Is gas, diarrhea, or stomach pain keeping you from eating your favorite food? Well, you are not alone. Problems with the digestive system are common and everyone experiences these embarrassing symptoms at least once in their lifetime.
Stress, alcohol, and unhealthy food habits can increase the risk of problems with digestion. On the contrary, conditions such as celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease can develop with no fault of yours as they are usually inherited. While maintaining a healthy and balanced diet is essential for your overall well-being, it is also important for your digestive health. Eating foods rich in fiber, drink plenty of water, and avoid overeating by having smaller and more frequent meals.
Here are 7 digestive problems that people suffer from and ways to treat them.
Constipation is a condition in which the person experiences painful bowel movements as the stool is hard and dry. The frequency of bowel movements is 3 or fewer times in a week.1 This can make you uncomfortable as the bowels are not eliminated as they should be.
In addition to stress, this condition can be caused due to insufficient water or fiber in the diet, overuse of laxatives, and excessive alcohol or caffeine intake, which results in dehydration. If you feel that painkillers, antidepressants, or antacids have lead to constipation, stop taking them at the earliest or consult your doctor.
Drinking 1-2 liters of water a day is the best way to regularize your bowel movements. However, increasing the intake of high-fiber foods like beans, vegetables, fruits, and whole grain cereals, exercising every day, and managing stress can be beneficial, too.
2. Lactose Intolerance
Dairy products are rich in the essential nutrients, making them an important part of a balanced diet. But for people with lactose intolerance, it can mean trouble. Their bodies cannot digest lactose, a sugar found in dairy products. This digestive problem can cause gas, bloating, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea, in people with this condition. Lactase is an enzyme that helps the body digest lactose. Deficiency of lactase leads to lactose intolerance.
Although there is no cure for this condition, you can prevent the symptoms by controlling what you eat. The best way may be to cut down dairy consumption depending on your sensitivity to lactose.2
Diverticulitis is a digestive condition that affects the large intestine. When small bulging pockets called diverticula develop in the lining of your small intestine, but show no symptoms, the condition is called diverticulosis. On the other hand, if these pockets are inflamed or infected, it is called diverticulitis. Common symptoms include nausea, stomach pain, fever, diarrhea or constipation, and blood in the stool.
Doctors usually prescribe antibiotics for the treatment and advise you to follow a liquid or low-fiber diet to heal your colon.3
4. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
Inflammatory bowel diseases cause inflammation in a specific part of the digestive tract. This long-term condition can cause fever, fatigue, blood in stool, abdominal pain, stomach cramps, and diarrhea.
The exact cause of IBD remains unknown, but it may be the result of the immune system malfunction. Your immune system is designed to protect you from viruses and bacteria. However, in IBD, the immune system responds incorrectly, resulting in inflammation of the digestive tract. A family history of IBD puts you at a higher risk of developing it.4
To reduce the inflammation and control the immune system, anti-inflammatory drugs and immunosuppressants are used. Anti-inflammatory foods like turmeric, ginger and omega-3-rich fish can reduce inflammation and the pain associated with it. Due to diarrhea, your body loses a lot of fluid. Keep yourself hydrated to replenish the electrolytes. Probiotics can health your gut and replace the good gut bacteria.5
5. Celiac Disease
Celiac disease is a digestive disorder that is triggered by eating foods containing gluten, which is a protein found naturally in wheat, barley, and rye. It damages the small intestine and keeps you from getting nutrients you need. The symptoms include chronic diarrhea, constipation, gas, nausea, foul-smelling or fatty stools, abdominal pain, and vomiting.6
It is caused due to an autoimmune response, which attacks healthy tissue in the body. Celiac disease also occurs due to a particular gene inherited from a family member.
It is incurable but you must follow a gluten-free diet to control the symptoms and avoid serious complications.7
6. Peptic Ulcers
Peptic ulcers or stomach ulcers are sores that develop on the lining of the stomach, esophagus or small intestine. Commonly caused due to a bacterial infection, peptic ulcers can also be caused due long-term use of medicines such as aspirin and ibuprofen.8 Contrary to the popular belief, stress doesn’t cause ulcers. However, they can make it worse.9
Antacids and antibiotics are used to reduce the amount of acid and kill the bacteria. Using coconut, fenugreek, cayenne pepper, cabbage, and bananas can also strengthen and protect the stomach lining against acids.
7. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a severe and chronic version of acid reflux. You are likely to have GERD if you experience acid reflux more than twice a week and your esophagus is inflamed. Common symptoms of GERD include heartburn, chest pain, difficulty swallowing, and sensation of a lump in your throat.
This happens when the lower end of your esophagus becomes weak or relaxes when it shouldn’t, causing stomach contents to rise up into the esophagus.10
Reducing stress and anxiety can reduce the symptoms of GERD. Foods rich in antioxidants like berries and kidney beans, slippery elm tea, and licorice root can keep GERD can treat and prevent GERD.
Note: If you notice any change in your digestion or bowel movements, visit your doctor immediately to avoid further damage.
|↑1||Constipation. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑2||Lactose intolerance. National Health Services UK.|
|↑3||Diverticular Disease Expanded Version. The American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons.|
|↑4||Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑5||Guslandi, Mario. “A natural approach to treatment of inflammatory bowel disease.” British journal of clinical pharmacology 65, no. 4 (2008): 468-469.|
|↑6||Coeliac disease. National Health Services, UK.|
|↑7||Celiac Disease. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.|
|↑8||Peptic Ulcer. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑9||Peptic Ulcers (Stomach Ulcers). National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.|
|↑10||Acid Reflux (GER & GERD) in Adults. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.|