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You're Not Alone If You Experience These Digestive Issues

Digestive issues. They are something that you probably don’t feel very comfortable talking about. However, the truth is, everyone experiences some type of digestive distress in their lifetime. Whether it is from a meal that doesn’t agree with us or a more-serious gastrointestinal ailment that requires lifestyle changes and treatment from a gastroenterology specialist, digestive problems are fairly common. In fact, research has shown that one in five Americans is afflicted with digestive problems.

Five Common Digestive Disorders

There is no need to suffer from digestive problems in silence. In this blog, our gastroenterology share some of the most prevalent digestive problems — and what can be done about them.

1. Gastreoesophageal Reflux Disease

Experiencing heartburn is never fun. It is normal for heartburn to happen from time to time because it is caused by consuming certain foods and drinks, pregnancy, and even stress and anxiety. However, if you are experiencing heartburn frequently, you may have Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). GERD is a painful condition that causes stomach acid to back up into the esophagus. The symptoms of GERD are very similar to heartburn and acid reflux — many experience a strong burning pain that is felt in the middle of the chest — but a serious condition could erode the lining of the esophagus and lead to bleeding. Keeping GERD under control usually starts with simple lifestyle changes, such as avoiding foods and beverages that are known to trigger symptoms. There are over-the-counter remedies such as antacids or other medications that can help reduce stomach acid production and inflammation of the esophagus. But some cases of GERD may require stronger treatment, such as prescription medication or surgery.

2. Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Have you been running to the bathroom more times than you think is normal for a day? Or maybe you are experiencing the opposite issue, and it has been days since you have been able to go. If you can relate to either case and repeatedly find yourself in these situations, you may be dealing with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). IBS is a common digestive disorder that causes issues that are directly related to your bowel movements. Symptoms of IBS can vary widely, many experience a combination of symptoms that can include diarrhea, constipation, gas, bloating, cramping, and abdominal pain. While the exact cause of IBS is unknown, treatment of the chronic condition is often centered around diet. Doctors recommended eating low-fat, high-fiber meals and avoiding foods that trigger symptoms, such as dairy products, alcohol, caffeine, and other foods and drinks that produce gas. Additionally, beneficial bacteria and probiotic supplements can also help with IBS relief.

3. Constipation

Constipation is a digestive issue which makes it difficult or infrequent bowel movements. If you have bowel movements less than three times a week, you may be constipated. About 63 million people in the United States are affected by chronic constipation. While the causes of chronic constipation can be difficult to diagnose, one of the most well-known causes of the digestive issue is not getting enough fiber in your diet. Some may turn to over-the-counter remedies, such as stool softeners and fiber supplements to help with constipation relief. Additionally, adding more fluids — namely, water — can be very helpful.

4. Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative colitis (UC) is part of a group of digestive conditions called inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). According to the Crohn's Colitis Foundation, UC may affect as many as 907,000 Americans. The symptoms of this chronic disease are very similar to Crohn's Disease — another inflammatory bowel disease which we’ll get to next — but solely the large intestine, also known as the colon, is affected. UC can cause the lining of the colon to become inflamed and develop tiny open sores, or ulcers. If you experience frequent and urgent bowel movements, pain with diarrhea, bloody stool, or abdominal cramps, you may have ulcerative colitis and should contact your doctor right away. Doctors can prescribe medication that can help suppress the inflammation, and eliminating foods that cause discomfort may help as well.

5. Crohn's Disease

As mentioned, Crohn’s disease is another inflammatory bowel disease. As many as 780,000 Americans may be affected by Crohn’s disease, according to the Crohn's Colitis Foundation. Crohn’s disease mainly affects the end of the small bowel and the beginning of the colon. While the causes of this chronic disease are still undefined, many medical professionals believe that genetics and family history may have something to do with it. The symptoms of Crohn's are often discomforting, such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, rectal bleeding, and fever. Treatment for Crohn’s disease can vary depending on the experienced symptoms but typically includes topical pain relievers, immunosuppressants, and surgery.

Are You Experiencing Any of These Digestive Issues?

These are just a few of the many digestive disorders and conditions that people just like you are dealing with. If you feel that you are living with an undiagnosed digestive disorder, it is important to schedule with your doctor or gastroenterology specialists as soon as you can. At Northeastern Gastroenterology Associates, our team of gastroenterology specialists can assist patients with the five common digestive issues discussed as well as other common and rare issues to help them live a more comfortable, enjoyable life.

Be sure you keep an eye out for our next blog post, as we continue to review some other common digestive disorders that people experience. For more information, contact the gastroenterology specialists at Northeastern Gastroenterology Associates.