents. The less sleep you have, the less likely you are to be able to concentrate on certain projects, i.e. school assignments or work, meaning your school and/or work performance could suffer as a result. To make sure you’re getting a good night’s rest, try to go to sleep around the same time each day and make sure you’re in a relaxing sleeping environment, as well as sleeping on a comfortable mattress and using comfortable pillows.

Mental Health
It’s not uncommon to feel stressed out from time to time, especially given the challenges and demands that life sometimes throws our way. However, to be as healthy as you can possibly be, you should try to reduce your stress level as much as possible. Knowing what triggers your stress is key. Once you have discovered those triggers, you can work at eliminating them. Failure to address the stress in your life can lead to more severe mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression. If you are feeling anxious, stressed or depressed, you should reach out to a trusted individual such as a friend or family member to let them know how you’re feeling, and also discuss things with your family physician.

Processed Foods

Processed foods aren’t known for their health benefits. They contain little nutritional value, if any, and they are also high in additives and preservatives in order to improve appearance and prolong shelf-life. This is known as chemical processing.

One thing processed foods are commonly known for is their sugar content, and as you know, when consumed in excess amounts, can do a number on your health. Sugar is not only bad for the waistline (with the potential to lead to obesity), but it also increases your risk of developing diabetes, and also increases your risk of developing cavities (tooth decay) and therefore requiring dental procedures such as fillings or root canals later on. Sugar can also have adverse effects on your metabolism. Many of the processed foods that we consume are also designed to trick the brain into thinking it’s something we need by engineering them to look and taste as desirable as possible, and this is what also leads to overconsumption.

The ingredients on processed foods are something else you need to pay attention to. Chances are if you can’t pronounce the ingredient, then it’s a good you should be staying as far away from as possible. Many of these ingredients are either preservatives (which are used to prevent foods from rotting), colorants (which are used to give foods a specific colour), artificial flavouring, as well as texturants. Processed foods will also often include an even larger number of chemicals that manufacturers aren’t required to disclose, so you really don’t know what you’re putting into your body. They’re also high in simple carbohydrates. These generally break down quite quickly in the digestive tract, which can cause your blood sugar and insulin levels to rapidly spike and then crash. Once your blood sugar levels have dropped down, you’ll find yourself craving those carbohydrates all over again.

Along with unhealthy ingredients and the potential health risks that we know they already pose, research has shown a possible link between consumption of ultra-processed foods and cancer, with the risk of developing cancer increasing by as much as 10%. Compared to other processed foods, ultra-processed foods are usually much higher in calories, added sugars and sodium. Ultra-processed foods consist of things like candy, chocolate, ice-cream, sweetened breakfast cereals, soft drinks, packaged soup, hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken nuggets, and French fries. The study also found that those who consumed more processed meats had a higher risk of being diagnosed with colorectal cancer, while those who consumed processed foods that were more on the sugary side had an increased risk of developing breast cancer.

In order to prevent the risk of cancer and all of the other health risks that come associated with having unhealthy eating habits, the first thing you need to do is cut back on processed foods. The healthier foods you eat, the more essential nutrients you’re getting, which can actually prevent cancer and decrease your risk of developing other health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. To start incorporating more healthy choices in your diet, I suggest eating more fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains. If you’re someone with a busy schedule and tend to grab quick and easy meals (i.e. crackers, granola bars, or microwave dinners), try setting aside enough time so that you can start cooking your meals at home and also make sure to avoid cooking with ultra-processed ingredients like fats and sauces. Thirdly, diet also plays a huge role, and it often goes hand in hand with healthy eating. When you’re eating right and exercising, you’ll reap even more benefits.

Reducing Your Risk of Heart Disease

As many as 2.4 million Canadians over the age of 20 are living with heart disease, and about 12 Canadians die from heart disease every hour. It’s a big problem in North America and other parts of the world, but one that be combated by making some simple health and lifestyle changes. Before we get to that though, we’re going to take a look at the common types of heart disease that one can be diagnosed with.

The term “heart disease” generally encompasses a wide range of cardiovascular problems, including arrhythmia (heart rhythm abnormality), atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), cardiomyopathy (hardening or weakening of the heart muscles), congenital heart defects (irregularities present at birth), heart infections (caused by viruses, bacteria or parasites), as well as coronary artery disease (the buildup of plaque in the arteries of the heart.) Symptoms of the aforementioned conditions vary from person to person, and may range in everything from feeling lightheaded, dizziness, fainting, racing heartbeat, slow pulse, chest pain, tingling, coldness or numbness of the limbs, weak legs and arms, shortness of breath, indigestion, bloating, swollen ankles and feet, coughing, fever, chills, and even skin rash.

