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Heather Hanks
Written by Heather Hanks

Reviewed by Dr Jessica Gunawan on April 28, 2022

What’s It Like Living With Gastrointestinal Disease?

If you've recently been diagnosed with a gastrointestinal disease, then you may find these stories from others just like you relatable. Then read on to learn expert tips for conquering your gastric pain.

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Living with gastrointestinal disease can greatly impact your quality of life. Most people will have good and bad days. The severity of their disease may depend on several factors, including what they recently ate, how much sleep or exercise they got, and even hormone fluctuation.

In this article, you’ll hear from two people who live with gastrointestinal disease. They’ll share what their lives are like since their diagnosis. Additionally, our experts provide advice they have for others going through a similar journey.

What Is Gastrointestinal Disease?

Many people who are diagnosed with gastrointestinal disease have gastritis. Gastritis is a condition that comes on suddenly or gradually. It can trigger bloating, indigestion, nausea, and gastric pain.

The two main types of gastritis are erosive and non-erosive. Erosive gastritis leads to erosion and inflammation of the stomach lining, whereas non-erosive gastritis inflames the stomach lining but doesn’t compromise the mucous membrane.

What’s It Like Living With Gastrointestinal Disease?

Pain or indigestion after eating may be a sign of gastrointestinal disease.

Recognizing the reasons behind gastrointestinal disease in people helps with ascertaining the right treatment options and improving their quality of life. Here are two first-hand accounts of people who’ve found ways to manage the condition effectively. 

“At its worst, it was happening at least once a week” – Nia, 30 

When 30-year-old writer Nia was 24 years old, she had her first gastric attack. Initially, a physician diagnosed her with gastritis after learning that she often had indigestion. To make matters worse, she also suffered gastric pain whenever she fell sick. Hence, the physician prescribed her strong medications that protect her stomach and intestines. 

“Years later, I also found out that I was gluten and lactose intolerant. Also, my pancreas wasn’t producing any enzymes, so I was malnourished,” recalls Nia. She believes that a lifestyle involving missed meals, anxiety disorders, and a stressful working environment contributed mainly to the condition’s development. 

When a gastric attack does occur, she’d present with a combination of symptoms, including:  

  • Bloating 
  • Nausea 
  • Heartburn 
  • Abdominal pain 
  • Acid reflux 
  • Occasional vomiting 
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Pain or burning sensation in the stomach 

To attain relief, she ingests a number of medications, such as antacids, Domperidone, Esomeprazole, and Rabeprazole. She also takes a vitamin B12 supplement to address a deficiency of this nutrient. 

Separately, she uses a herbal formula that consists of ingredients like cinnamon, lavender, nutmeg, thyme, and star anise. In addition, she replaced her consumption of Indonesian and Western foods with a strict gluten-free diet, whilst limiting her lactose intake. To promote better digestion, she also consumes a glass of warm water with lemon and honey on a daily basis. 

“I was writhing on the floor in pain” – Harold, 32 

Harold was diagnosed with gastritis at the young age of 16. The most prevalent sign of his condition is intense pain in the abdominal area. “I remember one specific gastric attack during my late 20s. I hadn’t eaten the whole day, and the pain took me completely by surprise. When I did try to eat something, I found it difficult to chew and swallow. I then admitted myself into emergency care, whereby the doctor administered an injection that almost immediately relieved the pain,” says Harold. 

To calm acid reflux or indigestion, he consumes antacid – a class of medication that neutralizes stomach acid – in liquid form. He has also found milk thistle to effectively ease these symptoms. Like Nia, he also switched up his eating pattern to lower his risk of gastric episodes. Notably, he maintains consistent mealtimes daily and refrains from eating too many inflammatory foods. 

