Digestive Problems. Learn more about heatburn, indigestion and abdominal pain in this article by Dr Melvin Look in Prime Magazine.
Do you experience indigestion, heartburn, bloating, diarrhea, or constipation? Such complaints, according to Dr. Melvin Look, are common and almost everyone would have experienced some of these short-lived digestive symptoms some time in their lives.
Dietary indiscretion may be the cause of such functional symptoms and can be easily rectified by proper eating habits and simple lifestyle changes, such as cutting down cigarette smoking, coffee and alcohol intake, exercising and drinking antacids, probiotics and fiber can also help.
Review any prescription medication you are taking to check if they can cause gastrointestinal side effects. Symptoms that persist despite such measures may be due to more serious conditions such as ulcers, inflammatory bowel disease, or even cancer. Irritable bowel syndrome, reflux, food intolerance or food allergy may also be the cause of such recurrent and chronic symptoms. A detailed history can provide valuable clues; and a few simple tests, such as a gastroscopy, colonoscopy or abdominal ultrasound will usually confirm the diagnosis.
What are the different types of digestive problems?
Heartburn refers to a hot and burning sensation that rises from the upper abdomen and up behind the breastbone. Occasional heartburn is normal, but frequent and excessive episodes are suggestive of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) – the abnormal backflow of acid and gastric juice from the stomach into the oesophagus. Atypical symptoms of this condition include chest discomfort, food regurgitation, excessive belching. throat discomfort and even chronic coughing. Reflux is usually easily controlled by simple measures and a course of acid blockers. Long standing reflux may predispose to cancer change in the oesophagus and maybe necessary to gastroscopy exclude this and other complications such as oesophageal.
Dyspepsia and Indigestion are usually indicative of stomach problems such as gastritis and ulcers, or gallbladder disease such as gallstones. Dyspepsia is a medical description of pain in the upper abdomen Indigestion can mean any sort of abdominal discomfort including bloating or fullness after meals. A common problem in Asia is the chronic infection of the stomach with Helicobacter Pylori. This bacterium can cause acute or recurrent abdominal pain, and even lead to peptic ulcers and stomach cancer. Gastroscopy, a simple and highly accurate test, can be done to diagnose these problems. It should be done if the discomfort persists for more than two weeks, penetrates the back or wakes you up from sleep at night. New onset of pain in people over the age of 45 should also be viewed with suspicion. Stomach cancer in the early stages can present with just persistent indigestion. As the cancer progresses, alarm bells such as vomiting, inability to eat, weight loss and passage of black tarry stools may start appearing.
Constipation and diarrhea
There is no clear definition of what constitutes normal bowel habits, anything from three times a day to three times a week may be acceptable. Constipation is a common digestive problem. It may be difficult for you to have a bowel movement, or your bowel movement may be infrequent. Constipation may lead to straining at hard stools, and sequentially predispose to haemorrhoids and anal fissures. The problem can be alleviated by increased intake of fruits, vegetables and adequate hydration. Laxatives can be useful but long term usage is not recommended as this can make you become dependent on no diet keywords artificial stimulation, Diarrhoea, on the other hand, refers to frequent passage of watery or loose stools. Acute diarrhoea may be due to food poisoning orgastroentenitis. Chronic diarrhoea should be further evaluated as bowel inflammation and pancreatic disease may be the cause.
Colonoscopy is recommended to investigate any change in your bowel habits. It should also be done every five to 10 years for anyone above the age of 45 to 50 to screen for colorectal cancers and polyps. The majority of colorectal cancers can be prevented by regular colonoscopy and removal of such polyps before they turn malignant. Rectal bleeding is another common indication for colonoscopy. Blood in the stools is never normal. It may be due to haemorrhoids, fissures or even colorectal cancers.
Abdominal pains can sometimes start acutely and progress quickly in severity. This may be accompanied by fever vomiting or other associated symptoms. Examples of such conditions include perforated ulcers, acute appendicitis, pancreatitis, cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder) and diverticulitis. Medical attention should be sought urgently as such conditions can lead to life-threatening complications if early treatment is not given.