Common digestive problems include heartburn/GERD, IBD, and IBS. Symptoms may include bloating, diarrhea, gas, stomach pain, and stomach cramps. Treatment includes a combination of medication and lifestyle changes. Digestive disorders encompass a variety of diseases ranging from mild to severe. Common digestive disorders include gastroesophageal reflux disease, cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, lactose intolerance and hiatal hernia.
The most common symptoms of digestive disorders include bleeding, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, heartburn, pain, nausea and vomiting. Accurately diagnosing digestive disorders involves collecting a thorough medical history and conducting a physical examination. Some patients with digestive disorders may need more extensive diagnostic evaluations, including endoscopic procedures, lab tests and imaging.
The most common gastrointestinal problems are:
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): Heartburn happens, but if it occurs regularly, you may need to be evaluated for GERD. A medical provider can often diagnose GERD based on a description of symptoms alone, but if the problem has been ongoing for some time, additional diagnostic testing may be necessary to evaluate if the disease has caused damage to the esophagus.
Chronic Diarrhea: It’s never the topic of polite conversation, but when it happens, it’s impossible to ignore. Occasional urgency to go is normal, but loose stool — often three or more times a day — that lasts for at least four weeks could be cause for concern.
Diarrhea is tricky to treat because it can have so many possible causes. It could be a result of the body’s inability to absorb foods — as with celiac disease and foods containing gluten — or a disease or disorder, like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. Infections — often viral — and even parasites can also be to blame.
Chronic Constipation: At the other end of the spectrum, sometimes it’s the inability to go that troubles us. Chronic constipation is typically defined as having fewer than three bowel movements a week for three weeks or longer. It may also be the case that stools are hard and difficult to pass.
Gastroenteritis: With symptoms like a fever, vomiting, diarrhea and headaches, it’s no wonder most people call this the stomach flu. Gastroenteritis is caused by an infection — either viral or
bacterial — in the gut. Bacterial infections can be caused by E. coli or salmonella, while viral infections can include rotavirus or that infamous scourge of cruise ships, norovirus. Parasites, too, can cause gastroenteritis.
Hemorrhoids: Hemorrhoids are painful, swollen blood vessels in the anal canal. Symptoms include pain, itching, and bright red blood after a bowel movement. Constipation and pregnancy are major causes. Hemorrhoids are common, with 75% of people older than 45 having them. It helps to avoid constipation by adding fiber and plenty of fluids to your diet.
Peptic Ulcer Disease (PUD): PUD is an open sore in the lining of the stomach or upper part of the small intestine. It affects over 15 million Americans. Gastritis is inflammation of the stomach lining. These two conditions have similar symptoms, including stomach pain and nausea, and similar causes. A bacterial infection— H. pylori—is the most common cause of PUD and often causes chronic gastritis. NSAIDs—including aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen—are another common cause.