You may be eating right and exercising and doing all you can to keep healthy and have a good quality of life, but what happens if you suffer from one of the many digestive disorders? You may not only feel ill as a result, the quality of life impaired, movement restricted but you may not even benefit from the healthy food that you are eating. Or because of your digestive disorder, you may not be able to eat food for health as you may have to be on a restricted diet.
The digestive system is very large, starting from the mouth to the anus and comprises many different organs and the large and small intestines. It is no wonder then that it is vulnerable to a number of diseases and disorders ranging from indigestion, diarrhea, constipation to various diseases of the digestive system. According to the National Institute of Health more than 80 million people in America are affected by digestive diseases; some people even land up in hospitals. Unfortunately digestive disorders often have a complex etiology and may even be difficult to diagnose, despite the fact that there are so many new investigative tests now available.
The parts that can be affected by digestive disorders
While you may suffer an occasional stomach ache or gas pains or an episode of constipation or diarrhea or even food poisoning, these are usually treatable and sometimes even go away on their own. When you eat food that irritates the stomach or you have high acid secretion due to a variety of reasons, you may suffer from acidity or heartburn that can easily escalate into acid reflux disease if not controlled. More serious are many diseases that affect the digestive system as many of these cannot be cured, but can only be controlled or managed. Some problems can be cured by surgery and, in fact, for some specific conditions surgery may be the only option.
Gall bladder disease – Gall stones are one of the most common gall bladder diseases. When bile salts form into particles and lodge in the gall bladder they are called gall stones – stones may be many and small or just one or two and large. They cause symptoms similar to that of heartburn or acid reflux disease and currently the only solution is surgical removal of the gall bladder.
Diseases of the pancreas – Sometimes the pancreas gets inflamed and releases enzymes that damage the organ and the surrounding tissues. This causes pancreatitis which can be of two types: acute and sudden or chronic. If acute pancreatitis is caught in time, the patient may fully recover; otherwise it can even be fatal. In chronic pancreatitis there is constant damage and this can lead to inability of the pancreas to function completely. Both cases may require hospitalization and long term treatment.
Bile duct disease – When the bile duct gets blocked due to stones or scar tissue or inflammation, it prevents digestive enzymes from being released and results in bile duct disease. These blockages are usually cured by minimally invasive endoscopic surgery.
Gastroesopheagal reflux disease also known as acid reflux disease (GERD or ARD) – When the stomach contents, especially acids, back up into the esophagus and cause inflammation or even ulcers if not treated, it is called acid reflux disease. Often the symptoms of GERD may be indeterminate and include nausea, lack of appetite, frequent throat infections and sometimes pain in the upper abdomen. Constant heartburn can often be a sign of GERD. The disease can be managed through oral medication, but in severe cases may be treated by surgery.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) – This results from an over-active digestive system and can cause cramping, diarrhea, constipation, gas, bloating and other symptoms that are similar to indigestion. Patients of IBS have to keep a food diary and find out which foods cause or aggravate symptoms and then avoid them. There does not seem to be an organic cause to this disorder and usually all kinds of tests are negative.
Peptic ulcer disease – When the protective lining in the stomach or intestines breaks down it can result in ulcers, which may even bleed. These can result in peptic or duodenal ulcers. Sometimes this may be caused by H. pylori, in which case it can easily be treated by oral medication. In serious cases it can lead to perforation of the stomach or intestines and this must be treated as a medical emergency.
Crohn’s disease (CD) – Crohn’s disease is part of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) that affects any part of the intestines, though the small intestine and the colon are more commonly affected. The lining of the intestines can break down and result in ulcers causing pain and other digestive problems. There may be a genetic factor involved in CD and it is one of those diseases that is difficult to cure.
Ulcerative colitis (UC) – This is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the colon anywhere from the rectum to the large intestine. It can cause bloody stools, cramping and diarrhea and some people may suffer from an acute flare up one or more times; but for some people it becomes a chronic problem that must be managed.
Diverticulitis – When sacs in the colon form and get inflamed the disorder is called diverticulitis. If there is no inflammation then diverticulois is the result and this can present few if any symptoms.
Malabsorption syndrome – Cystic fibrosis, chronic pancreatitis, lactose intolerance, and gluten enteropathy (nontropical sprue) are all part of malabsorption syndrome that results in the body being unable to absorb many nutrients causing or aggravating many ailments. Celiac disease can be treated by avoiding cereals and other foods that contain gluten while those who are lactose intolerant avoid all kinds of dairy or take lactase orally, if that helps.
There are some other digestive disorders including the leaky gut syndrome and hiatal hernia and food allergies that can also cause problems. At times digestive disorders can encompass cancer of various part of the digestive system, but that needs a totally different treatment approach.