Common digestive disorders include gastroesophageal reflux disease, cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, lactose intolerance, and hiatal hernia. The most common symptoms of digestive disorders include bleeding, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, heartburn, pain, nausea, and vomiting. The digestive system, comprised of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, liver, pancreas, and gall bladder, helps the body digest food. Digestion is important for breaking down food into nutrients, which the body uses for energy, growth, and cell repair.
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a long-lasting inflammation in the digestive tract. Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are the two most common types of IBD. Diseases of the digestive system can be caused by food allergies or intolerances, improper functioning of the digestive system, or a heavy meal that is difficult to digest. Functional digestive disorders can cause intestinal pain, bloating, flatulence, and diarrhea or constipation.
Gastroesophageal reflux occurs when gastric juices (acids) produced by the stomach travel to the esophagus. Reflux causes inflammation of the esophagus and causes burning and irritation. It can be caused by a malfunction of the esophageal sphincter or a hiatal hernia. Treatment for GERD depends on the frequency and severity of symptoms and can include dietary changes and over-the-counter antacids.
Gastric and duodenal ulcers form on the wall of the digestive tract and are quite painful because they come into direct contact with acid in the digestive tract. Helicobacter pylori is responsible for most ulcers and causes 60 to 80% of stomach ulcers and 80 to 85% of duodenal ulcers. Antibiotic treatment is prescribed for H. pylori bacterial infection.
Those ulcers not caused by H. pylori are treated with dietary changes and over-the-counter antacids. A hiatal hernia occurs when part of the stomach “rises” with the esophagus into the rib cage through the opening of the diaphragm (the hiatal orifice). The exact cause of a hiatal hernia isn't well understood but it can be present at birth or due to age-related decrease in elasticity and stiffness of the diaphragm.