Joanne | gutCARE - Part 2

6 Ways To Reduce Your Risk Of Getting Colon Cancer

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October 13, 2020 Blog

Colorectal cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers among both men and women. Colorectal cancer, which includes cancers of the colon or rectum, often start as a growth called a polyp, on the inner lining of the colon. It can cause a variety of gut-related symptoms, and endanger one’s health if the cancer spreads to other organs in the body.

Since colon cancer is so common, anyone can be at risk of getting it. However, the good news is, you can lower your risk of colorectal cancer by making the right choices in your diet or lifestyle. Here are some tips to help you keep colon cancer at bay.

Maintain a healthy weight

As you may know, being overweight or obese increases your risk of having serious health conditions like diabetes, pancreatic cancer, and colon cancer. There are several possible explanations of how obesity raises the risk of getting colon cancer.

Obesity increases the risk for inflammation in the body, including in the large intestines. Increased blood levels of insulin in obese persons can also promote the growth of cancer cells, such as in the colon walls. Obesity is also strongly associated with higher leptin production, which acts as a growth factor to promote tumour growth.

Adopt a high-fibre, low-fat diet

Dietary fats from red meat and processed meat are contributors to the increased risk of colon cancer. High fat consumption will increase the production of bile acids. When large amounts of bile acid is converted to secondary bile acids, this could promote tumour growth. Instead, eating more fibre-rich foods have been found to lower one’s chances of contracting colon cancer. Example of high fibre foods are vegetables, fruits and grains.

Be physically active

Higher levels of physical activity have been linked to a lower risk of colon cancer. Physical activities include walking, running, swimming and many more. Exercise has many positive effects on the body, and lowering the risk for colon cancer is one of them.

Regular physical activity keeps blood insulin levels in check, and facilitates healthy bowel movement, reducing the time that food spends in the gastrointestinal tract. Exercise can also alter the metabolism of bile acids, reducing the risk of bile-acid-initiated colon cancer.

Don’t smoke

Needless to say, smoking is bad for your health. Smoking is linked to an increased risk of colon cancer, as well as many other health problems. When you smoke, you are inhaling chemicals and toxins into your body, including free radicals that damage DNA and mutate healthy cells. Free radicals can influence the growth of more aggressive polyps in the large intestines, thus increasing the risk of colon cancer.

Limit alcohol

Drinking alcohol increases the risk of colon cancer. The body metabolises alcohol by breaking it down into acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde can damage DNA in colon cells and cause mutations of cells that increases your risk of polyps.

Conclusion

Although colon cancer more commonly affects older adults, smokers, and drinkers, no one is perfectly safe from it. Use these tips to lower your risk, and keep up with regular check-ups and screenings to identify early colon cancer symptoms before it’s too late!


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October 8, 2020 Blog

Are you suffering from heartburn or bloating? These digestive issues are common and we often turn to home remedies or over-the-counter medication for these ailments. However, what if the symptoms are an indication of a much more serious condition?

It is important to note that certain gut symptoms and seemingly minor conditions can also lead to more serious gastrointestinal diseases, such as colon cancer. While an occasional gut problem may not always be a sign of a potentially dangerous disease, it is vital to know how your gut problems may escalate or increase your risk for other significant health conditions. Here are 4 common gut problems that can lead to serious health problems that you shouldn’t ignore.

1. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

You could be experiencing irritable bowel syndrome if you find yourself often feeling bloated and gassy, or consistently suffering from constipation or diarrhoea. Irritable bowel syndrome is a chronic condition of the colon that involves changes to one’s bowel habits.

Some of the factors that cause IBS include inflammation or infection of the gut, stress, or diet. It is important to note that IBS is not life-threatening, but in severe cases, they can significantly impact one’s quality of life. Apart from gut discomfort, other effects include depression and malnutrition.

While IBS does not increase one’s risk of contracting colon cancer, the cancer’s symptoms can be easily mistaken as IBS. Thus, if you suspect you might have IBS, make sure to consult a gastroenterologist for a thorough examination to rule out other conditions with similar symptoms.

