Glossary

The glossary is great place to learn about the jargon we sometimes use. Whenever we use a word that you might not know, we’ll link you to its definition.

We try to keep our glossary concise and up to date, however if you can have any suggestions you can always let us know.


Terms


Abdomen

The abdomen is better known as the tummy, stomach or belly, and is the part of the body between the chest and the pelvis.

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Acid reflux

When acid from the stomach leaks up into the oesophagus (the throat) and may cause symptoms such as heartburn or leave an unpleasant taste. 

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Acne

Acne is a skin condition predominantly affecting the face, chest and back. It causes pustules and papules (and spots) which can be painful and irritating. Acne is most common in teenagers and young adults, but is also commonly seen in adults in their thirties and forties.  It is understood that there are a number of different triggers for acne including hormone imbalances, constipation and food intolerances. 

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Anaphylaxis

Anaphylaxis is a serious allergic reaction that is quick to develop and may, in severe cases, cause death. Common causes include shellfish, nuts, insect bites or stings and some medications.

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Androgen

Androgen is a hormone that is sometimes known as the 'male hormone', but both men and women carry it.  In men it plays an important role in male traits and reproductive activity, and in women one of it's main roles it to be converted into the female hormone, oestrogen.

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Antibacterial

An antibacterial is an agent that inhibits the growth of bacteria, or indeed kills it.

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Antibody

An antibody, also known as an immunoglobulin, is a Y-shaped protein that is used by the immune system to identify and neutralize foreign objects such as bacteria and viruses.

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Antioxidant

An antioxidant is a substance found in food that is used by the body to protect against free radicals - highly unstable molecules that can affect our health.

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Antiviral

An antiviral is an agent that helps prevent or stops viral replication within cells, for example a common cold virus.

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Anus

The anus is the opening at the end of the digestive tract, found at the bottom.  It's main function is to control the elimination of stools.

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Anxiety

Anxiety is a state of inner turmoil whereby one has feelngs of fear, worry and uneasiness, often accompanied by nervous behaviour such as pacing or insomnia.

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Bifidobacteria

Bifidobacteria are a group of bacteria that make up the majority of bacteria found in the intestines. It is possible to take certain strains of Bifidobacteria in probiotic supplement form to boost levels of good bacteria in the gut which may help relieve digestive symptoms such as constipation

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Bile
Bile is a bitter fluid, yellow to green in colour. It is produced by the liver and helps us to digest fat in the small intestine for excretion as faeces. 

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Birth canal

The birth canal refers to the passage between the uterus and the outside of the vagina. It is home to millions of bacteria which help to colonise the digestive tract of newborn baby. 

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Blood sugars

Blood sugars is a term used to describe the amount of sugar (glucose) that is present in the blood.

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Bowel

The bowel is another name for the intestines or gut.

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Bowel movement

A bowel movement is the final stage of digestion where all the food waste we have consumed is eliminated as stools via the anus.

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Bypass diarrhoea

Bypass diarrhoea (also known as Overflow Diarrhoea) is diarrhoea typically caused by constipation. It occurs when a hard plug of stool in the lower bowel, caused by faecal impaction, prevents proper evacuation and liquid faeces escapes from the rectum. 

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Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates comprise of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, and are one of the three main food groups (the other two being fats and protein).  Carbohydrates are found in plant foods and are the body's main source of energy.

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Coeliac disease

Coeliac disease is an auto-immune condition affecting the small intestine caused by an inflammatory reaction to the protein gluten, found in wheat, rye & barley. This reaction causes the villi (small hairlike structures) lining the intestine to be destroyed and can cause severe digestive problems, as well as poor absorption of nutrients leading to ill health. 

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Colon

The colon is the longest part of the large intestine, where its main role is to extract water and salt from faeces before they leave the body. Constipation can occur when the colon extracts too much water, making stools harder to pass.

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Colonic hydrotherapy

Colonic hydrotherapy is the process of inserting water into the colon via a specially designed tube into the rectum. It is believed to have a cleansing effect on the colon by removing faeces and toxins, and may help to improve digestive function and reduce constipation. 

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Constipation

Constipation is a digestive condition which is medically defined by the following symptoms;

  • Stool is hard or lumpy in more than 25% of bowel movements
  • Stool is produced less than three times a week
  • The sufferer has to strain on more than 25% of bowel movements
  • The bowel does not feel fully emptied

Related Article : What is Constipation?

