Gut Health

Our digestive system plays an important role in keeping the body healthy.

This is why it is important that we are proactive about the well-being of our gut. Here are a few common digestive problems and their symptoms.

Constipation is common with symptoms relating to the consistency of the stool, the difficulty in passing them and the infrequency of bowel movements. Although not everyone with constipation will experience bloating and discomfort, these symptoms are often associated with irregular bowel movement.

Diet recommendations for constipation generally include increasing the fibre intake in your diet, by including wholegrain cereals, fruit and vegetables, and plenty of fluid.

Diarrhoea is the too frequent passage of loose or watery stool. Diarrhoea can have a variety of causes which can either be chronic or acute. Should diarrhoea be acute, it is usually has an infectious basis (caused by a bacterial or viral infection) or more rarely brought on by stress, short lived and will generally improve within a few days with the appropriate treatment. Chronic diarrhoea can be persistent, lasting weeks to a few months.

Chronic diarrhoea warrants further investigation and is common in conditions including Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Diverticular Disease and Inflammatory Bowel Disease, but can also be linked to other contributing factors such as medications and hormonal changes.

Heartburn or indigestion is the feeling of burning and discomfort usually high in the abdomen just under the ribcage. It is often related to acid reflux. Eating smaller meals, losing weight (if overweight) and drinking most fluids between meals rather than with meals are thought to help, alongside appropriate medication as required.

Coeliac Disease is caused by sensitivity to the protein gluten (found in barley, wheat, oats and rye). Gluten causes a reaction in the lining of the small intestines, with the damage and inflammation leading to various gastrointestinal and malabsorptive symptoms.

It affects 1 in 70 Australians but approximately 75% remain undiagnosed as many are symptom-free. Symptoms include – diarrhoea, vomiting, weight loss, abdominal pain, bloating and fatigue. The best treatment is usually to simply avoid and replace gluten in the diet.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a collection of otherwise unexplained gastrointestinal symptoms that include abdominal pain or discomfort, diarrhoea, constipation (often relieved by going to the toilet) and fluctuating bowel movements. This common condition may affect up to 30% of Australians at some point in their life.

The cause of IBS is still unknown, however it is thought that stress, emotional changes and a recent attack of gastroenteritis may be a factor in increasing bowel sensitivity leading to the gut symptoms.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a term to describe two diseases: Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis.

Both Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis are chronic inflammatory conditions affecting the gastrointestinal tract. Ulcerative Colitis only affects the colon, while Crohn’s Disease can affect any part of the digestive tract. Treatment generally involves medication, with the aim for long-term symptom control and management.

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