‘Stress due to coronavirus pandemic can trigger GI conditions’

Anxiety, stress are leading causes of many digestive disorders, say doctors


​ Our Correspondent May 31, 2020
A Reuters representational image.

KARACHI: Health experts shed light on Friday on the relevance of pandemic-induced stress in triggering conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other digestive disorders, underlining that stress and anxiety were the causes of gastrointestinal diseases in 75 per cent of patients.

Addressing a webinar held in connection with World Digestive Health Day, observed on May 29 every year, doctors pointed out that poor socio-economic conditions, as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic, were causing stress, anxiety and depression among people, in turn leading to the development of chronic conditions like IBS, which, though non-fatal, were hard to diagnose and treat.

"Poor socio-economic conditions, especially during the ongoing pandemic, have resulted in an increase in mental ailments," observed Pakistan Gastrointestinal and Liver Diseases Society (PGLDS) patron DR Shahid Ahmed, adding that once a person developed IBS, his mental condition was likely to worsen further.

Keeping in view these observations, PGLDS president and gastroenterologist Dr Sajjad Jamil stressed the need for gastrointestinal disease patients to not just seek help from dieticians, but also psychiatrists.

"Anti-depressants can play an important role in treating IBS," he said.

Explaining what IBS is, Dr Lubna Kamani, a consultant gastroenterologist at Liaquat National Hospital, said that it was a disease of the large intestine and its common symptoms included diarrhoea, constipation, bloating and abdominal cramps and pain. She further pointed out that stress, hormonal changes during pregnancy, changes in eating habits, especially while travelling, and weak immunity were some of the causes of IBS, acknowledging that the condition was not just "irritable for patients, but doctors too." She recommended exercising regularly, taking proper sleep, avoiding stress and anxiety and consuming a healthy diet, including large amounts of fibre, as ways to overcome the condition.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 31st, 2020.

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