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Dehydration

Dehydration is the exccesssive loss of bodily water and generally becomes noticeable when 2% of the body's normal water content has been lost. Symptoms include constipation, dizziness, fatigue and headaches. 

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Depression

Depression is a state of low mood with feelings of sadness, anxiety, emotiness, hopelessness, worry, worthless, guilt, etc.  Depressed people often lose interest in activities and themselves, and may have difficulty in remembering details or have feelings of self harm or suicide.

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Diarrhoea

Diarrhoea is a loosening of bowel movements and is accompanied by increased frequency and urgency. 

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Dietary Fibre

Also known as "roughage", dietary fibre is the indigestible portion of food which aids in moving faeces through the gastrointestinal tract. Lack of dietary fibre often contributes to constipation.

Related Article : Causes of Constipation

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Digestive enzymes

Digestive enzymes are found within the digestive system and are enzymes that help to break down food molecules into smaller components so that they can be absorbed and used by the body.

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Digestive juices

Digestive juices are secretions of the digestive system (such as saliva, gastric juice and bile) that break down food.  They are secreted by different organs and play different roles in the digestive process as they vary in their chemical composition.

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Digestive System

Our digestive system is a complex series of organs and glands that work together to process and breakdown our food from the minute it enters our mouth all the way through to excretion via the anus.

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Dysbiosis

Dysbiosis refers to an imbalance in the levels of beneficial bacteria in the gut.  Your body is home to trillions of bacteria - good, bad and neutral - and it is very important to keep a good balance between these different types.  Dysbiosis refers to the state of having too many 'bad' bacteria and not enough 'good bacteria'.  This condition can trigger (amongst other problems,) digestive symptoms such as constipation and bloating, as well as acne. Dysbiosis may be caused by use of antibiotics, stress or a diet high in processed foods. 

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Electrolytes

Electrolytes is a medical terms for salts, specifically ions. They are important to our body as they are needed by our cells (especially nerves, the heart and muscles) to function and carry out electrical impulses such as nerve impulses and muscle contractions.

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Elimination Diet

An elimination diet is a method of identifying foods that an individual cannot consume without having an adverse effect. People will often avoid certain foods or food substances for a period of time, eg. two weeks, and then gradually re-introduce these foods, whilst carefully monitoring digestive symptoms, to understand whether or not they are intolerant to the food. 

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Enema

An enema is a procedure which involves introducting liquid into the intestines via the anus. It is used by the medical profession as a remedy for severe constipation, or as a complementary therapy by Colonic Hydrotherapists to 'flush' out material and toxins from the colon. 

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Enteric nervous system

The enteric nervous system is an autonomous network of neurons embedded within the digestive system and is responsible for controlling all aspects of the gastrointestinal tract, from the mouth to the anus. It is often described as the “second brain” because it shares many of the characteristics of the central nervous system. Although the enteric nervous system (ENS) communicates with the central nervous system (CNS), they can function independently of each other.

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Essential fatty acids

Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are fatty acids that we must ingest because the body needs them for good health.  We cannot produce them ourselves so they must come from food sources such as oily fish and flaxseeds. 

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Faecal impaction

Faecal impaction is a condition often caused by long-term constipation. It occurs when a large lump of hard stool is difficult to pass and remains stuck in the rectum. It may take place after laxative use when the muscles of the intestines forget how to naturally move the stool. 

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Faecal Incontinence

Faecal incontinence is when someone is unable to control their bowel movements. Unlike diarrhoea, the consistency and frequency of stool does not necessarily have to change when suffering from incontinence. This condition can sometimes be caused by long-term (chronic) constipation.

Related Article : Causes of Constipation

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Faeces

Faeces is another term used to describe stools, and is the waste product expelled from the digestive tract via the anus. 

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Flatulence

Flatulence is the term used to explain passing intestinal wind or 'breaking wind', which is completely normal but can cause embarrassment or discomfort in some people.

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FODMAP

This is an acronym for types of carbohydrate that are poorly absorbed within the small intestine - Fermentable, Oligo, Di, Mono-saccharide and Polyols

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Free radicals

Free radicals are molecules produced naturally within the body that can become unstable through illness or over-exposure to toxins (such as chemicals and pollution) and the sun, thereby causing a process called oxidation which can have harmful effects on our body.