2. Gastritis

Gastritis is inflammation of the stomach lining, which can manifest as an acute or chronic condition. Here are a few causes and risk factors of gastritis you should know:

Most cases of gastritis are not serious, but in some cases, can result in stomach ulcers or even stomach cancer. Some common symptoms associated with gastritis are:

  • Indigestion and nausea
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pain in the upper abdomen

You should consult a health professional immediately if these symptoms are accompanied by blood in the stools, or black, tarry stools.

3. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

This condition is also known as acid reflux or heartburn, and it describes the condition when food, fluids or stomach acid moves back up from the stomach and into the oesophagus. When this happens, you may feel a burning sensation in or around the stomach and chest area, nausea, and a bitter or sour taste in your mouth.

The leading causes of GERD are smoking, excessive alcohol intake, stress, spicy foods, and other digestive issues. While GERD is not an uncommon issue, it should not go unchecked as it has the potential to cause lasting damage to one’s oesophagus over a prolonged period. Some of these effects include ulcers, scarring, and an increased risk of oesophageal cancer.

4. Indigestion

The most common symptoms of indigestion are bloating, frequent flatulence or belching, and nausea. However, there may also be no symptoms of indigestion at all, apart from dull pain or a general discomfort located in the upper abdomen.

The causes of indigestion can range from excessive consumption of oily or spicy foods, anxiety or stress, to underlying gastrointestinal disorders (such as GERD or ulcers). While the occasional indigestion episode is normal, frequent rounds of indigestion should not be ignored, as these could be symptoms of more serious gut problems. Your doctor may recommend a stool test or endoscopy to diagnose the condition.

Seek help from health professionals

All of the gut problems faced above can lead to serious health issues if they are not properly checked or treated by a health professional. For instance, if you find yourself suffering from pancreatic cancer symptoms and you are unsure, it is best to seek a health professional or a doctor without delay. They can offer you a check-up on these diseases, help you understand more about your health and your body, and recommend treatments for your condition.

Speak to a health professional today and let them guide you towards a healthier you.


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September 30, 2020 Blog

A common way to describe a cancer diagnosis is by the stage of the disease. Typically, most cancers have 4 or 5 stages, with a higher number denoting a more advanced state of the disease. In the case of colon cancer, there are 5 stages, starting from stage 0 and progressing to stage 4.

Understanding the stage of cancer of yourself or a loved one is crucial, as it helps you understand what is going on in the body, and what to expect in terms of treatment and recovery prospects. Rather than panic or be misled by misconceptions upon receiving a colon cancer diagnosis, it is always helpful to have a little background information to know how it works.

The TNM staging system

There are, in fact, several different systems for staging cancer. By far, the most commonly used is the TNM system, which stands for Tumour, Node, and Metastasis. To determine how advanced the cancer is, three parameters are considered:

  • Tumour: This is concerned with the size of the primary (original) tumour, and whether or how far it has grown into the affected organ or nearby areas.
  • Node: This refers to whether nearby lymph nodes have been affected by the tumour .
  • Metastasis: The spread of cancer cells to distant sites such as other organs is assessed.

Each of these parameters has their own levels, where a higher number indicates a more advanced condition. For example, T1 means that the tumour has not grown beyond the inner wall of the colon (called the mucosa), while T4 would mean it has completely grown through the wall of the colon.

Using these three areas of consideration, the stage grouping of the cancer can be determined.

Stages of colon cancer

The four stages of colon cancer are described below, with some stages further categorised into A, B or C:

  • Stage 0: In this earliest stage of colon cancer, the tumour has not grown beyond the mucosa.
  • Stage 1: The cancer has begun to grow into the next layer of the colon (called submucosa). At this point, it has not spread to nearby lymph nodes.
  • Stage 2: The tumour has now grown beyond the mucosa and submucosa, but has not yet reached the lymph nodes.
    • Stage 2A: The tumour has reached the outermost layer of the colon, but has not grown through it.
    • Stage 2B: The tumour has completely gone through the colon wall to the visceral peritoneum (the membrane that contains the abdominal organs).
    • Stage 2C: The cancer cells have spread to nearby organs and structures, beyond the colon.
  • Stage 3: In stage 3, the lymph nodes begin to be affected by cancer cells, as they continue to spread.
    • Stage 3A: The tumour has penetrated the colon walls and has reached nearby lymph nodes.
    • Stage 3B: The tumour has penetrated the visceral peritoneum, and can be found in 1 to 3 lymph nodes. Or, the tumour has not gone through the colon walls completely, but is found in 4 or more lymph nodes in the vicinity.
    • Stage 3C: Cancer cells have proliferated beyond the colon wall and can be found in four or more nearby lymph nodes.
  • Stage 4: In the most advanced stage of colon cancer, the cancer has spread to distant sites in the body.
    • Stage 4A: Cancer cells have spread to one distant site, for example, the lungs or liver.
    • Stage 4B: Cancer has spread to two or more distant sites.

