Digestion begins with chewing, then the food moves through the gastrointestinal tract, mixing with digestive juices to break it down. The digestive process ends in the small intestine. There are a variety of digestive problems that can affect people of all ages, so it's important to work with your healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis if you're experiencing symptoms.
Types of Digestive Problems
Common digestive problems include:
• Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Also known as heartburn, acid indigestion, or pyrosisis, it occurs when your lower esophageal sphincter doesn't close properly. This can cause the contents from your stomach to go back up into your esophagus. Common causes of GERD are foods, obesity, pregnancy and medications. Spicy foods, high fat foods, alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, citrus fruits and juices and mint flavourings often cause problems, but triggers vary between individuals. Symptoms of acid reflux disorder include pain or burning in your chest, a metallic taste in your mouth and burping.
• Celiac disease. This condition is an intolerance to gluten, so you will have an inflammatory response to gluten when your intestine comes in contact with it. Gluten is a compound that’s derived from wheat and similar grains, and gives the doughy feeling to breads. Celiac disease is much more commonly seen in those people who have insulin-dependent diabetes. The blood test to screen for celiac disease is accurate about 98 percent of the time. If you've been recently diagnosed with celiac, your intestinal lining may have some damage to it. This may actually inhibit some of the absorption of important vitamins and minerals in your diet. Symptoms of celiac disease include diarrhea, bloating, weight loss, constipation and fatigue.
• Crohn’s disease. It can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract, and usually affects patients between the ages of 13 and 30. Blood tests for celiac disease and IBD test for different characteristics, allowing your physician to make the right diagnosis. Endoscopy or biopsy may also be used.
• Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Patients who have stomach pain or discomfort at least three times a month for several months may have IBS. Symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome include constipation, diarrhea and bloating.
Treatment of Digestive Problems
Because there are so many different digestive problems, treatments vary greatly. For some conditions such as GERD and celiac disease, dietary changes may be sufficient. Other conditions may require prescription and/or over-the-counter medications or surgery.
Talk to your nutritionist if you'd like more information on digestion and digestive disorders.
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The key to good digestion often depends on eating a healthy, well balanced diet. Some foods may contribute to stomach discomfort, bloating or even more serious digestive conditions. Find more information with our complimentary video library on digestion and digestive disorders at healthchoicefirst.com
A local registered dietitian has completed education and training to specialize in a wide variety of fields, including sport nutrition, gerontological nutrition, pediatric nutrition and renal nutrition. A local Registered Dietitian or she may work in private practice, in a nursing home, school, hospital or food service facility.