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Digestive problems

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Published: 9 September 2020

 Person in pain with stomach ache

The Health and Wellbeing team are back with the latest in their series on eating well, in the line with the government’s Better Health campaign to fight obesity – one of the leading risk factors for COVID-19. 

This week, they're discussing digestive problems – what are the causes? Why don’t we talk about it more? How can slowing down improve our health? 

Digestive problems are more common than you might think 

According to the NHS, a quarter of us will have issues with our digestion at some point in our lives. 

With that being the case, why don't we talk about it more openly? 

The truth is there is still a cultural taboo against mentioning our gut health and digestion. 

How serious are digestive problems? 

Some of the most common complaints include stomach-aches, constipation, diarrhoea, bloating, indigestion and heartburn. 

All of these can be completely harmless and go away on their own.  

But if you’ve been having any of them for more than two weeks, you must talk with your GP as soon as possible. 

Look out for any of these symptoms: 

  • A sudden persistent change in how your bowels work 
  • Rectal bleeding 
  • Worsening heartburn or stomach pain 
  • Losing weight unexpectedly 
  • Difficulty swallowing 

How to look after your digestive health 

There are plenty of things that can affect your stomach, including medications, food and even your emotions 

Try some of the following:  

  1. Relax at mealtimesStress and anxiety affect your digestion and can put you off your food.
  2. Put out that cigarette: Smoking weakens your muscles allowing acid to travel back up your digestive tract (known as reflux). It can also cause symptoms of heartburn and makes pre-existing stomach conditions worse.
  3. Eat properly: Take your time with your food. Try not to rush and just enjoy your meal.
  4. Loss weight: Fat puts pressure on your stomach and can cause heartburn.
  5. Drink responsibly: Binge drinking (consuming four or more alcoholic drinks over two hours) is not good for your health and can cause excess stomach acid. 

If you need to talk to someone about any of the issues raised in this article, feel free to book an appointment with our friendly and approachable Health and Wellbeing team. Go to Compass, call them on 0207 531 7343, or send them an email at londonhealth@sunderland.ac.uk. 

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