Treatment for colon cancer by stage

At the different stages, the recommended treatment for colon cancer also differs. Generally, the more advanced the stage, the harsher the treatments need to be.

Stage 0, stage 1: Surgery is usually sufficient to remove the tumour.

Stage 2: Surgery can be performed to remove cancerous cells in the colon. Chemotherapy may be recommended for high-risk or high-grade cases.

Stage 3: The tumour on the organ and nearby lymph nodes can be removed by surgery, before commencing with chemotherapy. Radiation therapy may also be recommended in some cases.

Stage 4: Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and occasionally, targeted therapy may all be used in conjunction to treat the disease.

Prognosis for colon cancer patients

Most people regard the stage diagnosis of their cancer as a key indicator of their recovery prospects. Generally, this is true. However, there are also a multitude of other factors that may influence one’s prognosis.

These factors may include one’s age, one’s overall health, and the grade of the cancer cells (i.e. an indication of how much cancer cells look like healthy cells). Also, not all patients will experience the same type of colon cancer symptoms at each stage.

To allay any fears and doubts, it is always advisable to talk to your doctor to understand the situation better. From understanding what’s going on in the patient’s body to getting a gauge of colon cancer treatment costs, your doctor should be able to communicate these important details to you.


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September 24, 2020 Blog

Nausea and vomiting are highly unpleasant experiences, but they happen to the best of us for a multitude of reasons, including food poisoning, motion sickness, gastroenteritis (stomach flu), or food allergies. Often, there’s no way to stop vomiting when the body wants to – it is one way by which our bodies eliminate toxins and contaminants. In other cases, nausea and vomiting symptoms may also be caused by anxiety and stress.

However, once the initial bout of vomiting stops, you might be looking for ways to ease nausea, prevent further rounds of vomiting, and regain your energy. For that, here are some suggestions on things you can do to find relief from nausea and vomiting.

Recommended diet

One common issue during vomiting episodes is a loss of appetite. Even if one manages to eat, the body may find it hard to keep the food down. Yet, getting adequate nutrition during this time is crucial, especially when the body is expelling food more quickly than the nutrients can be absorbed. Keeping to these foods may help you gain the nutrients you need when feeling ill:

  • Bland foods

Bland foods like plain biscuits, saltine crackers, and toast are your go-to foods when suffering from vomiting. The bland taste is less likely to put off your appetite, and tend to be more agreeable to the tummy.

  • Ice chips

Sucking on ice chips is a good way to keep your fluids intake in check without drinking too much at once. Consuming too much fluids at one go can trigger more vomiting. Keeping hydrated is crucial to prevent dehydration, especially when your body is expelling liquids during vomiting.

  • Electrolyte drinks

Sports drinks are a great solution for replenishing salts and fluids in the body when you can’t keep other foods down. Like with ice chips, make sure to consume it slowly, such as by taking a sip every few minutes.

  • Herbal tea

Some types of herbs have been found to provide relief for nausea and calm the digestive system. These include ginger, fennel, mint and clove, and you can make them from fresh herbs or using sachets. The warmth and aroma of the teas also provide a relaxing effect which eases one’s mood.

  • Avoid greasy, fried, and spicy foods

Generally, you’ll want to abstain from heavy and strong-tasting foods, as they are often laden with fats, which is difficult to digest and take a toll on your already-compromised digestive system. Spicy foods also aggravate the gastrointestinal tract, so it is a good idea to avoid it for now.

Remedies for nausea

Apart from keeping your diet in check, you can also find relief for nausea with some simple home remedies.

  • Deep breathing

Not only is deep breathing wonderful for keeping anxiety at bay, but it can also relief gastrointestinal symptoms. Taking deep, controlled breaths is especially useful for keeping motion sickness in check, as it activates the parasympathetic nervous system.

