Know the basics

What are digestive disorders?

The digestive system is an intricate and extensive part of the body. It ranges all the way from the mouth to the rectum. The digestive system is responsible for getting rid of waste and helps your body absorb essential nutrients. Digestion disorders can mean more than unwanted, embarrassing symptoms. Minor problems that are left untreated can lead to more serious, chronic illnesses.

Common digestive problems include Heartburn (GERD), Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

How common are digestive disorders?

This health condition is common. It can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Know the symptoms

What are the symptoms of digestive disorders?

Symptoms of GERD include:

  • Chest discomfort;
  • A dry cough;
  • Sour taste in the mouth;
  • A sore throat;
  • Swallowing difficulties.

Symptoms of IBS include:

  • Pain or discomfort in your abdomen;
  • Changes in how often you have bowel movements or how your stools.

Symptoms of IBD include:

  • Abdominal pain and diarrhea;
  • Fatigue;
  • Incomplete bowel movements;
  • Loss of appetite and subsequent weight loss;
  • Night sweats;
  • Rectal bleeding.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Know the causes

What causes digestive disorders?

The causes of GERD:

GERD is caused by frequent acid reflux, the backup of stomach acid or bile into the esophagus.

When you swallow, the lower esophageal sphincter, a circular band of muscle around the bottom part of your esophagus, relaxes to allow food and liquid to flow down into your stomach. Then it closes again.

However, if this valve relaxes abnormally or weakens, stomach acid can flow back up into your esophagus, causing frequent heartburn. Sometimes this can disrupt your daily life.

The causes of IBS:

Doctors aren’t sure what causes IBS. Experts think that a combination of problems can lead to IBS.

  • Physical problems
    • Brain-gut signal problems;
    • GI motility problems;
    • Pain sensitivity;
    • Infections;
    • Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth;
    • Neurotransmitters;
    • Genetics;
    • Food sensitivity.
  • Mental health problems

The causes of IBD:

The exact cause of IBD is unknown. However, genetics and problems with the immune system have been associated with IBD.

  • Genetics;
  • The immune system.

Know the risk factors

What increases my risk for digestive disorders?

There are many risk factors for GERD, such as:

  • Obesity;
  • Bulging of top of stomach up into the diaphragm (a hiatal hernia);
  • Pregnancy;
  • Smoking;
  • Dry mouth;
  • Asthma;
  • Diabetes;
  • Delayed stomach emptying;
  • Connective tissue disorders, such as scleroderma.

There are many risk factors for IBS, such as:

  • People under age 45;
  • Female;
  • Family history of IBS;
  • Mental health problem.

There are many risk factors for IBD, such as:

  • Age;
  • Race or ethnicity;
  • Family history;
  • Smoking;
  • Isotretinoin use;
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications: ibuprofen, naproxen, diclofenac sodium and others;
  • People living in northern climates also seem to be at greater risk.

Understand the diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How are digestive disorders diagnosed?

Diagnosis of GERD:

  • Your doctor may be able to diagnose GERD based on frequent heartburn and other symptoms.
  • A test to monitor the amount of acid in your esophagus. Ambulatory acid (pH) probe tests use a device to measure acid for 24 hours.

If you have GERD and you’re a candidate for surgery, you may also have other tests, such as:

  • An X-ray of your upper digestive system.
  • A flexible tube to look inside your esophagus. Endoscopy is a way to visually examine the inside of your esophagus and stomach.
  • Esophageal motility testing.

Diagnosis of IBS:

  • Imaging tests:
    • Flexible sigmoidoscopy;
    • Colonoscopy;
    • X-ray;
    • Computerized tomography (CT) scan;
    • Lower GI series.
  • Laboratory tests:
    • Lactose intolerance tests;
    • Breath tests;
    • Blood tests;
    • Stool tests.

Diagnosis of IBD:

  • Blood tests
  • Endoscopic procedures
    • Colonoscopy;
    • Flexible sigmoidoscopy;
    • Upper endoscopy;
    • Capsule endoscopy;
    • Double-balloon endoscopy.
  • Imaging procedures
    • X-ray;
    • Computerized tomography (CT) scan;
    • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI);
    • Small bowel imaging.

How are digestive disorders treated?

Treatment of GERD, including:

You can buy many GERD medicines without a prescription. However, if you have symptoms that will not go away, you should see your doctor.

  • Antacids include over-the-counter medicines such as Maalox, Mylanta, Rolaids. Antacids can have side effects, including diarrhea and constipation.
  • H2 blockers. Types of H2 blockers include cimetidine, famotidine, nizatidine, ranitidine.
  • Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), including esomeprazole, lansoprazole, omeprazole, pantoprazole, rabeprazole.
  • Prokinetics include bethanechol, metoclopramide. Prokinetics can cause problems if you mix them with other medicines, so tell your doctor about all the medicines you’re taking.
  • Antibiotics, including erythromycin , can help your stomach empty faster.
  • Surgery.

Treatment of IBS, including:

  • Avoiding caffeine;
  • Minimizing stress;
  • Taking medicines as prescribed by the doctor.

Treatment of IBD, including:

  • Anti-inflammatory drugs;
  • Immune system suppressors;
  • Antibiotics;
  • Other medications;
  • Surgery.

Lifestyle changes & Home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage digestive disorders?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with GERD:

  • Maintain a healthy weight;
  • Avoid tight-fitting clothing;
  • Avoid foods and drinks that trigger heartburn;
  • Don’t lie down after a meal;
  • Elevate the head of your bed;
  • Don’t smoke.

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with IBS:

  • Experiment with fiber;
  • Avoid problem foods;
  • Eat at regular times;
  • Take care with dairy product;
  • Drink plenty of liquids;
  • Exercise regularly
  • Use anti-diarrheal medications and laxatives with caution.

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with IBD:

  • Diet;
  • Eat small meals;
  • Drink plenty of liquids;
  • Consider multivitamins;
  • Smoking;
  • Try to prevent stress such as exercise, biofeedback, regular relaxation and breathing exercises.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: January 4, 2017 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017

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