Take care of your tummy during CNY celebrations
With Chinese New Year upon us, you may be attending many parties to celebrate the festive season.
But remember to eat and drink in moderation to avoid harming your health and triggering gastritis, an inflammation of the lining of the stomach.
On the preventive measures one can take, Dr Reuben Wong, a gastroenterologist at Gleneagles Hospital, told The New Paper: "While those cookies and bak kwa (barbecued meat) are tempting, treat them as tasty treats to be nibbled on rather than gorging (on) them in large amounts.
"There is a temptation to binge, and then bloating and discomfort sets in."
On top of that, it is also important to ensure that food is properly cooked, especially if one is bonding over a communal steamboat where everyone is dipping raw meats in at different times.
Or if one is enjoying yusheng, check that the raw fish is fresh and sourced from safe and accredited suppliers.
Consuming too much alcohol can also cause inflammation of the stomach through different mechanisms.
Noting that the international safe recommendations are one unit of alcohol a day for women and two units for men, Dr Wong said: "If one drinks to excess and vomits, it can cause mechanical damage to the top part of the stomach, known as the cardia.
"Second, drinks with high concentrations of alcohol can have a direct corrosive effect on the stomach lining, causing alcoholic gastritis.
"Third, long-term alcohol abuse can cause liver cirrhosis and a condition known as portal hypertensive gastropathy."
Other causes of gastritis include infection from a bacteria known as Helicobacter pylori. The bacteria invades and grows in the mucus lining that protects the stomach, causing chronic inflammation and ulceration.
In a small percentage of cases, it also leads to stomach cancer.
Toxins found in cigarette smoke and excessive preservatives in preserved foods also contribute to the condition.
Dr Wong said patients who often present themselves with upper abdominal pain and discomfort will be referred for a gastroscopy to examine the lining of the stomach.
"The endoscope allows us to see the lining, and if necessary, confirm it at the cellular level with biopsies."
He explained that doctors will then give a course of acid suppressing medication such as proton pump inhibitors to lower the acidity in the stomach and allow the lining to heal.
"(But) it is also important to address the underlying cause, for example, eradicate the Helicobacter pylori bacteria if it is present, and stop smoking.
"Prolonged inflammation can result in a cell change known as intestinal metaplasia.
"Sometimes, the gastritis can progress and the lining gets eroded, causing an ulcer to form. When the ulcer hits a blood vessel, it can cause bleeding."