Everything you eat and drink goes on an epic journey through your gastrointestinal system. Food is digested, vitamins are absorbed, and nutrients are processed. Throughout that lengthy process, there are a lot of things that can go wrong, leading to discomfort or even serious health issues. Here we will break down the most common gastrointestinal issues, and how to deal with them.
1. Gastrointestinal Reflux Disease (GERD)
You may be familiar with the feeling of burning in your chest known as acid reflux. Most of us experience it on occasion. But if heartburn or acid reflux is affecting your day-to-day life, you may be dealing with something more serious.
If you experience frequent heartburn, nausea, chest pain, or trouble swallowing, it’s time to talk to your provider. GERD can be easily managed with medication and simple lifestyle changes, which your provider can guide you through.
Your gallbladder produces a substance called bile, which plays an important role in your digestion. When there’s too much cholesterol or waste in your bile, hard deposits can form called gallstones. These stones can block the path from your gallbladder to your intestines and cause sharp, intense pain in your abdomen.
If you talk to your provider early, there are medications that can help dissolve the stones. Your provider can evaluate how serious the condition is, and help you choose the best option for treatment.
3. Celiac Disease
Do you find your stomach rioting after you eat bread, pizza, or other foods that contain wheat? You could be suffering from a sensitivity to gluten. Gluten is found in foods that contain wheat, rye, and barley. When someone with celiac disease eats those foods, their immune system starts attacking. This can damage your intestines and keep you from absorbing important nutrients.
Only your provider can help you determine if you have a gluten allergy. If gluten foods cause you to experience stomach pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, or vomiting, you should talk to your provider. Celiac disease can be easily managed by adjusting your diet, and a Registered Dietician can help you make those changes.
4. Crohn’s Disease
Crohn’s is part of a group of conditions called Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). The symptoms of Crohn’s disease include stomach pain, diarrhea, weight loss, fever, and rectal bleeding. These symptoms can negatively impact your day-to-day life.
There are a variety of treatment options for Crohn’s, and your provider will work with you to find the one that is most effective for you. Working with a registered dietician to develop a new diet that avoids trigger foods will also help you avoid the unfortunate symptoms of Crohn’s.
5. Ulcerative Colitis
This condition also falls under the (IBD) umbrella. The symptoms are similar to Crohn’s, but the part of the digestive system affected is different. When you have this condition, your immune system treats food as if it is a foreign material, and sores or ulcers can develop in your colon.
If you struggle with painful diarrhea, frequent trips to the bathroom, stomach cramps, or blood in your stool you should see your provider as soon as possible. Medications and diet changes can treat ulcerative colitis, but it is important to make sure damage hasn’t been done to your colon.
6. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Symptoms of IBS can vary from person to person. Some people struggle with frequent diarrhea while others struggle with constipation and painful stool. If you deal with frequent bathroom struggles, stomach pain, and cramps, talk to your provider about the possibility of IBS.
IBS has numerous treatment options, starting with identifying your trigger foods and creating a diet that avoids them. If that alone isn’t enough your provider can help you explore probiotics and other medications to help manage your symptoms.
Read more about Irritable Bowel Syndrome: How It Affects Our Life
When the blood vessels in your digestive tract become inflamed, it can lead to pain, itching, and blood in the toilet bowl after a bowel movement. This condition, known as hemorrhoids, is extremely common and is often caused by too little fiber and water in your diet.
Hemorrhoids can usually be treated by adjusting your diet and using over-the-counter creams or suppositories. However, if you struggle with hemorrhoids on a regular basis or at-home treatments don’t work, you should talk to your provider about other treatment options.
Diverticulitis occurs when small pouches form in weak spots along your digestive tract. If these pouches become inflamed, they can cause fever, chills, nausea, and abdominal pain. One of the primary risk factors for diverticulitis is obesity.
Diverticulitis needs to be treated with antibiotics and a clear, liquid diet. In order to prevent it from developing you should work with your provider to adjust your diet to include more high-fiber foods.
9. Anal Fissure
Anal fissures are small tears at the very end of your digestive tract. The symptoms are very similar to those of hemorrhoids and include bleeding and pain after a bowel movement.
To treat anal fissures your provider will most likely recommend starting a high fiber diet. There are also medications to relax the area, and topical treatments to relieve pain. However, frequently occurring anal fissures may require more serious treatment.
Symptoms like stomach pains or cramps, bloating, diarrhea, or constipation are often the first sign that something within your digestive tract isn’t working the way it needs to. Talking to your provider is the best way to find answers and the right treatment to ease your discomfort.