Digestive Disorders

What is a Digestive Disorder?

Any disorder which correlates to the digestive system or tract can be termed a digestive disorder. 

Digestive disorders are very common in people. Our digestive tract comes in contact with a number of microbes and foreign materials. The organs of the digestive system are very critically organised to produce enzymes and digest all the complex food that is ingested. More or less all people suffer from digestive comfort once in a while. Below mentioned are some disorders of the digestive system.

Commonly Known Digestive Disorders

Following are some of the commonly known diseases of the digestive system: 

1. GERD: Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

The most common symptom of GERD is heartburn. People may naturally suffer from heartburn once in a while due to ingestion of certain food. However if one experiences heartburn way too often then he or she may be suffering from GERD. A doctor can diagnose and therefore identify GERD through reading the symptoms displayed by the patient. However, to estimate the extent of damage caused to the oesophagal tract, specific diagnostic testing is quite necessary.

The most common effect of GERD is heartburn. However prolonged and uncontrolled GERD can cause erosion of the lining of the oesophagal tract. It may even lead to bleeding in the oesophagal tract. This condition can often cause a great amount of pain in the chest region and is often mistaken for a heart attack.

One can control GERD by initiating simple lifestyle changes. Over the counter (OTC) medicines can also help deal with GERD if it is for a short time. However, for chronic or serious GERD, prescription medicine with or without surgery is required.

2. Chronic Diarrhoea

Diarrhoea is most commonly characterized by loose, watery stool. It is one of the most common digestive disorders although experts consider it normal to have occasional urgency. However uncontrollable urgency where one is unable to control the exit of watery, loose stool for an extended period of time can be a cause for concern.

Diarrhoea itself is a disorder but it is often also displayed as a symptom of other disorders or diseases as well. Diarrhoea is difficult to treat. This is because it can have a number of possible causes. Diarrhoea could happen because of the body's inability to absorb food, for an example celiac disease. Another probable reason can be other diseases like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis. Even infections of any sort in the digestive tract can trigger diarrhoea too.

Apart from the physical discomfort that is brought about due to diarrhoea, chronic diarrhoea can also be considered as an indication of a problem that is much more serious. This may need medical intervention and the patient must be evaluated by a medical professional.

3. Chronic Constipation

Constipation is the inability to pass stool. This may include passing out stool with considerable effort.

As a rule of thumb, constipation is often defined as having fewer than three bowel movements in a week. This may last for three weeks or more. In case the stool is hard it becomes harder to pass and is still called constipation.

Just like diarrhoea, to find the exact cause of chronic constipation can be hard to determine.

Generally, treatment of the condition initially can begin with easily available remedies like stool softener and fibre supplements. An important cause of constipation is a lack of adequate water intake. Thus adding more fluids to one's diet can also help curb constipation. If all the above fails, one must consult a physician. One may be recommended some exercises to strengthen the muscles that help in the movement of muscles that are concerned with the peristaltic movement that aids passing stool.

4. Gastroenteritis

Gastroenteritis is a condition in which the parts of the gastrointestinal tract become inflamed. Gastroenteritis is expressed with symptoms like fever, nausea, diarrhoea and even headaches. All its symptoms are more or less the same as that of the flu, therefore gastroenteritis is commonly known as the stomach flu.

Just like flu, gastroenteritis is also caused by an infection in the gut. The infection may either be of viral or bacterial origin. Bacterial infections can be caused by a number of bacteria, the most common of which are E. coli and Salmonella. Viral infections can be caused by rotavirus (mostly affecting unvaccinated children), norovirus (also infamous as the scourge of cruise ships). Certain parasites are also capable of causing gastroenteritis.

If the symptoms persist even after a few days, the best advice would be to drink adequate fluids, especially water to stay hydrated and avoid dehydration. 

Gastroenteritis can be easily prevented through following good hand hygiene practices. Also having separate bathroom facilities for infected patients can also help in preventing the spread of the disease. 

If the symptoms last for more than a few days further testing must be done. If the test results come back positive for antibodies, then it would indicate an allergy or infection. Antibodies in stool can also help in more effective treatment.

5. Ulcers

Ulcers are fluid-filled blisters which are formed on various organs. A peptic ulcer is an ulcer formed on the walls of the stomach.

Earlier peptic ulcers were attributed to lifestyle factors like stress or diet but recent research shows that peptic ulcers are more likely to be caused by either bacterial infections or by heavy use of over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen or naproxen.

Both the bacteria as well as the NSAIDs have the capability to destroy the inner lining of the stomach. It damages the mucus covering the inner linings of the stomach. This exposes the interior of the stomach to the very strong Hydrochloric acid that is secreted by specialized cells in the stomach. This is essentially comparable to a sore in the inside of the stomach. Ulcers can be very hard to resolve because of the constant exposure of the exposed area to the continuous secretion of stomach acid.

A physician can perform various tests to diagnose the presence and cause of the peptic ulcer. If the ulcer was caused due to an infection by microbes, the patient will be prescribed antibiotics for the treatment. Along with this, a proton pump inhibitor is prescribed. This helps in reducing acid secretion from the specialised cells. If not treated the ulcers can cause immense pain, this can also cause bleeding which may lead to anaemia.

Digestive Disorders are very common and can be easily preventable. Consuming clean, hygienic food can reduce the chances of infection. Apart from this, healthy bathroom etiquettes also help in preventing the outbreak of digestive disorders. Even consuming clean water is very important to prevent digestive Disorders.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What are Haemorrhoids?

Ans: Hemorrhoids are a disorder of the digestive tract which affects approximately three-quarters of individuals of the group of 45 and more. Haemorrhoids are manifested by swollen rectal veins which cause discomfort during the process of passing stool. There can be a number of causes for these small, swollen rectal veins, from straining during bowel movements, family history, or just from spending too much time sitting on the toilet. This can resemble chronic constipation. During pregnancy, these become very common.

Haemorrhoids have the following symptoms:

  • It causes pain or itching around the anus.

  • Patients may notice a hard knot near their anus.

  • Some even bright red blood in the toilet bowl.

2. How to Treat Haemorrhoids?

Ans: One can try treating haemorrhoids at home with simple procedures. For example, over-the-counter ointments, as well as cold packs, can shrink the inflamed tissue and thus reduce pain. Even soaking in warm water can help make the tissue softer. Softening helps the tissue to heal.

If these methods don’t work, consult a physician. After proper examination, a physician can recommend additional treatment. This can include the use of rubber band ligation, which uses rubber bands to prohibit blood flow to the haemorrhoid. Another method of treatment involves sclerotherapy. In this process, the physicians use a small needle to inject medication into the vessels. This medication can cause them to shrink.

3. What are the Rules to Prevent Digestive Disorders?

Ans: The best way to prevent outbreak of digestive Disorders are:

  • Consuming healthy and clean food.

  • Having healthy hand hygiene.

  • Having proper bathroom etiquettes 

  • Keeping food covered.

  • Not eating undercooked food.

  • Consuming clean water.

  • Eating fresh food.

4. Name Some Digestible Disorders Caused by Microbes.

Ans: Some digestive disorders caused by microbes are:

  • Cholera: caused by Vibrio cholerae

  • Typhoid: caused by Salmonella typhii.

  • Travellers’ diarrhoea caused by strains of E. coli.