There are also many reasons why one might develop heart disease. For example, things like diabetes, excessive alcohol or caffeine consumption, substance use, certain medications, supplements and herbal remedies, pre-existing heart disease, and even stress and anxiety. Your risk of developing heart disease also increases significantly if there is a history of heart disease in your family, your age, gender and ethnicity – and these are all things you cannot control. Your risk also increases if you have high cholesterol and high blood pressure, are a smoker, overweight or obese, and are physically inactive. These are things that can be controlled, however, and this is where lifestyle plays a big part in staying healthy.

A healthy diet is one of the best weapons one can have when it comes to fighting and reducing the risk of heart disease, and something I recommends for all patients regardless of age or gender. It’s important to choose foods that are rich in nutrients, containing things like vitamins, minerals and fibre, and are low in calories. Your diet should emphasize consumption of more fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grain, poultry, fish, legumes, certain nuts, and low-fat dairy products. Red meat and foods that contain sugar should be avoided. You can find great heart-healthy recipes here. I also suggest coordinating your diet with physical activity, as this will help your body use up any extra calories that it takes in. As little as 30 minutes of low-impact exercise every day can improve your health significantly, while 3 to 4 40-minute sessions of moderate to vigorous physical activity will help reduce things like cholesterol and blood pressure. If you’re someone who is used to living a sedentary lifestyle, don’t start off too strongly. Take baby steps. You can even work your way up, starting from 10 minutes, to 20 minutes, and increasing the length of your exercise routine by another 10 minutes each week. A little can often go a long way, and you are much more likely to live a longer, healthier life if you exercise compared to those who don’t.

Lastly, reduce your levels of stress, as studies have shown that this can increase your risk factors for heart disease. For example, if you’re dealing with stress and anxiety, you may turn to food (usually the unhealthy kinds) to help yourself cope. Instead, work on identifying your triggers of stress and avoiding them as much as possible – whether it’s through talking with a friend, a family member, trusted medical professional, or even by simply taking some time for yourself and improving your self-care.

For more information on heart disease, visit heartandstroke.ca

Thyroid Disease

Thyroid disease is a common (and often hereditary) problem that affects as many as 1 in 10 Canadians. Of those 1 in 10, it is estimated that as many as 50% actually remain undiagnosed. The numbers are also just as staggering on a global scale, with an estimated 200 million people worldwide living with some form of thyroid disease.

The most common types of thyroid disease are hyper or hypothyroidism. When you are diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, this means that your thyroid is overactive and produces too much of its hormone. Causes of hyperthyroidism include Graves’ disease, and it can also be caused by a condition known as toxic nodular goiter or multinodular goiter, which causes the thyroid gland to overproduce hormones. Having too much hormone production can lead to a variety of symptoms, including nervousness or restlessness, racing heartbeat, increased sweating, shaking, irritability or anxiety, difficulty sleeping, thin skin, brittle hair and/or nails, muscle weakness, weight loss, and bulging of the eyes.

Hypothyroidism, on the other hand, is the complete opposite, and occurs when the thyroid gland is unable to produce enough of its hormones. Hypothyroidism can be caused from things such as Hashimoto’s disease, having surgery to remove the thyroid gland, as well as be caused from damage due to radiation treatment. Most cases of hypothyroidism are mild; however, it can still lead to symptoms such as dry skin, fatigue, sensitivity to cold, problems with memory, depression, weight gain, constipation, slowed heart rate, weakness, and in rare cases, even coma. These symptoms will worsen as long as the condition goes untreated.

