All diseases that pertain to the gastrointestinal tract are labeled as digestive diseases.
The human digestive system is a tract that runs from the mouth to the anus. Other organs of the digestive system include: esophagus, stomach, small and large intestines, the liver, gallbladder, and pancreas. Like any other system, the digestive system can get infections from an imbalance of its surrounding environment.
This can cause discomfort and if it extends over along time, the symptoms could worsen causing: severe abdominal pain, change in bowel movement and other more serious problems as the disease progresses.
Multiple factors working together will prevent the body from functioning normally causing degenerative health problems. Causes of digestive problems are many some simple and others complex. Research has established that Hispanics have a prevalence rate of 7.4% as opposed to non-Hispanic whites at 10.3% with the Asians having the lowest prevalence at 5.7%
Stresses of all kinds, physical, emotional and mental, are primary causes of poor digestion. All unconscious activity in the human body, including both our reactions to stress and digestion, are controlled by the autonomic nervous system.
Antibiotics can kill a high percentage of the naturally occurring beneficial bacteria that we need for digestion. They affect these necessary bacteria as well as the pathogenic bacteria they are designed to protect us against.
• Processed food consumption – In the refining process, sugar and flour (refined carbohydrates) are stripped of dozens of essential nutrients and fiber.
• Low fiber diets – Fiber is a non nutritive food component necessary to move residue through the intestines.
• Not enough raw food – Food enzymes help digest food and they are supplied (aside from supplementation) solely by raw foods. Cooking at high temp over 116 degrees destroys food enzymes.
• Food allergies – Including those to dairy, wheat and fruits.
• Junk foods – These (often high fat, high refined cartbohydrate and or high sugar) foods are high in calories but almost completely devoid of nutritional value.
• When food is swallowed after only a few short chews, those food particles are harder for the body to digest and can result in gas, bloating and indigestion.
• Fruits should be eaten alone. Since they are high in enzymes, they take only 20-30 minutes to travel through the system and for their nutrients to be absorbed. When eaten with other foods which need much longer transit time, fruit will ferment in the transit process causing gastric distress.
• Combining proteins with heavy starches like pasta and potatoes stress the digestive system.
All drugs and chemicals are basically toxins to the digestive system. Many drugs directly affect the digestive organs and digestion itself. Over-the-counter, prescription drugs and recreational drugs that can affect digestion include: antacids, antihistamines, NSAIDS, birth control pills, laxatives, steroids, alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, marijuana, cocaine and many others. Anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, acetaminophen and ibuprofen can directly irritate the lining of the stomach impairing digestion leading to infection.
Modern life is full of environmental toxins including chemicals, radiation, solvents, food additives, air/water pollution, mercury and other metals. When exposed to them, the body naturally reacts to detoxify, which uses large amount of energy that leaves little energy for proper digestive function.
As with all functions and organs genetics plays an important role in digestive functioning and our ability to withstand stress and resist digestive problems and diseases. Problems experienced by family members can be clues to our own genetic strengths and weaknesses as we learn more about this subject and move in the direction of improved health.
There are many types of digestive disorders. The symptoms vary widely depending on the problem. In general, you should see your doctor if you have:
• Blood in your stool
• Changes in bowel habits
• Severe abdominal pain
• Unintentional weight loss
• Heartburn not relieved by antacids
Exams and Tests
- Colonoscopy (koh-luh-NAH -skuh-pee) lets the physician look inside your entire large intestine, from the lowest part, the rectum, all the way up through the colon to the lower end of the small intestine.
- Sigmoidoscopy (SIG-moy-DAH-skuh-pee) enables the physician to look at the inside of the large intestine from the rectum through the last part of the colon, called the sigmoid colon.
- Upper endoscopy enables the physician to look inside the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum (first part of the small intestine).
- The upper gastrointestinal (GI) series uses x-rays to diagnose problems in the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum (first part of the small intestine).
- A lower gastrointestinal (GI) series uses x-rays to diagnose problems in the large intestine, which includes the colon and rectum. The lower GI series may show problems like abnormal growths, ulcers, polyps, and diverticuli.
Treatment affects each person differently, and people respond to treatments differently as well.
Sometimes very mild ulcerative colitis symptoms can be controlled with diet and lifestyle changes. But most people need medications to relieve their symptoms. The traditional approach is to start treatment with the safest drugs and then switch to stronger medications if first line drugs fail to relieve your symptoms.
Surgery might be recommended if medication doesn’t relieve inflammation or your colon develops precancerous changes. About 25 to 30 percent of ulcerative colitis patients eventually need surgery. Ulcerative colitis surgery usually involves removing the colon and rectum (proctocolectomy).
When to Contact a Medical Professional
You should call your doctor if you have any of the following digestive symptoms:
• Your heartburn persists and/or becomes more severe.
• You have the sensation of food caught in your chest or throat.
• You have unusual or persistent abdominal pain.
• Your discomfort interferes with your lifestyle or daily activities.
• You have difficulty swallowing or have pain when swallowing.
• Your heartburn is not relieved by medication or causes you to vomit.
• You vomit blood.
• You have bloody or black stools.
• You have lost a significant amount of weight.
• You have persistent hoarseness and/or a sore throat.
• You have episodes of choking.
• You have persistent diarrhea.
• You have new or persistent constipation.
Here are some tips for preventing digestive disorders:
• To prevent constipation, one of the things you should do is increase your intake of water and adapt a diet that has a lot of high fiber. Constipation can be avoided by also adding exercise into your daily routine.
• Diarrhea can be prevented if you are careful about what you eat and the way you prepare your food.
• For those who wish to avoid dyspepsia, you can do so by dropping some of your bad habits. If you smoke, you have to quit smoking. If you are stressed out, you should try to find ways to relax. Also, knowing what foods don’t agree with your stomach and avoiding these is a good way to prevent dyspepsia.
• GERD or heartburn can be avoided if you don’t overeat or if you don’t lie down immediately after eating. If you are overweight, you should lose some of your extra weight to help reduce the incidence of GERD.