You must take the signs of digestive problems very seriously, your health depends on it. They are no fun, especially when it requires you to retreat to the restroom often. From a medical standpoint, some digestive issues may not be dangerous. But some signs do need medical attention, and waiting too long can mean suffering and high-cost treatments.
Having gas is normal, but when it occurs along with abdominal discomfort, unexplained weight loss, and changes in bowel movement, then it may be a warning sign. Another time to get concerned about your signs of digestive problems is if food stops gliding in your throat, and even drinking water becomes difficult. Then, by all means, it’s best to visit a gastroenterologist (stomach and intestinal doctor).
Some other signs of digestive problems include bloating that occurs for no apparent reason and unexplained weight loss. Bloating may be accompanied by pain or blood in your stool and is a cause for concern. Unexplained weight loss might be due to celiac disease or Crohn’s disease which interferes with your body’s ability to absorb nutrients.
When you’re running low on iron, you may feel tired, have headaches, brittle nails, hair loss, and general weakness. There may be unseen blood loss in your GI tract due to stomach cancer, ulcers, colon cancer, and inflammatory bowel diseases. It’s always wise to seek medical advice for the warning signs of digestive problems before it turns dangerous.
Early Signs of Digestive Problems
The first signs of problems in your digestive tract include one or more of the listed symptoms:
- Stomach pain
- Weight gain or loss
Other signs of digestive problems that may not be entirely obvious but can be equally troublesome include:
- Excessive throat clearing
- Change in bowel habits
- Dark urine
- Pale colored stools
- Esophageal pain
- A sore throat not related to an infection
- Excessive throat clearing
- Oily stools
- Partially digested foods in stools
- Joint pain or stiffness
What are Digestive Disorders?
Your digestive system is made up of GI tract, pancreas, liver, and gallbladder. The digestive process breaks down your food into nutrients. Your body uses these nutrients for energy, growth, and cell repair. Gastrointestinal disorders occur when your digestive organs fail to function correctly.
Some digestive disorders are acute, lasting only a short time, while others are chronic or long-lasting. The gastrointestinal disorders cause ill health to millions of people around the world. Signs of digestive problems range from mild heartburn to more severe complications such as colon cancer.
Causes of digestive disorders
There may be multiple causes of the gastrointestinal diseases. The reasons may get restricted to your digestive system, or else it may be a symptom of a broader systemic problem.
Viral or bacterial infection
Virus, bacteria, and parasites can get into your digestive system. They may enter through contact with infected surfaces, contaminated food, and water. Virus, bacteria, and parasites cause stomach flu or gastroenteritis. The most common symptom of these is acute diarrhea.
Inflammation and autoimmune diseases
Your immune system attacks your body’s own tissue, which could involve any part of your digestive system. Rheumatoid arthritis, Systemic Lupus Erymathosus (SLE), scleroderma, and Sjögren’s Syndrome are some of the autoimmune diseases that affect the digestive tract. These diseases cause a variety of gastrointestinal problems.
Structural abnormality such as diverticulosis can hinder the working of the digestive system. In this condition, small pouches develop in the intestine and become infected. An ulcer or a cancerous tumor in the lining or the intestines would be another such example.
Diseases that are thought to be hereditary include:
- Colon cancer
- Diabetes type 1
- Crohn’s disease
- Cystic fibrosis
- Pancreatic cancer
- Coeliac disease
- Some liver diseases
These diseases could cause gastrointestinal problems.
According to the GI Cancer Institute, Gastro-intestinal cancer is a term to a group of cancers that affect the digestive system. Cancers of the gallbladder, throat, pancreas, liver, large intestine, small intestine, stomach, and anus include GI Cancer.
High levels of stress, smoking, drinking, and a lack of exercise can affect your digestive system. Diet choices and a healthy lifestyle can significantly reduce the severity of the GI disorder.
Other causes include:
- Food allergies and intolerance
- Poor diet
- Medication side effects
- Post-surgical effects
- Functional problems
- Systemic diseases
9 Common Digestive Disorders
We’ve listed some of the most prevalent digestive disorders. If you suspect you have any one of these issues, then talk with your doctor.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease
GERD affects the lower esophageal sphincter — precisely, the ring muscle between the esophagus and the stomach. If you suffer from persistent heartburn, bad breath, nausea, and tooth erosion, or chest pain or stomach pain, difficulty in swallowing or breathing, it’s high time to see your doctor.
