Nearly 20 per cent suffer from gastric problems because of obesity
ABU DHABI // Up to one in five people in the UAE are suffering from gastric problems because of obesity and poor diets, according to experts.
Acid reflux, ulcerative colitis and irritable bowel syndrome are some of the disorders that doctors say they have witnessed increases in recent years.
There is also a high number of sufferers of fatty liver, caused to a large extent by the excessive consumption of sugary drinks.
“Obesity is an issue that can affect the UAE’s development as a nation and needs to be managed immediately and effectively,” said Dr Atul Chawla, a gastroenterology specialist at Burjeel Hospital in Abu Dhabi.
“With around 10 to 20 per cent of the population now suffering from these conditions, one of the main causes is obesity.”
Dr Chawla said he had patients who were as young as 12 years old suffering from these conditions.
“This trend is on the rise and more public awareness is needed about these lifestyle diseases,” he said.
Gastrointestinal diseases are those that involve the organs in the digestive system. More often than not, digestive problems are due to low fibre diets, lack of exercise and consuming large amounts of food and dairy products.
“As a person puts on weight, the muscles at the junction of their food pipe and stomach becomes weak. Genetics combined with obesity are responsible for people suffering from disorders such as irritable bowel and acid reflux,” said Dr Chawla.
Dr Kaiser Raja, a consultant in gastroenterology and liver diseases at Aster DM Healthcare, agreed more children were coming forward with serious gastric problems caused by being overweight.
“Young people suffering from a fatty liver tend to ignore it as the disease has very few symptoms. However, later in life it may evolve into an advanced liver problem,” he said.
“Increasingly, teenagers come to us citing problems such as constipation and diarrhoea. When tests are conducted we find that their livers are not functioning normally as they are obese.”
A vague discomfort is usually the only symptom of a fatty liver.
Anyone with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of more than 25, should get their cholestrol, blood sugar, blood pressure and liver enzymes checked regularly, doctors say.
A case of fatty liver, if ignored, might escalate to an advanced liver problem later in life.
People should also check their waist circumference. If it is more than 88 centimetres (34.7 inches) for women and 102 cm (40.2 in) for men, they could be carrying too much fat on their abdomen. Even if a person’s BMI is within the normal range, this could still harm their health.
To help reduce the number of cases, Dr Chawla suggests that medical professionals should collaborate together.
“It’s an issue that requires multidisciplinary medical attention including a full-fledged team of professionals, including physicians, dietitians and trainers working together to achieve the desired goal,” said Dr Chawla.
Patients suffering from acid reflux may complain of heart burn, difficulty in swallowing or chest pain. Those with irritable bowels usually have bloating in their stomach, diarrhoea, constipation, gas in their abdomen. Pain in the stomach, joint pains, blood in mucus, fever and back pain are a few symptoms of ulcerative colitis.
Updated: September 13, 2014 04:00 AM