Digestive disorders can be debilitating and chronic life-changing conditions; they’re also far more common than many might think—around 40 percent of people in the UK suffer from at least one digestive symptom at any given time. Most are related to lifestyle choices, the amount of stress we put our body through, and the foods we consume. Taking simple steps to change our everyday habits may help—and even prevent—many of these problems.
Irritable bowl syndrome
A fairly common digestive disorder, IBS can cause stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation. The frequency and severity of these symptoms varies from person to person, but they can last for months at a time, causing sufferers stress, pain and discomfort. The condition—which is often lifelong—affects twice as many women as men, and usually manifests itself between the ages of 20 and 30. The cause for IBS is still relatively unknown, although it’s now widely accepted that it is related to sensitivity of the gut and issues with digestion. Medication is sometimes prescribed to alleviate symptoms, but these can also be managed by making concerted lifestyle changes such as reducing stress levels, altering the amount of fibre in your diet, avoiding foods that trigger symptoms and exercising regularly.
Trying to identify the cause of constipation is difficult—it may be due to a variety of factors such as not eating enough fibre, a change in routine, not drinking enough fluids, anxiety or depression, side effects of medication and ignoring the urge to pass stools. This digestive disorder can affect anyone, no matter the age, and can be treated through lifestyle changes or prescribed medication (such as laxatives). In most occasions, this condition will not lead to any complications, but those who suffer from long-term constipation may also find themselves battling with piles, faecal impaction and bowel incontinence.
See also: Get a Healthier Digestive System
People with gastritis will exhibit a host of symptoms like indigestion, gnawing stomach pain, nausea and vomiting due to the stomach’s lining becoming inflamed. These may present themselves severely and last a long time. Some causes for this condition include a bacterial infection, excessive consumption of alcohol, stress, regular use of aspirin and—less commonly—an autoimmune reaction. Treatment mainly revolves around reducing the amount of acid in the stomach, and this can be achieved by taking antacids and histamine 2 blockers. The breakdown of the layer that protects the stomach lining from acid can also lead to stomach ulcers—open sores that cause pain in the centre of the stomach.
See also: Coeliac Disease
Occasionally the muscle at the bottom of the oesophagus can weaken, leading to acid in the stomach leaking up and causing gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD). This condition can be an occasional nuisance for some, but for others it is a lifelong problem—and a chronic battle with heartburn, bad breath, bloating and difficulty with swallowing. GORD can be treated through self-help efforts and various medicine but, in some cases, surgery may be needed. Eating smaller and more frequent meals, avoiding foods that exacerbate your condition and taking OTC or stronger prescription medicine may help alleviate symptoms and improve your quality of life. •