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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.

The Impact Of Gastrointestinal Conditions On Immunity: Heres All You Need To Know

GI conditions like diarrhea, vomiting, heartburn, bloating and indigestion are quite common


  1. Unhealthy diet and lifestyle can trigger the symptoms of GI conditions
  2. Exercise regularly to keep your digestion healthy
  3. 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.


Some foods can trigger symptoms of heartburn, gas and bloating
Photo Credit: iStock

2. Stress

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.

Also read: Too Stressed? Try This Yoga Asana Recommended By Shilpa Shetty Kundra

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.

Also read: Cardiovascular Disease And Upper Gastrointestinal Symptoms: Here's The Connection Between The Two

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.


Certain medications can also trigger symptoms of IBS
Photo Credit: iStock

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.

Also read: Experiencing Indigestion Way Too Frequently Nowadays? This Exercise Routine By Shilpa Shetty Kundra May Help

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)

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