60 to 70 million Americans are burdened by gastrointestinal disorders. The most common conditions include GERD, Peptic Ulcer Disease, Gastroenteritis, Celiac Disease, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome, constipation, hemorrhoids, Diverticular Disease, and gallstones.
GERD is commonly downplayed as heartburn. Twenty percent of Americans suffer from GERD.
The difference between heartburn and GERD is the frequency of symptoms. GERD symptoms include a burning feeling in your chest or throat, light vomiting or stomach content moving up into your mouth or throat, discomfort or pain when you swallow and difficulty sleeping due to heartburn or regurgitation. Additionally, if you have been taking OTC (over-the-counter) antacids, or prescription PPIs (proton pump inhibitors), over an extended period, you may be suffering from GERD.
2. Peptic Ulcer Disease (PUD) or Gastritis
When the protective mucus that lines the stomach deteriorates due to the overproduction of acid, open sores may form in the digestive tract. These open sores are called ulcers. Ulcers may become agitated and inflamed due to bacteria or overuse of anti-inflammatory drugs. Symptoms of PUD include nausea, vomiting blood, unintentional weight loss or suppressed appetite, bloody or tarry stools. Peptic ulcer disease treatment should be discussed with your Gastroenterologist.
Diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and cramps are all indicators of Gastroenteritis, also known as the “stomach flu.” This occurs when the stomach or upper small intestine becomes infected by rotavirus or norovirus, which affects millions of people annually. It’s important to stay hydrated while battling Gastroenteritis since fluid is often lost due to its symptoms. You may avoid Gastroenteritis by staying current with yearly flu vaccines.
4. Celiac Disease
Celiac Disease is often mistaken for gluten sensitivity. While the symptoms are similar, diarrhea, bloating and abdominal pain. Celiac Disease is considerably less common, affecting less than one percent of Americans. Celiac Disease is also significantly more severe than gluten sensitivity. As an abnormal immune system reaction, known as an autoimmune disease, Celiac can damage the small intestine. It is highly recommended that you seek the proper diagnosis from your Gastroenterologist.
5. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
Inflammatory Bowel Disease is the recurring inflammation within the digestive tract. Roughly 1.5 million Americans suffer from an IBD. Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis are the two most common diagnoses of IBD. IBD is a chronic condition and can include debilitating symptoms such as abdominal pain, fatigue, unexplained weight loss, and diarrhea.
6. Crohn’s Disease
While Crohn’s Disease may affect any part of the digestive tract, it primarily upsets the end of the small intestine, where it forms ulcers. Its main symptoms are abdominal pain and cramping, diarrhea, bleeding in stool and unexplained weight loss. According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, the disease may affect 700,000 Americans.
7. Ulcerative Colitis
Ulcerative Colitis (UC) causes inflammation in the lining of the colon and rectum. Ulcers formed in this area and cause bleeding and the ability to trap bacteria. The colon tissue damage causes frequent emptying of the colon. While most people afflicted by ulcerative colitis experience mild symptoms, it can be debilitating and even life-threatening, unless treated properly.
8. Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is more common and less dangerous than IBD. 15 million Americans have IBS, yet there is not an apparent cause for it. Those who suffer IBS can alleviate flare-ups by eating smaller meals, and identifying and abstaining from foods that cause symptoms. Others have success avoiding IBS occurrences by taking laxatives, increasing their fiber intake through supplements, and probiotics.
Constipation is the difficulty or failure to have a bowel movement. Although it is a symptom, roughly 63 million Americans are agitated by chronic constipation. Constipation may be resolved by increasing fiber intake, exercise and staying hydrated.
75 percent of Americans over the age of 45 have hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids occur when the blood vessels in the anal canal become inflamed. Indicators of hemorrhoids are pain and itching of the anus, and bright red blood found on toilet paper following bowel movements. Constipation and pregnancy most commonly cause hemorrhoids. Increasing fiber intake and drinking more water help heal hemorrhoids. Symptoms may be relieved temporarily via over-the-counter creams and suppositories. See your Gastroenterologist if symptoms persist.
11. Diverticular Disease
Diverticulosis is when small pockets develop in weak spots in the lining of the colon called diverticula, common with people age 60 to 80. Diverticulosis does not have any symptoms until it progresses into Diverticulitis.
Diverticulitis is the result of diverticula becoming inflamed. Bloating, constipation, lower abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, and fever are all symptoms of Diverticulitis. Treatment varies depending on the severity of the condition, but it typically includes changes in diet and antibiotics. Learn more about the difference between Diverticulitis and Diverticulosis.
Gallstones are hardened deposits that form within the fluid of the gallbladder, a small sack-like organ located under the liver. The gallbladder aids digestion by storing and secreting bile. Gallstones are caused by a surplus of cholesterol or by improper draining. When gallstones form they can hinder the path to the intestines, resulting in sharp pain in the upper-right abdomen.