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Digestive Health Conditions


Acid Reflux/Gastroesophageal Reflux (GERD)

Also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, acid reflux can be painful. You don’t feel pain from acid in your stomach because your stomach has a special coating that keeps the lining from becoming irritated by the acid. However, your esophagus doesn’t have this lining, so when acid reaches up into your esophagus there is nothing there to protect the lining.

Symptoms

  • Burning in chest
  • Regurgitation
  • Nausea
  • Belching
  • Dry cough
  • Bitter taste in mouth
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Sore throat

Treatment

Antacids may provide some relief for symptoms. You doctor may also prescribe medications such as Proton Pump Inhibitors or H-2 receptor blockers. Severe cases may require surgery.

Celiac’s Disease (Sprue)

An immunological response, Celiac’s disease is an allergy to gluten. Many foods contain gluten, which can irritate your digestive system when eaten.

Symptoms
Children:

  • Abdominal Bloating and pain
  • Chronic Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Pale, foul-smelling, fatty stool
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue

Adults:

  • Inexplicable iron-deficiency anemia
  • Bone and/or joint pain
  • Arthritis, bone loss or osteoporosis
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Numbness and/or tingling in your hands and feet
  • Seizures
  • Migraines
  • Infertility or recurrent miscarriages
  • Canker sores in your mouth

Treatment
A gluten free diet generally alleviates all symptoms.

Cirrhosis

Cirrhosis is a long term, chronic damage to your liver that results in scarring and liver failure. It can be caused by a number of things, including excessive drinking of alcohol and chronic diseases of the liver.
Symptoms

  • Abdominal pain
  • Dark stool (from digested blood)
  • Nausea and/or vomiting, often with blood in vomit
  • Swollen blood vessels in skin
  • Yellow skin and eyes (Jaundice)
  • Dark urine

Treatment

Avoiding alcohol and maintaining a low sodium diet, as well as prescription antibiotics, diuretics (water pills) and synthetic hormones can all relieve symptoms. Medications that control hepatitis are also found useful in treatment of viruses. In advanced cases, surgery or liver transplant is needed.

Colon Polyps

Polyps are clumps or groups of cells that attach to the lining of your organs. Colon polyps are cell clumps found on the lining of your colon.

Symptoms

Colon Polyps often do not show symptoms. However, if you do have symptoms, they may include:

  • Rectal bleeding
  • Change in bowel habits or stool color
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Anemia

Treatments

Smaller polyps are often removed during a routine screening. Larger polyps usually require minimally invasive surgery to remove any clusters. Serious cases may require removal of the rectum and colon, though this is rare.

Copper Storage Disease (Wilson Disease)

Wilson disease is a genetic disorder that can only be inherited. It causes a buildup of copper in your cells and organs.

Symptoms

  • Mild liver disease
  • Nervous system or psychiatric problems
  • Speech challenges
  • Tremors
  • Mood swings, depression and/or anxiety

Treatments

Reduce copper intake by avoiding foods that have high copper content, such as shellfish, liver, mushrooms, nuts and chocolate. You may be prescribed a chelating agent, which removes extra copper from the organs by absorbing it into your bloodstream to be removed by the liver. Zinc supplements are often advised when taking a chelating agent. Some cases may require a liver transplant.

Crohn’s Disease

Also called ileitis, Crohn’s Disease is a chronic inflammation, or swelling, of the lining of your digestive tract.

Symptoms

  • Pain in your abdomen or joints
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea and/or bloody stools
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mouth ulcers

Treatments

Crohn’s Disease has no cure, though some medications can help relieve symptoms. Common treatments include increasing your daily fiber intake, prescription anti-inflammatory drugs and an immunosuppressant. Vitamins may also be recommended. Surgical bowel re-sectioning may be necessary in some cases.

Diverticular Disease

Diverticular disease occurs when your digestive tract develops small pouches that can bulge out, causing discomfort.

Symptoms

  • Constant pain in lower left abdomen
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Fever
  • Constipation

Treatment

Mild symptoms can be treated antibiotics, a liquid diet and over the counter pain relievers. For more severe cases, you may be hospitalized to receive a stronger antibiotic treatment or surgery.

Esophageal Ulcers

Esophageal ulcers are open sores in the lining of your esophagus.

Symptoms

  • Difficult or painful swallowing
  • Heartburn
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Mouth sores

Treatment

Antibiotics, pain medication, heartburn relievers and corticosteroids are all common treatments. Severe cases may require hospitalization. Avoiding spicy, acidic, or hard foods that can cause irritation to the esophagus may also help.

Gastritis

An inflammation of your stomach, gastritis can be quite painful.

Symptoms

Symptoms are not always present, but if you do have symptoms, they may be as follows:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Burning pain in abdomen
  • Indigestion

TreatmentYour doctor may prescribe antibiotics, Proton Pump Inhibitors, H-2 receptor blockers and antacids to relieve symptoms.

Hiatal Hernia

Hiatal hernia is a type of hernia that occurs when part of your stomach pushes up through your diaphragm, the muscle that separates your chest cavity from your abdominal cavity.

Symptoms

  • Chest or abdominal pain
  • Burning sensation in the chest
  • Vomiting blood
  • Passing black stools
  • Belching
  • Nausea
  • Regurgitation
  • Throat irritation

Treatment

Antacids provide quick relief, but your doctor may also recommend a Proton Pump inhibitor or H-2 receptor blocker. Surgery may be required when traditional medications do not relieve symptoms.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

A common health concern, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is chronic inflammation of your large intestine. IBS can be a long term disease, so it is helpful to talk to your physician about lifestyle and dietary changes you can make that may provide relief from symptoms.

Symptoms

  • Abdominal cramping
  • Change in bowel movements, including constipation or diarrhea
  • Indigestion
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Loss of appetite
  • Gas and/or bloating
  • Mucus in stool

TreatmentDietary changes, such as avoiding high-gas food and beverages and raw, fibrous, fruits, and vegetables, can help. Your doctor may fiber supplements, anti-diarrheal medications, antidepressants and antibiotics.

Lactose Intolerance

Lactose is a sugar found in most dairy products. When your body struggles or is unable to process lactose, you may experience discomfort, known as lactose intolerance.

Symptoms

  • Belching
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatty stools
  • Indigestion
  • Stomach cramping

Treatment

Avoid large servings of dairy, or all dairy, depending on the severity of your symptoms.

Mallory Weiss Syndrome

Also called gastroesophageal laceration syndrome, Mallory Weiss syndrome occurs when a cut in the mucosa at the connection between your stomach and esophagus continues to bleed.

Symptoms

  • Bloody stools
  • Vomiting blood

Treatment

Most esophagus tears heal within 7-10 days without any treatment. Surgery may be necessary to repair severe tears. Your doctor may also prescribe proton pump inhibitors or H-2 receptor blockers.

Pancreatitis

Inflammation of your pancreas, pancreatitis can be appear suddenly or develop over a period of time. It can be caused by a number of underlying issues.

Symptoms

  • Pain in your back or abdomen
  • Bloating
  • Indigestion
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Loss of appetite

Treatment

Since pancreatitis can be caused by different things, your treatment will vary depending on the underlying cause. You will likely be hospitalized so that your physician can reduce your pain, determine the cause and develop a treatment plan.

Peptic Ulcers

Peptic ulcers are often related to the H. pylori bacterium. This type of ulcer is a sore that develops in the linings of your esophagus, stomach or small intestine.

Symptoms

  • Chest or abdominal pain (worse at night or when stomach is empty)
  • Indigestion
  • Nausea
  • Excessive gas
  • Abdominal discomfort/fatigue
  • Vomiting blood
  • Blood in stool

TreatmentAntibiotics, antacids, proton pump inhibitors and H-2 receptor blockers can relieve symptoms and allow your ulcer to heal.

Porphyria

Porphyria is a rare condition that arises from a buildup of chemicals related to red blood cells.

Symptoms

  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Rashes and/or blisters
  • Cramping
  • Muscular weakness
  • Blood in urine
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Seizures
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Insomnia

Treatment

Medications to relieve symptoms are the most common treatment. For more severe cases, you may be hospitalized. In cases of Cutaneous Porphyria, your treatment focuses on treating high porphyrin levels in your body by absorbing them with medications and vitamin supplements, like anti-malaria drugs, Beta Carotene and Vitamin D.

Short Bowel Syndrome

Also known as short gut syndrome or simply short gut, short bowel syndrome is classified as a malabsorption disorder, meaning your body struggles to absorb energy and nutrients from the food you eat. Short bowel syndrome is most commonly caused by the surgical removal of part of your small intestine, which can be necessary due to a variety of factors. Rarely, short bowel syndrome is caused by a complete dysfunction of a section of your small intestine, and not due to surgical removal.

Symptoms

  • Bloating/Cramping/Gas
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Heartburn
  • Vomiting
  • Malnutrition
  • Dehydration
  • Diarrhea

Treatment

Treatment usually involves a combination of nutritional support, rehydration, vitamin and mineral supplements, antibiotics, proton pump inhibitors and H-2 receptor blockers. Severe cases may require surgery.

Ulcerative Colitis

A chronic condition causing inflammation of your digestive tract, ulcerative colitis can be quite painful.

Symptoms

  • Pain in joints, rectum and abdomen
  • Bloating or constipation
  • Bloody stool
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea or leaky of stools
  • Anemia
  • Unexpected weight loss
  • Abdominal cramping or tenderness

Treatment

Typical treatments include drug therapy or surgery, which is reserved for more sever cases. In many cases, anti-inflammatory drugs such as aminosalicylates and corticosteroids may relieve or reduce symptoms. Other medications may include antibiotics, anti-diarrheal medications, pain relievers and iron supplements.

Whipple Disease

Whipple disease is a rare bacterial infection of your digestive tract. It can be fatal if not treated.

Symptoms

  • Chronic joint pain
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Bloating
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Anemia
  • Abdominal cramping and pain
  • Difficulty walking
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Unexplained weight loss

Treatment

Treatment usually begins with a 2-4 week intravenous (IV) antibiotic regiment followed by one to two years of taking an oral antibiotic. Many doctors recommend vitamin and mineral supplements in addition to IV therapy.