Online survey identifies misconceptions about digestion

Posted by Josette Dunn on 2nd July 2010

A recent GfK Roper “Gut Check” survey*, sponsored by Align, showed some common misconceptions about the digestive system. The U.S. national online survey was conducted to find out how people feel about their digestive system and what actions they take to keep it functioning normally.

Survey results also revealed that approximately one in four survey participants experience occasional digestive upsets and of those, one in five have been told that these disruptive upsets are caused by their attitude or emotions. The science behind our digestive system shows that protecting against occasional digestive upsets can start with having the right balance of bacteria.

“I see the frustration occasional digestive upsets cause my patients,” said Dr. Roshini Rajapaksa, a gastroenterologist at NYU Langone Medical Center. “The first step to building a stronger inside is to better understand how your digestive system works and what you can do to keep it healthy.”

The Science Behind Digestion

The digestive system is made up of a series of organs that help the body break down and absorb food so the body can build and nourish cells and provide energy.  It is also home to trillions of bacteria, both good and bad. When this delicate balance of bacteria is disrupted by factors such as diet, stress, or travel, occasional digestive upsets can occur.

“To help improve both their health and lifestyle, I teach my patients that it comes down to simple science — it is important to have the right balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut. When we replenish the good bacteria with probiotics it helps maintain a healthy digestive system,” said Rajapaksa. Dr. Rajapaksa often recommends a daily probiotic supplement to help restore a natural digestive balance and protect against occasional digestive upsets.

Although probiotics, or good bacteria that provide a health benefit, were discovered over a hundred years ago, the survey uncovered that people still have misconceptions about their guts:

  • Forty-three percent of those surveyed believe it true that most types of bacteria are not helpful for the GI tract. Our digestive system is home to trillions of bacteria – some good and some bad. Probiotics, or good bacteria, in the digestive system are essential for many vital body functions, including healthy digestion.
  • More than forty percent of those surveyed believe that all probiotics have essentially the same benefits. Not all probiotics are alike. Probiotics are strain specific, and thus different probiotics may have unique benefits. Different strains of the same species may differ in a number of ways, but what matters most to you is how well the bacteria strain works for you.
  • A large majority (77%) of those surveyed think that probiotics found in supplements are not as natural as those found in foods.

The “Gut Check” survey findings also showed that these upsets can interrupt daily life. Of those who experience occasional digestive upsets:

* More than half feel their upsets impact their self confidence.
* Eight in 10 try to go about their day normally but most still make adjustments to their activities.
* Nearly half have missed an event, a trip, or avoided a social situation because of an occasional digestive upset.
* Over one third of survey respondents will change their diet to deal with their digestive upsets.
* Compared to those who do not experience occasional digestive upsets, those who do are more likely to avoid holiday parties or avoid traditional holiday foods.

About The “Gut Check” Survey

The GfK Roper “Gut Check” Digestive Health Survey, sponsored by Align, was conducted online in April 2010. In total, 1,002 interviews were completed, 254 of which were among those who experience occasional digestive upsets. The sampling frame was an online panel provided by GfK. The data was weighted to reflect the key gender, age and region distribution of the U.S. online population.