Prevention of Gastrointestinal Diseases

Gastrointestinal (GI) Diseases

Gastrointestinal (GI) diseases occur due to structural and functional abnormalities of the stomach and intestine. They can range from common digestive problems such as diarrhoea, nausea and abdominal cramps to chronic disorders including Crohn’s disease, coeliac disease, acid reflux, gallstones, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), colitis or cancer.

Causes

Certain GI diseases such as Crohn’s disease are hereditary. Other causes may include the following:

  • Infections
  • Pregnancy
  • Hormonal changes
  • Advanced age
  • Diabetes
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Obesity
  • Unhealthy lifestyle habits

Symptoms

The symptoms of GI disease depend on the underlying cause and may include the following:

  • Excess gas
  • Bloating
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhoea
  • Nausea
  • Breathing problems
  • Painful swallowing
  • Headache
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Drowsiness

Diagnosis

Your doctor will assess your symptoms and discuss your medical history. They may order diagnostic tests as follows:

  • Imaging tests such as X-ray, MRI, or CT-scan
  • pH test to check acidity levels
  • Endoscopy or Colonoscopy
  • Certain blood tests
  • Bowel biopsy
  • Stool test
  • ERCP (Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography) to locate gallstones in the gallbladder

Treatment

Treatment depends on the type of GI disease and may include medications to manage pain, acidity, infections and other symptoms. Surgery is recommended by your doctor if conservative treatment options fail.

Prevention

Many GI diseases can be prevented by practising good bowel habits and maintaining a healthy lifestyle that includes the following:

  • Avoiding foods that cause gas and bloating such as cabbage, broccoli, milk and dairy
  • Cutting down on high-fat and spicy food
  • Eating more slowly
  • Avoiding certain medications such as anti-depressants and laxatives
  • Exercising regularly
  • Reducing caffeine
  • Quitting alcohol consumption and smoking
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Consuming sufficient water
  • Drinking warm water or herbal tea in the morning
  • Eating a variety of vegetables and fruits
  • Regularly screening for cancer
  • Eating food rich in probiotics
  • Moving your bowels when you have an urge
  • Managing diabetes and thyroid disorders
  • Managing stress