As previously mentioned, both Graves’ disease and Hashimoto’s disease are also both linked to hyper and hypothyroidism. Also hereditary, Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disorder that occurs when your immune system attacks the thyroid gland by mistake, causing overproduction of the hormone that is responsible for regulating the body’s metabolism. You are also at risk of developing Graves’ disease if you are a smoker, are pregnant, or are under stress. Among the most common symptoms associated with Graves’ disease are bulging eyes and vision problems, heartbeat that is rapid or irregular, excessive sweating, tremors, fatigue, anxiety and irritability, trouble sleeping, frequent bowel movements or diarrhea, and irregular menstrual cycle. Similar to Graves’ disease, Hashimoto’s disease is also an autoimmune disorder that creates antibodies which attack the thyroid gland. It also causes large numbers of white blood cells (also known as lymphocytes) to build up in the thyroid. As there is no known cure for Hashimoto’s disease, it is usually treated with hormone-replacing medication to help raise the thyroid hormone level or lower your TSH levels and relieve symptoms of the disease, which can include ones similar to that of hypo and hyperthyroidism in addition to sensitivity having pale skin, face puffiness, enlarged tongue, unexplained weight gain, and general muscle and joint aches/pains, stiffness, as well as weakness. In cases where Hashimoto’s disease is advances, surgery may be required to remove all or part of the thyroid gland.

Thyroid cancer is also something that one can develop, but due to its lack of symptoms in its early stages, can be difficult to detect initially. Even when someone does become symptomatic (such as having trouble swallowing, voice hoarseness, or coughing), those symptoms are often easily mistaken for a mild illness, which ultimately causes a delay in getting a proper diagnosis. Other symptoms that could be indicative of thyroid cancer include the development of a lump in the neck (sometimes growing in size rather quickly), swelling of the neck, as well as neck pain which will often radiate up to the ears, and trouble breathing. If you develop any of these symptoms, it is important that you let your doctor know right away so that you can be evaluated and it can then be determined what course of treatment or testing needs to be done, if any.

Heart-Healthy Diet

In addition to regular physical activity, one of the best ways you can prevent heart disease is by having a heart-healthy diet – and, regardless of whether or not you are at risk of developing heart disease, eating healthy is something we should all strive to do. Along with significantly reducing your risk of heart disease, eating a healthy, well-balanced diet has many other health benefits – including giving your body essential nutrients required for growth and repair, giving you more energy throughout the day, helping you maintain a healthy weight, and even reducing the risk of type II diabetes and certain types of cancer. Below are some of the top 10 heart-healthy foods that you can work into your diet.

Fish
Wild, not farmed; and grilled, not baked, salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids that can improve metabolic markers for heart disease. In addition, salmon is also rich in an antioxidant known as selenium, which has been shown to boost cardiovascular protection. Selenium is also important for thyroid health, can boost the immune system, can help prevent asthma, as well as prevent mental decline. Similarly, sardines are also rich in antioxidants and provide many of the same benefits.

Nuts
Certain nuts like walnuts and almonds are high in omega-3 fatty acids as well as fibre, folate, and Vitamin E – all of which are great for the heart. These nuts (walnuts, especially) are also high in polyunsaturated fats. Read more about the benefits of nuts (and find out which nuts aren’t so great for you) at http://alighahary.ca/nuts/.

Seeds
Sunflower seeds can help improve cholesterol levels, and improved cholesterol levels means your chance of suffering a heart attack or stroke will become significantly lower. They’re also a rich source of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which are known for reducing LDL levels – also known as the bad cholesterol. Consuming a small amount of chia seeds can also help reduce bad cholesterol as well as reduce the buildup of plaque. A spoonful of chia seeds contains just 60 calories, and they are great mixed in yogurt or sprinkled on salad.

Berries
Dark coloured berries, such as blackberries and blueberries are great for the heart. Blueberries are packed with an antioxidant known as resveratrol, which has many benefits for the heart and overall health. Blueberries are also packed with flavonoids, which help prevent coronary disease. Along with being good for the heart, blackberries are packed with Vitamin C, Vitamin K, they’re high in fibre, and can boost brain health.

Green Tea
If you’re a coffee drinker, consider switching to tea – green tea, in particular. While coffee has both pros and cons, tea – especially those that are herbal, like green tea – have many benefits. Just one cup can help reduce the risk of hypertension (high blood pressure) and can even reduce blood clots. It’s rich in antioxidants, flavonoids, and catechin.

Soy Milk
If you use regular animal milk, consider switching to soy milk. It’s high in an organic compound known as isoflavones, which has been proven to help reduce cholesterol and therefore decrease the risk of heart disease. Soy milk is also low in fat and high in niacin, which helps to boost circulation. You can use soy milk in your coffee, tea, cereal, or even smoothies and certain recipes.

Clcik here for more healthy eating tips!

How Mold Can Affect Your Health

If you’re developing unexplained illnesses, suffer from asthma and notice an increase in frequency of symptoms (i.e. wheezing), as well as noticing other allergic-like reactions, this could be an indicator of mold being the culprit. While mold-related reactions are more common in the spring and summer months, they can occur at any time – especially if you happen to live in a building where mold is present, or there has been previous mold damage.