GERD can affect your productivity and daily activities. But it is rarely life-threatening, with proper treatment. You can enjoy a better quality of life.
These are hard deposits form from bile cholesterol or bilirubin in your gallbladder. The American Gastroenterological Association says that gallstones tend to develop when there is too much cholesterol or waste in your bile. It may also occur if your gallbladder doesn’t empty properly. These stones block the ducts leading from your gallbladder to your intestines. This action may cause a sharp pain in your upper right abdomen. If medications don’t work, then surgery is required to remove the gallbladder.
This disease is an immune reaction to eating gluten which is a protein found in barley, wheat, and rye. The gluten protein triggers an immune response in your small intestine. Over time, your small intestine’s internal lining gets damaged, which prevents the absorption of some essential nutrients. Celiac disease may also cause fatigue, diarrhea, bloating, weight loss, and anemia and some severe complications.
It is a sort of inflammatory bowel disease that may affect any part of the intestinal tract from the mouth to anus. Even the deep layers of the bowel tissue get affected by the inflammation. Crohn’s disease is a debilitating and painful condition and sometimes leads to life-threatening complications. Treatment can bring about a long-term remission and significantly reduce its signs and symptoms.
It is another type of inflammatory bowel disease that causes ulcers in the lining of the colon. Ulcerative Colitis is a condition where your immune system overreacts to normal bacteria present in your digestive tract. And it causes sores in your colon’s lining. If you experience frequent bowel movements, blood in your stool, abdominal cramps, or diarrhea, then visit your doctor.
Irritable bowel syndrome
IBS is quite common, and it affects the large intestine. Food, stress, and hormones could trigger the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. The signs of this disorder can vary widely. You may feel constipated or have dry hard stools on one day and diarrhea the other day. Often you may suffer from bloating. Treatment largely depends on diet modification. Cognitive behavioral therapy or low-dose anti-depressants may also be useful in treating IBS.
In this case, small pockets develop in the lining of your intestine, and they get inflamed. You may experience severe abdominal pain, high fever, diarrhea, or frequent bowel movements. In case of mild diverticulitis, antibiotics and clear liquid diet can bring in the healing. In case of severe complications, the stomach doctor may recommend surgery.
They are swollen red veins in the lower part of your rectum and anus. Blood in your toilet bowl could be a sign of hemorrhoids. This condition can be painful and itchy. The causes include diarrhea, constipation, lack of fiber in the diet, and straining while passing stools. You can notice significant improvements by increasing water intake, eating a high fiber diet, and exercising. See your doctor if home remedies don’t work.
The anal fissures are tiny tears that occur in the moist tissue of the anus. This disorder happens when you pass hard and large stools during a bowel movement. Alternatively, soft tools and diarrhea also cause an anal fissure. The anal fissure may cause pain and bleeding. Simple treatments such as medications, increased fiber intake, and sitz baths can bring in healing. Rarely, surgery is needed in this case.
Why Should You See a Stomach Doctor?
The stomach doctor has unique training and experience to provide comprehensive, high-quality care for your GI conditions. The doctor is trained in endoscopy — the use of flexible, narrow, lighted tubes with built-in video cameras used to see inside of the GI tract. Research studies show that the stomach doctors provide more complete care than other physicians for digestive disorders. As a result, they accurately detect polyps and cancer. You may have fewer complications from procedures and can spend less time in the hospital.
Pay attention to any signs of digestive problems. To enjoy good digestive health, try to eat a high fiber diet. Include both soluble and insoluble fiber. If you suffer from IBS, concentrate more on soluble fiber. Limit high fatty foods and choose lean meats. Eat on a schedule and include probiotics in your diet.
Stay hydrated, exercise regularly and avoid smoking, alcohol, and excessive caffeine. It’s equally important to manage stress because too much pressure can cause your digestive system to go overdrive. Find stress-reducing activities and practice them regularly.