By. Shreya Dhingra, MBBS 3rd Year, HIMSR, New Delhi
The gastrointestinal tract is a large, muscular organ system which takes in food, digests it to extract and absorb energy and nutrients, and expels the remaining waste as faeces and urine. The tract extends from the mouth, through the oesophagus, stomach, small and large intestine to the anus. Gastroenterology is the study of anatomy, physiology and disorders related to the GI tract. Problems like heartburn, indigestion/dyspepsia, bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, vomiting are the most common presentation in hospitals and dispensaries these days.
GI System is a paramount system in the human body since it provides nutrition to all other organ systems in for their proper functioning. The functioning of gastrointestinal tract depends upon the kind of food we eat, the state of musculature of the tract which may further be determined by genetic factors, infectious agents plus host immunity and lifestyle of the individual. The prime cause of common gastric symptoms arising these days is unhealthy food habits. ‘Unhealthy food habits’ is a broad term including both noxious nutrition and unhygienic practices involved in its preparation. The fast trend of fast food is fast corroding the gut. Unhygienic methods of food preparation increase the exposure of infections and thus lower the host immunity leading to disease manifestation. The fuel to already burning pyre is the sedentary lifestyle of today’s man. All these factors cumulatively lead to disturbances in the normal system.
The gut muscles constantly maintain an optimum motile tone to facilitate absorption and expatriate the waste out. Different agents increase this tone by irritating the mucosa (innermost layer of the gut wall) causing diarrhoea like symptoms while some other agents may decrease this tone or cause blockage causing constipation. Along with the musculature, there are certain glands present in the alimentary canal. Disturbances in the secretions of these glands cause symptoms like indigestion, bloating, acidity etc. Baleful stimulants in the upper portion of tract i.e. mouth, oesophagus, stomach cause irritation and may cause vomiting. These symptoms can be primary or secondary. Primary symptoms arise due to local malign stimulants as mentioned above and are actually protective reflexes of our body against the deleterious agents. Secondary symptoms are a matter of concern since the problem follows iceberg phenomenon. For an instance: Ingestion of mild quantities of croton causes diarrhoea, croton being a potential poison; body expels it out along with gastric contents through the anus. On the other hand, chronic diarrhoea over months is no protective reflex. It may potentially be the visible secondary symptom of fatal diseases like colon cancer. So, every abnormal symptom arising in GIT should be taken seriously and be checked by physician. Moreover, if primary symptoms are left untreated; they may lead to substantiation of chronic diseases.
The best part about digestive system is 90% of its care and handling power resides in our hand. Diseases of idiopathic and sole genetic basis are very rare in the gut. The entire functioning depends upon ‘what we eat and how we keep’. Below are some tips we can look upon to ensure a healthy functioning gut:
- Include more of fibres and roughage in diet
- Avoid junk food and excess of fats in diet
- Have plenty of fluids and water regularly
- Eat in the right amounts-not less not more
- Avoid detrimental substances like alcohol
- Take out time for exercise and physical activities
- Reduce stress and take out time to meditate