Symptoms of mold sensitivity or mold allergy are very similar to symptoms that one would experience if they suffered from hay fever; such as sneezing, coughing/throat irritation, nasal congestion, runny nose, and red, itchy and/or watery eyes. Exposure to mold can also cause skin irritation, and some research has shown that it can also trigger as many as 100 different physical symptoms, including headaches, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, infections, and even mental symptoms like anxiety. Mold can also cause a more serious response known as allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis, which occurs when there is both an inflammatory and allergic response to mold. Symptoms of ABA can include severe coughing, severe wheezing, and shortness of breath.

Mold can grow anywhere – it can be found in businesses, schools, and even your own home. Mold tends to thrive in damp environments and can also cause damage to the material it lives on. The best way to prevent mold growth is to keep your home clean and dry. However, if mold growth or damage is already extensive, you will most likely need to hire a mold removal specialist to get rid of the mold completely. Aside from being found in buildings, mold can also be found on the foods we eat – also known as food fungi. For example, mushroom or foods that contain yeast, as well as soy sauce and vinegar. Unlike mold that grows in your home, these foods can trigger an allergy-like response as a result of histamine, a chemical that your cells release when you are having an allergic reaction. Symptoms of this type of reaction can be mild to severe, ranging from skin rash and hives, to a more serious allergic response known as anaphylaxis. This type of allergic reaction can be life-threatening; therefore, you will need to seek immediate medical attention by calling 911. Patients with a history of going into anaphylaxis will usually be prescribed epinephrine, a medication that helps to reverse the allergic reaction. If you do administer epinephrine to yourself and someone else, it’s still important that you call 911, as you will need to be monitored in hospital for a few hours just to ensure the allergic response doesn’t reoccur. You will also need to avoid the food responsible for the allergic reaction.

There is no cure to allergies, just like there is no cure to reactions related to mold toxicity. There are, however, certain precautions that I recommend taking in order to decrease symptoms. For example, you should limit the amount of time you spend outdoors when mold spore counts are more likely to be high. If you are going to be spending time outside or in areas where you could potentially be exposed to mold, I suggest wearing a mask, as this will also help to decrease the amount of mold spores you breathe in. To reduce your exposure to mold spores when indoors, try using central air conditioning with a HEPA filter attached, as this can trap mold spores and also keep humidity below 45 or 35 percent. If you happen to use a humidifier, you should be cleaning it as often as twice per week, as they can also be a source of mold. Areas that are cool and damp, such as bathrooms, laundry rooms and basements, can also become a breeding ground for mold, so try to reduce dampness in these areas as much as possible; i.e. by removing carpeting, repairing any plumbing leaks, not leaving wet/damp clothes in the washing machine, and ensuring your home has good air circulation.

Inflammation-Fighting Foods

Inflammation can refer to a wide variety of conditions; everything from sinusitis, rheumatoid arthritis, and even emphysema. Inflammation is a non-specific response that occurs as a result of any type of bodily injury, whether it’s physical trauma, certain chronic diseases or illnesses, or any type of foreign body. Getting something as simple as a papercut can be enough to cause the body to have an inflammatory response. In this instance, you will notice things like pain, swelling and redness.

If your inflammation is acute, it generally resolves itself within 12 hours. However, in cases where inflammation is chronic (i.e., rheumatoid arthritis), it tends to last for a prolonged period of time. Chronic inflammation can be triggered by physical injury, certain allergens, toxins (i.e. certain air pollutants, household chemicals, pesticides and even medications), oxidation, oxygen deficiency in tissues, and even stress. Foods that can cause allergic reactions, such as nuts or dairy products, can also trigger an inflammatory response. When an inflammatory response is triggered, the body releases what’s known as “mediators” of inflammation, such as neurotransmitters and hormones.

You can fight inflammation through a variety of ways: By taking medications (such as NSAIDs), increasing your intake of certain nutrients (such as Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and flavonoids), by avoiding certain foods, as well as by eating certain foods.

Some of the best foods with anti-inflammatory effects include those that contain omega-3 fatty acids; i.e. fish (such as salmon, tuna, sardines and mackerel), nuts (such as walnuts and almonds), flax seeds, and canola oil. Onion, garlic and ginger are also great foods that can help fight inflammation and have been used for decades for this specific purpose. Other foods that are great for fighting inflammation (as well as provide a long list of other health benefits) include dark and leafy green vegetables (such as spinach and kale), berries (such as blueberries, strawberries and cherries), oranges, tomatoes, and olive oil.