The correct way to perform deep breathing is by breathing slowly through your nose, and feeling your abdomen expand. Hold your breath for a few seconds, before exhaling slowly and relaxing your diaphragm.

  • Acupressure therapy

Popular in Chinese traditional medicine, acupressure massages are thought of as quick and easy ways to relieve common ailments. One point for relieving nausea is located on the wrist.

The point is roughly three finger-widths below the wrist. Placing your thumb at this point on your inner wrist, you should feel two tendons running along your arm. Apply firm pressure with your thumb and move it in a circular motion for 2-3 minutes, and repeat on the other hand.

  • Aromatherapy

Certain smells offer much-needed relief from nausea. Although studies disagree on the effectiveness of this, there is no harm in trying out this simple remedy – all the better if it works for you!

Some scents that have been known to ease nausea are citrus fruits, lavender, chamomile, rose, and peppermint. You can put some essential oils, fresh fruits, or dried herbs in the room to allow the scent to diffuse.

Conclusion

No one likes to prolong the experience of vomiting, so these tips are your key to getting through it as quickly and comfortably as possible. In most cases, vomiting is a minor ailment that recovers within a day. However, if you are experiencing persistent or frequent vomiting episodes, it may signal other underlying conditions. Do consult a health professional to get to the bottom of your symptoms.


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September 16, 2020 Blog0

We’ve probably all felt that familiar swell, discomfort, and fullness before, especially after a particularly heavy meal. Stomach bloating is very common and often not a cause for worry.

However, there are days when we feel bloated and we just can’t seem to figure out why. Or perhaps, your bloated stomach symptoms have become more frequent, and you’re not sure what’s causing it. Explore the causes of bloating below to find out what may be causing your bloat.

Why tummies bloat

Your stomach may feel bloated for a number of primary reasons. The bloating sensation may be a result of:

  • Gas: Gas is produced as a part of the natural digestion process. Excess gas that is unreleased can lead to bloatedness. Occasionally, gas may also be introduced by swallowing air.
  • Constipation: Having trouble emptying the bowels can lead to a feeling of fullness and incomplete evacuation.
  • Fluid retention: When the body retains more fluid than usual, it can be experienced as bloating.

While most of us experience the occasional bloat and stomach discomfort, most of these usually go away quickly and do not pose a health threat.

Diets that cause bloating

It is common knowledge that eating certain foods like garlic, onions, and beans leads to a gassy tummy and increased flatulence. This is due to certain sugars in foods, which the body finds difficult to digest. Undigested sugars end up in the large intestine, where bacteria ferments them, producing gas.

These food triggers have a label called FODMAPs, which stands for ‘fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols’. Other examples of FODMAP foods include wheat, rye, legumes, apple, mango, honey, cherry, and lychee.

Aside from the food itself, an individual’s sensitivity to certain foods may also cause more severe bloating. For example, persons with lactose insensitivity or intolerance may bloat more seriously than other persons without, after consuming dairy products like milk or cheese.

High-fat foods are also bloat triggers as they are challenging to digest. In addition, foods high in salt content might lead to water retention, causing not just a bloated tummy, but also general puffiness.

Medical conditions that cause bloating

In some cases, gas, constipation, or fluid retention may also be symptoms of more serious underlying health conditions that warrant a doctor’s examination. The list of conditions that may cause bloating is long, and here are just some of them:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): IBS is a condition where one experiences intestinal symptoms like cramping, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, constipation, and bloating, often in combination, for a period of 3 or more months for at least 3 days per month. These symptoms are classified as IBS if they are unrelated to other bowel conditions.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): Not to be confused with IBS, IBD is caused by inflammation of the gastrointestinal lining, and includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Bloating may be caused by poor digestion, or in some instances, blockage or narrowing of the intestinal tract due to swelling or scarring.
  • Celiac disease: Persons with celiac disease experience an immune response in their small intestines when they consume gluten. Due to the weakened functions of the small intestine, undigested food ferments for longer in the digestive tract and causes more gas production.
  • Gastroparesis: Usually occurring as a symptom of other conditions like diabetes or hypothyroidism, gastroparesis is the reduced rate of motion of food from the stomach into the small intestine due to weak or damaged stomach muscles.
  • Ascites: This is a serious condition in which fluids accumulate in the peritoneal cavity (the abdominal space which contains the stomach, intestines, and liver). This situation may occur due to liver cirrhosis, cancer, or tuberculosis.

