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Digestive Disorders: Causes, Symptoms, & Treatments

Acid Reflux

Medically termed as gastroesophageal reflux disease, it is one of the most common digestive conditions in the US, affecting more than 20% of the population on a monthly basis. Also sometimes deemed as heartburn, acid reflux is the back flow of stomach acid into the esophagus or the food pipe. Heartburn is one of the first signs of acid reflux. One might feel a slight burning sensation in the lower chest. The sensation varies based on the amount of acid that has entered the esophagus. 

Causes of Acid Reflux

Acid reflux is a result of the inability of the sphincter muscle in the esophagus to respond effectively during digestion. The sphincter muscle acts as a valve which keeps the hydrochloric acid of the stomach out of the esophagus. The stomach has a lining that protects it from the acid, but the esophagus doesn’t.  The failure of the valve forces some acid into the esophagus, causing the burn.  

There are several factors responsible for the reduced effectiveness of the sphincter. They include: 

  • Smoking 

  • Excessive drinking 

  • Lying down just after your meal 

  • Obesity 

  • Overeating 

  • Medications you might be taking for other conditions 

  • Carbonated drinks 

There are many more small factors that might give rise to an acid reflux.  

Treatment of Acid Reflux 

There are several medications that can provide instant relief from the burning sensation, but they can provide only temporary relief. To eliminate the occurrence of acid reflux, one must make lifestyle changes which include a regulated diet, regular exercises, eliminating habits like smoking and excessive drinking. Temporary methods include: 

  • Antacids 

  • Fruit salts 

  • Medications to reduce acid generation 

  • Medicines to heal the esophagus 

Crohn’s Disease

According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, Crohn’s disease affects more than 800,000 Americans in a year.   An inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease commonly affects the small intestine and the colon. There are chances of it affecting other parts of the digestive tract as well, including the mouth and the anus. It can be mildly irritating to completely fatal.  

Cause of Crohn’s Disease 

Though researchers have not been able to pinpoint the exact cause of the disease, there are a few factors that are directly or indirectly responsible for it. They include: 

  • The strength of the immune system 

  • Genetic factors 

  • The environment you live in including your lifestyle 

  • Smoking 

  • Other lethal addictions 

Crohn’s disease is not directly linked with severe complications, but it can weaken the digestive system causing other conditions to affect it simultaneously. Bacterial, fungal, and yeast infections are common in a person affect by Crohn’s disease.  

Length of the time of the disease can also worsen conditions by weakening the immune system and making the digestive tract and respiratory tract vulnerable to other diseases and conditions. 

Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease 

The symptoms of Crohn’s disease are not visible at an instant, but they worsen over time and are then visible. One should take note of the symptoms and consult a doctor or medical professional immediately. The symptoms are: 

  • Fever 

  • Fatigue 

  • Loss of appetite 

  • Weight loss 

  • Diarrhea 

  • Abdominal cramps 

  • Frequent need for bowel movements 

These symptoms are also common with other conditions, but one should not overlook them. Consulting a professional is always a better choice. 

Treatment for Crohn’s Disease 

There is no complete cure for Crohn’s disease, but several treatment methods can help reduce the symptoms and prevent from the disease to worsen. 

Non-invasive methods 

  • Medications such as anti-inflammatory, immunomodulators, & antibiotics 

  • Dietary changes such as avoiding dairy foods, spicy foods, and foods that increase the inflammation 

Surgery is the last resort, but one should make their best efforts to avoid surgery. Surgery involves removal of the infected or damaged portions of the tract and reconnecting the healthy sections. 

Dietary Changes for Crohn’s Disease 

Since Crohn’s disease is not treatable, one must manage their food intake to keep the symptoms of the disease in control. These are the changes on should make: 

  • Limit fiber intake 

  • Drink ample amount of water 

  • Minimize dairy intake 

  • Limit the fat intake 

  • Eat supplements for vitamins and minerals 

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

One of the most common digestive disorders in the USA, Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS affects 25 to 45 million Americans in a year. It affects the large intestine and is a combination of multiple intestinal symptoms that typically occur together. IBS can cause severe intestinal damage if not treated or acted upon at the right time.  

Causes of Irritable Bowel Syndrome 

There is exact cause for IBS, but there are several factors that affect the worsening or appearance of the syndrome. 

  • Nervous system – Abnormally functioning of the nervous system can cause the intestines to overreact which results in pain and diarrhea 

  • Infections – A continuous infection in the digestive tract can lead to IBS 

  • Muscle contractions – Abnormal contractions of the muscles that line the intestines can cause bloating and diarrhea. Excessive gas is also produced during these contractions. 

Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome 

Though symptoms might vary from person to person, there are some that are common among all. They include: 

  • Excessive production of gas 

  • Mucus in the stool 

  • Irregular hits of diarrhea and constipation 

  • Abdominal pain, cramps, bloating, and pain during bowel movement 

Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome 

There are several ways your doctor might diagnose your condition. This includes X-ray tests, colonoscopy, CT scan, stool tests, and endoscopies. 

