What Are Bowel Disorders?
Bowel disorders discussed here are conditions
that primarily affect the small intestine. There are numerous types of bowel
disorders. Such conditions can affect the way food is digested and absorbed
within the body. Problems with the bowels are not only uncomfortable, but can
also lead to further health complications when left untreated. It is crucial to
see a doctor immediately if you suspect that you or a loved one suffers from a
Types of Bowel Disorders
Bowel disorders that
primarily affect the small intestine include:
- irritable bowel
- Crohn’s disease
- celiac disease
- intestinal obstruction
both the small and large intestines. This condition is marked by frequent
gastrointestinal problems that interfere with everyday life. The International
Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD) estimates that IBS
affects up to 15 percent of adults globally (IFFGD, 2013).
Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease. It’s also an autoimmune
disorder in which your body attacks healthy tissues. The range of attack
extends from the intestines to the anus, as well as to the mouth.
Celiac disease is a condition in which you cannot tolerate gluten, a food protein. In
these cases, eating gluten damages the small intestine and causes adverse side
Intestinal obstruction occurs when the intestines become blocked. As a
result, the intestines are unable to complete processing food or pass stool.
Other underlying medical
problems can lead to symptoms that are similar to these bowel disorders. These
Diagnosing the exact bowel
disorder you have is critical to effective treatment. This is a wide class of
disorders that all have different causes and symptoms.
Causes of Bowel Disorders
IBS is one of the most
common bowel disorders. IBS, or irritable
bowel syndrome, may have a constellation of symptoms and its cause is
The precise cause of Crohn’s
disease remains unknown as well. However, certain risk factors may increase
your risk for this condition:
factors, including diet
- microbial and
- family history
of the disorder
- being of Jewish
Celiac disease is considered
a genetic disorder. The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse
estimates that over two million Americans have this condition (NDDIC, 2012).
Celiac disease results in the immune system attacking the lining of the small
intestine. It appears to be stimulated
to do so when the body is exposed to dietary gluten. Gluten is found in foods
like barley, rye, and wheat.
Intestinal obstruction is most
often as result of injuries, medicines, hernias, and sometimes cancer.
What Are the Common Symptoms of Bowel Disorders?
The types of symptoms differ
between bowel disorders. Each one has some traits in common. You will likely
feel discomfort around the abdomen, rectum, and lower belly. Examples include:
- swollen, painful
If you notice blood in your
stools or vomit, call your doctor immediately. Other symptoms of a potentially serious
condition include fever and sudden weight loss.
Diagnosing Bowel Disorders
IBS is diagnosed using a
description of the disease referred to as the Rome criteria. This definition helps evaluate any long-term
symptoms you have experienced. Your doctor may diagnose IBS if you experience
abdominal pain when experiencing two of these three situations:
- changes in stool
- changes in stool
- swelling of the
Both Crohn’s disease and
intestinal obstruction are diagnosed via imaging techniques. Computed
tomography (CT) scans, colonoscopies, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can
all be helpful in determining your condition. Blood tests may also be used to
help diagnose Crohn’s disease.
Celiac disease may be diagnosed
with blood tests as well as biopsies of the small intestine.
Treating Bowel Disorders
Medications are primarily
used to treat IBS and Crohn’s disease. In IBS, the types of medications used
depends on your symptoms. While some patients need antidiarrheal medications,
these drugs don’t help if you primarily suffer from constipation. Other
medicines used to treat IBS include laxatives, antidepressants, and anti-anxiety
Patients with Crohn’s
disease often use pain medications to relieve discomfort. Physicians tend to prefer
acetaminophen for short-term use. Ibuprofen and naproxen can lead to stomach irritation
and bleeding. Severe Crohn’s disease may also be treated with immunotherapy
drugs, as well as corticosteroids and antibiotics.
Where control of Crohn’s
disease through medications is unsuccessful, your doctor may recommend surgery
to remove diseased or damaged tissue. Surgery may also be used in intestinal blockage
to remove or bypass an obstruction.
Home Care and
Home care plays a large role
in the success of bowel disorders. Most of the recommended home care involves
your diet. Food intolerance is thought to be a large contributor to IBS
symptoms. If you have IBS, you should take special note of possible food
triggers and avoid them as much as possible.
Fiber is important to
keeping your bowels healthy. However, if you suffer from frequent diarrhea, you
might need to cut back on fiber until your system normalizes. Dairy products
and greasy foods can worsen bowel disorder symptoms.
The primary treatment for
celiac disease is a gluten-free diet. Basically, you must avoid eating anything
with barley, rye, and wheat to prevent symptoms. Due to an increased awareness
of gluten, gluten-free products are more widely available in the marketplace.
The exact outcome of bowel
disorders depends on your current condition, as well as how well your body
responds to treatment. If you notice that your symptoms don’t improve or worsen
over time, contact your doctor. Your treatment plan may undergo adjustments
until your see significant symptom relief.