From bloating to gas to indigestion, digestive problems are pervasive health issues for many people. This section covers general information about disorders related to the digestive system – which includes the esophagus, stomach, small intestine and large intestine, gallbladder, pancreas and liver.
Read on to learn more about the digestive system and what lifestyle factors and conditions can cause digestive problems. Symptoms of digestive disorders, such as nausea, diarrhea and heartburn, can be both irritating and embarrassing. Learning about the most common symptoms of digestive problems can help you take steps to prevent and manage these complications.
Proper digestion, absorption of nutrients and elimination of waste products are aided by a good exercise program and healthy diet. You can find specific tips on how to keep your digestive tract healthy and prevent digestive problems. Also included is an outline of some of the most popular diagnostic exams used to identify digestive disorders. Once a specific problem is diagnosed, you and your doctor can come up with a treatment plan that’s right for you.
Digestion is the complex process of turning the food you eat into the energy and nutrients you need for growth, repair and maintenance of body tissues. The digestion process also creates waste that has to be eliminated. Digestive problems occur when your body has problems breaking down and using the food that you eat.
The digestive tract is a long twisting tube that starts at the mouth and ends at the anus. It is made up of a series of muscles in the wall that coordinate the movement of food and other cells in the lining that produce enzymes and hormones to aid in the breakdown of food. There are also 3 other organs (the liver, gall bladder and pancreas) that produce or store digestive chemicals.
Like any complex system, your digestive tract is affected by its internal and external environment and can get out of balance. When it does, the results can include both irritating and uncomfortable symptoms such as diarrhea, heartburn and gas.
Digestive problems can be caused by anything from lactose intolerance to just simply eating the wrong kinds of foods. Such problems can also be the result of bacteria in food, infection, stress, certain medications, or chronic medical conditions such as colitis, Crohn’s disease, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
The digestive system is an intricate system that can be disrupted by disease, diet and emotional stress. Symptoms of digestive problems are often uncomfortable, and sometimes embarrassing. There are a number of basic symptoms that indicate a digestive problem.
Occasional or mild symptoms of digestive problems are usually nothing to worry about. Mayo Clinic recommends, if your discomfort persists for more than two weeks, or you experience any of the below symptoms, contact your doctor right away.
Your doctor can often diagnose digestive problems by asking questions about your personal history and by conducting a physical examination. Sometimes a psychological examination is also helpful as certain digestive problems are linked heavily to anxiety, depression and other mental health disorders.
Various tests may be used, depending on the findings of the physical examination and history. Some examples are endoscopy or colonoscopy, which are both useful for visualising the inside of your digestive system. These tests involve passing a camera on the end of a fibre-optic cable through your mouth to examine your oesophagus, stomach or small intestine (endoscopy) or via your anus into your rectum or large intestine (colonoscopy). Another method is laparoscopy, which uses a thin, lighted tube put through a cut in the belly to look at the abdominal organs.
Imaging tests such as x-rays, ultrasound, computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans may also be used to search for signs of specific digestive disorders or obstructions within the digestive system. Samples of your stools may be examined for signs of infection or the presence of blood cells or fat.
There are a number of tips that can help keep your digestive tract healthy: