faces upset tummies, much less children, when moving to a new country. To
soothe some of your concerns, we asked Dr Neil Gallety, section head of Beijing
United Family Hospital's Digestive Disease Center to answer some questions that
our Time Out Family parents posed.
What are the common stomach problems
expats face when they arrive in Beijing?
most common problems are likely to be upset stomachs, diarrhea or
vomiting. The risk can be reduced by drinking bottled or filtered water
and by trying to avoid food that has been standing out for a while, wasn't
cooked well, isn't fresh or could have been washed in contaminated water. It is difficult to avoid the risk completely and having a supply of anti-diarrhea medicine and oral re-hydration salts at home can be helpful.
What is the most common food in Beijing
that causes digestive issues from your clinical experience?
food – although delicious – can be a cause of ‘food poisoning’ and
gastroenteritis. Spicy foods such as Sichuan hotpot can cause temporary
abdominal discomfort or diarrhea – and can worsen symptoms from gastritis,
ulcer or reflux disease.
What should one eat while recovering from a
poisoning’ or gastroenteritis causes inflammation in the gut, which can cause
profuse diarrhea and vomiting. This can result in dehydration so the
most important thing to do while recovering is to rest and to drink
plenty of fluids to keep well hydrated. Oral rehydration salts can
help. With regards to food, avoid spicy, oily and greasy food
until the symptoms of food poisoning have fully resolved. Bland ‘white’
foods such as rice (or rice porridge), steamed fish and chicken are best for a
Does boiling Beijing tap water make it
No. Boiling tap water will help kill any bacteria and other microbes that might be
present but will not remove chemicals or other contaminants that might be in
the water. I would recommend using bottled water or filtered water for
drinking, cooking and cleaning your teeth.
Does drinking warm water after a meal
really help with digestion?
the main benefit of drinking warm water with a meal is that it can help make us
feel full and stop us from overeating. It may also help promote emptying
of the stomach after a meal.
How many hours before bed should kids
stop eating for optimum digestion?
at least two hours between eating and lying down to sleep can help reduce
night-time acid reflux in both children and adults.
What is the order of courses (soup
first? Or fruit?) one should consume in a meal?
are probably no real differences to digestion based on the order of the food
consumed – it all mixes together in the stomach!
My child has sour bad breath – is there
something wrong with her digestion?
Although people often think that bad
breath is caused by digestive problems, it is much more frequently caused by
dental and gum problems or by ENT problems such as sinusitis. Only five
percent of cases of bad breath are due to digestive issues such as acid reflux,
gastritis or helicobacter pylori infection of the stomach lining.
My child constantly has constipation.
What are the foods you recommend she eats?
is a common problem and can cause unpleasant abdominal discomfort and
bloating. Simple dietary ways to improve constipation including ensuring
good hydration with water or juices and making sure there is plenty of fiber in
the diet from vegetables and fruit. Dried fruits such as dried apricots
and prunes are a particularly good dietary treatment as the sugar (sorbitol) in
dried fruit has gentle laxative properties. If the constipation does not
improve with simple dietary changes it would be sensible to consult with your
How do I know if my child is lactose
intolerance occurs when the body does not make enough of the enzyme lactase, which
digests lactose (the sugar found in milk and dairy products). As a
result, lactose is not absorbed but is instead fermented by bacteria in the
intestines. This fermentation can produce bloating, crampy abdominal pain
and diarrhea. If your child develops gassy symptoms, bloating, discomfort
or loose stool whenever they drink milk, or eat cheese or ice cream, it is
likely they have a degree of lactose intolerance. Lactose intolerance
becomes more common as we get older, but can also occur in children. It
is not dangerous but can produce unpleasant symptoms. A reduction in dairy
product intake or use of lactase enzyme supplements will reduce the
symptoms. Yogurt is relatively low in lactose and so can often be
tolerated by people with lactose intolerance.
Norovirus is a worry amongst parents
now. How do we tell it apart from stomach flu?
flu' is another term for viral gastroenteritis – i.e. inflammation of the
gastrointestinal tract by a virus infection. Symptoms may include diarrhea,
vomiting and abdominal pain. Fever, lack of energy and dehydration may also occur. Norovirus is one of several viruses that can cause this gastroenteritis. It
often causes a rapid onset of symptoms that lasts from one to seven days.
All forms of viral gastroenteritis are highly infectious and so good hand
hygiene and frequent hand-washing with soap and water is important to try to
limit the spread of the virus. It spreads easily in schools and nurseries
– keep infected children at home for at least 24 hours after their symptoms
have fully settled.
How often should children be dewormed?
would not recommend routine deworming unless a child (or adult) has symptoms
and clinical evidence of a chronic worm infestation. There is little
evidence that routine deworming of children is of benefit, and any benefit that
exists is likely to be limited to populations in poor rural areas with a high
incidence of worm infestation.
What are free radicals and why do
people keep recommending it for the stomach?
not sure I understand this question! Not one of my patients has ever
asked about it! But free radicals are molecules containing unstable atoms
that can damage the body and may contribute to cancer, ageing and other disease
processes – so it’s unlikely that it is recommended for the stomach!
Do probiotics really help in having a
are live strains of bacteria and other microorganisms that we consume either in
food and drinks (e.g. live yogurts, kimchi, kefir, sauerkraut) or as
supplements. They can be taken to maintain or improve general health or
as ‘medicine’ to help treat and recover from specific diseases.
Probiotics are thought to help supplement the microbiota – the community of
billions of bacteria living in your gut – which plays a vital important role
in maintaining a healthy metabolism and immune system. It is probably not
necessary to take probiotics continuously – a 30-day course is usually
sufficient. Probiotics may be particularly helpful in helping the gut and
the microbiota to recover from a bout of gastroenteritis or after a course of