The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Food & Health

September 4, 2013

Saliva lack can cause constipation

DEAR DR. ROACH: In 2003, I had surgery for throat cancer, followed by radiation treatments. I have been negative ever since. My salivary and thyroid glands were damaged. Does the thyroid gland control bowel movements? I’ve been constipated a lot. I’ve tried different laxatives without good results. — J.

ANSWER: Radiation therapy, though it can be lifesaving, often has side effects. In the case of head and neck cancers, you have had two common side effects: damage to salivary glands and to the thyroid gland. Both can affect bowel function.

There are three major salivary glands: the parotid (in the cheeks), the submandibular (under the jaw) and the sublingual (under the tongue). Low amounts of saliva can cause severe dental damage, but saliva is helpful in several other ways: Saliva has enzymes that help break down food, and the liquid swallowed helps the food move through the digestive tract. Without adequate saliva — whether it’s due to radiation treatment, medical conditions like Sjogren’s disease or a side effect from medication — constipation is more likely.

Low thyroid levels are a frequent cause of constipation, and radiation damage to the thyroid predisposes you not only to low thyroid levels but also to thyroid cancer, so your thyroid gland needs to be periodically examined. You should have a lab test to check your thyroid function.

Most constipation improves with increased dietary fiber and water.

DEAR DR. ROACH: I’m an 80-year-old woman with very few ailments. The only medication I take is for low thyroid. About two weeks ago, I woke up feeling tired, lightheaded and with a poor appetite. My granddaughter took me to my primary care doctor, who did a checkup, including a urine test. He told me that my symptoms were due to the “super moon.” It affects people in flat-roof dwellings, and he said my symptoms would last only three days.

Text Only
Food & Health
  • USDA orders farms to report pig virus infections MILWAUKEE -- Farms stricken with a deadly pig virus must report outbreaks as part of a new program to help monitor and possibly control the spread of the disease, the federal government announced Friday. Porcine epidemic diarrhea has killed millions

    April 19, 2014

  • The case for separate beds

    The other night I slept on a twin bed in the guest room of the house I share with my husband and our two kids.
    It was the best night's sleep I've had in years.

    April 17, 2014

  • Raw oysters spike U.S. rise in bacterial infections, CDC reports

    Raw oysters, so good with hot sauce, increasingly can carry something even more unsettling to the stomach: A bacteria linked to vomiting, diarrhea and pain.

    April 17, 2014

  • Study: Diabetic heart attacks and strokes falling

    In the midst of the diabetes epidemic, a glimmer of good news: Heart attacks, strokes and other complications from the disease are plummeting.

    Over the last two decades, the rates of heart attacks and strokes among diabetics fell by more than 60 percent, a new federal study shows. The research also confirms earlier reports of drastic declines in diabetes-related kidney failure and amputations.

    April 17, 2014

  • To sleep well, you may need to adjust what you eat and when

    Sleep.  Oh, to sleep.  A good night's sleep is often a struggle for more than half of American adults.  And for occasional insomnia, there are good reasons to avoid using medications, whether over-the-counter or prescription.

    April 16, 2014

  • Doctors to rate cost effectiveness of expensive cancer drugs

    The world's largest organization of cancer doctors plans to rate the cost effectiveness of expensive oncology drugs, and will urge physicians to use the ratings to discuss the costs with their patients.

    April 16, 2014

  • Low blood-sugar levels make for grousing spouses

    Husbands and wives reported being most unhappy with their spouses when their blood-sugar levels were lowest, usually at night, according to research released this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Missing a meal, dieting or just being hungry may be the reason, researchers said.

    April 16, 2014

  • Allergies are the real midlife crisis

    One of the biggest mysteries is why the disease comes and goes, and then comes and goes again. People tend to experience intense allergies between the ages of 5 and 16, then get a couple of decades off before the symptoms return in the 30s, only to diminish around retirement age.

    April 15, 2014

  • 4-15-14 Asparagus photo Make asparagus the center of your plate Asparagus has been a delicious symbol of spring since at least as far back as the Greeks, who called it asparagos -- literally, "to spring up." But however it is spelled, it makes me happy. Most grocers sell asparagus in a range of sizes, from thin a

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Floating stools not alarming DEAR DR. ROACH: I have read that whether stools float or sink could be an indication of one's health, even to the point of being an early sign of pancreatic cancer. Isn't it just about density and gas -- that is, doesn't most food we eat float in wat

    April 15, 2014


Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.