7 Most Common Digestive Problems

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7 Most Common Digestive Problems

Digestive disorders are common and affect almost everyone at some point or other in their lives. There is no need to be embarrassed or suffer through the condition quietly. Due to the embarrassing symptoms associated with digestive diseases and disorders, people avoid seeking treatment. While some of these conditions are simply minor annoyances that can be easily remedied, others have the potential to cause serious, potentially life-threatening damage if left untreated.

Gastrointestinal symptoms can vary in intensity from very mild to serious. If you’re experiencing the symptoms below over and over again or if they cause you significant discomfort, your body could be trying to tell you that you have a digestive condition.

Symptoms

The most common symptoms of digestive problems are pain, bleeding, constipation, bloating, diarrhea, heartburn, nausea, and vomiting. Accurately diagnosing digestive disorders involves getting a thorough medical history and conducting a physical examination. Some patients may need more extensive diagnostic evaluations like endoscopic procedures, lab tests, and imaging.

Here are some common digestive conditions that might be causing the symptoms:

#1 Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

It occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter becomes weak or relaxes when it shouldn’t, allowing the stomach acid to flow back up into the esophagus. Nausea, a sour taste in your throat, bad breath, dental problems, difficulty swallowing, breathing problems, and heartburn can all be a result of GERD. Carbonated drinks, chocolate, coffee, spicy foods, tea, and tomatoes may trigger GERD, so it’s wise to eliminate these from your diet.

Treatment may include dietary and other lifestyle changes, medications, and even surgery.

#2 Peptic Ulcer Disease (PUD) and Gastritis

Peptic ulcers are sores that develop in the lining of the stomach, lower esophagus, or first part of the small intestine. If you have unexplained stomach pain, think twice before reaching for a painkiller. The worst thing to do if ulcers are suspected is to take aspirin or other NSAID [nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug] pain reducers—not only will they not help the problem, they’ll make it worse.

To treat an ulcer, antibiotics, often combined with therapy, can rid someone of H. pylori. For more severe cases, surgery may be recommended.

#3 Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

The two most common forms of IBD are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Crohn disease can affect any part of the digestive tract from the mouth to the anus but is primarily found in the last part of the small intestine (the ileum) and/or in the colon (large intestine or bowel). Ulcerative colitis primarily affects the surface lining of the colon. Both are chronic (ongoing and life-long) conditions in which symptoms vary from person to person and will range from mild to severe. 

Treatment may include medications and lifestyle changes, avoiding foods that trigger irritation or surgery if those don’t work.

#4 Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

IBS happens when intestinal muscles contract too quickly or too slowly. IBS symptoms include bloating, constipation, cramping, diarrhea, and gas. One way to fight IBS is to keep track of foods that seem to trigger attacks. Beans, broccoli, cauliflower, coleslaw, and foods that contain fructose all can bring on IBS.

Foods high in fiber may help, as well as over the counter medications for constipation or diarrhea.

#5 Gallstones

The gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped organ that is attached to your intestine. It stores bile, a fluid that is used to aid in digestion. Sometimes, however, this bile can form into hard deposits known as gallstones, as a result of there being too much cholesterol or waste in your bile, or if your gallbladder doesn’t empty properly. Gallstones are normally harmless but can cause pain, nausea, inflammation, blockage of bile ducts, and infection.

Treatment can include medications, shockwaves to break up the stones, surgery, and antibiotics for an infection.

#6 Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is

  • a serious autoimmune disease
  • genetic
  • triggered by the consumption of a protein called gluten

Celiac disease doesn’t have a cure but can be managed by adopting a gluten-free diet. Left untreated, people with celiac disease are at risk of serious health consequences. People with celiac disease have a variety of symptoms, like fatigue, bone and joint pain, weight loss, diarrhea, nausea, and other digestive symptoms.

A strict, 100% gluten-free diet is currently the only way to control the celiac disease. 

#7 Constipation

Have you been having difficulties going to the bathroom? You may be suffering from constipation. Drink lots of water, add fruits and veggies to your diet, and consume warm liquids in the morning to help relieve yourself. Getting enough fiber, water, and exercise will likely help curb constipation. Medications can also provide relief in more serious cases.

Treatment will depend on the cause and is usually managed by modifying diet and lifestyle, increasing physical activity, and fluid intake. If lifestyle modification is not sufficient, laxatives may be prescribed.

When to see a doctor?

Ignore the above recommendations and see a doctor immediately if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms:

  • Blood in the stool
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Yellowing of the skin or eyes
  • Dramatic changes in how often you go to the toilet
  • Worsening heartburn
  • Severe stomach pain or indigestion

Digestive problems can be an indicator of a bigger problem. If you have tried an over-the-counter solution with no improvement, we recommend speaking with a gastroenterologist. Prashanth Super Specialty Hospital, the best hospital for gastroenterology in Chennai, provides a comprehensive range of consultative and diagnostic procedures in gastroenterology. Our gastroenterologist specialists are pioneers in advanced minimally invasive diagnostic and surgical procedures.