YOUR gut plays a pretty important part in your overall health.
It digests your food and absorbs nutrients to feed the rest of your body and it’s full of good bacteria that help protect you from illness.
Getty – Contributor Our gut helps us absorb nutrients, so it’s important to keep it healthy
Your digestive system, or gut, is made up of various parts of the body, including the mouth, oesophagus, stomach, small intestine and bowel.
From the moment we eat or drink something, the gut plays an essential role in helping to absorb the nutrients we need to keep us feeling healthy and well.
So when something upsets our gut, it can have a big impact on day-to-day life.
Dr Anthony Hobson, clinical director of the Functional Gut Clinic in London, said: “Most gut complaints that I see in practice are linked to lifestyle and food habits and just making simple changes to diet and exercise can usually significantly help to improve someone’s gut health and feeling of general wellbeing.
Getty – Contributor Some gut conditions can cause severe stomach pain “Many people who present with gut symptoms also often benefit from the introduction of a high quality probiotic supplement, which are friendly strains of gut bacteria and can help to improve symptoms by re-balancing the levels of good and bad bacteria in the gut.
“However, there are certain ‘red flag’ symptoms that people should look out for, including bleeding from the back passage, unexpected weight loss, and a constant change in bowel habits.”
Here’s 6 gut health issues and how to treat them.
We all know the feeling – you feel full and uncomfortable and nothing seems to ease it.
“The most obvious symptom is a swollen and full stomach and clothes feeling tight or uncomfortable,” Dr Hobson said.
“Feeling bloated is often accompanied by wind and some people may find that just by passing this it can help to relieve symptoms.”
Getty – Contributor Bloating is one of the most common gut conditions for adults
It’s very common to feel bloated, especially after a big meal.
“More than two thirds of people experience bloating a few times a month or more, with a quarter suffering a few times a week,” Dr Hobson added.
“Bloating is normally just caused by a build-up of gas, with certain foods and drinks, such as broccoli, beans and fizzy drinks causing more gas than others, meaning the digestive system can take longer to break them down.
“Bloating may sometimes be a sign of a more serious health condition, such as IBS or coeliac disease, and if people believe they may be suffering with one of these conditions, or if they are concerned, then I would advise them to consult with their GP.”
Take a look at what you are eating and drinking before you feel bloated.
“If you eat or drink something and then feel bloated afterwards, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are intolerant or allergic to a particular ingredient and you shouldn’t cut out specific food groups unless you’ve been advised to do so by a healthcare professional,” he added.
“Simply take more time to eat your meals – eat slower and chew food properly whilst also ensuring you don’t talk and eat at the same time so you don’t swallow air.”
2. Irritable bowel syndrome
Getty – Contributor Irritable bowel syndrome can cause stomach pain, tummy upset, constipation and diarrhoea
Though it’s commonly dismissed as “women’s troubles” – even wind – irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can prove life-changing.
It can be agonising, causing frequent tummy discomfort, bloating, constipation as well as bouts of diarrhoea.
“IBS is a common condition of the digestive system that affects 36 per cent of people,” Dr Hobson explained.“Its exact cause is unknown but it is likely down to a miscommunication between the brain and gut.“This can cause muscle contractions or spasms and mean that food passes through your gut too quickly or too slowly. Stress and a family history of IBS are also thought to be common causes.”
“IBS is a diagnosis of exclusion based on symptoms and the absence of any more serious underlying conditions,” he added.
“Your GP will rule out these ‘red flag’ conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease with blood or stool tests.
“Try keeping a food diary so you can rule out any potential intolerances.
“You could also try managing you stress and anxiety levels. Although IBS is not caused by your mind, high levels of emotions can still contribute to symptoms.”
3. Bowel Cancer
Alamy Bowel cancer is the UKs second deadliest cancer
Bowel cancer, also known as colon cancer or colorectal cancer, is the fourth most common form of the disease in the UK, after breast, prostate and lung cancers.
