|Chew food well to aid digestion|
OUR internal organs — lungs, heart, kidneys, liver, stomach and digestive tract — are concealed within our body, from view. In fact, many do not know exactly where they are located, much less their functions and steps to protect them.
Sime Darby Medical Centre Ara Damansara emergency room physician Dr Syed Azhar Syed Ibrahim says there are simple steps that can be taken to monitor organs.
“It is better to screen for health rather than diseases. And screening for health can be done by understanding the organs and looking for signs that spell trouble. When you notice the signs early, before the disease sets in, chances are you will be able to prevent problems.”
Dr Syed Azhar explain ways to monitor them.
Many things can turn the lungs dirty due to the air that we breathe.
“It is not wrong to say that your lungs are as clean as the air where you live. So if you want clean lungs, you should breathe in clean air. Lungs can be damaged by anything in the air — poisonous gas, bacteria and virus. But the body has a natural way of cleansing the organ.”
If you fall sick due to infection from bacteria and viruses, they are trapped in the lungs. To get rid of them, the lungs produce a mucus-like phlegm. The phlegm that has absorbed the germs will then be discharged through coughing.
“When you cough out phlegm, it will cleanse your lungs. Usually doctors will prescribe medicine to increase phlegm.” Running or brisk walking in a clean park will help you breathe in fresh air. “When you are running, you will breathe faster which means more air is sucked into the lungs. If you are running in a clean environment, it means you are breathing more clean air which will purify the lungs.”
“The heart is a sturdy and tough organ. The only weakness it will face is if there is disruption to blood flow. If the blood flow to the heart is compromised, you will suffer a heart attack. Almost 90 per cent of people die due to coronary heart disease.”
Dr Syed Azhar says there are tests to determine if the blood vessels in the heart have narrowed such as angioplasty and stress test. Unfortunately, blockage to the heart can happen anytime. Even if the test does not show positive results, it does not mean the blockage won’t happen next week.
Since you can’t be doing angioplasty and stress tests every week, he suggests a much simpler way to monitor your heart condition — again by exercising. “You can monitor your heart rate when you are running. The heart rate of a person depends on age. For example, if you are 40, your heart rate should be at 140 when you are running. To know if your heart is healthy, try running for 15 minutes while maintaining the heart rate at 140. If you don’t have any chest pain, then it is an indication that the blood vessels are working properly.
“However, if within five minutes, you start to feel chest pains or you can hardly breathe, you need to go for a medical check-up. That is the sign that the blood flow to your heart is obstructed.”
Dr Syed Azhar says unfortunately in some cases, the symptoms of heart attack are difficult to diagnose as the heart will send signals to other organs.
“The heart is a silent organ which does not have ways to tell of the problems. Instead it uses other organs such as the lungs, chest muscle and arms. It uses the lungs — that is why people suffer from shortness of breath when they have a heart attack. It also uses the pectoralis muscle in your chest (hence the chest pain), your left arm will go weak or you have pain in the neck.
Sometimes the patient is thirsty and has a dry throat, which could indicate a heart attack. It is not easy to diagnose coronary heart disease because of these many symptoms.
Coronary heart disease is a result of plaque build-up in the arteries, which blocks blood flow and increases the risks of heart attack and stroke.
The two bean-shaped organs work as a filter to remove waste from the blood as well as excess water from the body. Dr Syed Azhar says like any filtration system, most of the breakdown of the kidney is caused by contaminated items in the blood.
“If the blood is contaminated, it is likely the kidneys will get damaged or worse, fail to function. Although we can live with one kidney, it will only do half of the work.”
To detect kidney disease, a blood test is done for urea nitrogen and serum creatinine. Urea is a byproduct of protein breakdown, and creatinine is a byproduct of normal muscle functioning. In kidney disease, these substances are not excreted normally, and can be detected on blood tests.
However, the test will show positive results when the damage to the kidney is already at 80 per cent, says Dr Syed Azhar. When it is at an early stage or even at 60 per cent, the tests cannot detect any abnormality in the urea or serum creatinine levels.
A simple and easy way to monitor the health of the kidneys is through urine, as damage to the kidneys results in leakage of protein.
“To detect if there is protein in your urine, look at your urine and see if there are any bubbles. Wait for 30 seconds to see if the bubbles break away. If they do not, there is a presence of protein in the urine. Observe the urine at least three consecutive times, just to make sure. If they continue to be there, you need to see a doctor.”
Diabetes and hypertension are among the main causes of kidney disease. Other causes include autoimmune diseases such as lupus, genetic diseases such as polycystic kidney disease as well as long-term use of certain medications such as aspirin and ibuprofen.
The liver has the capability to regenerate itself and withstand attacks from viruses or bacteria, says Dr Syed Azhar.
