Get rid of gastric ailments
Gastric problems include various digestive disorders and illnesses affecting the gastrointestinal tract.
CHENNAI: Gastric problems include various digestive disorders and illnesses affecting the gastrointestinal tract. The human digestive system consists of the mouth, esophagus (food pipe), large intestine, small intestine, colon, rectum and anus.
A number of factors contribute to gastric problems causing erosion, inflammation and irritation of the stomach lining. Any disturbances in normal functioning of these organs can lead to gastric problems, including indigestion, bloating, irritable bowel syndrome, excessive gas accumulation, etc. Although gastric problems are common in older individuals — above the age of 40 — they also affect children and young adults.
There may be several factors associated with gastric problems from diet to lifestyle to infections.
- Empty stomach: Prolonged periods of staying on an empty stomach can lead to accumulation of stomach acids, causing gastric problems such as acid reflux.
- Spicy food: Consumption of excessive amounts of spicy food can cause irritation to the stomach lining, leading to gastric pain and indigestion.
- Unhealthy dietary habits: Consuming high amounts of junk food, aerated drinks and insoluble fibres can cause imbalance of gut microbes, disrupting the beneficial bacteria. This can lead to indigestion and other gastric problems.
- Infections: Various bacterial and viral infections of the stomach can also lead to gastric problems.
- Other factors: Stress, anxiety, stomach ulcers, food poisoning, kidney stones, etc. can cause gastrointestinal disturbances leading to gastric problems.
- Recurrent stomach upset
- Constant stomach pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Acid reflux
- Abdominal pain and bloating
- Burning sensation in stomach
- Loss of appetite
- Diarrhoea and stools with blood in severe cases
- Low-fibre diet: Diets low in fibre content can lead to difficult bowel and bladder movements, causing various gastric problems.
- Lack of physical activity: Inadequate physical exercise interrupts with the smooth digestion process, leading to gastric problems.
- Stress: High levels of stress cause disruption of gastrointestinal functions, leading to gastric problems.
- Gastric problems which are left untreated for a long period of time, can worsen and lead to various complications including:
- Severe dehydration
- Internal bleeding
- Stomach ulcers
- Rupture of intestinal wall
- Stomach cancer
- Spread of infection to other parts of the body
- Organ failure and dysfunction
Although mild gastric problems can be resolved with appropriate dietary and lifestyle measures, it is important to seek immediate medical attention in case of symptoms with severe intensity, including repeated diarrhoea/constipation causing discomfort, blood in stools, blood while vomiting, and excessive dehydration due to vomiting and diarrhoea.
Gastric problems are diagnosed based on some laboratory tests and procedures including:
- Upper endoscopy: It involves examination of the esophagus and the stomach with a small flexible tube (endoscope) inserted through the mouth. The tube is attached with a camera to clearly view the stomach for any abnormalities.
- Blood tests: A blood sample is taken to detect the presence of any infections causing gastric problems.
- Stool test: A stool sample is taken to evaluate the presence of abnormal bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract.
Treatment of gastric problems is based on the associated causative factors. It may include:
- Medications: Antacids may be prescribed to reduce the acid production in the stomach. Antibiotics and other medications may be prescribed in cases of stomach infections to reduce heartburn. Probiotics may be prescribed to improve gut health.
- Dietary and lifestyle changes: Foods causing stomach discomfort/irritation are eliminated and healthy food practices are encouraged.
Effective ways for prevention
- Dietary habits: Include foods rich in fibre such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, which help to ease digestion and facilitate bowel movements.
- Chew food properly before swallowing, to avoid air trapping which may lead to bloating.
- Stay hydrated as it facilitates regular bowel movements and prevents constipation.
- Avoid prolonged periods of empty stomach; have small meals at regular intervals.
- Avoid smoking, having junk foods and alcohol.
- Exercise after meals, which enhances digestion and metabolism.
(The author is a senior consultant - GI Surgeon at Department of Minimally Invasive Bariatric & GI Surgery, Gleneagles Global Health City, Chennai)
Dr Jayaraj Magnus Mansard