May 29th is World Digestive Health Day. This annual awareness day is organised by the World Gastroenterology Organisation (WGO) and the WGO Foundation, and is marked by public campaigns with participation from more than 50,000 gastroenterologists around the world.

Every year, World Digestive Health Day focuses on a different digestive disorder and seeks to raise public consciousness and funds for that particular condition. This year, World Digestive Health Day will concentrate on Inflammatory Bowel Disease, a condition caused by chronic inflammation of the digestive tract, which affects many people.


World Digestive Health Day

The purpose of World Digestive Health Day 2017 is to provide gastroenterologists and the general public with a better understanding of Inflammatory Bowel Disease – including the latest clinical research into the condition and the best methods of treatment.

The organisers behind the event, in collaboration with volunteers, have put together information packs in multiple different languages including infographics, brochures, podcasts and handbooks on living with IBD. These guides will be distributed worldwide during World Digestive Health Day on May 29th.

People around the world are being encouraged to spread the message in support of World Digestive Health Day 2017, this includes everything from adding the official event logo to your social media profile picture to arranging an awareness-raising campaign in your local area or place of business.

Some of the ways in which the World Gastroenterology Organisation suggests people get involved with World Digestive Health Day are;

  • Share out campaign materials (brochures, posters etc)
  • Share digital campaign materials such as blog posts, podcasts and online information
  • Organise a public awareness and fundraising campaign such as a walk-a-thon

You can order a campaign pack and add your event to the WGO official international events calendar here.


Inflammatory Bowel Disease

The two most common forms of IBD are Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. Together these digestive issues affect more than 300,000 people in the UK. Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease are both long-term conditions which involve inflammation of the digestive tract. The difference between these two strains of IBD is that Ulcerative Colitis only affects the large colon while Crohn’s Disease can affect any part of the digestive system- from the mouth to the anus.

People of any age can be effected, as well as other forms of IBD like Collagenous Colitis and Lymphocytic Colitis. However, it is usually diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 40. The most common symptoms of IBD are:

  • Stomach pains and cramps
  • Stomach swelling/bloating
  • Recurring diarrhoea
  • Blood in stool
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Extreme fatigue

It is important to note, however, that not everyone will experience these symptoms and some may have other, less common, indications of IBD, like fever, vomiting and anaemia.

Unfortunately, many cases of IBD go unnoticed or undiagnosed due to patients feeling fear and embarrassment when it comes to talking to their GP. By highlighting the disease this World Digestive Health Day, the WGO and other organisations hope that people will no longer suffer in silence and will learn to better recognise the symptoms of IBD.

Chrohns and Colitis is the UK’s leading charity for those with IBD. The charity’s official website is filled with detailed information, toolkits and guides for those living with IBD as well as their friends, family members, employers and medical professionals.


Digestive Health Issues – When and Where to Seek Help

It is estimated that around 40% of people in the UK are living with a digestive health condition- including IBD. There are a few basic lifestyle factors which can make a big difference to your likelihood of contracting one of these conditions and ease pre-existing symptoms, starting with stopping smoking. Smoking can weaken the digestive muscles and cause stomach acids to travel back up the oesophagus. This is known as reflux and can be a trigger for many different digestive problems.

Diet and weight can also contribute to digestive health conditions. One reason for this is that excess weight can put pressure on the stomach organs. Because of this, it is important not to overeat, to avoid eating big meals before bedtime and to eat a balanced, fibre-rich diet. The NHS has a comprehensive guide to the best foods for digestive health.

Although making these changes can help you to take care of your own digestive health, it is important to note that there are five warning signs of a serious digestive illness. If you experience these five symptoms, you should speak to your doctor immediately. They are:

  • Sudden, persistent change in the pattern of how your bowels work
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Extreme, persistent heartburn or stomach pain
  • Dramatic and sudden weight loss
  • Pain and difficulty swallowing