Gut problems: tip of iceberg

Lurking beneath a gut problem may be a plethora of serious conditions.

These can involve other parts of the body. Examples include acid reflux disease, fatty liver disease, gall stones, diverticular disease, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome and even colonic polyps. These gut conditions, whilst requiring treatment in their own right, are often associated with unhealthy life-styles and with it, an increased risk of heart disease, vascular disease, cancer and diabetes. Early signs of these non-gut diseases are often already present when people present with gut disorders if they are looked for. If they are caught early, they can be prevented.

The reasons for the association of gut and other chronic disorders with an unhealthy life-style, is that it promotes inflammation. This in turn leads to increased damage in response to the normal stresses and injuries to which we are constantly subjected. If inflammation, which in short bursts is beneficial, and aids healing, is left to continue, more persistent damage results. This affects not only the gut but also the rest of the body, including blood vessels. Factors promoting inflammation include obesity, belly fat, refined carbohydrates, lack of exercise, low dietary fibre, low muscle mass, stress and air pollution. These are all risk factors for GI and non-GI disorders.

Fortunately, in most cases the gut condition comes to attention before the other more silent killers, providing an opportunity to detect treat and prevent these at an early stage. Patients, as well as being investigated for the gut conditions they present with, should be checked for risk of these other conditions. Appropriate life-style modifications and medications should be recommended. This will benefit both the gut conditions, and the other chronic diseases mentioned.

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