Map of the stomach

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29. 09. 2021 Gastroenterology

Dr. Lenka Rudolfová, adult general practitioner at Canadian Medical

1)Would you be able to generalise what the most common stomach issues are in the Czech Republic?  Does it vary according to gender – that for example men tend suffer from certain illnesses more often than women and vice versa?

I don’t want to put these questions just down to gender, however there are certain issues that present solely in women due to basic differences in physiology; the most common is to do with regular menstrual pains, and women also tend to get infections of the urinary tract more often due to the closer anatomy of the urinary tract and the colon- making contamination easier. In men this distance is much larger.

Generally, I would dare say that most problems to do with the gastrointestinal tract are more functional- meaning that they won’t show up on diagnostic imaging software. The most common causes include stress, poor lifestyle habits often associated with the western lifestyle and, in recent covid-times, a plethora of increasing mental health issues. That isn’t to say that more organic diseases aren’t commonplace- any pain in the gastrointestinal tract should be clinically investigated.

2) When should one seek the attention of a medical professional when they experience discomfort or pain in the stomach region? And can stomach pain be resolved with home remedies?

Early signs and symptoms should be self-treated with a bland and non-irritating diet that is fat free, mild and with little seasoning, fluids without gas and a source of probiotics. Warning signs that you should contact your doctor include a prolonged course of diarrhoea or constipation- or the switching from one to the other, blood or mucous in the stools, nausea or vomiting, weight loss, loss of appetite, sharp pains in the stomach or a fever.

3) As Czech people, what are our biggest vices that then often lead to digestive issues and problems with other organs in the stomach? How do we compare to our neighbouring countries?

As a country in the middle of Europe, our lifestyle is very similar to the western population- irregular eating habits, fast foods, overconsumption of animal products, lack of fibre, smoking, alcohol, over-working, personal stress- all of which highly affects our digestion.

The Mediterranean diet, or any diet that contains a large proportion of salt-water fish for that matter, is considered to be the holy grail of healthy diets. Cuisines that are eaten in Spain, Italy, Iceland, or Japan are just a few prime examples. However, even the Japanese now are avid smokers, have high rates of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. Looking at the rates of cancer in the large intestines, we are doing much better proportionally than our close neighbours in Slovenia and Hungary. Everything is much more about the individual approach and responsibility rather than the national statistics. Truth is, you won’t find many vegetables and salt-water fish in the traditional Czech cuisine. 

4) Are there any diseases or issues of the gastrointestinal tract that are increasing in the Czech Republic in the last couple years? And if so, why? 

The first that come to mind are acid reflux disease, irritable bowel syndrome and unspecified inflammations of the large intestine such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis- we have seen a rapid rise in the number of cases that we get of these each year. This could partly be attributed to the fact that there are more people seeking medical attention and treatment with these diseases. On the other hand, the cases of colon cancer are dropping in the Czech Republic- we’re 13th on world rankings, which is highly attributable to early diagnosis thanks to a good screening programme- this is a yearly preventative examination done during your annual GP or gynaecology check-up from the age of 50+.

5) What are the most common mistakes you see patients make when they have abdominal pain? (e.g., taking the wrong kind of medications, sedatives, pain relief, etc.).

The biggest vice is the over-administration of ibuprofen- it alleviates abdominal pain slightly, but it doesn’t resolve the root of the problem but rather just masks the symptoms, which can sometimes cause a delay in when a patient seeks medical attention.

Not to mention the classic home-remedies, for example having a strong broth or some sponge cake when you have a sore stomach and diarrhoea- when in fact, the best you can do is have something that’s not greasy and sugar-free. The best prevention is a regular and balanced diet, adequate exercise, and stable mental health. 

6) What type of stomach pain is most often overlooked and why? Why are people not likely to pay as much attention to it?  

Most often people who experience chronic pain tend to brush it aside - they attribute it to old age and don’t come in for regular yearly preventative check-ups, which are in place to detect the early stages of potentially serious diseases.

Another reason for postponing a doctor's appointment is due to excessive work duties or fears of a serious illness.

The old saying "Prevention is better than a cure" is entirely appropriate here – I would like this to be a reminder to everyone that all of us are entitled for a preventive check-up with their general practitioner once every 2 years.

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