Are you feeling bloated, tired, irritable or itchy, or are you suffering from cramping or bowel issues? Any of these can be symptoms of a more serious issue and your digestive health could be trying to tell you something.
Nine times out of 10, an incorrect diet is “the most common cause of digestive problems”, according to Dr. Sandra Cabot, the medical and executive director of the Australian Women’s Health Advisory Service.
When you fail to feed your body with the right nutrients, it can lead to complications, such as excess inflammation in the intestines, from the stomach to the colon.
“A diet too high in sugar will lead to an overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria and fungi in the intestines, known as dysbiosis,” she explains.
“A common cause of intestinal symptoms is intolerance or allergy to certain foods, the most common food offenders being gluten and dairy products.”
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According to Dr. Cabot, if you’re suffering from any of the following symptoms of dysfunction, then there’s a good chance your digestive tract is trying to tell you something:
- Abdominal pain
- A change of bowel actions from your regular pattern — either constipation or diarrhoea
- Bloating and fullness after eating
- Chronic constipation
- Excess mucus or blood in the faeces
- Itchy anus (may signal parasites or Candida infestation)
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Strange-looking objects in the faeces (may signal intestinal parasites)
- Unexplained weight loss (may signal poor absorption of nutrients)
- Unexplained weight gain (may be caused by a fatty liver)
Help! What do I do next?
If any of the above symptoms sound familiar, there are immediate steps you can take for relief. Dr. Cabot suggests that you boost your intake of water, raw foods and fibre immediately.
“I cannot tell you how many people I have seen over the years with bowel problems who are chronically dehydrated,” she says. “Also, avoid excess alcohol, as this can cause inflammation of the bowel wall and, in some people, alcohol causes a form of colitis.”
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You should also visit your GP for an overall health check.
“They will do tests, such as an abdominal ultrasound scan, to check the liver, gall bladder and pancreas. You can have blood tests to check for deficiencies of vitamins, minerals and proteins and a faeces test to check for blood in the stools,” Dr. Cabot says.
In more serious situations, “Your GP may refer you to a specialist gastroenterologist who will examine the inside of your stomach and large bowel with a fibre-optic flexible telescope known as a gastroscope and colonoscope,” she adds. “These tests will exclude cancer of the digestive tract.”