Identifying Gastrointestinal Disease Triggers

Clinically, gastrointestinal disease is believed to stem from various factors, such as: 

  • Bacterial infection – H. pylori bacteria is a common cause of gastritis and peptic ulcers. The bacteria break down the stomach’s protective lining and cause inflammation. 
  • Medications – regular use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or corticosteroids can harm the stomach lining 
  • Autoimmune disease – provokes a person’s immune system to attack healthy cells in the stomach lining 
  • Bile reflux – happens when bile juice doesn’t move through the small intestine but instead flows back into the stomach 
  • Physical stress – Injury to other parts of the body can give rise to this condition. For instance, brain injuries or severe burns 
  • Excessive alcohol consumption – irritates and erodes the stomach lining 

Gastrointestinal Disease, According To TCM

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the condition arises from Liver qi (vital energy) Stagnation, Blood Stasis, Stagnation or Dampness Heat in the Stomach, Spleen and Stomach qi deficiency, or a complication of Heat-Cold mixture.

Though, Eu Yan Sang TCM Physician Kong Teck Chuan cautions, “Do check for a condition known as Barrett’s esophagus as it can increase the risk of cancer of the esophagus. Jaundice or pain in the upper right abdomen may indicate gallbladder inflammation and require hospitalization or surgery. Lower right quadrant pain is suggestive of appendicitis. Meanwhile, extreme epigastric pain during pregnancy can point to serious preeclampsia, and be life-threatening. Chest pain, on the other hand, may reveal a cardiac disorder.” 

How To Deal With Gastrointestinal Disease

Eating an anti-inflammatory diet may help reduce the symptoms of gastric pain.

The prescription of treatment modalities for gastrointestinal disease relates to its individual origins. Alternatively, a TCM diagnosis for the condition is based on an observation of a person’s symptoms.

Practitioners of this medicine system regard stomach pain as ‘epigastric pain’ and epigastric distention – swelling due to internal pressure – as ‘distention and fullness.’ The absence of either symptom is ‘acid regurgitation.’ 


Generally, some medications can help kill bacteria, whereas others suppress the signs of indigestion. Examples of these are: 

  • Antibiotics – This medication is highly effective against bacterial infections. You may need to take more than one type of antibiotic for approximately two weeks. 
  • Antacids – Medications formulated from calcium carbonate can neutralize the acid in the stomach, and help reduce inflammation and stomach acid exposure. They can also treat heartburn. 
  • Histamine H2-receptor blockers and proton pump inhibitors – These medications are capable of minimizing stomach acid production. 

Herbal ingredients

Bupleurum (Chai Hu), licorice (Gan Cao), peonies (Mu Dan), and tangerine peel (Chen Pi) can be beneficial for regulating liver qi and harmonizing the stomach. A soup called Huang Lian Wen Dan is helpful for clearing heat and removing dampness. Ingredients like jujube (Zao), Poria (Fu Ling), and immature bitter oranges (Zhi Shi) can also have similar effects. 

For a deficiency of Spleen and Stomach qi, a TCM practitioner may recommend a decoction called Xiang Sha Liu Jun Zi or herbs like Atractylodes (Bai Zhu) and Codonopsis (Dang Shen). The aim of these remedies is to reinforce qi to strengthen the spleen.

Acupuncture and moxibustion

The combination of these two treatment options can primarily help people with intermingled deficiencies and excess syndrome. People with qi stagnation and blood stasis syndrome should stimulate the He Gu (LI4), Tai Chong (LR3), and Xue Hai (SP10) acupoints. Likewise, people with qi deficiency and blood stasis should activate the Ge Shu (BL17) and Xue Hai (SP10) points. 

Dietary and lifestyle intervention

“It’s advisable that people who are prone to indigestion consume smaller meal portions more frequently. Taking these meals on time and not skipping meals can also condition gastric juices to release optimally. Also, quit smoking, limit alcohol consumption and avoid foods that irritate the stomach,” says physician Kong.

Many people find that taking a prebiotic and probiotic supplement can help ease symptoms of gastrointestinal disease. According to one study, probiotics may help reduce bloating and distension and improve bowel movement frequency and consistency in patients with gastrointestinal disease. Taking digestive enzymes may also help reduce these symptoms as they contribute to the breakdown of food.

Holistic treatment of gastritis and gastrointestinal disease can help prevent gastric pain. If you wish to consider the use of herbal or traditional treatments, speak to a physician and licensed TCM practitioner beforehand. In doing so, you’ll be able to receive a plan that works for you but doesn’t prompt any negative implications.

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