By Shezna Shums
Gleneagles Hospital Gastroenterologist Dr. Kok Ann Gwee delivered a lecture last week on common digestive problems and uncommon solutions at the Royal Golf Club.
Dr. Gwee brought up various issues that his patients seek treatment for and how best to have a healthy lifestyle.
Speaking first about the health problem of a fatty liver, he noted that about 30 per cent of the population had this problem and that just about three per cent of this segment may develop into cirrhosis – a more serious liver problem.
Following this, some sufferers may find that this can further develop into either liver failure or cancer. “You need to be mindful of a fatty liver,” he emphasised.
Liver problems are associated with obesity, diabetes and cholesterol. Even in the case of consuming fruits, this should be done with caution as most fruits contain sugars and any type of sugars will make a person gain weight as well. Fruit should be eaten in a manner that meets the purpose it is needed for.
Eating fruit before meals allow it to be digested faster so there is less time for the sugars to be absorbed into the body, whereas eating sugars after meals will keep the fruit and sugars in the stomach for a longer period of time and there will be a lot of time for the sugars to be absorbed into the body.
Dr. Gwee recommended that people should consume a balanced diet, be hydrated by having enough fluids, have energy and the right amount of sleep as too much or too little sleep can cause bowel problems.
Another medical problem patients complain of is of having a good diet but not losing weight.
Exercises such as climbing steps for 30 minutes, walking for 60 minutes, playing tennis for 60 minutes and going for walks will help a person lose weight, he noted.
Another problem people seek medical treatment for is constipation, despite consuming high fibre foods. Dr. Gwee noted that high fibre foods have limited effects on improving bowel functions and that this was why they do not help in severe constipation problems.
Other issues that are commonly brought up are of being lactose intolerant, which is very common in the Asian region. Dr. Gwee recommended consuming milk in the night or after a meal, pointing out that it is better to consume full cream milk rather than skimmed milk.
Another issue he spoke about was people consuming spicy food, which he said harms their stomachs and causes them to suffer from ulcers. Stomach ulcers may be brought about by a certain bacteria (Helicobacter Pylori) which is present in some people, gastric injuries and the use of aspirin.
However, Dr. Gwee said that studies have found that capsaicin or the chemical found in chilli powder in fact strengthens the stomach lining.
Another medical problem complained about is regarding leading a healthy life but still getting stomach cancer.
To this Dr. Gwee said that when patients complain of stomach pains and bloating, it is due to irritable bowel problems and that most cancer patients have no previous symptoms.
Although they are no 100 foolproof symptoms, some of the things people should be alarmed about are having black stools, blood in the stools, loss of appetite, loss of weight and anaemia sufferers.
Cancer in the abdomen can be avoided by early medical treatment.
Dr. Gwee is the founding President of the Irritable Bowel Syndrome Support Group in Singapore. He is a Consultant Gastroenterologist and Physician at Gleneagles Hospital with special interest in the management of irritable bowel syndrome, chronic constipation, persistent diarrhoea, helicobacter pylori infection and reflux oesophagitis.
Dr. Gwee graduated from the University of Singapore in 1985, undertook a postgraduate training in UK and Canada and obtained his PhD from the University of Sheffield for his thesis on post-infectious irritable bowel syndrome.
He is Adjunct Associate Professor of Medicine at the National University of Singapore and was recently visiting professor at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, USA.
His research on irritable bowel syndrome has been published in international journals and he is a contributing author to international textbooks of infectious diseases. He is a consultant on irritable bowel syndrome and chronic constipation to various pharmaceutical companies including Novartis Pharma, Switzerland and also to the MIMS reference guide on drug information. Currently he is in private practise at Gleneagles Hospital.
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