Kolkata: As many as 75 percent of Indian patients with digestive problems suffer from what is medically known as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disorder (GERD), an abnormal reflux of gastric contents into the oesophagus that damages the inner skin, an expert says.
According to eminent gastroenterologist Prasanna Sharad Shah, about 5-20 percent of the cases could lead to cancer.
"Talking from my personal experience, if we see 20 patients a day, at least 15 of them suffer from GERD, the common symptoms being acidity, burning, bloating, reflux and irregular bowels. The scenario is similar across the country," Shah, who was in the city to spread awareness about the disease, said.
Shah is a Mumbai-based consultant gastroenterologist associated with Jaslok, Breach Candy and several other hospitals. He has several publications to his credit.
Shah said the major causes of the disease are altered lifestyles, smoking, drinking and recourse to over-the-counter medication.
"It`s a fast life and a fast-food life. Everybody wants a quick fix and in this quick fix, things don`t work and start getting messed up. Increased smoking and drinking also play a major part.
"We by nature are tolerant. When we suffer from acidity and the like, we keep on tolerating and take recourse to painkillers and other acidity relievers, ignorant of the fact that they do more harm than good," he said.
Increased obesity and diabetes are other major factors.
"Stress, too, plays a big role. In today`s world, everybody is so stressed. People are stressed out for anything and everything. If the mind is stressed, the intestines too get stressed and it manifests in burning, bloating, reflux and irregular bowels," said Shah, who was in the city at the invitation of the Bhagirathi Neotia Woman and Child Care Centre.
The doctor also said the affliction was more common in the age group of 60-80 years. Although there are increased instances of GERD among youngsters, people become more prone to the disease as they grow old.
"If acidity is chronic, there is heartburn and if there are chronic symptoms, do not ignore them. The body gives only one alarm symptom. After that, catastrophe can strike.
"Whenever the symptoms are chronic, recurrent and affecting your quality of life and daily work, that`s the time to visit a doctor," Shah said.
According to him, the disease could lead to cancer in around 5-20 percent of the cases.
"Although there isn`t any data on this, we can safely say that in 5-20 percent of the cases, the patients end up with cancer. We are not tolerant to an ill-fitting dress or bad hair or the like; then why are we so tolerant to the disease?" he said.
Shah emphasised on lifestyle modification to counter the disorder.
"Mint, chocolate, aerated drinks, caffeine, drinking and smoking are a strict no. One should never go for over-the-counter medication. One must also check his or her weight.
"The dos are regular exercise and small meals. It is necessary to break up our meal. One mustn`t keep the stomach empty for than two hours. Small meals at short intervals utilise the digestive acids and save you from acidity.
"Newer therapies and reflux specific medicines have come up which have to large extent helped in countering the malady," he added.