9 Common Digestive Conditions from Top to Bottom
Most people don’t like to talk about their digestive issues, because well, it’s embarrassing. It’s something we just all choose to suffer with alone. However, there is no need of this. If you opened up to three people about your condition, chances are at least one of those people share your pain. In fact, the other day I happened to mention heartburn in passing to my neighbor and guess what? We spent the next thirty minutes sharing our stories and comparing notes. Guess what else? It wasn’t embarrassing at all!
The number of people who suffer from digestive conditions is growing more and more each day, and there’s no need for us to suffer in silence anymore! It’s time to swallow our pride and bring it all out into the open so we can make the necessary changes today. Below I’ve outlined the nine most common digestive conditions (from top to bottom) and discuss symptoms and treatments. Make sure to contact your doctor if any of these resonate with you.
1. Chest Pain: Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
If you’ve ever had a night of beer drinking, followed by a 3 am pepperoni pizza binge, then you know what I’m talking about – acid reflux. It’s awful, and it can affect your quality of life. Acid reflux happens when stomach acid backs up into your esophagus, and you feel a burning pain in your chest and back of the throat. You will usually experience this after eating – especially spicy and processed foods, drinking alcohol or at night when you lie down. If you experience acid reflux on a regular basis, then this could be a sign of GERD, affecting 20% of Americans. If you experience persistent heartburn, bad breath, tooth erosion, nausea, pain in your chest or upper part of your abdomen, or have trouble swallowing or breathing, see your doctor. For most people, just avoiding the foods that trigger their symptoms, or by taking medication will treat their symptoms. However, others may require surgery.
Gallstones are hard deposits that are formed in your gallbladder and accumulate bile for digestion. Over 20 million Americans suffer from gallstones. Gallstones are formed when your gallbladder doesn’t properly empty, or there is significant cholesterol or waste in your bile. If the gallstones aren’t dissolved by medication, surgery is sure to follow.
3. Celiac Disease
A growing number of people are affected by Celiac disease (gluten sensitivity), but over 80% of those affected are unaware of their ailment. Of course, they know something is wrong, but they either don’t know what it is or have been misdiagnosed. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley and someone with Celiac disease are extremely sensitive to this protein, causing their immune system to go on the attack. Some symptoms of celiac disease include abdominal pain and bloating, diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, and weight loss, as well as anemia, fatigue, bone loss, depression, and seizures. Strangely, however, some people may not have any symptoms at all. The only treatment for celiac disease is to completely avoid eating gluten. Fortunately, there are many gluten-free alternatives on the market today.
4. Crohn’s Disease
Crohn’s disease is part of a group of digestive conditions called inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). This chronic autoimmune disease, meaning that your immune system mistakenly attacks your cells, thinking they are foreign invaders. The most common symptoms of Crohn’s are abdominal pain, diarrhea, rectal bleeding, weight loss, and fever. Treatments vary from topical pain relievers to immunosuppressant’s, and surgery.
5. Ulcerative Colitis
Ulcerative colitis is another inflammatory bowel disease, attacking the large intestine, with symptoms very similar to Crohn’s. Sores and ulcers can develop in the colon’s lining if your immune system mistakes food or other materials for invaders. Symptoms of ulcerative colitis are frequent and urgent bowel movements, pain with diarrhea, blood in your stool, and abdominal cramps, and either limiting certain foods or medication can suppress the inflammation. However, severe cases might need surgery to remove the colon.
6. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
At least 15% of Americans suffer from IBS, which can cause stomach pain, constipation, diarrhea and bloating. The cause of IBS is unknown, but treatment is largely based on diet and eliminating common foods that trigger your symptoms. Often these foods can include dairy, caffeine, alcohol, artificial sweeteners and other common foods that produce gas. Probiotics are good bacteria that can help balance your digestive tract and help you feel better. Stress can also trigger IBS symptoms, so some people find that therapy or antidepressants to be useful treatments, as well.
Hemorrhoids are an inflammation of the blood vessels at the end of your digestive tract and can be quite painful and itchy. Hemorrhoids is a very common condition. In fact, 75 % of Americans over the age of 45 suffer from hemorrhoids. Straining from chronic constipation, lack of fiber in your diet and diarrhea are all possible causes of hemorrhoids. You may be alarmed to see bright red blood in the toilet after moving your bowels, which is a common sign of hemorrhoids. Eating more fiber, drinking more water, and exercising are all helpful treatments, and OTC creams and suppositories can provide temporary relief of your symptoms. In some cases, surgery is necessary to remove the hemorrhoids.
There tend to be weak spots in the lining of your digestive system, and small pouches called diverticula can form in those spots, most commonly found in the colon. Most often people don’t experience any symptoms. However, those who do can experience symptoms, such as rectal bleeding, fever, and abdominal pain. Obesity is a major risk factor for diverticulitis. If the symptoms are mild, they can be treated with antibiotics and a liquid diet so your colon can heal. A low fiber diet could also be the cause of diverticulitis so a diet in high fiber can be part of your treatment. In extreme cases, surgery to remove the diseased part of your colon may be necessary.
9. Anal Fissures
The anus is located at the end of the digestive track, and that’s where anal fissures (tiny, oval shaped tears) are located. Anal fissures have similar symptoms to hemorrhoids, such as bleeding and pain after moving your bowels. Like hemorrhoids, both straining from constipation, as well as diarrhea can cause anal fissures. A high fiber diet is usually the best treatment, as well as medications for relaxing the anal sphincter muscles can be useful. However, chronic fissures may require surgery of the anal sphincter muscle.
Your gut is the foundation of your digestive system, but it is a delicate area. A probiotic helps balances the gut and keep it healthy. Most people benefit from a probiotic as our acidic diets kill healthy bacteria in the gut. A probiotic replenishes the healthy bacteria that cannot be replaced by diet alone. Similarly, you can increase probiotic foods such as yogurt, but look for a quality brand you can trust that is all natural, and that has active bacteria.
The key takeaways from this article are:
- If you suffer from abdominal pain, it is very important to visit the doctor because it could be a symptom of a larger digestive condition.
- Many people suffer from these digestive issues and have received treatment and relief – so can you.
- Maintaining a healthy lifestyle with exercise, healthy eating habits and a daily probiotic will help to ward off many of these digestive conditions.