Are you constantly worried about your health?
Abdominal pain, gastrointestinal disease, heartburn, and other digestive issues can be uncomfortable, but fortunately, they don’t usually cause concern. Sometimes, however, these symptoms can indicate a more serious health condition.
9 Common Digestive Disorders
Constipation is difficult or infrequent bowel movements. If you have bowel movements less than three times a week, you are likely constipated. Chronic constipation affects approximately 63 million people in the United States. The main cause of constipation is not getting enough fiber in your diet. The main symptom of constipation is straining to move. In most cases, increasing fiber, fluids, and exercise will resolve the condition. You can use laxatives only as a temporary solution.
Stomach Flu (abdominal pain)—or gastroenteritis—is an infection of the stomach and upper part of the small intestine. Common symptoms are diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and cramps. Rotavirus and norovirus, which affect millions of people each year, are often the cause. Gastroenteritis often gets better on its own, but you lose fluids through diarrhea and vomiting. Prevent dehydration by drinking more and more water with a mix of electrolyte drinks.
Hemorrhoids are very painful, swollen blood vessels in the anal canal. Symptoms include unbearable pain, itching, and bright red blood after a bowel movement. Constipation and pregnancy are the major causes. Hemorrhoids are common, occurring in 75% of people over the age of 45. It helps to avoid constipation by including fiber and plenty of fluids in your diet. Try a hemorrhoid cream, suppository, or a warm bath to relieve pain and itching. It may feel a little embarrassing to talk about hemorrhoids, but don’t stop seeking help if hemorrhoids persist.
The gallbladder is an organ connected to your intestine that stores bile – a digestive juice. Bile can form small, hard deposits called gallstones. More than 20 million Americans have gallstones, but not all of them are a problem. Some gallstones do not cause symptoms and go away on their own. Others may cause severe pain or infection. May you have nausea, vomiting, and fever also. Surgery is the common treatment for gallstones that cause these gallbladder problems.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) refers to long-lasting inflammation in the digestive tract. Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are the two most common types of inflammatory bowel disease. IBD affects more than 1.5 million Americans, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. They are autoimmune diseases, meaning there is an abnormal immune system response. IBD causes irritation and inflammation, resulting in diarrhea, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, fever, and weight loss. Crohn’s disease primarily affects the end of the small intestine and the beginning of the colon. Ulcerative colitis affects only the colon and rectum. Medicines that block your immune response can treat IBD. Sometimes surgery is necessary.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
People sometimes confuse IBS with IBD. IBS is abdominal pain that occurs at least three times a month for three consecutive months. You may also have constipation or diarrhea. Unlike IBD, IBS does not damage the digestive system and is far more common. More than 15 million Americans have IBS. The main cause of IBS is still not clear. Treatment may include eating mini-meals and avoiding foods that cause symptoms.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
If you have heartburn or acid reflux more than twice a week, you may have gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. The esophagus carries the swallowed food to your stomach. A ring of muscle—the lower esophageal sphincter (LES)—connects the stomach and esophagus. When the LES is weak, stomach acid can leak back into your esophagus and cause heartburn. This can cause serious damage to your esophagus over time. About 22% of Americans suffer from GERD. Well, you can treat GERD with some changes in your lifestyle, such as changing what and when you eat and eat mini-meals. Antacids or prescription-strength acid blockers can also help.
Gluten Sensitivity and Celiac Disease
The symptoms of gluten sensitivity and celiac disease are similar. These include diarrhea, bloating, and abdominal pain. Gluten sensitivity is relatively common, according to the U.S. Affects about 5% of the population. True celiac disease affects less than 1%. It’s important to see your doctor for an accurate diagnosis—don’t try to self-diagnose. Unlike gluten sensitivity, celiac is an auto-immune disease that can damage the small intestine. Eliminating gluten as a protein in wheat, rye, barley, and oats from your diet is the main treatment for both conditions.
Peptic Ulcer Disease (PUD) and Gastritis
A PUD is an open wound in the lining of the stomach or the upper part of the small intestine. It affects more than 15 million Americans. Gastritis is an inflammation of the lining of the stomach. These two conditions cause similar symptoms, including abdominal pain and nausea, and similar causes. A bacterial infection is the main cause of PUD and often causes chronic gastritis.
Diverticulosis includes diverticulosis—small pouches that form and become inflamed in the wall of your colon and diverticulitis. About half of people between the ages of 60 and 80 have this condition. You may feel bloating, constipation, or pain in the lower abdomen. Treatment usually involves changing what you eat. If you have bleeding from your rectum, see your doctor right away. You may also need antibiotics, a liquid diet, or surgery to treat diverticulitis.