Digestive problems can affect your quality of life. But, by understanding them, we get to take the necessary steps to avoid them or treat them. The problems we are going to discuss here are very common; indigestion, stomach inflammation, and gut inflammation.
Have you felt some discomfort or burning pain in the stomach or under the ribs during or after a meal? If yes, then you might have suffered from indigestion, also known as dyspepsia. Other symptoms of indigestion include bloating, nausea and vomiting, belching or passing wind, and an acidic taste in your mouth. Stress might worsen these symptoms. While it is a common condition, certain factors make people more susceptible to it.
It is important to note that indigestion is mainly a sign of an underlying problem and not a condition of its own. This means that the treatment you will get is dependent on its cause.
The causes of indigestion include certain diseases, medications, and lifestyle.
- Stomach cancer
- Stomach infections
- Thyroid disease
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Estrogen and birth control pills
- Steroid medications
- Thyroid medicines
- Some antibiotics
Your lifestyle can lead to indigestion, too.
- Smoking: The chemicals in cigarette smoke you inhale can cause the muscle between your oesophagus and stomach to relax, consequently resulting in acid reflux.
- Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol: Alcohol makes your stomach produce more acid than normal, irritating your stomach lining.
- Eating high-fat foods, stress, and fatigue can also result in indigestion.
As above mentioned, treatment of indigestion will depend on its cause, but there are things you can do to prevent it.
You can prevent it by:
- Eating slowly
- Eating small meals
- Avoiding foods and drinks that contain caffeine
- Quitting smoking
- Cutting back on alcohol
- Avoiding lying down right after you have eaten
- Exercising before a meal or at least one hour after you eat
Inflammation of the stomach lining is referred to as gastritis, which is characterised by a host of symptoms, such as abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, indigestion, burning feeling in the stomach between meals or at night, hiccups, and loss of appetite.
To help with digestion and kill bacteria, in normal circumstances, your stomach produces acid. Since this acid is corrosive, some cells on the inside lining of your stomach produce a natural mucous barrier to protect it and the first part of the small intestine (the duodenum). Normally, a balance is maintained between the amount of acid that you make and the mucous defence barrier. A change in this balance can cause gastritis, which then allows the acid to damage the lining of your stomach.
The two major causes of gastritis are: 1.) a bacterium named Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) that lives in the mucous lining of the stomach; and 2.) the use of non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin and ibuprofen.
Gastritis can also be brought about by irritation as a result of excessive alcohol use, chronic vomiting, and stress.
While taking drugs such as antibiotics and antacids may be given to you if you suffer from gastritis, you can take some changes in your diet and your lifestyle in general to help treat it or alleviate its symptoms. For instance, make your diet free of irritating foods from your diet, such as lactose from dairy or gluten from wheat. Avoiding high-fat foods and caffeinated, decaffeinated, and carbonated drinks can also help. Moreover, if gastritis is caused by H. pylori, the growth of the bacteria may be curbed by following a fiber-rich diet and foods that contain flavonoids, such as garlic, onions, berries, celery, kale, and legumes. Avoiding drinking too much alcohol and quitting smoking can also help.
Your digestive tract, which is also known as gastrointestinal tract or gut, is made up of the mouth, oesophagus, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine. Its function is to break down food, extract the nutrients, and remove unnecessary material and waste products. This normal process is disrupted when inflammation occurs anywhere along the digestive tract.
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) refers to a group of disorders that result in chronic or prolonged inflammation of the digestive tract. It can be debilitating and may be life-threatening in some cases. Its symptoms may vary depending on the location and the severity of the inflammation, although these may include abdominal cramps and pain, diarrhoea, fever, weight loss, loss of appetite, and iron deficiency anaemia due to blood loss.
While many diseases fall under the term inflammatory bowel disease IBD, there are two major types of IBD: ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
Ulcerative colitis results in long-lasting inflammation and ulcers in the innermost lining of your large intestine and rectum. On the other hand, Crohn’s disease leads to inflammation of the lining of your digestive tract. This inflammation usually spreads deep into affected tissues and can involve various areas of the digestive tract, such as the large intestine, small intestine, or both.
IBD can be treated through the use of anti-inflammatory drugs, although they can have side effects. Immune suppressants are also used to stop the immune system from attack the bowel and causing inflammation, but they can also have side effects, such as rashes and infections.
While there are drugs available, making certain lifestyle changes is one thing that you can do to reduce your risk of developing IBD or controlling its symptoms. It is under your control and can even improve your quality of life in general.
