Bowel cancer: Dr Hilary outlines the main symptoms
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Drinking alcohol is extremely popular in the UK with around 80 percent of adults admitting they do so. And with Christmas coming up many of us will likely up our alcohol intake. However, it can have a significant impact on our health.
Speaking exclusively with Express.co.uk, Doctor Sarmed Sami – a consultant gastroenterologist at the Princess Grace Hospital in London – warned about the lasting effect on our bowels.
He explained: “When you drink alcohol, it enters your stomach and moves into your small bowel, and from there into your bloodstream.
“At the stage when alcohol reaches your stomach, it can increase acid production, which can cause acid reflux or heartburn.
“This overproduction of acid can cause inflammation in the lining, which can cause a lot of discomfort and is known as gastritis.
“Alcohol also causes the low oesophageal sphincter to relax, which allows stomach acid to travel up your oesophagus, causing heartburn.
“When alcohol reaches your small bowel, it can cause inflammation of the lining. This can lead to pain, nausea and even ulcers.
“Excessive alcohol intake increases your chance of developing small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, known as SIBO, where there is too much bad bacteria in your small intestine.
“SIBO causes pain, gas, bloating and nausea, as well as possible other symptoms such as fatigue and joint pain.”
Alcohol and bowel cancer
A report from the World Cancer Research Fund in 2018 revealed that drinking a certain amount each day could raise your risk of bowel cancer – also known as colorectal cancer – by seven percent.
It says: “Sixteen of the 19 studies were included in the dose-response meta-analysis, which showed a seven per cent increased risk per 10 grams of ethanol per day.”
A standard alcoholic drink contains around 14 grams of ethanol.
“Consumption of alcoholic drinks is a convincing cause of colorectal cancer,” the report summarises. “This is based on evidence for intakes above 30 grams per day (about two drinks a day).”
The report also said there was “strong evidence” that the following increase the risk of the disease:
- Red meat
- Processed meat
- Being overweight or obese
- Being tall.
Symptoms of bowel cancer to look out for include:
- A persistent change in bowel habit
- Blood in the poo without other symptoms of piles
- Abdominal pain, discomfort or bloating that is always brought on by eating.
Minimising damage when drinking
Although health bodies would advise drinking as little alcohol as possible, there are ways to lessen the effects of alcohol on your body.
Doctor Sami added: “In order to reduce the effects of alcohol on the gut, it is important to stay hydrated whilst drinking.
“This will allow your body to flush out toxins, as well as encouraging you to drink less alcohol.
“To help protect your gut, make sure you are eating a good meal beforehand that includes carbs and dairy, to help protect the lining of your stomach and small bowel.”
The NHS recommends no more than 14 units per week for men and women, which should be spread over three or more days.
One unit is the equivalent of one shot (25ml) of a spirit, while a 250ml glass of wine is three units.
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