The Impact Of Gastrointestinal Conditions On Immunity: Heres All You Need To Know
Gastrointestinal: The intestine is the largest, most important, and unique immune organ. The intestine contains innumerable beneficial bacteria which live in harmony with your gut.
GI conditions like diarrhea, vomiting, heartburn, bloating and indigestion are quite common
- Unhealthy diet and lifestyle can trigger the symptoms of GI conditions
- Exercise regularly to keep your digestion healthy
- Manage stress to control the risk of several diseases
Gastrointestinal (GI) problems are quite common among general population. Diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, abdominal pain, heartburn, bloating, indigestion, difficulty in swallowing, weight loss, etc. are some of the frequent complaints. These can be either related to functional GI issues or a warning sign for more concerning underlying diseases such as an ulcer. The intestine is the largest, most important, and unique immune organ. The intestine contains innumerable beneficial bacteria which live in harmony with your gut and has many other functions apart from regulating immunity. A compromised or a dysregulated immune system can pave way for the entry of microorganisms into your bodies. Any trigger or insult to this delicate balance can decrease your defenses. Here are some triggers which precipitate or worsen diseases of the GI.
Factors which can trigger GI conditions
1. Certain foods
Unhygienic food and water contain bacteria or their toxins, which on consumption can cause diarrheal diseases. Any such GI infection can worsen pre-existing conditions like inflammatory bowel diseases (Ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
An oily and spicy meal at night can worsen reflux disease and heartburn, therefore it is advisable to have a light dinner which should be eaten at least 2-3 hours before sleeping.
Stress is a major trigger for a host of diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome and other functional GI disorders. Reduced sleep due to stress also acts as a trigger for these conditions. Additionally, a depressed behavior can affect intestinal motility and can cause diarrhea, constipation, or abdominal pain.
3. Physical inactivity
Physical Inactivity can give rise to issues such as constipation, reflux disease, bloating, indigestion, and other such functional GI disorders. Conversely, regular exercise in any form is proven to be beneficial in preventing these above-mentioned issues as it improves the motility of the intestine and also boosts GI immunity by increasing the beneficial bacteria in the gut. Physical exercise additionally is shown to prevent 15-40% of colon cancers.
4. Certain medications
Frequent use of pain killers not only causes ulcers in the stomach and intestine but also leads to the worsening of IBD and can precipitate an attack of acute pancreatitis. Hence apart from damaging the kidney in the long term, GI side effects due to pain killers are seen earlier and more frequently.
5. Antibiotic use
Antibiotics can disrupt the normal bacterial flora of the intestine leading to diarrhea. In elderly and immunocompromised patients, it can lead to bacterial infection called Clostridium difficile which can be life-threatening. Judicious use of these medications can prevent these conditions.
6. Smoking and alcohol
Smoking and excess alcohol use increases the risk of certain cancers. Smoking can also cause reflux disease, stomach ulcers, and worsening of IBD. Alcohol use can also lead to similar issues and additionally cause liver cirrhosis and pancreatitis. Both these factors decrease the GI immunity and thus increase the risk of infections.
In conclusion, most of the common triggers for GI diseases are somewhere related to your food habits and lifestyle and if you have a better understanding and modify them accordingly, they can be easily prevented.
(Dr. Tehsin A. Petiwala is a Consultant Gatroenterologist, Hepatologist and Endoscopist at Masina Hospital)
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. NDTV is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information on this article. All information is provided on an as-is basis. The information, facts or opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.
DoctorNDTV is the one stop site for all your health needs providing the most credible health information, health news and tips with expert advice on healthy living, diet plans, informative videos etc. You can get the most relevant and accurate info you need about health problems like diabetes, cancer, pregnancy, HIV and AIDS, weight loss and many other lifestyle diseases. We have a panel of over 350 experts who help us develop content by giving their valuable inputs and bringing to us the latest in the world of healthcare.