Conclusion

The occasional stomach bloatedness is normal, but in some cases, it can also be caused by underlying medical conditions. In the event you notice any changes to your health, persistent bloating, or bloating accompanied by other symptoms, don’t wait to visit your health professional for a checkup.


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September 11, 2020 Blog

In talking about colon health, polyps pop up frequently as a topic of relevance. You may have heard that colon cancer virtually always begins from colonic polyps, or perhaps your doctor has detected some polyps growing in your colon, and you’re now worried about what this means.

What exactly are colonic polyps, and should we be worried about them? Learn more about these growths below.

What are colonic polyps?

Colonic polyps are cell growths that occur on the lining of the colon (the large intestine). They develop due to abnormal cell growth, when cells multiply more rapidly than normal.

Several types of polyps exist. Non-neoplastic polyps, which include hyperplastic polyps, are usually non-cancerous. In contrast, neoplastic polyps such as adenomas and serrated polyps have a greater risk of turning into cancer.

What are the chances of polyps turning cancerous?

The size and type of the polyp influence the likelihood of it developing into cancer.

Generally, the larger the polyp, the higher the chances of it turning cancerous. An estimated 1% of polyps with a diameter of smaller than 1cm are cancerous. This percentage sees a striking jump to 50% for polyps that are larger than 2cm.

Adenomas and serrated polyps present a more significant chance of developing into cancer as compared to hyperplastic polyps. The most common polyps are adenomas, which make up two-thirds of polyps found during colonoscopies. For this type of polyp, about 14% become cancerous after 10 years.

Do polyps cause any symptoms?

Most people with colonic polyps don’t feel any symptoms, which is why many don’t know it until the polyps are discovered during routine screening.

However, some people may experience symptoms of gastrointestinal discomfort similar to colon cancer symptoms, such as:

  • Blood in stools or rectal bleeding
  • Persistent change in bowel habits (e.g. prolonged constipation or diarrhoea)
  • Abdominal pain
  • Iron deficiency anaemia
  • Nausea or vomiting

How can I screen for polyps?

Routine colonoscopy is where most polyps are discovered. Other colon screening tests may also detect the presence of polyps, including sigmoidoscopy, barium enema, and CT colonography. However, only colonoscopy allows for the removal of polyps.

A stool test like faecal occult blood test (FOBT) or faecal immunochemical test (FIT) can also detect bleeding in the intestines, which may indicate the presence of larger bleeding polyps or colon cancer. A faecal occult blood stool test may not be able to pick up non bleeding polyps or cancer, but this is widely recommended as community colon cancer screening test due it’s cost effectiveness for large population screening. A positive FOBT test requires a follow-up colonoscopy to confirm the presence of polyps.

You are advised to undergo regular screening, especially if you have an increased risk of developing colonic polyps or colon cancer. Some risk factors that may necessitate more frequent testing include:

  • Old age (50 years or older)
  • Being overweight
  • Smoking heavily
  • Personal or family history of colonic polyps, colon cancer or other related intestinal conditions
  • Symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloody stools, or change in bowel habits

Should I remove a non-cancerous polyp?

Most doctors recommend removing polyps even if it’s not cancerous now, this is because colonic polyps will continue to grow over years, and the risk of cancer developing increases the bigger the polyps get.

In many countries, If a polyp is found during a colonoscopy, the doctor usually removes it during the procedure itself. In certain countries, In some instances where the polyp is too large, keyhole surgery (laparoscopy) can be performed to remove the polyp.

After removal, the polyp can be analysed for the presence of cancer cells.

Conclusion

Discovering a polyp might feel alarming, but understanding what it is can help you allay your fears and worries. It is always best to ask your doctor any specific questions you have, be it about the type of colonic polyp you have, or the potential costs of colon cancer treatment. The good news is, with regular screening, polyps can usually be nipped right in the bud before they have a chance to turn cancerous.


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September 1, 2020 Blog

There are few things more annoying than getting an upset stomach, even worse if it is accompanied by vomiting or constipation symptoms. When you are stuck with stomach pain or bloated stomach symptoms, the most important thing is to focus on your recovery, so that you can resume your daily activities.

