Millions of Brits could be putting themselves at risk of chronic conditions including anaemia and osteoporosis by ignoring common digestive problems.
The warning comes after a study revealed 83 per cent of the people notice they react to certain foods. But most either ignore symptoms such as bloating, trapped wind and diarrhoea, or self-medicate. More than half of those polled (58 per cent) felt the problem wasn’t ‘serious’ enough to bother their GP about.
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The biggest cause for concern is that if we ignore our body’s signals that something’s wrong over a period of time, our digestive system can become inflamed and won’t be able to absorb nutrients from other foods we eat – putting us at risk of becoming deficient.
TV’s Dr Hilary Jones admits it’s a worry: “When people’s bodies are not digesting crucial nutrients found in many foods – as is the case with symptoms such as diarrhoea and bloating - the risk of certain illnesses dramatically increases. While it may be tempting to self medicate or hope the problem will go away, sufferers are not getting to the root of the problem.”
Signs something’s wrong
It seems every other person we meet has an intolerance or IBS, but really, your digestion shouldn’t bother you very often.
“You really shouldn’t be getting any digestive discomfort after eating,” says Melanie Bibby, who is the nutrition manager of a2 Milk UK, which carried out the study. “But people think that it’s just the norm, especially if it’s been not quite right for a long time - they forget that it’s not how it should be.”
She advises people keep an eye on how their digestion is working and keep a food diary to notice any patterns. A trip to the GP may be the first point of call, but often only a process of trial and error and elimination can help you work out what you’re intolerant to. If you notice bloating, trapped wind, diarrhoea or constipation after eating particular foods, it’s a sign there’s something up.
“But it’s very difficult to work out what you’re intolerant to,” Melanie says. “Many people have a problem with dairy but it’s hard to tell if you’re reacting to the lactose or to the milk proteins.
“Most people with an intolerance to cow’s milk are intolerant to a particular protein called a1. Or it could be that they react to the lactose. If it’s the lactose, switching to a lactose free milk can help but if it’s the a1 protein, it won’t make any difference.”
“a2 milk is normal milk, but it comes from dairy cows that naturally don’t produce the a1 protein; instead their milk contains a2, which is much better tolerated. I want people to know that there might be an alternative to cutting out dairy for them, because of course that can mean you miss out on very important nutrients too.”
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