Don't ignore your gut, it could be trying to tell you something

Posted by Olderiswiser Editorial

The gut is the largest component of the body’s immune system and is a key indicator of wider health issues.

Gut health

New research reveals that 63 per cent of people experience a persistent gut or abdominal problem, yet 29 per cent do not seek professional medical help. 

Where did the story come from?

The research, which was conducted for Love Your Gut Week (4-10 September), an initiative from a group of digestive health charities and organisations, showed that the most common gut problems experienced were:

1.    Constipation (44%)

2.    Diarrhoea (43%)

3.    Heart burn (39%)

4.    Bloating (33%)

5.    Persistent stomach pain (15%)

What did the research involve?

A survey of 2,000 adults from the UK and Republic of Ireland was conducted online on behalf of the Love Your Gut campaign by Mortar between 8th-11th August 2017. 

What were the basic results?

More than one in ten (13%) have also experienced blood in their stools. Yet, a third of people (38%) didn’t realise you should seek medical advice if you have blood in your stools and 48 per cent didn’t know you should see a doctor if you have black, tarry stools.

Of the 29 per cent who have not sought medical help for their symptoms, 41 per cent said they thought it was nothing serious, 35 per cent self-diagnose that it is due to their diet and 26 per cent put it down to stress. More than one in ten (12%) feel too embarrassed to talk to a medical professional and 14 per cent say they simply don’t have time to have their symptoms checked out. The research also showed that it is women who are least likely to see a GP about digestive problems (32% haven’t seen their GP) compared to men (26%).

Those who do seek medical help are likely to leave it a long time; 20 per cent admit to waiting 6-12 months and 13 per cent have experienced symptoms for more than a year before seeking professional advice.

When it comes to what people think can cause gut problems, stress tops the list (63%) followed by too much alcohol (54%), a diet low in fibre (49%) and an inactive lifestyle (49%). Eating certain fruits and vegetables (20%), gluten (18%) and dairy (17%) are the dietary factors that were considered the cause of gut problems.

Gut problems affect people in all areas of their life with one in five (19%) having to take a day off work due to their symptoms and over a quarter (28%) avoiding going out. One in ten have suffered depression as a result of their gut symptoms.

How did the researchers interpret the results?

Dr Joan Ransley, nutritionist for the Love Your Gut campaign said: “This research shows that significant numbers of people experience problems with their gut and it can have a huge impact on people’s lives. Digestive health is something we all need to take seriously. Listening to your gut can really make a difference to your overall wellbeing, from understanding the steps you can take to keep your gut healthy, to being aware of when you should see a doctor. Love your Gut Week aims to raise awareness of the importance of good gut health and encourage people not to brush gut health issues under the carpet.”

Conclusion

Many people experience gut health issues from time to time, but if any of the symptoms listed below persist for more than a few days for no obvious reason, it would be wise to book an appointment to see your doctor.

  • Abdominal pain before or after meals
  • Feelings of fullness, bloating or flatulence
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Heartburn or regurgitation
  • Pain or difficulty in swallowing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Continuing unexplained weight loss
  • Indigestion developing for the first time or in mid or later life
  • Diarrhoea, constipation or any persistent alteration in bowel habit
  • The passage of black tarry stools
  • Bleeding when you pass a stool or blood and mucus mixed in with the stool
  • Pain when you pass a stool
  • Generally feeling tired, lethargic feverish or generally unwell in association with any abdominal symptoms.

Visit www.loveyourgut.com for more information about gut health. 

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