To that end, controlling your diet can be of help. By eating appropriate foods, you can give your digestive system a chance to recover, or even soothe some of the unpleasant symptoms. As such, you need to be smart about your food choices in the face of stomach pain. Here are some foods that you can consider eating when dealing with stomach pain symptoms.

Bland foods

As with most conditions causing gastrointestinal distress, a bland diet can help to smoothen recovery from stomach pain. This diet is also sometimes referred to as the BRAT diet, which stands for bananas, rice, apples, and toast.

As these examples suggest, the diet generally consists of foods that are soft, low in dietary fibre, and usually cooked. These include low-fibre fruits, processed grains, lean poultry, seafood, and eggs. These foods are easy to digest and minimise irritation to the digestive tissues.

In contrast, fried and fatty foods are generally avoided, as these can be harder to digest and can irritate your gut. Food that can cause gas, such as broccoli, beans, and chicken skin, should also be avoided to prevent bloated stomach symptoms.

Spices and herbs

Several spices may be able to relieve or reduce stomach pain symptoms. One of the most popular ones, especially in Singapore, is ginger. Ginger has been shown to aid in treating nausea and vomiting, among other gastrointestinal symptoms.

Some studies have shown that pregnant women who took 1g of ginger daily saw a significant reduction in nausea and vomiting. It has also been shown to relieve these symptoms in individuals that underwent chemotherapy or surgery.

Other spices and herbs have been suggested to aid in reducing stomach pain as well. For example, some studies suggest that chamomile supplements could reduce intestinal spasms. It has also been shown to reduce vomiting after chemotherapy treatments. Similarly, peppermint oil has been shown to reduce stomach pain, gas, and diarrhoea in adults with irritable bowel syndrome.

While the studies on these herbs are limited, the herbs are generally safe for consumption in appropriate amounts. As with all supplements, do observe the recommended contraindications and dosage before consuming them.

Probiotic-rich foods

At times, stomach discomfort can be caused by an imbalance of the bacteria in your gut, a condition known as dysbiosis. Eating foods that are rich in probiotics, which are bacteria that are beneficial to the health of your gut, can help to correct dysbiosis. This may relieve symptoms of bloating, diarrhoea, or irregular bowel movements.

One of the most well-known of these foods is yoghurt. Yoghurt often contains live bacterial cultures that are good for the gut. Studies have shown that eating it can reduce diarrhoea and constipation symptoms. Fermented milk beverages like Yakult, Vitagen, and kefir are also convenient sources of such probiotics.

There are several other foods that contain probiotics, such as kimchi, natto, miso, sauerkraut, and kombucha. While the evidence supporting the benefits of these foods on the gut is less robust, it is widely accepted that they are healthy in moderation.

Conclusion

Being stuck with stomach pain may be an unpleasant experience, but you can support your gut on its road to recovery with smart dietary choices. That being said, additional treatment may be necessary if your stomach pain is severe, or lasts for an extended period. In such cases, it would be best to consult a doctor or gastroenterology specialist for professional medical advice.


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August 25, 2020 Blog

Diarrhoea can be irritating and inconvenient, but chances are that most people will experience it at some point in their lives. It can be a symptom of several conditions, ranging from allergies to irritable bowel syndrome. But more often than not, it occurs because you ate something that just did not sit well with your body.

In any case, knowing how to manage your diet while you are down with diarrhoea can help you on the road to recovery. Certain types of food can aid your digestive system in regaining its normal function, while others could easily aggravate the condition. Here are some of the foods that you should and should not eat while suffering from diarrhoea.

Water

Your body loses water from passing out watery stools. This makes you especially vulnerable to dehydration. So, it is imperative to drink plenty of water to replace the fluids that are being lost. You can also get hydrated through other fluid-rich foods and drinks. Some of these include electrolyte-enhanced water, weak tea, and clear broths (with grease and oil removed).

Bland foods

When someone has diarrhoea, the intestinal lining may be irritated and inflamed. As such, you will want to be gentle on your digestive system while it is in the process of recovering. For this purpose, experts recommend that you adopt a bland diet.

Here, the ‘bland’ in bland foods does not refer to a lack of taste. Indeed, many bland foods can be quite flavourful. It is actually a term used to describe foods that are easy on the digestive tract.

