One in four UAE residents ignore digestive problems, survey shows

Many UAE residents may want to improve their digestive health, a survey has suggested.

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DUBAI // Nearly one in four UAE residents suffer from digestive ailments but do not seek treatment, a survey suggests.

One thousand people took part in the survey on digestive health commissioned by medical products maker Johnson & Johnson.

It found many misconceptions among them about digestive conditions. For example, some did not seek treatment for diarrhoea because they thought it was not severe or that it flushed out toxins, said Dr Fatma Al Attar, the head of the Dubai Health Authority’s Preventive Services Centre and chairwoman of the council that discussed the survey.

Twenty-three per cent of respondents said they had suffered from diarrhoea but did not seek treatment, even when it was chronic or lasted more than a month. The possible causes for the condition include stress, hormones, medication and dietary intolerances.

Respondents also reported other digestive issues such as heartburn and constipation, which can be caused by their diet, dehydration, and lack of physical activity.

Digestive problems could indicate food intolerance or allergies, said Dr Hussain Hattawi, a consultant immunologist and the head of Dubai Hospital’s immunology unit.

“Most of the time, symptoms occur in the first four hours after ingesting,” he said.

Symptoms may include stomach cramps or diarrhoea.

“If they have a gastroenterological problem, they should seek help,” said Dr Hattawi.

“My advice is not to seek an allergist immediately unless the patient has no doubt it is from food.”

Rashi Chowdhary, a Dubai-based nutritionist, said digestive issues could be strongly linked to genetics, stress and lifestyle habits. “Even if it’s genetic and stress-related, the trigger is always food,” she said. “If you eat clean, cut out the processed food, manage to push in the right source of carbohydrates, good fatty acids and adequate amounts of protein, there is really no reason for your digestive system to act up.”

Dr Hattawi sid people with digestive health problems should seek help from a general physician or gastroenterologist.

Ms Chowdhary said: “A lot of people here have accepted having a headache a few times a week, low energy levels through the day, feeling bloated or having acidity after meals to be normal.”

Taking care of the digestive system, eating nourishing foods and encouraging growth of healthy bacteria “can help people feel more energetic, improve their metabolism, lose weight and improve hormone function”, she said.