Digestive Disorders

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Symptoms and Treatments of Digestive Disorders

Many people experience digestive disorders. Some digestive disorders and mildly uncomfortable, while others can greatly affect your life. Digestive disorders affect the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which includes the stomach, esophagus, small and large intestines, liver, gallbladder, and pancreas. Common digestive disorders include irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), irritable bowel disease (IBD), celiac disease, pancreatitis, gallstones, acid reflux, lactose intolerance and ulcers.

Let's take a look at a few common digestive disorders:

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome is a gastrointestinal disorder. It affects the mobility of your gastrointestinal tract. Experts aren’t entirely sure what causes IBS, but that the enteric nervous system is involved.

IBS symptoms include abdominal pain, bloating, cramping, diarrhea and constipation. This chronic condition can impact your quality of life. 

To manage IBS, your family physician, nutritionist or registered dietitian may recommend lifestyle modifications such as dietary changes. You may also need medication.

Irritable Bowel Disease

Inflammatory bowel disease is a chronic condition. It involves chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. It encompasses two conditions: Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Crohn's disease can affect any part of your gastrointestinal tract. Inflammation can extend deep into the layers of your intestinal wall, and can cause abscesses, fistulas and strictures. Crohn’s disease symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal pain, weight loss, and fatigue. 

Ulcerative colitis mostly affects your colon and rectum. Inflammation usually starts in your rectum and may continue along the colon. The inner lining of your colon gets inflamed, which causes ulcers. Ulcerative colitis symptoms include bloody diarrhea, cramps, fatigue and urgency to have a bowel movement.

How your irritable bowel disease is treated depends on what phase of the disease you’re in. You’ll go through phases where your symptoms are under control, but also experience flare-ups.

During IBD flare-ups, you should eat a low-fibre diet. When your symptoms are under control, eat a high-fibre diet with whole grains, nuts and legumes. IBD trigger foods include alcohol, caffeine, high-fat foods, fried foods, dairy products and processed foods.

Acid Reflux Symptoms and Treatments

Acid reflux is also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This common digestive disorder is  characterized by the backward flow of stomach acid into your esophagus. Your esophagus is a tube that connects your throat to the stomach. 

As stomach acid splashes back into your esophagus, you may experience symptoms like heartburn. Risk factors for acid reflux include smoking, pregnancy and obesity. To manage acid reflux, your physician may recommend medications such as antacids and H2 blocks and lifestyle changes such as avoiding trigger foods. Some foods that can be beneficial for acid reflux include lean proteins, non-citrus foods, vegetables and healthy fats. 

If you have a digestive disorder like IBS, IBD, acid reflux, gallstones, ulcers or celiac disease, talk to your local family doctor. You could also speak with a nutritional consultant, registered dietitian or gastroenterologist. 

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