Can work from home increase your risk of GI Disorders?

Can work from home increase your risk of GI Disorders?


  • A lack of movement during a period of working from home while making no changes to diet or even increasing food consumption could have a direct impact on the digestive system. In such cases, you are at risk of developing various disorders, with the 4 main risks as follows: dyspepsia, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, and colorectal cancer.
  • Anyone experiencing the following symptoms should seek medical attention to undergo a diagnosis and appropriate treatment to ensure the prevention of dangerous disorders, such as stomach cancer and colon cancer: irregular bowel movements or stool abnormalities, sudden unexplainable weight loss, nausea, and vomiting.

The worrying situation surrounding Covid-19 in Thailand has led to another period of working from home for office workers throughout the Kingdom in order to ensure social distancing and reduce unnecessary travel or face-to-face meetings. However, people working from home may need to deal with their own health battles, especially those related to the digestive system, which involves digestion, the absorption of nutrients, and the excretory process.

Therefore, in addition to the stress that can accompany working from home, the lack of movement combined with an unmodified diet or even increased consumption in some cases, as well as the propensity for eating unhealthy meals, can easily lead to issues affecting the digestive system.  In such circumstances, there are various disorders that you could be at risk of developing, with the 4 main conditions as follows: dyspepsia, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, and colorectal cancer. All of these issues can lead to more dangerous conditions, such as stomach cancer or colon cancer, if left untreated.

1. Dyspepsia

Dyspepsia is a condition defined as discomfort affecting the upper abdomen or sternum alongside a bloated feeling. It can occur during or after meals and may involve one or more symptoms at the same time, such as flatulence and bloating, which may occur sporadically or every day. The causes of dyspepsia can generally be traced back to eating habits and lifestyle choices. These include overeating or eating too quickly, especially overly rich or fatty foods; alcohol consumption; eating chocolate; drinking too much tea, coffee or carbonated beverages; smoking; anxiety; and stress.

The first step to treating the symptoms of dyspepsia is to make adjustments to the diet and lifestyle. These measures include avoiding overly rich and fatty foods, separating daily food intake into 5–6 smaller meals, reducing alcohol and caffeine consumption, decreasing anxiety or stress triggers, and exercising regularly. However, should patients continue to suffer with symptoms despite making these changes, they should seek medical attention to undergo a thorough diagnosis by a doctor who may also suggest certain medication, including antacids, as well as additional screening, such as a blood test and stool analysis. Then, if the doctor suspects that the dyspepsia could lead to other, more serious health disorders, such as a stomach ulcer, they may recommend an endoscopy which might involve tissue removal in order to increase the accuracy of the diagnosis.

2. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

Irritable bowel syndrome is caused by irregular bowel function that can lead to flatulence, stomach pain, and other bowel-related symptoms, such as constipation, diarrhea, or alternating between bouts of constipation and diarrhea. IBS is an extremely common condition. Although its true causes remain unknown, the disorder has been found to affect up to twice the number of women as men. Other risk factors include being under the age of 45, having a family history of IBS, and being prone to stress and anxiety.

Most people who experience IBS only suffer with slight symptoms and they generally go away after they make dietary modifications or reduce exposure to stress and anxiety. However, there are others who suffer more serious symptoms and require medicated treatment. Nevertheless, if severe stomach pain – especially that which gets worse at night – should present alongside anal bleeding and a sudden loss of weight, patients should seek specialist medical attention at their earliest convenience. This will enable their doctor to make a thorough diagnosis that could confirm IBS and rule out other, more dangerous disorders, including chronic colitis or colon cancer.

Therefore, if you notice any abnormalities or suspect you may have IBS, making the dietary adjustments mentioned above as well as increasing your fiber intake can go a long way to improving bowel function, as can reducing exposure to stress and engaging in regular exercise. Nonetheless, if symptoms persist despite addressing these issues, attending a medical consultation to receive the appropriate treatment should be the next step towards making a return to your normal, daily life.

3. Constipation

Constipation is a common condition affecting up to 10% of the general population, although its symptoms differ from case to case. Some may require excessive force and time to empty their bowel, whereas for others, it may be the frequency of their bowel movements that is affected. In some cases, patients may feel like they have not fully emptied their bowel after visiting the bathroom, and others may experience stomach pain and flatulence alongside their constipation.

The causes of constipation can be categorized into two main groups: primary causes, which are a direct result of irregular bowel function and secondary causes, which are a result of indirect factors, such as the use of certain drugs or food supplements, endocrine conditions, and gastrointestinal disorders.

Treating constipation can be achieved with dietary and behavioral changes, drinking plenty of water, exercising regularly, and taking laxative medication. Nevertheless, if patients develop chronic constipation or if they are not receptive to treatment, it could be because they are suffering from dyssynergia, which medical staff can diagnose with an anorectal manometry. Treatment for dyssynergia generally relies on biofeedback training that utilizes special equipment capable of assisting patients with their bowel movements, thus offering a long-term solution to their problem.

However, should patients suffer with constipation alongside certain other symptoms, such as a sudden loss of weight, bloody stools, or alternating bouts of diarrhea and constipation, or if there are certain risk factors at play, including a family history of the condition or the onset of constipation occurring after the age of 50, that patient should seek out a medical diagnosis at their earliest opportunity. This is because despite constipation not being a life-threatening disorder in isolation, it can be a signal for other, more serious disorders, such as colon cancer.

4. Colon cancer

Colon cancer is a disease caused by mutations in the cells of the colon that result in a rate of cell division that can no longer be managed and can lead to colorectal cancer developing if left untreated. Colorectal cancer is currently the third most common form of cancer in Thailand, with most sufferers aged over 45. Patients with this condition generally experience flatulence, alternating bouts of constipation and diarrhea, bloody stools, anemic episodes, severe exhaustion, a sudden unexpected loss of weight, pain emanating from the anus similar to the feeling of needing a bowel movement, and possibly a lump forming in the abdomen.

The true cause of colorectal cancer remains unknown, just like many other forms of cancer, but there are a number of factors thought to increase a person’s risk. These include a history of polyps being discovered in the colon, chronic colitis, a diet high in fat – especially with regard to red meats that have been cooked at high temperatures, cooking in used oil, consumption of grilled foods, regular consumption of pickled products, exposure to chemicals found on unwashed vegetables which can lead to toxins accumulating in the colon, and hereditary conditions passed down in a person’s DNA.

Initial detection of colorectal cancer can be undertaken by screening for the presence of blood in stools alongside a blood test aimed at identifying carcinoembryonic antigens (CEA). A colonoscopy procedure is also considered a highly effective way to screen for this type of cancer, as is narrow band imaging (NBI), a technology developed in Japan that offers greater detail and accuracy than traditional techniques. If early-stage colorectal cancer is confirmed, medical staff will carefully select the most appropriate surgical procedure as their first port of call. 

Preventing colon cancer can be achieved through screening from the age of 50 and above in the general population, or 40 and above for those patients deemed at high risk, including those with a family history of the disease. Additionally, eating a healthy diet, drinking plenty of water, getting sufficient rest each night, exercising regularly, increasing fruit and vegetable intake, reducing red meat consumption, and avoiding smoking and drinking alcohol can all play key roles in terms of protecting yourself from colon cancer.

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