New research has revealed that 63 per cent of people have experienced a persistent gut or abdominal problem or symptom, but 29 per cent have not sought professional medical help.
The research, which was conducted for Love Your Gut Week (4-10 September), an initiative from a group of digestive health charities and organisations, showed that the most common gut problems experienced were:
1. Constipation (44%)
2. Diarrhoea (43%)
3. Heart burn (39%)
4. Bloating (33%)
5. Persistent stomach pain (15%)
More than one in ten (13%) have also experienced blood in their stools. Yet, a third of people (38%) didn’t realise you should seek medical advice if you have blood in your stools and 48 per cent didn’t know you should see a doctor if you have black, tarry stools.
Medical experts from the Love Your Gut Week campaign are urging people not to ignore their gut, which is the largest component of the body’s immune system and a key indicator for wider health issues.
Of the 29 per cent who have not sought medical help for their symptoms, 41 per cent said they thought it was nothing serious, 35 per cent self-diagnose that it is due to their diet and 26 per cent put it down to stress. More than one in ten (12%) feel too embarrassed to talk to a medical professional and 14 per cent say they simply don’t have time to have their symptoms checked out. The research also showed that it is women who are least likely to see a GP about digestive problems (32% haven’t seen their GP) compared to men (26%).
Those who do seek medical help are likely to leave it a long time; 20 per cent admit to waiting 6-12 months and 13 per cent have experienced symptoms for more than a year before seeking professional advice.
When it comes to what people think can cause gut problems, stress tops the list (63%) followed by too much alcohol (54%), a diet low in fibre (49%) and an inactive lifestyle (49%). Eating certain fruits and vegetables (20%), gluten (18%) and dairy (17%) are the dietary factors that were considered the cause of gut problems.
Gut problems affect people in all areas of their life with one in five (19%) having to take a day off work due to their symptoms and over a quarter (28%) avoiding going out. One in ten have suffered depression as a result of their gut symptoms.
Dr Joan Ransley, nutritionist for the Love Your Gut campaign said: “This research shows that significant numbers of people experience problems with their gut and it can have a huge impact on people’s lives. Digestive health is something we all need to take seriously. Listening to your gut can really make a difference to your overall wellbeing, from understanding the steps you can take to keep your gut healthy, to being aware of when you should see a doctor. Love your Gut Week aims to raise awareness of the importance of good gut health and encourage people not to brush gut health issues under the carpet.”
Advice from the Love Your Gut campaign about when to see a doctor if you experience gut problems:
Many people experience gut health issues from time to time, but if any of the symptoms listed below persist for more than a few days for no obvious reason, it would be wise to book an appointment to see your doctor.
Abdominal pain before or after meals
Feelings of fullness, bloating or flatulence
Nausea or vomiting
Heartburn or regurgitation
Pain or difficulty in swallowing
Loss of appetite
Continuing unexplained weight loss
Indigestion developing for the first time or in mid or later life
Diarrhoea, constipation or any persistent alteration in bowel habit
The passage of black tarry stools
Bleeding when you pass a stool or blood and mucus mixed in with the stool
Pain when you pass a stool
Generally feeling tired, lethargic feverish or generally unwell in association with any abdominal symptoms.
Visit www.loveyourgut.com for more information about gut health.