These problems can result from bacteria in food, infections, stress, certain medications, or chronic medical conditions such as colitis, Crohn's disease, and irritable bowel syndrome. But whatever the cause, anyone who has frequent digestive problems faces daily challenges and potential embarrassing situations. Digestive disorders encompass a variety of illnesses, ranging from mild to severe. Common digestive disorders include gastroesophageal reflux disease, cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, lactose intolerance, and hiatal hernia.
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. Reflux occurs when stomach acid rises up the esophagus and sometimes enters the throat or mouth. This acid reflux can cause irritation to the esophagus and throat, as well as chest pain (known as heartburn).
Reflux can be caused by GERD or GERD. Gastroesophageal reflux (GER) is more commonly known as acid reflux and can be experienced after a large meal or drinking coffee or alcohol. GERD, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease, is characterized by frequent episodes of acid reflux, usually two or more per week. GERD can occur when the sphincter that separates the esophagus from the stomach weakens or relaxes abnormally, allowing acid to back up frequently.
Acid reflux can usually be treated with lifestyle changes, such as eating smaller meals and avoiding alcohol and tobacco. GERD may need to be treated with prescription drugs, surgery, or other procedures. More than 25 million people in the United States have gallstones and nearly 75% of them are women. Gallstones are solid lumps in the gallbladder that form when bile crystallizes.
They can range from the size of a grain of sand to the size of a golf ball. When gallstones get stuck in a duct of the gallbladder, the gallbladder contracts, causing sharp or knife-like pain in the upper right part of the abdomen. Gallstones can also cause nausea and vomiting and more serious digestive problems, such as pancreatitis. Gallstones can be treated with medications or surgery.
Peptic ulcers are open sores on the lining of the stomach or in the upper part of the small intestine that cause abdominal pain. Some types of bacteria can weaken the protective lining of the stomach, allowing acid to come into direct contact with the stomach wall and cause ulcers. Other causes of peptic ulcers include smoking and overuse of over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs such as Motrin, Advil, and Aleve. Treatment options for peptic ulcers include antibiotics to kill harmful bacteria in the stomach and medications to neutralize stomach acid.
Ulcerative colitis is a condition characterized by inflammation of the large intestine that causes sores to form in the lining. Symptoms include abdominal pain and a frequent need to defecate. Ulcerative colitis is a chronic condition, meaning that it is persistent or long-lasting and has no cure; however, treatment options, including dietary modifications and medications, can help alleviate symptoms. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is one of the most common diseases affecting the digestive system, affecting 1 in 10 people in the United States each year.
Symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome include abdominal pain, diarrhea, cramps, gas and bloating, constipation, and changes in bowel movements. Irritable bowel syndrome can interfere with daily life, but medications, probiotics, medical nutritional therapy, and mental health therapies can help control and reduce symptoms. The vagus nerve and its branches can be damaged by diseases, such as diabetes, or by surgery on the stomach or small intestine. .