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June 2, 2020

‘Poor socio-economic conditions due to COVID-19 pandemic resulting in mental, physical ailments’


June 2, 2020

As many as 75 per cent of the patients with digestive or stomach disorders suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a non-fatal but chronic ailment, which is very hard to diagnose and treat and is mostly triggered by stress and anxiety, health experts said.

They urged the people to improve their lifestyle, consume a balanced and healthy diet and exercise daily to remain mentally and physically fit and healthy.

Prevailing poor socio-economic conditions due to the COVID-19 pandemic are also resulting in severe mental stress, anxiety and depression among people, which can lead to many chronic diseases, including irritable bowel syndrome, experts said and added that people should also seek help from psychiatrists and dietitians in addition to consulting gastroenterologists to overcome the irritable health condition.

“The irritable bowel syndrome is a disease of large intestine and its most common symptoms are diarrhoea, constipation, or both, gas, bloating, abdominal cramps and pain. Stress, hormonal changes in women during pregnancy, change in eating habits during travel and weak immunity are some of its causes. Irritable bowel syndrome can be a very irritable disease for both the patients and the physicians,” said Dr Lubna Kamani, consultant gastroenterologist at the Liaquat National Hospital (LNH), while addressing a webinar on the eve of World Digestive Health Day.

The webinar was organised by the Pak GI and Liver Disease Society (PGLDS) in collaboration with Geztz Pharma on the occasion of World Digestive Health Day 2020 (WDHD-2020), which is observed globally on May 29 every year with different themes and to create awareness among the people regarding the digestive health.

Leading gastroenterologists, including the patron of the PGLDS, Dr Shahid Ahmed; Registrar Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS) Dr Amanullah Abbasi; President PGLDS Dr Sajjad Jamil; Dr Hafeezullah; and others spoke, while renowned gastroenterologist from Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) Dr Nazish Butt moderated the webinar.

Dr Lubna Kamani maintained that the irritable bowel syndrome is a tricky as well as “easy and difficult disease” to treat at the same time, saying patients spend a lot of money on expensive procedures, examinations and medical tests while they visit several physicians as it takes time to recover from the disease. She added that patients could take some simple and easy steps to overcome the symptoms in consultation with their doctors.

“First of all, not only the patients of IBS but everybody should exercise regularly and it helps a lot in managing this disease. Secondly, people should take proper sleep, avoid stress and anxiety and eat a healthy diet that is full of fiber to overcome the symptoms,” Dr Kamani said, adding that lifestyle modification and managing stress are the key to handling this irritable disease and condition.

Registrar DUHS and eminent gastroenterologist Dr Amanullah Abbasi said that these days due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many patients infected with the coronavirus also come up with diarrhoea and stomach upset, which is a symptom of the COVID-19 disease, but not every patient with diarrhoea and stomach illness could be affected by the coronavirus.

“Diarrhoea and constipation or both as well as abdominal cramps, bloating and gas are main symptoms of the IBS and in this regard, patients should prepare their own diet chart to know what types of diets trigger these symptoms among them. They should also consult dietitians and psychiatrists as stress and anxiety also lead to these symptoms while this disease result in severe depression among a large number of patients.”

President PGLDS Dr Sajjad Jamil, who is a gastroenterologist at the LNH, spoke on the psychiatric aspects of the irritable bowel syndrome and urged the chronic patients to seek help from psychiatrists also in addition to talking to dietitians, saying ant-depressant medicines could play an important role for the treatment of such patients.

“Similarly, the role of dietitians is also very important and patients with IBS should speak to dietitians and seek their advice on change in their dietary habits to overcome the symptoms of the gastrointestinal disease,” Dr Sajjad Jamil added.

PGLDS Patron Dr Shahid Ahmed said poor socio-economic conditions, especially in the prevailing pandemic, were resulting in an increase in mental ailments. He added that once a person is affected by the irritable bowel syndrome, his or her mental condition could further worsen. He said people should try to adopt a healthy lifestyle and mental approach to remain fit and healthy.

Another renowned gastroenterologist, Dr Hafeezullah, said people with IBS should drink plenty of water and juices, eat salad, especially cucumber regularly, walk and exercise daily and take Ispaghol husk, both in the case of constipation and diarrhoea, to remain healthy and overcome their symptoms.