Whenever, any Bhutanese has stomach ulcer, a finger is easily pointed at the higher than average consumption of Bhutanese chilli.
However, increasing medical data and research is pointing a finger mainly at the H Pylori bacteria which as per a 2012 research afflicts a staggering 86 percent of Bhutanese people.
This bacteria not only increases the chances of getting stomach ulcers but also increases the risk of gastric cancer. It must be clarified that the odds of getting cancer are much lesser than ulcer and so only a few get Gastric Cancer. Studies are going on other health effects of H Pylori from anemia to skin conditions.
The main reason for concern is not only the ulcers but a recent 2015 report that says Bhutan’s strain of H Pylori is comparatively more prone to Gastric Cancer compared to other countries like Vietnam and Myanmar with similar levels of prevalence.
What is also a matter of concern is that the journal points out, from its own survey that Gastric Cancer rates in Bhutan are much higher than what is officially known.
Given all of the above and more in the story carried by this paper it is high time that Bhutan’s health and medical system take this into account and start enhancing corrective measures.
First of all a bigger study is needed to get a better idea of how many Bhutanese exactly carry H Pylori.
There must also be bigger study on the type of H Pylori in Bhutan and its causes.
A detailed study will not only help in better understanding the prevalence but we can also take some precautionary lessons.
The Health Ministry must then carry out an all out effort in reducing this high prevalence.
So far we know that H Pylori afflicts more than half the world’s population with the figures being much higher for developing countries.
The exact method of H Pylori transmission is not thoroughly established yet but it is widely acknowledged that taking normal everyday precautions are important.
One such move is drinking boiled water or not eating food that is unsanitary. Here, the popular habit of eating dried meat without cooking should be avoided. One should also avoid eating at shady and unsanitary restaurants. Hand washing is also important.
Though the human transmission mode is not completely established, a person with H Pylori should also take care in sharing food and drink items with others.
The strange thing about H Pylori is that a majority of people who have it never exhibit any symptoms. One popular theory is that the person’s genetics, environment and diet play a major role.
H Pylori thrives in what is acknowledged to be an unhealthy diet of junk food, cold drinks, high salt, sugar, refined food, red meat, processed meat, etc. At the same time it does not like vegetables and fruits.
There is no need for a national panic but it is time that all stakeholders apart from the Health Ministry, like the Ministry of Education, Local governments, Ministry of Agriculture and Forests etc come together to make people aware and thus start tackling the problem.
If this health issue is not tackled effectively then it will continue to take a major health toll on the country’s health. For now, ordinary citizens need to eat and drink healthy and take commonsense precautions.
To keep the body in good health is a duty, otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.