Bland foods are usually softer in texture and low in fibre. This makes them easier to stomach and minimises irritation to your digestive tract. The low fibre content also reduces bowel stimulation, making the food easier to digest.

One popular example of a bland food diet is the BRAT diet, which stands for bananas, rice, apples, and toast. The diet does not only consist of these four types of food; they simply serve as a guideline for the food you should consume. It chiefly consists of bland foods like cooked cereal, plain crackers, and applesauce. As such, the diet can be helpful for those experiencing diarrhoea in the short term.

However, due to the low protein and fat content of these foods, it is crucial to reinclude these nutrients in your diet after recovery, such that you get a well-balanced diet. Other bland foods that you can eat include boiled potatoes, porridge, and skinless baked lean chicken.

Food to avoid

Contrary to bland foods, some foods can travel through your bowels quickly, agitating your digestive system. These foods can worsen your diarrhoea or prolong it. Here are some of the worst offenders:

  • Fatty foods: Some people’s digestive systems have difficulty digesting fried or creamy foods. If the fats are not absorbed normally, they are broken down into fatty acids in the colon. This stimulates the colon to secrete fluid, causing diarrhoea.
  • Dairy products: Many Asian individuals are lactose intolerant. This means that they cannot digest lactose well (lactose being the sugar found naturally in milk). Diarrhoea due to lactose intolerance is usually accompanied by bloated stomach symptoms. In any case, it is best to stay away from butter, cheese, and ice cream while you are recovering.
  • Alcohol: Alcohol is a diuretic, which is a substance that causes your body to increase the production of urine, and thus lose water. Considering that you want to minimise fluid loss, avoiding alcohol is advised.
  • Artificial sweeteners: Artificial sweeteners like Sorbitol can have a laxative effect on some people. They can also stimulate your intestines to produce more water, loosening bowels and triggering diarrhoea.

Conclusion

While diarrhoea will always be an unpleasant experience, you can aid your digestive system in recovering through proper dieting. However, if your diarrhoea persists for an extended period, or you are also dealing with additional symptoms like vomiting or stomach pain, you should see a doctor or gastroenterology specialist for further advice.


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August 17, 2020 Blog

Not being able to pass stools for more than a few days is a sign of constipation. But fewer people recognise that having hard and dry stools is also a form of constipation. With this definition in mind, it would mean that almost everyone has had experienced constipation some time in their lives, and needless to say, it can be quite an unpleasant experience often accompanied by bloated stomach symptoms, a loss of appetite, stomach pain, and flatulence.

One well-known and natural way to relieve constipation symptoms is to increase one’s intake of fibre and fluids. Thus, drinking up and having foods like prunes, figs, leafy greens, sweet potato, and beans are highly recommended for anyone experiencing constipation.

However, do you know that some foods you eat may be causing your constipation instead? Few people consider that foods can also be the trigger of their constipation in the first place. If you are prone to getting constipation without knowing why, it would be worthwhile to examine your diet for these potential culprits.

  • Gluten

Gluten is commonly present in grains such as wheat, rye, and barley. Some people who are sensitive or allergic to the protein may suffer from constipation after consuming it.

Gluten intolerance is most commonly associated with celiac disease, but people with non-celiac gluten sensitivity or irritable bowel syndrome may also experience reactions like constipation after ingesting gluten.

  • Red meat

Red meat is a huge offender when it comes to constipation-triggering foods, as it is high in several of the compounds that are difficult for the body to digest. These include fats, tough protein fibres, and iron.

Indirectly, red meat may also cause a reduced intake of other fibre-rich foods, as it is very filling and takes up a big portion of the meal.

  • White bread & white rice

If you are prone to having constipation, a high intake of processed grains may be a factor. White rice and white bread are made from grains which have had their husk, bran, and germ removed – parts of the grain which contain a lot of fibre. This means you lose out on a lot of fibre – which is good for bowel health – when you consume a large proportion of processed grains.

Instead, people with constipation may benefit from switching over to brown rice and other whole-grain foods.

  • Alcohol

Those nights out at the bar or club may be making your constipation worse without you knowing. Alcohol is very dehydrating, and slows down the body’s digestion process. All these may aggravate constipation symptoms, especially if alcohol is consumed in large amounts.

Beside limiting alcohol intake, drinkers can ease the effects on their body by drinking a glass of water in between each alcoholic beverage.

