Six common digestive problems and how to avoid them - Evewoman

Healthy Eating

Six common digestive problems and how to avoid them

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The food you eat and your lifestyle play a major role in the process of digestion. Common digestive disorders like heartburn, bloating and diarrhoea can be controlled by making a few changes to what you eat and how you live. While some can be treated using simple remedies, it is important to consult a doctor if the symptoms persist.

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This comes about because of the build-up of acid in your stomach. At times, the acid comes up the food pipe. This is known as acid reflux.

Heartburn is commonly caused by eating or drinking acidic foods, drinking too much alcohol and eating spicy or fatty foods. Expectant mothers frequently suffer from heartburn. Some medications used to treat osteoporosis, depression and high-blood pressure may also cause heartburn.

Treatment: Avoid drinking too much alcohol, caffeine and acidic drinks.  Steer clear of spicy and acidic foods. Natural herbs can be used as an alternative to spices. Reducing the portions you eat will reduce the pressure on your stomach. Try not to stay hungry for too long to as this also causes acid to build up in your stomach.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

While the cause of IBS remains unknown certain factors like stress, hormones (in women) and some foods can trigger it. Foods that may worsen this condition include fried foods, beans, dairy products and indigestible sugars.

Stomach pain or cramps, constipation interchanged with episodes of severe diarrhoea and bloating are common symptoms of IBS. More severe cases are characterised by weight loss, rectal bleeding, persistent stomach pain, diarrhoea at night, among others.

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Treatment: Eat an adequate amount of fibre to boost your digestion. Find ways to deal with anything that might be stressing you like counselling and relaxation exercises. Avoid foods that cause bloating or excessive gas.


The most common sign of bloating is a swollen stomach. Sometimes the swelling can be very severe. It is generally caused by eating certain foods like beans, cabbage and kale. Constipation and water retention can also bring about the swollen stomach.

Treatment: To prevent water retention, avoid processed foods which are often high in salt. When cooking opt out of using salt and instead use vinegar, citrus and herbs to flavour your food. If you notice that eating certain foods causes you to feel bloated, stop eating them all together.

Photo: Courtesy


This is commonly characterised by infrequent or difficult bowel movements. Some symptoms include fewer than three bowel movements a week, hard stool, feeling like you haven’t completed your bowel movement and straining to have a bowel movement.

Stress, taking certain medications, pregnancy, dehydration and a diet low in fibre can aggravate the condition.

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Constantly being constipated can lead to haemorrhoids.

Treatment: Eat foods rich in fibre regularly to ensure your bowel is healthy and works efficiently. You can get good fibre from oats and root vegetables like carrots. Ensure you stay properly hydrated throughout the day.

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Chronic diarrhoea

Diarrhoea can have many possible causes. It could also be caused by a food intolerance where your body is unable to absorb certain foods or infections caused by some parasites.

This condition makes it difficult to go about your day to day activities.

Treatment: Seek medical advice especially if the symptoms persist. Also, keep well hydrated to replace the water your body is losing. Ensure your surroundings are clean. Wash your hands frequently. Ensure foods are properly cleaned before being prepared and that any leftovers are stored properly.


Bacteria and taking certain over-the-counter medications too frequently have been found to be the root cause of ulcers rather than stress or diet.

A sore forms on your stomach lining which is constantly exposed to stomach acids, making it difficult to treat. Left untreated, a stomach ulcer can lead to chronic pain and start bleeding leading to anaemia.

Symptoms of ulcers include burning sensation in your stomach, bloating, nausea, heartburn and intolerance to fatty foods.

Treatment: Seek medical attention if you exhibit any of these symptoms.

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