What are digestion problems?
The digestive system is an intricate and extensive part of the body. It extends all the way from the mouth to the rectum. The digestive system helps your body absorb vital nutrients and is responsible for eliminating waste.
Digestion problems can mean more than unwanted symptoms. Small problems that are left untreated can cause more severe, chronic health problems.
Since there are so many different types of digestion problems, you could mistakenly dismiss them. It's important to understand common digestion problems-- as well as emergency symptoms-- so you know when to consult with a doctor.
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 system. You may experience abdominal pain and bloating along with fewer bowel movements (which are more painful than usual).
Chronic constipation is among the most common digestive issues in the United States.Getting adequate fiber, water, and exercise will likely help curb constipation. Medications can also provide relief in more severe cases.
Food intolerance happens when your digestive system can't tolerate specific foods. Unlike food allergies, which can cause hives and respiratory problems, an intolerance just affects digestion.
Symptoms of food intolerance consist of:
- bloating and/or cramps
Food intolerance is usually diagnosed by keeping and reviewing a food journal. 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 consume gluten (a protein in wheat, barley, and rye). People with celiac disease should adopt a gluten-free diet to minimize symptoms and damage to the small intestine.
Heartburn is an occasional occurrence for a lot of adults. This occurs when stomach acids go back up into the esophagus, causing chest discomfort as well as the trademark burning sensation.
If you have more persistent heartburn, you might have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Such frequent episodes can disrupt your everyday life and damage your esophagus.
Symptoms of GERD consist of:
- chest pain
- dry cough
- sour taste in the mouth
- sore throat
- swallowing difficulties
You may need medications to manage heartburn. A damaged esophagus can make swallowing difficult and disrupt the rest of the digestive system.
Inflammatory bowel disease
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a form of chronic swelling. It affects one or more parts of the digestive tract.
There are two kinds of IBD:
- Crohn's disease: affects the whole gastrointestinal (GI) tract but most commonly affects the small intestine and the colon
- ulcerative colitis: affects just the colon
IBD can trigger more typical digestive problems, such as stomach pain and diarrhea. Other symptoms can include:
- incomplete bowel movements
- loss of appetite and subsequent weight loss
- night sweats
- rectal bleeding
It is necessary to diagnose and treat IBD as soon as possible. Not only will you be more comfortable, but early treatment also minimizes damage to the GI tract.
Possible serious conditions
A gastroenterologist is a physician 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.
Some symptoms are more serious and could indicate there's an emergency medical problem. These signs include:
- bloody stools
- constant vomiting
- severe stomach cramps
- sudden, unintentional weight loss
These symptoms could be a sign of an infection, gallstones, hepatitis, internal bleeding, or cancer.
You may be able to overcome digestion issues with treatment and lifestyle changes. Certain diseases of the digestive system could be long-term, but medications can help alleviate symptoms.
Identifying specific digestion problems and speaking with a gastroenterologist can go a long way in terms of helping your doctor give you a correct diagnosis. Keep in mind, you don't have to tolerate constant digestive problems.
For more information about Dr. Linette's practice and Digestive Problems in Del Mar, California, contact us at 760-875-2627 or visit our website at LinetteWilliamson.com and schedule your appointment today!