People affected by digestive disorders often suffer through a long, uncomfortable journey before they are able to live in peace with their digestive system.

Digestive diseases may or may not be serious medical issues, but they can be devastating for those suffering. Digestive disorders disrupt your life and leave you feeling completely helpless, especially in regard to the food you eat. If you are dealing with digestive issues, you first need to determine what foods affect you negatively and then design a health plan that works for you. Similar diseases and conditions can require extremely different treatments, which is why it is so important to first determine exactly what is causing your digestive issues. Once you understand how your system reacts to certain foods, you and your doctor can design a plan that gets your system back on track and allows you to live a full, healthy life.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

There are several diseases and conditions that fall under the umbrella of “digestive disorders.” The discomfort ranges from mild to severe, but in all cases the condition is affected by diet. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is one of the most common digestive disorders and is also one of the most easily treatable. This is because there is actually no abnormality in the bowel. The bowel is aggravated by external factors, so there is no abnormality to repair. Symptoms include cramping and pain, constipation and diarrhea, gas, and bloating. The symptoms often flare up after eating and subside following a bowel movement. Treatment for IBS focuses on diet changes. There are few recommendations for specific foods because people’s systems respond differently to different foods. In general, people suffering from IBS will want to avoid intestinal stimulants such as caffeine, carbonated drinks, and greasy foods. Gluten might also be a stimulant, especially if a patient is also suffering from Celiac disease or gluten intolerance. It can also be helpful for a patient to eat a diet high in fiber (soluble and insoluble) and to eat several small meals each day. Those suffering from diarrhea will want to add soluble fiber foods to their diet, such as oatmeal and bananas. Those suffering from constipation should increase insoluble fiber, as well, including fruits and vegetables. Insoluble fiber can make bloating worse, so monitor your symptom changes carefully.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) has similar symptoms as IBS, but is a completely different disorder. Patients with IBD actually have abnormalities in their digestive system and might be diagnosed with either Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. Each of these diseases has similar characteristics, but there are some specific differences. Crohn’s disease affects the last part of the intestine, as well as parts of the large intestine. The inflammation extends deep into the layers of the intestinal wall and affects the entire bowel wall.

Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease

Ulcerative colitis, on the other hand, affects only the bowel lining. The lining of the intestine is inflamed and ulcers are present. It often affects the rectal area, causing frequent diarrhea, as well as blood and mucus in the stool.

Both ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease share symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, and occasional constipation. Diarrhea can be extreme and result in dehydration, a drop in blood pressure, and rapid heartbeat, as well as anemia, caused from the loss of blood in stools. The loss of fluids and nutrients can lead to fatigue, fever, and malnutrition.

Though these diseases have similar symptoms and, in some cases, similar treatments, it can require a long and frustrating process of trial and error to detect symptom triggers. The tests given by Immuno reduce the frustration and time it takes to determine the most common triggers of symptoms. Tests might include a Tissue Transglutaminase Assay (tTg) or Anti-Gliadin Test, both of which help narrow down triggers. The Anti-Gliadin Test is especially helpful to those suffering from gluten intolerance.

Once a diagnosis is made, patients can work with their doctors to eliminate certain foods and find alternatives to foods they are unwilling to give up completely. For instance, those who suffer from a peanut allergy can find tree nut substitutes for peanut butter, such as cashew or almond butter, as well as soy nut, sunflower seed, walnut, and hazelnut butters, if the idea of giving up peanut butter is disappointing. These substitutes are also affective in relieving symptoms not necessarily associated with digestive issues.

Suffering with a digestive condition is no way to live. The best course of action is to diagnose the condition causing the problems and develop a lifestyle that helps you manage the condition. There may be no cure for these conditions, but learning to manage the symptoms is the best way to live a full, healthy life.