Digestive problems can cause a plethora of symptoms including heartburn, nausea, abdominal cramping, diarrhea, constipation, and flatulence. Digestive issues are some of the most common, yet least talked about health problems experienced by men and women across America. There is no reason you should suffer in silence. Below are ten common digestive problems and what you can do about it.
Celiac disease affects approximately one percent of the American population; however, many researchers believe that up to 80 percent of those with celiac disease either do not know they have celiac disease, or they have been misdiagnosed.
Celiac disease is a food sensitivity of gluten, the protein found in a variety of grains including wheat, barley, and rye. When a person who has celiac disease eats gluten, their immune system activates and begins attacking the gastrointestinal tract. The immune system gets confused and begins attacking the villi in your small intestines. The villi are finger-like protrusion that help with nutrient absorption. Celiac disease causes a number of digestive disturbances, including diarrhea, constipation, abdominal bloating, vomiting, and abdominal pain. In addition to these symptoms, celiac suffers can experience depression, seizures, fatigue, anemia, and bone loss.
A key component of celiac disease treatment includes completely avoiding gluten. Unfortunately, gluten is found in a variety of items, including spices, processed foods, beer, sauces, dietary supplements, and some medications. Therefore, it is important that you read all labels to help protect your health.
Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease condition and causes inflammation in the digestive tract. Because Crohn’s disease can affect different areas of the digestive tract, it may affect people differently.
The symptoms of Crohn’s disease include systemic inflammation, malnutrition, weight loss, severe diarrhea, abdominal pain, and fatigue. Crohn’s disease may also cause inflammation of the liver, joints, eyes, and skin. Finally, sufferers may also experience kidney stones and anemia.
The gallbladder stores bile, a digestive juice, and releases it into the intestines to help with the digestion of fats. Gallstones develop when there are hard deposits of bilirubin or cholesterol in bile. These stones may develop in the bile ducts or in the gallbladder and can cause abdominal and flank pain along with other complications. Gallstones affect approximately one million Americans each year; however, many individuals are asymptomatic.
Gallstones can irritate and inflame the gallbladder, causing a variety of symptoms. The most common symptoms include pain in the upper right abdominal area, chest pain, and right shoulder pain. The pain is typically steady and will subside in a few hours. In addition to pain, sufferers can experience nausea, vomiting, bloating, abdominal distention, fever, chills, loss of appetite, sweating, jaundice, and clay-colored stools. If left untreated, serious complications like infection and tissue damage can occur.
Several things can increase the risk of you developing gallstones, including-
- Being a female
- Family history of gallstones
- Over the age of 40
- Suffering from Crohn’s disease or diabetes
- Eating a high fat diet
- Rapid weight loss
- Gallbladder not emptying properly
Gallstones can range in size from the size of a grain of salt to as large as a golf ball. Many people are surprised to learn that smaller gallstones typically cause more issues than larger gallstones. Small gallstones can exit the gallbladder and then get stuck in the bile ducts. These gallstones can block the bile duct resulting in infection or pancreatitis. Conversely, larger stones typically remain in the gallbladder.
Rapid weight loss and pregnancy are two common reasons. Other reasons include the gallbladder not emptying properly, a concentration of bilirubin or cholesterol in your bile, or chronic conditions like blood disorders or cirrhosis of the liver.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
When stomach acids back up in the esophagus, a person may experience acid reflux or heartburn. Acid reflux causes a burning sensation and pain in the center of the chest. This condition typically occurs after eating a meal or during the night. The pain will begin at your breastbone and travel upward into your neck and throat. Other symptoms of GERD include bad breath, nausea, pain in your upper chest/back, difficulty swallowing/breathing, and tooth erosion.
Most everyone experiences heartburn from time to time; however, if a person has heartburn more than two times a week, this is considered a chronic digestive issue called GERD. According to the NIH, twenty percent of Americans have GERD. Relief can be experienced by taking an antacid or standing up and walking around. There are several things you can do to minimize the risk of GERD including–
- Avoid certain foods such as chocolate, fatty foods, caffeine, alcoholic beverages, peppermint, pepper, tomato products, and citrus juices
- Reduce portion size
- Stop smoking
- Avoid eating two to three hours before bedtime
- Elevate the head of your bed 6 inches to minimize the risk of GERD
- Avoid wearing tight fitting clothing
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common digestive disorder, affecting approximately 45 million Americans. This condition affects the large intestine and causes a plethora of digestive symptoms. The most common symptoms include abdominal cramping, bloating, excess gas, mucus in the stool, constipation, or diarrhea.