In terms of your diet, limiting your consumption of dairy products may improve problems associated with IBD, such as abdominal pain and diarrhoea. Avoiding high-fat foods, such as butter, cream sauces, and fried foods is another thing you can do, especially if you have Crohn’s disease of the small intestine, which does not allow you to digest or fat normally. Instead, fat passes through your intestine, worsening your diarrhoea. Drink a lot of water, and avoid alcohol and caffeinated and carbonated drinks.
Moreover, if you smoke, it increases your chances of developing Crohn’s disease. And, once you develop the disease, smoking can make it worse. As such, quitting smoking is one important lifestyle change that you can make. Stress can also aggravate the symptoms of IBD, so learn to manage your stress, which you can do by exercising or meditation, among other things.
Acid Reflux Natural Remedies
One of the things that you may have to deal with when you have digestive tract problems is acid-reflux, which takes place when stomach acid flows back into the food pipe. This causes you to experience a burning pain or heartburn around your lower chest area.
Acid-reflux drugs, also known as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) may help treat acid-reflux, but they are not without side effects. These drugs are associated with vitamin B12 and iron deficiency, increased incidence of chronic kidney disease, and dementia, among other adverse side effects.
Fortunately, there are natural remedies for acid-reflux, which include:
The remedy for acid reflux may well be in your kitchen. Taking a teaspoon of freshly grated ginger root every day may just be the answer to your acid reflux problems.
Acid reflux is just one of the health issues probiotics have been known to prevent and treat. Consume sufficient amounts of probiotics, which are live micro-organisms that can help keep you healthy by neutralising toxic compounds. Probiotics do not have to be in the form of commercial supplements, though. You can have them through naturally fermented live foods, such as fermented vegetables and fermented soy products.
Who would have guessed that something as simple as chewing some gum can help with acid reflux? Chewing gum can raise the volume of saliva by almost 140%. This is important because plenty of compounds that protect the oesophagus are found in saliva, including mucin, prostaglandin E2, proteins, and epidermal growth factor.
Cut down on salt
Research has found that if you regularly add salt to your meals, you have twice the risk of having acid reflux problems. While salt makes food tastier, cutting down on salt is a simple remedy for acid reflux. Instead of using salt, you can use herbs, spices, and natural vinegars.
Treat Your Hiatal Hernia
Hiatal hernia takes place when the upper part of your stomach pushes up through your diaphragm and into your chest region. In short, your stomach is stuck up in the hole of your diaphragm. It can worsen heartburn and cause you to experience chest pain, have trouble swallowing, and belch.
To fix your hiatal hernia, which can then improve your acid reflux problems, carry out this exercise:
- As soon as you get out of bed in the morning, drink a glass of slightly warm water. Take note: just warm water — it helps your stomach to relax.
- Remain standing while you bring your arms straight out from your sides. Then bend your elbows in a way that your hands are touching your chest.
- As high as possible, stand up on your toes. Then drop. Do this 10 times in a row.
- Breathe short, quick breaths for about15 seconds. Do this while standing with your arms up.
As simple as that.
Low-fat and High – Fibre Diet
If you have noticed, following a low-fat and high – fibre diet is emphasised if you wish to prevent and treat digestive tract problems.
Gastro – oesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is one of the causes of some digestive problems people experience, such as indigestion. It causes you to experience heartburn and a sour taste in your mouth. But, more than that, it can lead to oesophagitis or inflammation of the oesophagus, which can then turn to Barrett’s oesophagus (normal tissue lining the oesophagus — the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach — is replaced by tissue similar to the intestinal lining), and eventually cancer. Surely, you do not want that to happen.
So what does diet have to do with GERD and its complications?
Well, consuming high-fat foods is linked with GERD symptoms because these foods cause the sphincter at the top of your stomach that is supposed to keep the food and acid down to relax. As a result, more acid creeps up into the oesophagus.
Moreover, different kinds of meat have been linked to cancers, with red meat being more linked to cancer in the oesophagus and poultry being more linked to cancer at the top of the stomach. In contrast, beans and nuts, which are considered great alternatives to meat, can reduce your risk of cancer.
A high – fibre diet can also lower your risk of cancer, especially cancer in the oesophagus. Research has found that 1 in 5 Americans who consume the Western-type diet is affected by hiatal hernia, which causes GERD. And, as above mentioned, GERD can eventually lead to cancer in the oesophagus. In rural African communities, where people generally followed a plant-based diet, hiatal hernia is almost unheard of.
In general, foods high in fibre contain phytates, which help slow cancer growth, prevent inflammation, and get rid of carcinogens. And remember, fibre can only be found in plant foods.
Indeed, following a plant-based diet is the way to go if you wish to maintain your digestive health and to be healthy in general.