Digestive problems are not a great topic for discussion, which causes many to suffer in silence most of the time. But neglecting or tolerating the pain can lead to more severe health problems.
If you’re experiencing any of the below symptoms frequently, check in with your doctor to find out if you’re suffering from a digestive disorder.
Heartburn is normal if it happens once in a while, but when it starts occurring frequently, you should get checked for Gastroesophageal Reflex Disease (GURD). Heartburn is caused by the backflow of acidic fluid from the stomach into the oesophagus, and can result in symptoms such as chest pain, regurgitation, belching, throat pain and persistent coughing.
You can detect this condition through a gastroscopy carried out by a doctor. With this procedure, the doctor can also check for other serious conditions such as oesophageal cancer.
2. Lactose Intolerance
A high proportion of Asians are lactose intolerant, meaning a lot of us lack the enzyme needed to digest the main sugar, lactose, present in dairy products. This causes uncomfortable symptoms such as stomachache, bloating, gas, nausea and diarrhoea after consuming dairy, which varies in intensity. Sufferers can already experience some of these symptoms just 30 minutes after consuming a dairy product.
This condition is easily diagnosed – a doctor can conduct a breath test, which detects hydrogen levels, or a blood test, to determine the acidity of your stool. However, you can also test it yourself. Just drink a carton of milk, and if you experience the above symptoms within the day, you’re probably lactose intolerant.
There are some remedies to avoid experiencing these symptoms. You can get over-the-counter pills that contain lactase, the missing enzyme. Alternatively, there’s a range of lactose-free products such as almond milk or dairy-free ice cream.
3. Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome affects more than a fifth of Singaporean adults. The most common symptoms associated with this condition includes diarrhoea, constipation, bloating and abdominal pain in the gut.
Although we still don’t know the root cause of this condition, we do know that diet, stress and gut bacteria play a significant role in triggering the above symptoms. With that said, there are certain foods that can make your symptoms worse, and by avoiding them, sufferers can reduce the frequency or severity of their discomfort. Some examples of food to avoid include dairy, high-fibre products, chocolate, caffeine, sugary foods, fried and fatty dishes and gassy drinks.
4. Celiac Disease
Those with celiac disease are unable to consume gluten. However, if undetected, long-term consumption of gluten will cause the intestinal villi to flatten, which affects its ability to breakdown and absorb important nutrients. In time, this may cause nutrient deficiencies, due to a lack of vitamins and minerals. This condition is hereditary, but environmental factors can also contribute to the severity of the disease.
Those with the condition may experience symptoms such as diarrhoea, fatigue, weight loss, constipation, nausea, nutrient deficiencies, anaemia and bone problems.