Common Digestive Problems
Digestive issues are a universal phenomenon. Who hasn’t experienced pain and discomfort in the stomach every once in a while? Across the world, problems such as abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhoea, indigestion, and heartburn afflict a large part of the population. Let’s take a look at some common digestive problems and understand how to resolve them.
Gastro-oesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
The condition of acid reflux occurs when your stomach acid enters your oesophagus. This may feel like a burning pain in the middle of your chest. It usually occurs after meals or at night. While it’s common for people to experience acid reflux and heartburn every once in a while, if the symptoms obstruct your daily life or occur every week, it could be a sign of GERD, which is a chronic digestive disorder. You may usually find relief by avoiding certain foods or beverages that trigger symptoms or by taking antacids or other medications. But some cases of GERD may require stronger treatment, for example, medication or surgery.
Gallstones are hard deposits that develop in your gallbladder. They are usually created when there’s too much cholesterol or waste in your bile. When these stones block the path leading your gallbladder to your intestines, they can cause sharp pain in your upper-right abdomen. Sometimes, medications can be successful in dissolving gallstones, but the next step is surgery to remove them.
Celiac disease can be defined as a serious sensitivity to gluten, which is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. It damages the villi, the finger-like protrusions in your small intestine that absorb nutrients from the food you eat. Some symptoms of this disease are abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, vomiting and weight loss. Some more serious symptoms could be anaemia, fatigue, depression, bone loss and seizures. The only treatment for this disease is avoiding gluten. Some alternatives to gluten are brown rice, lentils, corn flour, soy flour and amaranth.
Crohn’s disease is a part of a digestive condition called the Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). This disease most commonly affects the terminal ileum, the part which conjoins the end of the small bowel and the beginning of the colon, but it can affect any part of the digestive system. Doctors aren't sure about the cause of the disease, but it's thought that genetics and family history may play an important part. The most common Crohn's symptoms are abdominal pain, weight loss, diarrhoea, rectal bleeding, and fever. Treatment depends on the symptoms and major cases may include topical pain relievers, immune-suppressants, and surgery.
Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease. Its symptoms are quite similar to those of Crohn's, but the majorly affected part of the digestive tract is solely the large intestine, also known as the colon. In this disease, your immune system doesn’t allow some kinds of food or other materials and as a result, sores or ulcers may develop in the colon’s lining. Major symptoms are frequent and urgent bowel movements, blood in your stool, pain with diarrhoea, and abdominal cramps. Medication can dial down the inflammation and eliminating certain foods that cause discomfort may help as well. In severe cases, the treatment may involve surgery to remove the colon.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
The percentage of people suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) across the world is 10-15%. Some major signs of IBS are: constipation, diarrhoea, hard or dry stools and bloating. So if your digestive tract is irritable, or if you have stomach pain/discomfort around three times a month, you may want to meet your doctor. The cause of IBS isn’t determined yet but the treatment of the symptoms centres mostly on diet, like eating food with low-fat, high-fibre content or avoiding common trigger foods like alcohol, caffeine, dairy products, etc.
Haemorrhoids are a very common condition often accompanied by bright red blood during bowel movements. In this disease, there is an inflammation of the blood vessels at the end of your digestive tract. They can be painful and itchy. Some of the causes include chronic constipation, straining during bowel movements, diarrhoea, and a lack of fibre in your diet. You can easily treat haemorrhoids by eating more fibre, drinking more water, and exercising. Over-the-counter medicines and suppositories may provide temporary relief from haemorrhoid symptoms.
Most of the digestive problems are a result of poor lifestyle, dietary habits or stress. This means that taking steps to change your lifestyle can help, and often obviate, many of these problems. Of course, if that doesn’t work, there’s a wide choice of pharmaceutical remedies for heartburn, indigestion and similar problems that are effective for short-term relief from the symptoms.
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