Discussing digestive health issues
with Honourary Prof. Dr. Than Than Swe of the University of Medicine, Gastrointestinal Diseases Department
According to your experience, what types of gastrointestinal diseases are endemic in Myanmar?
As I said in my introduction to this disease, there is no one,regardless of their age, who has never suffered from stomachache, constipation, diarrhoea, and the most common disease, indigestion. The word ‘indigestion’ I say is different from the meaning in Myanmar slang. It does not mean grudge against someone. I mean the literal meaning of indigestion. Most of the people are suffering from this disease. This disease is not severe and painful but it gives a lot of troubles to the sufferer in his daily life and routines. This is the common disease for many people. And then there are other severe gastrointestinal diseases of gastrointestinal tract cancer, gastrointestinal bleeding, and so forth. These diseases must be treated properly otherwise they will lead to death. And another disease in the gastrointestinal tract may be caused by the side effects of some medicines. These side effects are found to have an impact on the gastrointestinal tract.
This disease is common among the Myanmar people. So what impacts can our lifestyle and eating habits have regarding these gastrointestinal diseases? For example, eating spicy foods, and so forth.
Yes, as a joke, I’d like to say you will feel hot in both entry and exit when you eat chili and you will feel hot while it is in your body too. But when you eat sugar, it will give you sweet taste in entry into your body but not on exit. Food will be medicine when you eat it properly and it will be poison when you don’t eat it properly. Our country is Buddhism majority country and in our Buddhist teachings, every effect has a cause -fate, mind, climate and diet. In these four causes, we cannot alter our fate which has been predetermined to each of us. We can slightly alter our mind and climate but not much. So the only available alternative we can have is our daily diet. So diet or food is very much important to us. As for the climate, we can wear warm clothes in winter time and summer wear in summer time. We can change our food or eating habits as we like unlike the other three causes. So we must eat food which will be suitable for us.
We will have some trouble when we eat chili too much. This is common among us. Don’t eat sticky rice too much if you want to avoid constipation and indigestion. And we should avoid oily food such as fretters (deep fried Burmese snacks). And some eat medium-cooked vegetables as they think they are healthy food. Our digestive system cannot digest some medium-cooked vegetables. All food must be and should be easily digestible. And another thing we should take care of is the unhealthy and unhygienic food such as some salads and skewered pork snacks. We should avoid such unhealthy foods.
Yes, there will be many bacteria or microorganisms in our food. We will have health problems when we eat these unhealthy foods infected with such bacteria.
Yes, that is correct. Mother Nature gives us many bacteria or microorganisms in our body, some of them are friendly and some are unfriendly. They must be in a balanced condition. We will have good health when we have more friendly bacteria in our body than unfriendly ones. If they are not in a balanced condition and unfriendly ones are more than friendly ones, we will have some health problems such as diarrhoea.
A member of the audience asked a question. He has acidity in stomach and it is enlarged. He has already undergone endoscopy examination. Sometimes he has pain in right of the chest. He feels sweaty and coldness in his body. He asks what could be the disease and what treatment he should have and what medicines he should take.
The patient cannot know himself the diagnosis of his disease with the signs of high acidity and foam in the stomach. He feels acidity when these acids go upstream in the oesophageal tract. Sometimes one may have much saliva with high acidity in mouth though this is not because of a cough. This will cause foam in the mouth. So this is a gastric disease as his gastric system produces much more acid above the normal range. As for the enlarged gastric tract, during endoscopy examination, the gastric tract is normally inflated. It will go back to normal size after examination when deflated like a balloon. There may be no enlarged gastric in anyone. If the patient has had gastric endoscopic examination as he said, his physician would know if there were any bacteria in the gastric tract, and then the type of the swelling, and then the diagnosis will have been done. So he should consult with a gastrointestinal physician by bringing along this gastric endoscopy examination result or the physician or pathologist who he visited for the endoscopy examination.