Strengthening Your Bones

In total, the human body consists of 206 bones. Our bones are not only important in forming the shape and structure of our bodies, but they are also crucial in providing our bodies with support. Without bones, our bodies would essentially collapse. Every bone that is within our skeletal system also has its own important function. For example, many of our bones surround vital but fragile organs, such as the heart, lungs and brain, as well as protect our central nervous system, working as a protectant to them; while other bones, such as those in our arms and legs, are what allow us to move and provide support to our muscles.

As you age, your bones become weaker. This is usually the result if your body reabsorbing calcium and phosphate from your bones as opposed to keeping these minerals in your bones. This process of bone loss is known as osteoporosis, and has four stages:

Stage 1: This stage typically occurs between the ages of 30 and 35 and is characterized as the initial start of bone breakdown but has no visible symptoms.
Stage 2: Occurring after the age of 35, bone breakdown occurs at a faster pace. Like stage 1, stage 2 also has no visible symptoms but it can often be detected through a bone-density test.
Stage 3: Occurring anywhere after the ages of 45 through 55, the bones are much thinner and can easily fracture or break from the inability to withstand stress that is put on them. Stage 3 is the most common stage in which cases of osteoporosis are diagnosed.
Stage 4: You are much more susceptible to bone fractures and breaks, spine deformities are more obvious, and you can experience an increase in pain as well as have trouble moving around and doing your everyday activities.

One of the most common causes of mild bone loss (osteoporosis) in women is a drop in estrogen – particularly at the time of menopause, while a major cause of bone loss in men is a drop in testosterone. Aside from osteoporosis, there are many different causes and conditions that can potentially contribute to bone loss, and it can even run in families. Bone loss can also develop without any obvious reason or known cause.

When it comes to strengthening the bones, lifestyle plays an important role – especially exercise. Examples of exercise that are good for strengthening the bones include weight training, walking or jogging, and yoga. Even playing your favourite sport, such as tennis, or dancing, can also be considered exercise and will help strengthen the bones. You should also limit your caffeine intake, as this can decrease your body’s calcium absorption, as well as limit your intake of alcohol. If you are going to drink caffeinated beverages such as coffee, then you should have no more than 2 to 3 cups per day. Additionally, bad habits such as smoking can also cause bone loss much quicker than in those who are non-smokers, so you should speak to your physician about quitting as he or she will be able to provide you with some helpful smoking cessation tips.

To increase your calcium intake, try consuming more calcium-rich foods such as milk, yogurt and cheese. Non-dairy sources of calcium, such as canned salmon, leafy green vegetables, nuts, beans, seeds, and fortified soy or rice beverages can also be beneficial. To help absorb calcium you also need vitamin D. Examples of foods that are rich in vitamin D include fortified orange juice, fatty fish, margarine, and egg yolks. Those over the age of 50 are recommended to take a vitamin D supplement of at least 400 IU each day. Other nutrients like vitamin K, potassium, magnesium and protein are also important in helping your body with the absorption and use of calcium, as well as with helping build muscle to help keep your bones strong.

COVID, Cold, or Flu?

COVID, Cold, or Flu? | Dr. Ali GhaharyOne of the most common questions that healthcare professionals are asked lately, is how can someone tell the difference between COVID-19, the common cold, and flu. While these are all considered respiratory illnesses, there are some differences in the way they are clinically diagnosed, as the symptoms of each illness will also slightly differ while sharing some similarities at the same time.

First, we’ll start with the common cold. Common colds are viral in nature, meaning that there are no antibiotics that will act as a magic cure, and you unfortunately just have to let nature take its course and deal with those aggravating (and sometimes uncomfortable) symptoms, such as nasal congestion and/or runny nose, and a sore throat. While it can be possible to develop a secondary infection as a result of having a cold, such as a sinus or ear infection (which, in this case, will require antibiotics), a common cold is not considered life-threatening and will generally go away on its own after one or two weeks with simple at-home treatment; such as drinking warm liquids (i.e. tea with honey), getting plenty of rest, and avoiding going to work/school when sick. For relief of symptoms such as nasal congestion, you can take an oral decongestant. There are also nasal spray decongestants available, but you should be careful to not use them frequently as overuse can result in rebound congestion.

