Gut Reaction: According to a Gallup poll, more than half of all Americans say they suffer occasionally from some form of gastrointestinal distress.
Help for these folks may be on the way. No, it's not a pill. It's a book with a punchy, no-nonsense title: Be Good to Your Gut: Recipes and Tips for People With Digestive Problems, by Pat Baird (Blackwell Science, $14.95).
The author is a registered dietitian with a master's degree in nutrition and dietetics. She also seems to possess an advanced degree in common sense. Many stomach problems, she says, can be abated by some simple procedures: eat slowly, chew food thoroughly, don't overeat, drink water, exercise and keep away from chewing gum and sucking hard candies so you don't swallow air.
Baird takes readers on a tour along the mean streets of the gastrointestinal tract. The trip through constipation, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, gas, heartburn, indigestion and slow stomach emptying (gastroparesis) may not seem terribly alluring at first. But after a while, I found the subjects took on an eerie fascination.
Take heartburn. It happens when food and acid back up from the stomach. What can you do about it? First of all, says Baird, watch what you eat. Fat is a particular danger. It weakens the lower esophageal sphincter, which keeps stomach acid in the stomach. Chocolate, alcohol, coffee, colas, citrus and tomatoes also can have baneful effects. So can extremely hot or cold foods, large meals and midnight snacks.
Heartburn sufferers should consider shedding weight, too. Excess pounds put pressure on your stomach, increasing the likelihood of food and acid backing up. Baird also gives a list of drugs--some as common as tetracycline--which can aggravate the condition. At the end of the chapter, she provides recipes that won't come back to haunt you in the middle of the night.
Although Baird recommends medical treatment for serious gastrointestinal disorders, she believes a diet that incorporates variety, moderation and balance can alleviate most of our self-inflicted discomfort. It's not exactly a groundbreaking, Nobel Prize-winning idea, but it is a good one.
Cobble, Cobble: If you don't have time for a full-scale, downtown lunch (see this week's Cafe reviews), you may find noontime happiness at Karim's Cobbler Shop & Bakery.
The proprietor used to operate Unique Foods & Services, a no-pork soul-food restaurant at 12th Street and Jefferson. (Now it's called Cafe Soul.) At Karim's new, spic-and-span place, he's turned into a baker. Look for excellent fruit cobblers ($2.25)--peach, apple, cherry--and wicked homemade pies, including custard-bean and sweet-potato pies at $1.95 a slice. There are cakes and cookies, too.
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You can also order soups, sandwiches and salads, as well as fish and chips or bagels. Nothing goes for more than five bucks.
Karim's is at 333 East Jefferson, between America West Arena and All That Jazz, a Caribbean restaurant and jazz club. Call 257-1801.--Howard Seftel
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