The greeting, “Have you eaten”, is as Malaysian as it gets. We love our food, and we are not afraid to show it.

We are proud of the many different types of cuisine that is available in this country, and we partake as often as we can, at all times of the day, and night, and into the wee hours of the morning.

Unfortunately, there is often a price to pay for such an indulgence. And it does not just come in the form of a pot belly.

Good gut health is a crucial part of overall health and well-being. If digestive problems persist, and recur frequently, or occur for no discernible reason, then they should be treated as an indicator of a more serious problem.

One of the worst case scenarios would be colorectal cancer (CRC). In 2016, CRC in Malaysia was calculated with a lifetime risk 1 in 56 for men, and 1 in 74 for women. It is the most common cancer among men and the second most common cancer among women.

Data from the Malaysian National Cancer Registry (MNCR) released in 2018 showed that two in five people were diagnosed at advanced stages (Stages III & IV).

The five-year survival rate for CRC patients was recorded at 48% in a recent study. Thus, early screening is critical in order to detect CRC as quickly as possible.

Screening is also the only sure method of detecting CRC as its symptoms are very general and can also be attributed to other causes, thus making it difficult to pinpoint whether or not colorectal cancer is the culprit.

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It is imperative that we take better care of our gut health immediately, rather than wait for a more serious symptom to develop.

So, continue enjoying our amazing Malaysian cuisine, but keep a very close eye on digestive health at the same time. After all, prevention is infinitely better than cure.

● Look out for the next article which focuses on digestive health problems that we tend to take lightly.

This article is courtesy of Digestive Health Malaysia and Vitagen Healthy Digestion Programme, in conjunction with their World Digestive Health Day 2019 awareness campaign. Datuk Dr Muhammad Radzi Abu Hassan is a Consultant Physician and Gastroenterologist and Hepatology. He is also the Chairman of Digestive Health Malaysia (DHM) society. He is not associated with, and does not endorse any brand or product. For more information, contact 03-5632 3301.