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Fructooligosaccharides

Fructooligosaccharides (often abbreviated to FOS) are a type of carbohydrate not broken down by the digestive enzymes in the body. As a result they act as a fibrous food source for the bacteria in our gut, helping to ensure healthy levels of friendly bacteria helping to support our overall digestive system. FOS can be found in fruit and vegetables such as bananas, artichokes, leeks, onions, chicory, asparagus and garlic, as well as, in greater amounts, in supplements.  FOS is a prebiotic (food source for the body's probiotics).

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Gastrointestinal Tract

The gastrointestinal tract is the entire route that food takes from the mouth to the rectum, including the stomach and the intestines. The term is not synonymous with “digestive system” because it only describes the route that food takes, rather than all the organs involved in digesting food.

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Glucose

When the body consumes carbohydrates, it converts the sugars into glucose in order for it to be used by the body for energy.  Any excess glucose is then stored in the liver and muscles for later use.

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Gluten

Gluten (from the Latin word "glue") is the protein component found in wheat, rye and barley grains. It gives bread it's chewy texture. Gluten cannot be tolerated at all by those suffering with Coeliac Disease, and is increasingly being found in studies to cause digestive problems such as constipation. 

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Health Professional

'Health professional' is a very broad term which can be applied to both medical professionals and complementary healthcare professionals with a recognised professional qualification. You should always consult with your doctor first regarding any undiagnosed symptoms, but if you wish to take a holistic approach to your health, then it can be a good idea to seek professional advice about this. A complementary healthcare professional, such as a nutritional therapist, naturopath, herbalist or homeopath, should be able to spend time assessing your case history and looking at your diet, lifestyle and other factors that may be contributing to your symptoms. Some practitioners use clinical tests and/or other diagnostic tools such as kinesiology and iridology, and should work with your medical professionals where necessary, particularly if you're suffering from a serious health condition.

To find a suitably qualified complementary healthcare professional, it's best to find one who is registered with a professional body such as the CNHC (www.cnhc.org.uk), BANT (www.bant.org.uk), NIMH (www.nimh.org.uk) or BHA (www.britishhomeopathic.org.uk).

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IBS

IBS is an abbreviated term for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. IBS is used by the medical profession to describe a range of digestive symptoms ranging from constipation to diarrhoea. The actual cause of IBS is not known, although people may find natural remedies helpful in relieving symptoms. 

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Immune response

An immune response is what happens when your body recognises and defends itself against a substance that appears foreign, and potentially harmful, to the body. These substances can be bacteria or viruses, or the immune response could be caused by food allergies.

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Inflammatory condition

An inflammatory condition is a localised protective response to an injury or damage of tissues.  The signs of inflammation include pain, heat, swelling, redness and loss of function.  

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Insulin

Insulin is a hormone that is produce by the pancreas and is essential for regulating the metabolism of carbohydrates and far within the body.

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Kefir

Kefir is a type of fermented milk drink (it can also be made with water). It is made using kefir "grains" which are not related to grains, but are a combination of lactic acid bacteria and yeasts, which act as a fermentation starter. It is easy to digest and contains high levels of vitamins and minerals as well as live cultures which are thought to help reduce digestive problems. 

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Lactobacillus

Lactobacillus is a type of lactic acid forming bacteria that makes up part of the friendly bacteria in our digestive system. It helps us to digest our food, absorb nutrients and potentially pathogenic bacteria that may cause illness. 

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Large intestine

The large intestine is also commonly known as the bowel. It makes up the last part of the digestive system in mammals, and is comprised of the cecum, appendix, colon, rectum, and anal canal. Food passes into the large intestine from the small intestine. The large intestine removes water and any remaining absorbable nutrients from food before sending the remaining matter to the rectum to be passed out as a stool

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Laxative

A laxative is a food or drug which is said to have a "laxative" effect, i.e. it loosens stool and stimulates peristalsis. Laxatives are often prescribed by GPs to treat the symptoms of constipation.

Medicinal laxatives come in four broad types; Osmotic laxatives, bulk-forming laxatives, stimulant laxatives & stool softeners.

Related Article : Relief from Constipation

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Macrophage

Macrophages are cells within the body that 'attack' foreign substances, such as germs, and engulf or digest them to protect the body from infection.

