What Are Digestion Problems?
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
Digestion problems can mean more than unwanted, embarrassing
symptoms. Minor problems that are left untreated can lead to more serious,
Because there are so many different types of digestion
problems, you might mistakenly dismiss them. It’s important to understand
common digestion problems — as well as emergency symptoms — so you know when to
talk to a doctor.
Ongoing (chronic) constipation indicates a problem with
getting rid of waste. This most often occurs when the colon can’t pass or move stools
through the rest of the digestive tract. You may experience abdominal pain and bloating
as well as fewer bowel movements that are more painful than usual.
Chronic constipation is one of the most common digestive
problems in the United States. Getting
enough fiber, water, and exercise will likely help curb constipation. Medications
can also provide relief in more serious cases.
Food intolerance occurs when your digestive system can’t
tolerate certain foods. Unlike food allergies, which can cause hives and
respiratory problems, an intolerance only affects digestion.
Symptoms of food intolerance include:
- bloating and/or
Food intolerance is usually diagnosed by using a food diary.
Recording what you eat and when can help you identify which foods are
triggering your symptoms.
Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder, is one type of food
intolerance. It causes digestive problems when you eat gluten, a protein in
wheat, barley, and rye. People with celiac disease must follow a gluten-free
diet to minimize symptoms and damage to the small intestine.
Heartburn is an occasional occurrence for many adults. This
happens when stomach acids go back up into the esophagus, causing chest pain
and the trademark burning sensation.
If you have more frequent heartburn, you might have
gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Such frequent episodes can interfere
with your daily life and damage your esophagus.
Symptoms of GERD include:
- chest discomfort
- dry cough
- sour taste in
- sore throat
You may need medications to control heartburn. A damaged
esophagus can make swallowing difficult, and disrupt the rest of the digestive
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a type of chronic
swelling. It affects one of more parts of the digestive tract.
There are two types of IBD:
- Crohn’s disease:
affects the gastrointestinal (GI) tract
- ulcerative colitis:
inflammation of the colon
IBD can cause more general digestive ailments, such as
abdominal pain and diarrhea. Other symptoms can include:
- incomplete bowel
- loss of appetite and
subsequent weight loss
- night sweats
- rectal bleeding
It’s important to diagnosis and treat IBD as soon as
possible. Not only will you be more comfortable, but early treatment also
reduces damage to the GI tract.
Possible Serious Conditions
A gastroenterologist is a type of doctor that specializes in
diagnosing and treating diseases involving the digestive system. If you
continue to experience digestion problems, it’s time to make an appointment.
More serious signs could mean an emergency medical problem.
Those signs include:
- bloody stools
- severe abdominal
unintentional weight loss
These symptoms could be an indication of an infection,
gallstones, hepatitis, internal bleeding, or cancer.
You may be able to overcome digestion problems with
treatment and lifestyle changes. Certain diseases of the digestive system might
be long-term, but medications can help alleviate symptoms.
Identifying specific digestion problems and talking with a
gastroenterologist can go a long way in terms of helping your doctor give you a
proper diagnosis. Remember, you don’t have to put up with constant digestive issues.