Then there is the flu (influenza.) Symptoms of the flu include fever and/or chills, fatigue, weakness, body aches and pains, and headache…while it’s also possible to develop symptoms similar to that of a common cold. When it comes to the similarities between having the flu and COVID-19, they are similar in the way in which they are transmitted. For example, both the flu and COVID-19 can be spread from person to person via droplets (which occur as a result of an infected person sneezing, coughing, or even talking in close proximity to someone else, as well as an infected person touching surface, etc.) As for treating the flu, it can also not be cured with antibiotics. Instead, like a cold, treatment is focused on addressing the symptoms present in the patient, such as reducing fever. A vaccination is also available to help prevent you from getting the flu, as well as reduce the severity of symptoms should you still happen to develop the flu.

When it comes to COVID-19, symptoms that are more likely to occur include the following:

• Fever
• Cough
• Shortness of breath
• Difficulty breathing

In many cases of novel coronavirus, the aforementioned symptoms will be quite mild, while some individuals symptoms may not even be present (also known as being asymptomatic) and therefore they won’t even be aware they have the virus. If you do develop symptoms, even if you don’t think they are severe, it’s still important to self-isolate, as when you pass the virus on to someone else the severity of their symptoms could differ for them significantly from yours, particularly if they are considered high-risk (i.e. have a pre-existing/underlying condition.) In the event that your symptoms are severe, you should call 811 or your family physician’s office. If you develop an extremely high fever or have trouble breathing, you should call 911.

The Process of the Digestive System

The Process of the Digestive System | Dr. Ali GhaharyWhen we eat food, it digests. This is part of the process of the body’s digestive system, which is made up of the gastrointestinal tract, liver, pancreas and gallbladder. The gastrointestinal tract is made up of a series of hollow, long, twisting, tube-like organs, consisting of the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small and large intestines, and anus. The small intestine is separated into three parts: The duodenum (the beginning), the jejunum (the middle), and the ileum (the end); while the large intestine consists of four parts: The appendix (a finger-shaped pouch), the cecum (the first part of the large intestine), the colon, and the rectum (the end of the large intestine.)

When we consume food, bacteria in our gastrointestinal tract known as flora (also sometimes referred to as microbiome) aide in digestion, as do our nervous system and circulatory system. It is the nerves, hormones, bacteria, blood and organs that all work together to digest the things you eat and drink every day. It is important for the body to digest these foods so that we can get the nutrients from them, such as proteins, vitamins, minerals, fats, carbohydrates, and even water. The body breaks down these nutrients into amino acids, fatty acids, glycerol and simple sugars, and absorbs them for use for cell repair, growth, and energy.

Each part of the digestive system plays its own role. We use our mouth for chewing, which helps break down the food into smaller bits so that it can move through our GI tract more easily. As soon as you swallow the food you eat, your brain automatically signals the muscles of your esophagus which then begins something known as peristalsis – in which food and liquids are moved through the gastrointestinal tract and mixes within each organ. Once food reaches the end of your esophagus, the lower esophageal sphincter comes into play by relaxing and passing food into your stomach. Once in the stomach, food and liquids become mixed with digestive juices and the stomach contents are then emptied into your small intestine. Once in the small intestine, the foods and digestive juices travel through the pancreas and liver, and the nutrients that you are digesting get absorbed into the bloodstream. Foods that don’t digest move into the large intestine, which absorbs that waste and turns it into stool, which is what then results in a bowel movement.

As mentioned, things like the nerves and hormones work together to control the digestive process and send signals back and forth from your gastrointestinal tract to the brain. Hormones are what tell your body to create digestive juices as well as send signals to the brain to let it know if you are hungry or full. Similarly, when you see or smell food, the nerves that connect the brain and spinal cord essentially gives you that feeling of hunger and prepares you to eat. We also have something known as ENS (Enteric Nervous System) which are located within the walls of the GI tract. The ENS either speeds up or delays the movement of food, and controls your gut muscles to either contract or relax.

There are many digestive disorders that someone can be diagnosed with, including but not limited to gastroesophageal reflux disease – also known as GERD or acid reflux, which is one of the most common digestive disorders. This is a condition that causes a burning sensation in the middle of the chest (heartburn) after consuming good. While some people say it happens after eating any type of food, it is commonly triggered by spicy foods such as tomato, peppers, pasta sauce, etc. Other digestive disorders include gallstones, Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulitis, and even hemorrhoids.