Digestive disorders are amongst the most common problems in healthcare. Approximately 30% to 40% of adults claim to have frequent indigestion. Dietary habits and specific food types can play a significant role in the onset, treatment and prevention of many gastrointestinal disorders. Gastro intestinal include the organs that food and liquids travel through when they are swallowed, digested, absorbed and leaves the body as feces. These organs include the mouth, pharynx (throat) esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum, and anus.
Talking about one of the most common reflux diseases or in simpler terms we can say acidity. It is a condition where the consumed food is brought up again to the mouth. It is commonly seen in the age group of 20-40 years old people.
Poor diet with its huge increase in the consumption of sugar, fat, soft drinks and processed foods may cause GERD. Late eating accompanied by over indulging meals is the cause of acid reflux in many. Chaotic eating patterns, stress and long hours of starvation accelerates the problem. Chronic reflux allows really long contact of gastric contents with the lower esophagus leading to the symptoms of GERD. in general the following underlying conditions are associated with GERD.
Irritation of the esophageal mucosa (the tract from mouth upto small intestine)
Delayed gastric emptying
Abnormal esophageal acid clearance rate
Decreased lower esophageal sphincter pressure in severe GERD
The symptoms include heartburn or cramping pain in the chest and coming back from food consumed. Acid reflux affects the throat, sinuses and lungs without digestive symptoms like heartburn. Reflux can also lead to esophageal cancer.
After eating in the evening it is important to stay upright because gravity helps keep food in the stomach. Reflux is the result of acid spilling out of the stomach; lying down with a full stomach makes reflux much more likely. In a healthy young person the stomach normally takes a few hours to empty after a moderate size meal. In older people or those who have reflux, gastric emptying is often delayed. The treatment of GERD requires a multiple approach aimed at dietary and lifestyle modification, drug therapy, and occasionally surgery. Dietary management is influenced by individual food tolerances, since the severity of GERD symptoms varies greatly among individuals.
The diet is based on a general diet modified to decrease or eliminate foods that cause reflux and/or irritate the esophagus. Foods known to irritate or decrease lower esophageal sphincter pressure include chocolate, alcohol, mint, carbonated beverages, citrus juices, tomato products, and coffee (with or without caffeine). In addition, avoiding high-fat foods may aid in reducing reflux by preventing the decrease in Lower esophageal sphincter pressure associated with high fat foods. Weight reduction may be indicated, if needed, since excess weight increases intragastric pressure. Large meals increase the likelihood of increased gastric pressure and subsequent reflux; therefore, smaller and more frequent meals are recommended.
Indigestion or dyspepsia is a general term that is frequently used to describe discomfort in the upper digestive tract. Indigestion can be caused by emotional tension, malnutrition, disease, eating too much, eating too rapidly or chewing too briefly. Dyspepsia may be secondary to other systemic disorders such as atherosclerosis, hypertension, liver disease or renal disease. Symptoms of dyspepsia may include vague abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, coming back from food and bleeding. For a longer duration dyspepsia may be related to gastro-oesophageal reflux, gastritis, peptic ulcer disease, lactose intolerance, delayed gastric emptying, gallbladder disease or a persistent indigestion underlying disease has to be treated.
Dietary indulgences like excessive volumes of food or high intake of fat, sugar, spices or alcohol are commonly implicated in dyspepsia. The patients are treated by or restricting these foods.
Management of uncomplicated dyspepsia is by eating slowly, chewing thoroughly at regular times and in a relaxed atmosphere. Patients should eat small and frequent foods avoiding gas forming foods or foods known to cause indigestion.
This article is written and submitted to The E Today by Shrushti Mehta.
We thank her for her research and analysis and hope to see the awareness about health and nutrition being spread ahead to larger mass of our citizens.