It’s the UK’s 2nd deadliest cancer – after lung – claiming 16,000 lives a year, but it CAN be cured – if it’s caught early enough.
The Sun has launched its No Time 2 Lose campaign urging to get you all talking about your insides and your number 2s, in a bid to beat bowel cancer.
Red flag signs fro bowel cancer include blood in your stool, a change in bowel habits, bloating and pain in your abdomen.
NO TIME 2 LOSE: WE’RE FIGHTING FOR FAIR SCREENING FOR ALL BRITS
Our No Time 2 Lose campaign is calling for:
the Government to lower the screening age from 60 to 50 – as it is in Scotland every Brit to know the five red-flag signs of bowel cancer
And we want you to dig deep and help raise money for Bowel Cancer UK and Beating Bowel Cancer – who work tirelessly to beat this disease. Donate here.
Scientists do not know the cause of most forms of bowel cancer, but they do know a series of factors that can increase a person’s risk of the disease.
Some of these things are just a fact of life – age and genetics for example.
But, others are lifestyle factors that can be changed and improved.
You’re at a greater risk of bowel cancer if you are over 50, have a family history, have a history of non-cancerous growths called polyps, have inflammatory bowel disease or live an unhealthy lifestyle.
Bowel cancer is treatable and can be cured, particularly if it is diagnosed early enough.
More than nine out of 10 people with stage 1 bowel cancer – the least serious form – survive five years or longer after they are diagnosed.
However, this survival rate does drop significantly the longer a person has the disease before diagnosis.
Getty – Contributor Diarrhoea is usually caused by a bowel infection or reaction to something you ate
We probably don’t need to go into great detail about the symptoms of diarrhoea – it goes without saying it’s unpleasant.
“Watery or loose stools, stomach cramps, feeling sick and vomiting, a headache and having no appetite are some of the most common symptoms of diarrhoea,” Dr Hobson said.
“If you are presenting with any of these symptoms then it’s best to avoid socialising or going to work for a couple of days to limit the spread to other people.”
“Diarrhoea is normally caused by a bowel infection or poor food hygiene, but it can also be due to a food allergy or side effect of a medicine,” he added.
“There are also several health conditions where diarrhoea is a common symptom, including IBS, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and coeliac disease, so if you think you may be suffering from one of these then visit your GP.”
Symptoms of diarrhoea should clear up on their own within a few days, but you need to drink plenty of fluids to avoid becoming dehydrated.
“A pharmacist will be able to recommend appropriate anti-diarrhoeal medication that can help to stop unpleasant symptoms,” Dr Hobson said.
“Always washing your hands thoroughly after visiting the toilet and practising good hygiene habits in general can help to avoid a repeat episode and germs spreading to others.”
Getty – Contributor Nearly a third of adults suffer constipation, usually because of diet and lifestyle choices
On the other end of the scale there’s constipation, which causes stomach pain and bloating.
Dr Hobson said: “Not emptying your bowels frequently – at least three times a week – and stools that are difficult to push out and are often dry, hard or lumpy are the most common symptoms.
“Some people may also experience a stomach ache, bloating or sickness.”
Nearly a third of adults suffer from constipation, according to Dr Hobson.
“This can be due to a number of reasons, but the most common causes are related to diet and exercise,” he said.
“Not eating enough fibre, such as fruit and vegetables, not drinking enough water and generally being less active, can all cause someone to become constipated, alongside stress or anxiety and ignoring urges to go to the toilet.
“It is also common during pregnancy and up to 6 weeks after giving birth.”
6. Coeliac disease
Getty – Contributor Coeliac disease is caused by an intolerance to gluten
Coeliac disease is an autoimmune digestive condition where the intestines react to gluten and become inflamed.
“Symptoms are mainly gut related and can include diarrhoea, abdominal pain, bloating and constipation, but more general symptoms can also include fatigue, weight loss, a rash and mouth ulcers,” Dr Hobson explained.
“In children if it is left undiagnosed it can also affect the rate at which they grow and reach puberty.”