You cannot completely treat IBS, but many methods can ease the symptoms. They include: 

  • Avoiding foods that trigger symptoms 

  • Regular exercise 

  • Get enough sleep 

  • Drinking plenty of liquids 

  • Eating high fiber foods 

  • Avoiding foods that produce gas 

  • Eliminating foods that contain great amounts of gluten 

There are several medications available that can alleviate the symptoms and prevent the conditioning from worsening. 

Pancreatitis

The pancreas is a long and flat organ that lies behind the stomach and produces enzymes that help in digestion, and hormones that regulate other systems. Pancreatitis is the inflammation of the pancreas. There are two major types of pancreatitis based on the period they stay. Acute pancreatitis affects you for a few days and then disappears. Chronic stays for a few years, and sometimes, even for life. 

Causes of Pancreatitis 

One of the main causes of pancreatitis is the activation of the enzymes in the pancreas itself, causing irritation and inflammation in the organ. The first bout is always acute pancreatitis, which when left untreated, turns in chronic pancreatitis. There are various conditions that can lead to pancreatitis, which include: 

  • Gallstones 

  • Alcoholism 

  • Cystic fibrosis 

  • Infections 

  • Obesity 

  • Injuries to the abdomen 

  • High calcium levels in the body 

  • Abdominal conditions 

  • Pancreatic cancer 

Risk Factors Associated with Pancreatitis 

  • Smoking – There is a high risk of developing pancreatitis if you smoke more than four times in a day 

  • Alcohol consumption – Heavy consumption of alcohol is directly related to increase chances of contracting pancreatitis 

  • Obesity 

  • Genetics – If your family has a history of pancreatitis, then the chances of getting affected by it increase, especially when combined with other risk factors 

Symptoms of Pancreatitis 

Depending on the severity of the conditions, the symptoms might vary from person to person. They include: 

  • Upper abdominal pain 

  • Rapid pulse 

  • Vomiting and nausea 

  • Fever 

  • Weight loss 

  • Smelly or oily stools 

Treatment Methods for Pancreatitis 

There are two main ways of treating pancreatitis, noninvasive and invasive. Invasive techniques include surgeries such as gallbladder surgery and pancreas surgery.  

Non-invasive methods include: 

Fasting – Reducing food intake can give the pancreas a chance to recover. Intermediate fasting can cure pancreatitis if the condition is in its initial stages 

Medications – Medications are used to reduce inflammation, alleviate pain, and prevent infections from affecting the pancreas 

Diet Management – Low fat meals & high nutrition food is what should be your general intake for the day. Enzyme supplements can also be very helpful. 

Constipation

Though technically not a disease, constipation is one of the most common symptoms for most of the digestive disorders known to humans. It is characterized as the irregular timings of bowel movements, pain during bowel movements, and hard stools. There are several levels of constipation which when worsen, develops into a severe painful condition. The opposite of constipation is diarrhea, where the body continuously expels fecal matter from the body at irregular intervals.  

Causes of Constipation 

There are several causes of constipation. These are some of the most common causes: 

  • Diet – Low fiber diet, reduced intake of water, or irregular dieting can cause abnormal functionality of the digestive system, resulting in constipation. 

  • Medications – There are some medications whose side effects include constipation. If the severity of the condition increases, consult your doctor and ask for a supplementary medication. 

  • Psychological - Though some people might disagree, a person’s psychology can also cause the body to hold stool. Pain, fear, anxiety, fear of using public restrooms, etc. can all cause temporary constipation. 

  • Medical conditions – Other medical conditions can also be a huge factor in causing constipation. The time duration might depend on the condition that has caused constipation. 

Symptoms of Constipation 

One of the most common and visible symptoms is the irregular occurrence of bowel movements or the complete halt in bowel movements. There are a few other symptoms as well: 

  • Stomachache 

  • Stomach cramps 

  • Bloating and nausea 

  • Loss of appetite 

Treatment of Constipation 

There are different treatment methods available to treat constipation: 

  • Laxatives – One of the most common treatment methods, laxatives are a low cost and safe way to treat constipation. These medications immediately counter the causes and slowly improve the occurrence of bowel movements. 
  • Physical Intervention – Regular exercise, Pilates, etc. can help in increase the immunity of the digestive system. It helps prevent as well as treat constipation. 
  • Fiber supplements – One can consume natural fiber foods or also fiber supplements to counter constipation. One should always consult a doctor before consuming excess of any food supplement. 

 

There are several other digestive disorders and conditions that affect Americans daily. But there are some basic habits and lifestyle changes that can help you become immune or can reduce the chances of contracting these disorders. These changes include exercise, regulated diet, and a regular health checkup. At HPFY, we aim to provide every bit of information that can help you live a healthy and safe life. 

 

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