Did you know that nearly seventy million Americans suffer from digestive problems, almost one-third of the population? And that doesn’t even include the millions who suffer from occasional indigestion, heartburn, and other minor digestive issues. Digestive problems are widespread, and many people put up with their discomfort without complaint. These issues may cause various uncomfortable symptoms and can eventually lead to a more serious condition.
Digestive diseases account for 25% of all surgical procedures. It is one of the most prevalent causes of disability in the workplace. However, if it is detected early on, many digestive illnesses may be handled by dietary changes and other lifestyle adjustments.
What is a digestive disorder?
There are many digestive disorders, but the most common include irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), acid reflux, gastritis, Celiac, and Crohn’s disease. Digestive disorders can be caused by several things, including infection, stress, an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in the gut, food intolerances or allergies, and certain medications.
Let’s look at each of these in a little more detail:
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
IBS is a common digestive disorder that affects the large intestine. Symptoms include abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea, and constipation. IBS is thought to be caused by an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in the gut, as well as a sensitivity to certain foods.
Some diets that may help to relieve symptoms include the low-FODMAP diet, the specific carbohydrate diet, and the Paleo diet. Low-FODMAP diet is designed to reduce the number of fermentable carbohydrates in the diet. In contrast, the typical carbohydrate diet eliminates all grains, processed foods, and refined sugars. The Paleo diet focuses on whole, unprocessed foods and eliminates dairy, grains, legumes, and processed sugars.
Acid reflux, commonly known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), is an illness in which stomach acid flows back up into the food pipe or esophagus, producing uncomfortable symptoms such as heartburn. This is often caused by a weakened or dysfunctional LES, which can be due to some things, including obesity, pregnancy, smoking, and certain medications. LES is the muscle that separates the stomach from the esophagus.
Acid reflux is typically treated with lifestyle changes and over-the-counter (OTC) medications, such as antacids. In some cases, prescription medications may be necessary. Surgery may also be an option for severe cases of GERD. This is typically treated with lifestyle changes, such as avoiding trigger foods and eating smaller meals. Some foods triggering acid reflux include spicy foods, fatty foods, chocolate, coffee, and alcohol.
Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that affects the digestive tract. Symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea, weight loss, and fatigue. Crohn’s disease is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. There is no cure for Crohn’s disease, but it can be managed with medication, surgery, and lifestyle changes.
Lifestyle changes that may help manage Crohn’s disease include eating a healthy diet, regular exercise, and reducing stress. Some common triggers for Crohn’s flares include stress, alcohol, smoking, and certain foods.
Celiac disease is when the immune system reacts to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Symptoms include abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea, and weight loss. Celiac disease is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. There is no cure for celiac disease, but it can be managed by following a gluten-free diet.
A gluten-free diet is the only treatment for celiac disease. This means eliminating all gluten-related foods, including bread, pasta, cereal, and baked goods. Some people with celiac disease may also need to avoid dairy, soy, and certain grains.
Gastritis is an inflammation of the stomach lining. Its symptoms include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite. This can be caused by many things, including infection, stress, autoimmune conditions, and certain medications.
Gastritis is typically treated with lifestyle changes and medications. Some lifestyle changes that may help to relieve symptoms include eating a healthy diet, avoiding trigger foods, and managing stress. Medicines often used to treat gastritis include antacids, acid-suppressing drugs, and antibiotics.
When to see a doctor
Some people have the bad habit to neglect their health, thinking that the digestive disorders they experience are just minor and will eventually go away on their own. However, this is not always the case. In some cases, digestive disorders can be severe and even life-threatening.
If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms regularly, see a trusted gastrointestinal specialist for a proper diagnosis instead of self-medicating or trying to manage the condition on your own. The gastrointestinal specialist will likely perform a physical exam and ask about your symptoms. They will advise more natural and subtle ways to care for digestive health conditions, including dietary and lifestyle changes and supplements.
All in all
Digestive disorders are pervasive and can cause a wide range of uncomfortable symptoms. If you leave it untreated, some digestive disorders can lead to serious complications, such as malnutrition, dehydration, and even cancer. So, if you’re experiencing any persistent changes in your bowel habits or abdominal pain that doesn’t go away, make an appointment with your doctor. Don’t wait until it’s too late-make an appointment with your doctor today.