“The liver is a strong organ and has regeneration capability. If you had a transplant and take a bit off, it would grow back. However, there are few things that can damage the liver, and even then, it would take years of abuse before the organ succumbs to damage.”
One of them is infection with the hepatitis virus. Over time, the virus can cause severe damage to the liver. Binge alcohol drinking, too much fast food, excessive exercise, pain killers and antibiotics can also damage the liver.
“The only way to know if your liver is damaged is through ultrasound. If it is damaged, it will be filled with dead cells known as fatty liver.
“Somebody with fatty liver needs to change his lifestyle — reduce excessive eating and drinking, and exercise. If he stops before the damage gets worse, the liver will be able to recover by itself.”
Dr Syed Azhar says the pancreas is rarely afflicted with diseases. However, it is susceptible to acute pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer, both can be fatal. Diabetes mellitus is a systemic disorder of sugar metabolism and therefore not the fault of the pancreas on its own.
“In acute pancreatitis, the victim has the misfortune of both his bile duct and pancreatic duct sharing a common outlet, so the gallbladder becomes loaded with gallstones and deposits them into the common outlet. There is a risk that the stones will obstruct both the bile and the pancreatic duct.
“This obstruction will cause a back flow of both bile and pancreatic juices into the pancreas which is the lower of the two. Both of these juices will then ‘digest’ the pancreas and may spill into the abdominal cavity and affect every organ in the abdominal cavity causing untold damage. This translates into severe pain and, more often then not, death in mere days.”
As for pancreatic cancer, it is rare and there are not enough studies to determine the cause. For pancreatic cancer patients, there is an operative procedure named Whipple’s operation which is long and often carries with it high risks. Pancreatic cancer has proven to be resistant and hard to eradicate with chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Patients are afflicted with extreme nausea and often struggle just to keep down a few spoonfuls of a meal but yet they are hungry. In a matter of months, their bodies will waste away because of starvation and finally became very weak.
This is the organ that people pay least attention to or even know how it works. The stomach, which contains acid as high as 5.5pH, works as a reactor that turns food into microscopic pieces before they are pushed into the small intestine.
Dr Syed Azhar says the most important part in the stomach is the lining which produces mucus that protect it from being penetrated by the acid. If the acid penetrates the lining, a person will suffer from ulcer within 20 minutes.
“If a person does not chew food properly and just swallow big chunks, the stomach has to do the work of the teeth by processing food. It has to digest food using acid. If this happens often, the acid will eventually destroy the lining.
If a person eats late at night, the stomach will not be able to digest food properly. “If you eat at 9pm and go to bed at 10pm, the stomach does not have enough time to digest food and push it through to the small intestine as you are already lying down.
“On average, we eat about 0.5kg of food in a meal. The stomach will produce about 3kg of juices to digest the food. So you have nearly 4kg of weight in your stomach. The stomach needs gravity to push this weight to the intestine.”
LOWER GASTROINTESTINAL TRACT
Part of the digestive tract — a twisting tube about 9m long — it runs from the esophagus to the stomach and the bowels, and ends at the anus. The bowels comprise small and large intestine. The small intestine is usually disease-free while 80 per cent of injury to the digestive system happen in the large intestine or colon.
People usually assume they have healthy bowel movement if they go to the toilet every day. However, the frequency of the toilet visits should not be the indication as it can depend on the length of the colon. If the colon is small, it is likely there are bowel movements every day or even twice a day. This is not a sign that everything is good. The best way to determine if your colon is healthy is to look at the shape of your faeces.
“If your colon is healthy, your faeces will be in a banana shape. If you eat good food but your colon is not healthy, you don’t have good faeces. And if you don’t eat good food, but you have healthy intestine, you won’t have good faeces too. When you have perfect faeces, it means you are eating good food and your colon is healthy. People don’t want to know this because they say it is disgusting, but is so important to check faeces every day.”
Dr Syed Azhar says the top three killer diseases — heart attack, lung and colon cancer — can be detected early by monitoring the digestive system.
Problems with digestive system will increase cholesterol level, resulting in problems with the liver and kidney and leading to a heart attack. People with diabetes have problems with colon movement because of the high blood sugar level that affects bowel movements. It could also indicate colon cancer.
Care for your body
• Exercise in a clean park to purify lungs.
• Maintain 15 minutes of running with a heart rate which corresponds with your age. If you feel chest pain, see a doctor.
• Watch for bubbles in your urine. If they do not dissolve within 30 seconds, it could mean kidney problems.
• Binge alcohol drinking, too much fast food, excessive exercise, pain killers and antibiotics can damage the liver.
• Don’t lie down after eating. Your stomach needs the gravity to push food down.
Edited from: http://www.nst.com.my