Dr. Linette Williamson - Digestive Problems in Oceanside
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 getting rid of waste.
Digestion problems can mean more than unwanted symptoms. Minor problems that are left untreated can lead to more serious, chronic illnesses.
Since there are so many different types of digestion problems, you might mistakenly dismiss them. It's important to understand common digestion issues-- along with emergency symptoms-- so you know when to speak with a medical professional.
Chronic constipation indicates a problem with eliminating waste. This usually occurs when the colon can not pass or move stools throughout the rest of the digestive tract. You might experience stomach pain and bloating as well as fewer bowel movements (which 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 offer relief in more serious cases.
Food intolerance happens when your digestive system can not tolerate particular foods. Unlike food allergies, which can cause hives and respiratory problems, an intolerance just impacts digestion.
Symptoms of food intolerance consist of:
- Bloating and/or cramps
Food intolerance is usually diagnosed by keeping and reviewing a food diary. Recording what you eat and when can help you identify which foods are causing your symptoms.
Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder, is one type of food intolerance. It triggers digestive problems when you eat gluten (a protein in wheat, barley, and rye). People with celiac disease must follow a gluten-free diet to reduce symptoms and damage to the small intestine.
Heartburn is an occasional occurrence for many 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 may have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Such frequent episodes can disrupt your daily life and damage your esophagus.
Symptoms of GERD consist of:
- Chest discomfort
- Dry cough
- Sour taste in the mouth
- Sore throat
- Swallowing difficulties
You might need medications to control 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 types 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 common digestive ailments, such as abdominal 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 reduces 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 issues, it's time to make an appointment.
Some signs are more serious and could indicate there's an emergency medical problem. These symptoms include:
- Bloody stools
- Constant vomiting
- Severe abdominal cramps
- Sudden, unintentional weight loss
These symptoms could be an indication of an infection, gallstones, hepatitis, internal bleeding, or cancer.
You may be able to get rid of digestion issues with treatment and lifestyle changes. Certain diseases of the digestive system may be long-term, but medications can help relieve symptoms.
Identifying specific digestion issues 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 tolerate constant digestive issues.