Digestive disorders encompass a variety of illnesses that range 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.
While it's common for people to experience acid reflux and heartburn from time to time, having symptoms that affect daily life or that occur at least twice a week could be a sign of GERD, a chronic digestive disease that affects 20 percent of Americans, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). If you experience persistent heartburn, bad breath, dental erosion, nausea, chest or upper abdominal pain, or have problems swallowing or breathing, see your doctor. Gallstones are hard deposits that form in the gallbladder, a small pear-shaped sac that stores and secretes bile for digestion. According to the American Gastroenterological Association, nearly a million Americans are found to have gallstones every year.
Gallstones can form when there is too much cholesterol or waste in the bile, or if the gallbladder doesn't empty properly. When gallstones block the ducts that lead from the gallbladder to the intestines, they can cause sharp pain in the upper right part of the abdomen. Sometimes medications dissolve gallstones, but if that doesn't work, surgery to remove the gallbladder is the next step. An estimated 1 in 133 Americans (approximately 1 percent of the population) has celiac disease, according to Beyond Celiac (formerly the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness).
The group also estimates that more than 80 percent of people with celiac disease don't know they have it or have been misdiagnosed with a different condition. However, some people may not have any symptoms. The only treatment for celiac disease is to completely avoid eating gluten. Common alternatives to gluten include brown rice, quinoa, lentils, soy flour, cornmeal, and amaranth.
Ulcerative colitis is another inflammatory bowel disease that can affect up to 907,000 Americans, according to the CCFA. The symptoms of Ulcerative colitis are very similar to those of Crohn's disease, but the part of the digestive tract affected is only the large intestine, also known as the colon. Medications can suppress inflammation and can also help eliminate foods that cause discomfort. In severe cases, treatment for ulcerative colitis may include surgery to remove the colon.
About 10 to 15 percent of people around the world suffer from IBS, and of that percentage, up to 45 million people with IBS live in the United States, according to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders. The signs of irritable bowel syndrome can vary widely, from having hard, dry stools one day to loose, watery stools the next day. Swelling is also a symptom of IBS. Bright red blood in the toilet bowl when you defecate could be a sign of hemorrhoids, which is a very common condition.
In fact, 75 percent of Americans over 45 years old have hemorrhoids, according to the NIDDK. Small pouches called diverticula can form anywhere where there are weak spots in the lining of the digestive system, but they are most commonly found in the colon. If you have diverticula but don't have symptoms, the condition is called diverticulosis, which is quite common among older adults and rarely causes problems. By age 50, about half of people have diverticulosis, according to the American Gastroenterology Association.
However, in about 5 percent of people, the bags become inflamed or infected, a condition called diverticulitis. Symptoms include fever, chills, nausea, and abdominal pain. Obesity is a major risk factor for diverticulitis. Peptic ulcer disease (PUD) refers to an open sore in the lining of the stomach or in the upper part of the small intestine.
A peptic ulcer can develop just above the stomach, in the esophagus, but this is rare. Fiber, a type of carbohydrate found in plants that cannot be digested, is crucial when it comes to digestive health. Common causes of constipation include dehydration, not getting enough fiber in the diet, and certain medications and health problems that can slow down the digestive system. Digestive disorders affect the organs of the digestive system, including the gastrointestinal tract, gallbladder, liver, and pancreas, among others.
Water is important for digestive health because it helps to clean the entire gastrointestinal tract. .