If you have a digestive disorder, it can feel isolating. Did you know that between 60 and 70 million people have a digestive disease? Here are some of the most common digestive conditions, and I’ll bet you’ve experienced at least one of them.
Lactose intolerance is extremely common, especially among adults. In fact, 30% of adults have some degree of lactose intolerance by age 20. This happens when the small intestine stops making the lactase enzyme, which is how our bodies process the lactose (a type of sugar) in dairy products. Symptoms usually appear between 30 minutes and 2 hours after the ingestion of dairy products and include nausea, bloating, cramping, flatulence, and diarrhea.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
It’s estimated that 10-15% of the adult population has IBS, with twice as many female sufferers as male sufferers. That works out to between 25-45 million people in the US. Because there is no definitive test for IBS and because the cause is unknown, it can be a very frustrating condition. The most common symptoms are abdominal pain/cramping/bloating and changes in bowel habits (diarrhea or constipation).
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
Acid reflux, or heartburn, is when stomach acid backs up into your esophagus, causing a burning feeling in your chest. While occasional heartburn isn’t a cause for concern, you are probably experiencing GERD if your acid reflux symptoms occur at least twice a week. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), GERD affects approximately 20% of the population. A gastroenterologist may perform an upper endoscopy procedure to evaluate the severity of GERD.
Hemorrhoids are probably the most common digestive condition on this list, with the NIDDK estimating that 75% of Americans over the age of 45 experience them. Hemorrhoids occur when blood vessels at the end of the digestive tract become swollen, and they can be itchy and/or painful. They are often associated with constipation and a lack of fiber in the diet. Over-the-counter treatments are usually effective, but if not, a gastroenterologist can perform hemorrhoid banding procedure.
Gallstones are hard deposits that form in the gallbladder, and they are usually made up of cholesterol or bilirubin. Over 25 million Americans are thought to suffer from gallstones, with 1 million new cases diagnosed every year. Only about ¼ of those patients need treatment since many patients aren’t even aware that they have gallstones. If the stones block the bile ducts between your gallbladder and your intestines, however, they can cause intense pain.
If you’re experiencing any of the above conditions and would like to seek treatment, contact Digestive Health Centers today! Our board-certified, fellowship-trained gastroenterologists can get you back on the road to wellness.