News ID: 241044
Published: 0709 GMT April 07, 2019

Half of GP visits in UK related to digestive disorders

Half of GP visits in UK related to digestive disorders

Whether it's bloating, diarrhoea or heartburn, half of all GP visits in the UK are related to digestive disorders.

So chatted to nutritionist Kym Lang to find out what might be causing the problems, and how you can fix them.




Heartburn is the most common digestive problem in the UK, with seven million people a day feeling the burn.

It can be caused by anything including greasy lunch and can also be a side effect of some medications used to treat depression, high-blood pressure and osteoporosis.

“Caffeine and spicy foods increase stomach acid production, so cut back for a week and see if this helps,” said Lang.

“Pep up your meals with herbs instead of chili, and find a herbal tea you enjoy.

“Take the pressure off your tummy by eating smaller meals spread across the day.”


Irritable bowel syndrome


Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) affects a third of Brits, with twice as many women suffering as men.

Symptoms include stomach pain, bloating and anything from chronic diarrhoea to persistent constipation.

Despite being a familiar condition, it’s important to see your GP for a proper diagnosis, as these symptoms aren’t exclusive to IBS.

“A nutritional therapist can help you adjust your fiber intake, or try the FODMAP diet (an effective plan that reduces wind and bloating in sufferers),” said Kym.

“But IBS is complex, and when dietary changes don’t work, you could try an intestinal absorbent which helps to remove harmful viruses, toxins and allergens from the gut.”


Food intolerances


One in three people in the UK now believes they suffer from an allergy or food intolerance, with sugar, yeast, wheat and milk being the usual suspects.

But allergy specialists estimate that only around 1.9 percent of Brits actually have an intolerance at all, with many misunderstanding their symptoms.

“Keep a food and symptom diary to track the issues, and see a doctor if troubles persist,” said Kym.

“But don’t buy into expensive, often inaccurate intolerance tests.

“Instead remove the suspect food from your diet for two weeks, then slowly reintroduce it.

“That way you don’t miss out on important nutrients, or cut out foods you don’t have to.”




Most of us find ourselves constipated from time to time, but factors such as stress or medication can make it a recurring problem.

Unfortunately, healthy foods like brown rice and multigrain bread can make it worse, but there are natural ways to get things moving again, such as adding a couple of dessert spoons of linseed to your food and making sure you drink two liters of water a day.

“You do need fiber to stay regular and keep your bowel healthy, but too much insoluble fiber can increase the problem,” said Kym.

“Soluble fiber forms a gel in the gut, softening stools.

“Good sources are oats and root vegetables, like carrots, parsnips and celeriac.”

Nothing ruins a holiday like an upset tummy, but sadly as many as 30 percent of travelers suffer from diarrhea or vomiting caused by food and drinking water contaminated by pathogenic bacteria, such as E. coli and salmonella.

Symptoms typically show a day or two after consuming the contaminated food or drink, and you might also have nausea and stomach cramps.

“You’re at risk of dehydration, so drink bottled water throughout the day and sip rather than gulp,’ Kym noted.

“Stick to a bland diet for a few days, topped up with a daily probiotic to boost your good gut bacteria.

“If you can’t find a supplement, live yoghurt is a good alternative.’




It’s a common complaint: After eating your tummy swells up like a balloon, leaving you feeling uncomfortable for the rest of the day.

There are many reasons for this, so it might take a while to discover the cause, but foods such as kale, broccoli, cabbage, sprouts, onions, beans and some artificial sugars are known to trigger the problem.

Other culprits are water retention and constipation, but be aware that persistent bloating is a sign of ovarian cancer, so rule this out with your GP first.

“Processed foods are often high in salt, which causes your body to hang onto water in an attempt to balance your cells: Hence a rounded tummy,’ said Kym.

“Switch to low-sodium versions, and seek out alternatives to salt in cooking, such as herbs or citrus.’


When to see a doctor right away


The following symptoms could be a sign of a serious digestive illness, so it’s best to see your GP.


● Losing weight unexpectedly


● Difficulty swallowing


● A sudden, persistent change in bowel movements

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