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Menstruation

Menstruation (also known as 'period') is the periodic discharge of blood and mucosal tissue from the uterus and vagina.

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Meta analysis

Meta analysis is a research method which involves combining and contrasting results from previous studies with the aim of identifying any patterns amongst those study results. It can be a useful way of bringing previous research studies together with a conclusion. 

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Minerals

Minerals are substances originating in rocks and metal ores, and are essential for our health.  We obtain them in our body through eating plants which take these minerals from the soil, animals which eat plants, and through drinking water which contains some minerals.

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Motility

Motility describes the ability to move freely and spontaneously. Bowel motility therefore refers to regular bowel movements that are easy to pass through the digestive system via the process of peristalsis

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Oestrogen

Oestrogen is the primary female sex hormone involved in the female menstrual cycle, pregnancy and reproduction.

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Parasitic Infection

A parasitic infection is an infection in the body caused by a parasite, a microscopic organism that can cause illness and poor health if not removed or killed within the body.

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Pasteurisation

Pasteurisation is the process of heating a food to a certain temperature then immediately cooling it after it is heated. The process, named after famous microbiologist Louis Pasteur, is used to prevent microbial growth in the food or liquid, usually to extend shelf life. 

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Pathogen

A pathogen is an infectious agent, or more commonly known as a germ, that can cause disease.

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Pectin

Pectin is a polysaccharide found in numerous fruits such as apples, bananas and citrus fruits which acts as a gelling agent or thickener in food, as well as a source of dietary fibre. Pectin also increases the size and texture of the faeces, and therefore can be used as a remedy for diarrhoea as well as helping to relieve constipation. It largely depends on the individual! 

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Pelvis

Pelvis is the boney cavity at the base of the spine that connects us to our legs.  This cavity houses and protects our bladder, intestines and uterus (in women).

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Peristalsis

Peristalsis is the term given to the rhythmic contraction and relaxation of the muscles within our intestines, which allows food to be moved through the digestive tract, ultimately towards the colon for excretion.

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Premenstrual syndrome

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) are emotional and physical symptoms (such as headaches, breast tenderness, mood swings and abdominal cramps) that can appear before, and are related to, a women's menstrual cycle (also know as her period).

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Preservatives

Preservatives can be natural or artifical and are added to foods to help prolong their life and prevent the growth of bacteria or fungi.  Artifical preservatives can cause health problems in some individuals and are best avoided.

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Probiotics

Probiotics are microorganisms that naturally colonise in the digestive tract, providing a proven benefit to the body. Probiotics are also known as "good bacteria" and "live cultures", however they can include yeasts as well as bacteria.

Related Article : Benefits or Probiotics

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Progesterone

Progesterone is a hormone involved in the female menstrual cycle, pregnancy and reproduction.

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RDA

RDA stands for 'Recommended Daily Allowance' - the quantity of a particular nutrient which should be consumed daily in order to maintain good health.

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Rectum

The rectum is the final part of the large intestine, just before the anus.

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Short-chain carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are one of the three main components of food (together with fats and protein) and are made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen (CHO). 'Short-chain' refers to the molecular structure of some types of carbohydrates.  They can also be known as 'simple sugars'.

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Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs)

Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) are produced during the process of fermentation, when anaerobic bacteria break down carbohydrates.  Short-chain fatty acids play an important role in the function of the large intestine. 

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Small intestine

The small intestine is part of the gastrointestinal tract that follows on from the stomach and leads into the large intestine.  It is in the small intestine where much of the digestion and absorption of food takes place.

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Starch

Starch is a carbohydrate found within plant foods.  It is the most common carbohydrate and is found in large quantities in foods such as potatoes, wheat and rice.

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Stomach cramp

When a muscle in our digestive suddenly contracts and cannot relax, causing pain.

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Stool

Stool is synonymous with faeces or excrement. Stool is essentially the indigestible waste matter from the food you eat after it passes through the digestive system.

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Strain

A strain is a subset of a bacteria species, which often offers different functions. As a result when considering probiotics, it is important to note that all strains of benefical bacteria are not the same and some may possess a specific health benefit. 

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Sugar

Sugar is a carbohydrate and can be found in it's natural state, e.g. in fruit, milk and honey, or is the general name given to chemically-related sweetening substances, most of which is found in processed food and carbonated drinks.

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Veins

Veins are blood vessels that carry blood toward the heart.

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