Gastro problems or medically referred to as gastrointestinal problems are disorders that occur within the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The gastrointestinal tract comprises of mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine and anus. These organs form a long continuous passage from the mouth to the anus – called the GI tract. The GI tract is supported by numerous blood vessels that supply blood to these organs and transport the nutrients to the other organs of the body.
That said several problems can affect the GI tract and impact the digestive system of the body. Some of the common gastrointestinal problems, their symptoms and treatment are listed below:
Celiac Disease: A complicated autoimmune disorder that makes the small intestine hypersensitive to gluten. Gluten intake causes the body’s immune system to attack the small intestine, which damages the villi – small, fingerlike components of the small intestine responsible for absorption of nutrients. Celiac disease can affect people of any age and gender. Common symptoms include:
- Changes in bowel movement (constipation or diarrhoea)
- Unexplained weight loss
- Poor growth in children
Celiac disease can only be treated by preventing the intake of any food that contains gluten.
Constipation: Constipation is a very common gastro problem that is characterised by the difficulty or infrequency of passing stool.Constipation can be caused due to many factors such as dehydration, lack of fibre in the diet, pregnancy, physical inactivity or medications including iron supplements, opioids, etc.Some of the common symptoms of constipation include:
- Small, hard and dry stool
- Difficulty and pain in passing stool
- Distention in stomach
Constipation can easily be treated with laxatives and some lifestyle changes.
Crohn’s Disease: This a type of chronic bowel disorder where patches of inflammation are formed anywhere along the GI tract – between the mouth and anus. The most commonly affected is space where the small intestine meets the large intestine. The exact cause of the disease cannot be pointed; however, it tends to be aggravated by an unhealthy diet and stress. Some of the common symptoms of Crohn’s Disease include:
- Prolonged Diarrhea
- Abdominal Pain
- Sudden and unexplained weight loss
- Blood or mucus in the faeces
- Bowel incontinence
- Feeling of full even after a bowel movement
Crohn’s disease can be effectively treated with targeted drugs such as aminosalicylates, corticosteroids, etc. In severe cases, the disease might require surgery.
Diarrhoea: Diarrhoea is a condition where one experiences loose, watery bowel movements usually more than three times in a day.Diarrhoea can be caused due to a variety of reasons; some of the common causes include viruses, bacteria, medical conditions, food intolerance and certain medications. Common symptoms of diarrhoea include:
- Frequent, loose watery faeces
- Urgency to visit the toilet
- Abdominal pain
Diarrhoea can be effectively treated with anti-diarrhoea medicines and anti-biotics, which help to reduce the frequency of bowel movements. Moreover, electrolyte solutions help to cure dehydration which is a common side effect of diarrhoea.
Diverticular Disease: This a serious gastro problem in which small pockets are formed in the bowel, known as diverticula. These pockets tend to trap food and become inflamed, causing intense pain and constipation. The disease is very common in people aged 60 or above and is caused by a low fibre diet or due to genetics. The symptoms of the disease include:
- Pain in bowel movement
Diverticular disease is treated with a high-fibre diet and some pain relief medication.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): GERD is also commonly referred to as heartburn or acid reflux and is mainly caused because of the weakening of the esophagus. Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES) – a valve at the stomach entrance – does not close at all or opens too often while it should close as soon as the food passes through it. This hindrance causes the natural, non-harmful acid in the stomach to move up the esophagus and create acidity and heartburn. Primary symptoms of GERD include:
- Chest ache
GERD is treated with antacids, blockers, and Inhibitors, as well as certain lifestyle and diet modifications.
Haemorrhoids and Anal Fissures: Haemorrhoids or piles, are a compilation of inflamed and swollen tissues and veins in the anal canal that have blood vessels, support tissue, muscle, as well as elastic fibres. Piles are caused due to extreme constipation, excessive diarrhoea, straining while passing stool or by lifting heavy items. It can also be caused due to pregnancy, obesity or family history or genes. Piles can vary in size and could be located inside or outside the anal canal. Anal fissures are tiny tears in the thin tissue of the anus, usually common in infants.
Some common symptoms of piles are:
- Hard, painful lump around the anus
- Feeling full even after passing stool
- Blood after a bowel movement
- Red, itchy and swollen area around the anus
- Pain while passing a stool
Haemorrhoids can be treated with specialty creams, sclerotherapy, laser treatment, or surgery.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): IBS is a common gastro disorder which affects the large intestine and causes abdominal pain due to altered bowel habits. IBS is a chronic disease which needs to be managed long term and is difficult to diagnose. Some of the common symptoms of IBS include:
- Diarrhoea or constipation
- Abdominal Pain
Treatment of IBS is dependent on symptoms and usually includes medicines and dietary changes.
Other common gastro problems include lactose intolerance, malabsorption, polyps and colorectal cancer, peptic ulcer disease, ulcerative colitis, etc. All gastro problems can be easily treated and managed by seeking timely medical help.