If you have pain in your abdomen or intestines, you may have one of the following conditions. Most people don’t like to talk about it, but having a gastrointestinal problem is common.
There is no need to suffer in silence. Here’s a comprehensive look at the nine most common digestive disorders, their symptoms, and the most effective treatments available. If you think you have any of these problems, talk to a healthcare professional right away.
1. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
When stomach acid backs up into the esophagus, you may feel a burning pain in the middle of your chest. This often happens after meals or at night. It is common for people to suffer from acid reflux and heartburn from time to time, having symptoms that affect daily life or occur at least twice a week could be a sign of GERD. It is a very common chronic digestive disease. If you suffer from persistent heartburn, bad breath, tooth erosion, nausea, pain in the chest or upper abdomen, or if you have difficulty swallowing or breathing, consult your doctor.
Relief is found by avoiding foods and beverages that trigger their symptoms and/or taking over-the-counter antacids. Additionally, lifestyle changes such as raising the head of the bed, not lying down after a meal, avoiding tight clothing, and quitting smoking can also help.
Gallstones are hard deposits that form in your gallbladder. It is a small pear-shaped sac that stores and secretes bile for digestion. Gallstones can form when your bile contains too much cholesterol or waste products, or if your gallbladder doesn’t empty properly.
When gallstones block the ducts that lead from the gallbladder to the intestines, they can cause sharp pains in the upper right part of the abdomen. Medicines sometimes dissolve gallstones, but if that doesn’t work, the next step is surgery to remove the gallbladder.
3. Celiac disease
More than 80% of people with celiac disease do not know they have it or have been misdiagnosed.
Celiac disease is a severe sensitivity to gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. Eat gluten, and your immune system kicks in. It damages your villi, those finger-like protuberances in your small intestine that help you absorb nutrients from the food you eat. In children, symptoms may include abdominal pain and bloating, diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, and weight loss. In adults, symptoms may also include anemia, fatigue, bone loss, depression, and pain attacks.
Still, some people may not have any symptoms. The only treatment for celiac disease is to completely avoid eating gluten. Common alternatives to gluten are brown rice, quinoa, lentils, soy flour, corn flour.
4. Crohn’s disease
Crohn’s disease is one of a group of digestive conditions called inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract but most often affects the terminal ileum, which connects the end of the small intestine and the beginning of the colon.
Doctors are unsure of the cause of the disease. But they think genetics and family history could play a role. The most common symptoms of Crohn’s disease are abdominal pain, diarrhea, rectal bleeding, weight loss and fever. Avoiding trigger foods like dairy, carbonated drinks, alcohol, coffee, raw fruits and vegetables, red meat, and fatty, fried, spicy, or gassy foods can also help prevent flare-ups.
5. Ulcerative colitis
Ulcerative colitis is another fairly common inflammatory bowel disease. The symptoms of ulcerative colitis are very similar to those of Crohn’s disease, but the part of the digestive tract affected is only the large intestine, also known as the colon.
If your immune system mistakes food or other materials for invaders, sores or ulcers develop in the lining of the colon. If you have frequent and urgent bowel movements, pain with diarrhea, blood in the stool, or abdominal cramps, see your doctor.
Eliminating foods that cause discomfort can help. In severe cases, treatment for ulcerative colitis may require surgery to remove the colon.
6. Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Is your digestive tract irritable? Do you have stomach pain or discomfort at least three times a month for several months? It may be irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), another common digestive condition.
The signs of IBS can vary widely, from hard, dry stools one day to loose, watery stools another day. Bloating is also a symptom of IBS.
The causes of IBS are not known. Treatment of symptoms relies heavily on diet. Like eating low-fat, high-fiber meals and avoiding common trigger foods (dairy, alcohol, caffeine, artificial sweeteners, and foods that produce gas). The low FODMAP diet has also been shown to reduce IBS symptoms. It consists of eliminating foods rich in certain carbohydrates called FODMAPs: fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols.
Also, beneficial bacteria, such as the probiotics in live yogurt, can help you feel better. Stress can trigger IBS symptoms. This is why some people find cognitive behavioral therapy or other anti-stress methods to be helpful treatments as well.
Bright red blood in the toilet bowl when you have a bowel movement can be a sign of hemorrhoids.
Hemorrhoids are inflammation of the blood vessels at the end of your digestive tract that can be painful and itchy. The causes are chronic constipation, diarrhea, straining to have a bowel movement and a lack of fiber in the diet.
Treat hemorrhoids by eating more fiber, drinking more water, and exercising. Over-the-counter creams and suppositories can temporarily relieve hemorrhoid symptoms. See your doctor if home treatments don’t help. Sometimes a hemorrhoidectomy is needed to surgically remove the hemorrhoids.
Small pockets called diverticula can form anywhere there are weak spots in the lining of your digestive system. They are most often found in the colon. If you have diverticula but no symptoms, the condition is called diverticulosis. It is quite common in older people and rarely causes problems. About half of people develop diverticulosis before the age of 50. But in about 5% of people, the pockets become inflamed or infected, this is diverticulitis. Symptoms include fever, chills, nausea, and abdominal pain. Obesity is a major risk factor for diverticulitis.
Mild diverticulitis is treated with antibiotics and a clear liquid diet so the colon can heal. A diet low in fiber could be the cause of diverticulitis. Your doctor may therefore advise you to follow a diet rich in fibre. With in particular: whole grains, legumes, vegetables.
If you have severe attacks that recur frequently, you may need to have an operation to remove the diseased part of your colon.
9. Anal fissure
Anal fissures are tiny, oval-shaped tears in the wall of the end of your digestive tract called the anus. The symptoms are similar to those of hemorrhoids. Like bleeding and pain after passing stool. Hard, difficult stools can cause cracking, but also loose stools and diarrhea.
A high-fiber diet that makes your stools well-formed and bulky is often the best treatment for this common digestive condition. Chronic fissures may require anal sphincter muscle surgery.
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