Digestive disorders will likely affect everyone at least some point in their lives, but up to 70 million people are affected on an ongoing basis.
Chronic digestive disorders left untreated can lead to serious illnesses, including cancer, and nearly one in ten people will require hospitalization because of a digestive disorder. Though digestive disorders include specific diseases such as Crohn’s disease or colitis, seemingly minor conditions such as constipation, bloating, dyspepsia, and abdominal pain are gastrointestinal and associated with digestion. When these conditions are chronic, they can disrupt regular life and leave patients feeling miserable.
Constipation is a common condition that affects children and adults of all ages. Constipation will vary from person to person because “normal” frequency for bowel movements varies widely. Though most medical professionals recommend daily elimination, constipation may not be diagnosed unless a person is passing fewer than three stools per week. However, constipation might also cause dry, hard stools that pass regularly, but with difficulty. In addition to infrequency, constipation might also include the need to strain when eliminating, a sensation of rectal blockage, or a need to use manual maneuvers to accomplish elimination.
In mild cases, constipation can usually be eliminated by increasing fluid intake and fiber, though some utilize over-the-counter laxatives. Constipation might be a sign of a serious problem if it is accompanied by intense abdominal pain, blood in the stool, rectal pain, pencil-shaped stools, a cycle of constipation and diarrhea, and unexplained weight loss. If dietary changes are made and no relief is experienced after three days, there might also be a serious problem. In these cases, your doctor should rule out hormonal disturbances, auto-immune diseases, Hirschsprung’s disease, and colorectal cancer.
In serious, chronic cases of constipation, patients might experience related conditions that worsen the problem. Hemorrhoids or fissures can develop when a person consistently passes hard stools. Fecal impaction can also occur when hardened stools cannot be eliminated. Rectal prolapse is caused by anal tissue pushing through the anus, which causes mucus secretion, and lazy bowel syndrome occurs from frequent use of laxatives. This is why it is advised that over-the-counter laxatives be used as infrequently as possible.
Another digestive disturbance that is usually not considered serious, but can lead to damage if untreated, is dyspepsia. Commonly referred to as indigestion, it is characterized by discomfort in the upper abdomen. This could include bloating, nausea, or recurrent belching. Patients might also find they fill up abnormally quickly when eating, experience uncomfortable fullness after eating a regular sized meal, and have a burning sensation in the upper abdomen. Heartburn may be experienced simultaneously, but it is classified as a separate condition.
Dyspepsia is rarely serious, but patients should alert their doctors if symptoms are accompanied by black, tarry stools, vomiting, yellowing of the skin and eyes, or trouble swallowing. Immediate action should be taken if symptoms include chest pain, shortness of breath, or pain in the arm, neck, or jaw.
A variety of things cause dyspepsia, most of which are behavioral and easily avoided. If you notice symptoms occurring after overeating or eating too quickly, indulging in spicy, fatty, or greasy foods, or eating or drinking chocolate, caffeine, carbonated beverages, or alcohol, simply limit or eliminate these items from your diet, or eat less and eat slower. Other causes of dyspepsia include smoking, emotional trauma or stress, medications, peptic ulcers, pancreatitis, gallstones, and stomach cancer.
There is such as thing as functional dyspepsia. This occurs when the stomach in unable to accept, digest, and pass food properly. Since there is not one specific cause, a patient will need to determine if there are any lifestyle changes that keep symptoms under control.
Because these disorders are behavioral and often associated with diet, food toxicity tests can be very effective in helping patients determine their food triggers. Those with a gluten sensitivity or celiac disease will experience bloating, stomach cramping, and other gastrointestinal symptoms, so the Anti-Gliadin Test is effective in determining whether gluten is the problem. The Bloodprint 154 can help a patient pinpoint the problem and rule out a variety of foods, making it easier to design a diet that manages symptoms, no matter how serious they may be.