Here’s how active urbanites can keep digestive disorders at bay

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Being an urbanite in a fast-paced metropolitan city is tough enough, especially when you have a hearty variety of foods to comfort yourself with. In a food-loving nation like Singapore, you may experience occasional bouts of digestive discomfort, due to irregular mealtimes or unhealthy diets. This is why it is important to adopt a preventive approach to keep pesky stomach problems from occurring. Consultant gastroenterologist, Dr Andrea Rajnakova, PhD, explores some of the most common digestive disorders and shares her tips on how to prevent them.

Bloating causes discomfort and distension in the abdominal area, caused by excess trapped gas in the digestive tract.

Dr Andrea’s advice:

Reduce the intake of common gas-causing culprits like cabbage, onions and fizzy drinks. Also avoid fatty foods, which slow down digestion and contribute to a bloated sensation. Since an imbalance in your stomach’s microflora may contribute to bloating, taking probiotic supplements may improve gut health.

Reflux occurs when the muscle valve between the oesophagus and stomach does not close tightly; stomach acid can wash into the oesophagus, resulting in heartburn.

Dr Andrea’s advice:

Avoid chocolate, fatty/spicy foods, and tomato-based products, all of which relax the aforementioned muscle valve. Beverages such as citrus juices, alcohol, coffee and black tea are also triggers. You can also reduce reflux symptoms by eating smaller meals at regular times, not eating three hours before bedtime, and elevating your head by six to eight inches when you go to sleep.

Constipation is caused by inadequate dietary fibre and fluid intake. Related symptoms include bloating, stomach cramps and a sense of incomplete emptying of the bowel.

Dr Andrea’s advice:

Prevention is easy; simply consume more fibrous foods and drink plenty of fluids. However, if the symptoms persist, you need to see your doctor. The use of laxatives is not recommended, as you may come to depend on consuming them. 

Colorectal cancer is the most common cancer in Singapore, and the most closely linked of all cancers to one’s diet. But, due to its long premalignant period, it can be caught early.

Dr Andrea’s advice:

Cut down on red meat, especially those that are fried or grilled at high temperatures for prolonged durations. A high intake of fibre and vegetables can lower your risk of colon cancer by up to 50 per cent. Introducing vitamins B, D and calcium into your diet can also reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. Lastly, while antioxidants such as vitamins A, C and E do not prevent cancer, they are believed to have antioxidant properties.

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