Although the exact cause of IBS is unknown, there are several things that can trigger IBS. Many people who suffer from IBS experience symptoms when they consume certain food or drinks, such as dairy products, wheat, fruits, and beans. Periods of stress may increase the symptoms of IBS. Finally, researches believe that hormone fluctuations may cause IBS symptoms.
The risk factors for developing IBS include being under 50 years of age, being female, suffering from a mental health condition, or having family members who have IBS. If IBS is not treated, your quality of life can diminish, and mood disorders can occur. The symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome can become so severe that sufferers often avoid social situations.
Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease that affects almost a million Americans every year. Unlike Crohn’s disease that can affect any area of the digestive tract, ulcerative colitis causes the lining of the colon to become inflamed. Once inflammation occurs, small ulcers form causing a plethora of physical and emotional symptoms. The immune system mistakenly thinks the foods you eat are foreign invaders and begin to attack the large intestine.
Ulcerative colitis causes a number of symptoms including-
- Urgent bowel movements
- Painful diarrhea
- Abdominal pain
In severe cases, the stools are bloody and inflammation and damage requires that the colon be removed surgically. You may also experience weight loss, fatigue, and fever as the condition progresses.
Ulcerative colitis affects both men and women in their mid-30s; however, it can occur at any age. If you have a relative with ulcerative colitis, your risk of developing ulcerative colitis increases. Ulcerative colitis can occur in any race or ethnicity. If left unchecked can lead to severe complications. You may experience severe bleeding, a perforated colon, and an increased risk of colon cancer. Sufferers may also experience severe dehydration, bone loss, liver disease, increased risk of blood clots, and systemic inflammation.
Bright red blood on toilet paper following a bowel movement may signal that a person has hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids are a common condition, affecting approximately 75 percent of American adults aged 45 years old or older. Hemorrhoids occur when the blood vessels in the colon and around the anus become inflamed. Hemorrhoids cause rectal bleeding, pain, and itching. The common causes of hemorrhoids are chronic constipation, straining during a bowel movement, a sedentary lifestyle, obesity, and pregnancy.
Anal fissures are small tears that occur at the anus. These tears occur when attempting to pass large or hard stools. Symptoms of anal fissures include experiencing pain during a bowel movement, bloody stools, or a visible crack around the anus, a skin tag or lump near the fissure.
Straining and hard bowel movements and constipation are common culprits for anal fissures; however, they can also be caused by diarrhea or soft stools as well.
Diverticulitis is a condition that affects older adults. Approximately half of those diagnosed with diverticulitis are age 50 and above. Small pouches (diverticula) form in weak spots of the lining of the digestive tract, especially the colon. Diverticulitis occurs when the diverticula become infected or inflamed.
The symptoms of diverticulitis include fever, chills, nausea, cramping, and pain. Typically, this condition is relieved by following a clear liquid diet and also taking a course of antibiotics. Eating a high fiber diet and avoiding foods with seeds like berries can help prevent a relapse.
Peptic Ulcer Disease
Peptic ulcer disease is when an open sore occurs in the lining of the upper part of the small intestine or in the lining of the stomach. This affects around 15 million Americans each year. Typically, the lining of the digestive tract is protected by a thick layer of mucus. If this layer becomes damaged, stomach acid can damage the tissue, resulting in an open sore.
The symptoms of a peptic ulcer include a gnawing pain in the mid to upper abdominal region that occurs between meals and at nighttime. Pain that is temporarily relieved when a person ingests an antacid or eats suggest the presence of an ulcer. Heartburn, vomiting, and nausea are also symptoms of a peptic ulcer. In severe cases, a person can experience abdominal pain, blood stools, and weight loss.
Seek Help for your Digestive Problems
Digestive problems affect millions of Americans each year. Unfortunately, most people are embarrassed and suffer in silence. If you are experiencing any digestive disorders or have any of the symptoms explained above, our integrative physicians and nutritionists specializing in gut health can help. They help find the root cause of your digestive problems and offer customized treatment plans to heal your digestive tract.