  • Chocolate

Many anecdotal reports and surveys by people with constipation suggest that chocolate is a trigger for constipation. While there have not been firm empirical evidence to suggest this, the ingredients of chocolate do pose a possible risk. The high fat content, caffeine, and milk in many chocolate bars are potential aggravators of constipation.

  • Health supplements

Certain health supplements like calcium and iron tablets may cause constipation as a side effect. Wherever possible, it is still best to obtain your nutrients from a balanced diet. However, if your doctor prescribes these supplements to you, you can reduce the chances of experiencing constipation by increasing your dietary fibre intake.

Conclusion

If you experience constipation often, consider ruling out these possible aggravators one at a time to pinpoint the trigger. Not all these foods may be constipation-triggering in every person, and some are worsened only by underlying health conditions (e.g. celiac disease or irritable bowel syndrome).

Besides food, other lifestyle factors that may be causing your frequent constipation may be:

  • Inactive lifestyle
  • Old age
  • Stress or mental health conditions
  • Pregnancy

Chronic constipation without an immediately identifiable cause may also be a sign of other health issues such as a blockage in the colon, weakened pelvic muscles, or neurological problems. Do consult a gastroenterology specialist to rule out any of these conditions.


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August 12, 2020 Blog

Hemorrhoids often cause discomfort like pain or itching near the anal area, especially when sitting or during bowel movements. However, experiencing an irritated anus is not just a sign of hemorrhoids. Sometimes, this pain could be something else altogether – and it is important to be able to tell the difference.

If the pain comes from hemorrhoids, there is usually nothing much to worry about. Hemorrhoids, also known as piles, are swollen veins either in the rectum or around the walls of the anus. More often than not, they subside by themselves with home care. Only in some rare cases does a case of hemorrhoids become severe or have complications.

It is more worrying when pain around the anal area is a result of some other serious health issues. Here are some conditions that may include signs of pain and discomfort similar to hemorrhoid symptoms:

  • Colorectal cancer: Colorectal cancer occurs in the lower intestine or rectum area, and sometimes causes bleeding which may be mistaken as a sign of hemorrhoids. While finding fresh red blood in the stools can point to either colorectal cancer or hemorrhoids, the presence of other symptoms can help to distinguish between them. If there are other digestive symptoms like stomach pain, change in bowel movements, bloated stomach, and unexplained weight loss, it is probably not just hemorrhoids you should be worrying about.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): IBD encompasses ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, which can cause hemorrhoid-like symptoms like rectal bleeding and discomfort. These two conditions are chronic diseases, which means if you experience symptoms that persist for more than a few days, it may be one of these conditions rather than hemorrhoids. IBD may also be accompanied by abdominal cramping, diarrhoea, and fever.
  • Anal fissures: Similar to hemorrhoids, anal fissures are localised conditions that directly affect the anal region. Anal fissures are small tears or cuts in the anal canal that can feel painful, with some experiencing a burning sensation. Bleeding may also occur. Often, the cause is over-straining due to constipation. Anal fissures are generally non-serious and can be treated much in the same way as hemorrhoids.
  • Pruritus ani: Pruritus ani refers to anal itching and is a symptom rather than a condition by itself. However, it deserves a spot on the list as many people mistake anal itching for hemorrhoids. Feeling irritation and the urge to scratch the anus area can be caused by numerous conditions, such as psoriasis and fungal infection. Hemorrhoids, anal fissures, or the use of harsh soaps and irritants can also trigger itching.
  • Genital warts: Caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), genital warts are signs of a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that affects the genital and anal area. Bleeding, itching, and discomfort is common with genital warts and many other STDs. Unlike hemorrhoids which subside quite quickly, genital warts often get worse unless it receives medical attention.

Hemorrhoid-like symptoms alone may make it difficult to pinpoint the exact cause, but you can narrow down your condition by also assessing other accompanying symptoms and your risk factors for certain diseases.

When should you visit the doctor?

If you are unsure of what your anal discomfort is caused by, or if it is causing significant pain, a trip to the doctor is recommended to get a thorough examination of your symptoms. Additionally, you should consult a doctor if:

  • there is heavy rectal bleeding
  • symptoms do not subside within a few days
  • there are other symptoms, e.g. fever, stomach pain, weight loss

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