Maintain well-regulated lifestyle to avoid stomachache
The hectic and hard-driving lifestyles of professionals that lead to poor self-care, not to mention personal distress, have resulted in so many individuals in their productive years - from as young as 30 or 40 – to also suffer from the illness.
Two stomach conditions commonly found in people of productive age are dyspepsia and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), according to Mayapada Hospital Tangerang internist and gas troentero he pa to logist, H end ra Nurjadin, MD.
Both illnesses are mainly caused by stomach acid, but they have different symptoms. Dyspepsia symptoms include bloating, discomfort in the stomach and nausea, coupled with stomachache and a feeling of being satiated all the time. GERD, meanwhile, as its name suggests, also involves reflux of stomach acid into the esophagus (food pipe) – the throat -- causing a patient to experience heartburn, difficulty or pain in swallowing, chronic cough and hoarseness, as well as breathlessness.
According to Dr. Hendra, many professionals do not have regular meal schedules, with long intervals in between food intake, resulting in the stomach being empty for a longer period and resulting in stomachache. Poor time management and hectic schedules often make people skip meals altogether.
Proportional food intake is also important here: when you eat too much to compensate for excessive hunger caused by skipping a meal, you also increase your risk of suffering a stomachache.
Spicy and acidic foods, as well as drinking too much coffee or alcohol and taking too many pain killers, are irritants for the stomach, causing erosion of the mucous lining of the gastric cavity (gastric mucosa) and leading to stomachache.
Smoking is also a risk factor for the condition and harmful to the gastric mucosa layer, as nicotine, as the primary toxic component of tobacco, potentiates gastric mucosal injury and also impairs gastric mucosal defenses, making it more vulnerable to irritation and also eroding the gastric mucosa, causing severe stomach pain.
Obesity can also be a risk factor as it disrupts the movements of the internal abdominal cavity when digesting food.
Not to mention stress, which has become a part of modern professional life. Personal distress also increases the chances of developing stomachache, due to the brain-gut axis. “Stress hormones, such as cortisol, can trigger intestinal motility disorder and cause excess bile secretion, resulting in excess bile in the small intestine, then reflux back toward the stomach, ” Hendra said.
If left untreated, as in other illnesses, stomach conditions can cause serious complications, such as irritation that can lead to ulcers, causing debilitating pain.
“There comes a point where dyspepsia just can’t be alleviated by medication, with the symptoms getting worse, causing patients to vomit constantly, even having their feces or gastric regurgitation laced with blood,” Dr. Hendra said.
Excessive gastric acid in dyspepsia can be a breeding ground for Helicobacter pylori, which is an acid-resistant bacteria that is linked closely to gastric cancer. Chronic ulcers in the gastric mucosa layer can also lead to cancer. In GERD, gastric acid reflux can also cause the mucosa layer of the esophagus to thicken, yet another antecedent for a precancerous condition called Barrett’s esophagus, or throat cancer.
Scary complications aside, stomachache can also negatively affect a person’s productivity at work. This disruption eventually becomes a turning point where patients in their productive age stop underestimating the gastric pain that they experience, as it causes them to call in sick frequently, or having to leave the office midday due to gastric pain that can no longer be remedied by over-the-counter medications.
To maintain stomach health, there are some habits that we can acquire.
“We should maintain a regular life cycle. Go to bed early in the evening and wake up early. A lot of times, when you wake up late, you skip breakfast and this creates a domino effect of meal schedule disruption,” Hendra said.
Maintain the same time interval for your meal intake. If you are used to eating lunch at 1 p.m., you should probably eat dinner by 7 p.m. at the latest and eat breakfast at 7 a.m. the next morning, with additional snacks in between meal times. Avoid excessive coffee and alcohol intake and do not smoke.