Culprits Behind Common Digestive Issues
Abdominal pain is the worst, and indigestion isn’t much better. If you suffer frequent abdominal pain or digestive issues, you may have one of the following conditions.
Disclaimer: This is an educational thread and is not intended to replace the opinion of a licensed medical professional. If you suspect you have one of the following conditions, make an appointment with your doctor.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
Gastroesophageal reflux disease is probably the most widely-known digestive issue. Also known as GERD, it is primarily characterized by heartburn. GERD is typically triggered by eating certain foods; spicy foods, raw onions, wine, chocolate, are a few of the most common troublemakers.
GERD acts up when the sufferer eats a large meal that stretches the stomach to the point of placing pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter. The lower esophageal sphincter is the muscle that is responsible for keeping stomach acids from moving into the wrong direction. When the stomach is distended, the lower esophageal sphincter is compromised. This leads to stomach acids backing up into the chest, causing a burning sensation, i.e. heartburn. Medications used to treat high blood pressure, aspirin, pain medication, and anti-inflammatories can also cause the LOS (lower esophageal sphincter) to relax.
There are a number of medications that can be taken, both over-the-counter and prescription, to relieve gastroesophageal reflux disease. However, making dietary and lifestyle changes like cutting out fatty foods, limiting alcohol intake, and modifying the intake of other GERD-inducing foods can greatly alleviate the severity of this condition.
A common symptom of a stomach ulcer is a burning sensation similar to that of heartburn. Instead of the burning sensation being felt in the chest region however, the burning sensation that an ulcer presents is located in the stomach. This is known as a peptic ulcer.
Many people self-diagnose sudden stomach pain as just a run-of-the-mill stomach ache. They will take pain reducers such as aspirin or non-steroidal medicine in hopes of getting relief. What they do not know is that instead of having an upset stomach, an ulcer could be the true cause of their discomfort. Treating an ulcer incorrectly will not only not solve the problem — it can make the condition worse. Complications of stomach ulcers include obstruction, internal bleeding, and infection.
Fatty foods, frequent use of pain medications, and the bacteria Helicobacter pylori are common causes of ulcers. Helicobacter pylori is typically found in the protective mucosal layer of the intestines, but can be spread by close human contact and through food. Treatments for ulcers include antibiotics, stomach acid reducers, and antacids. Treatment with antibiotics and acid reducers normally take 10 to 14 days until symptoms are relieved. More complicated cases may require surgery.
People who develop digestive discomfort after eating cheese or drinking milk are most likely lactose intolerant. This is caused by a genetic inability to produce lactase, a digestive enzyme necessary to properly break down the sugar in milk and milk products. Because of its genetic link, African-Americans, Asians, and Native Americans are more likely to be lactose intolerant than other races.
Common symptoms of lactose intolerance include gas, bloating, nausea, cramping, and diarrhea. Doctors can test for this condition by using a breath test. This 2-hour test looks for higher than normal levels of hydrogen, which is not usually present in human breath. However, the chemical reaction of gut bacteria breaking down undigested lactose produces hydrogen. If hydrogen is detected in high quantities, then the patient is lactose intolerant. Other testing options include blood tests and stool studies.
Since lactose intolerance can be managed with over-the-counter medications, avoiding dairy products may not be necessary. Additionally, there are many dairy products (or equivalents) available that are free of lactose and comfortable to eat.
Leaky Gut Syndrome
Leaky gut syndrome affects many people without them being aware of it. The symptoms that it presents often mimic other digestive problems. These symptoms include chronic diarrhea, bloating, gas, weakened immune system, brain fog, eczema, etc. Since this condition is often confused as some other type of stomach ailment, a sufferer will often attempt to treat it with over-the-counter remedies. These remedies will not solve the problem and will in fact worsen it.
The human intestine acts like a net. It is intended to stop food from leaking into the blood stream. People who have leaky gut develop weak spots that allow food to escape, (thus the name). It is also known as intestinal permeability. A blood test specifically for zonulin is a very accurate way to diagnose leaky gut. To treat this condition, it is necessary to eliminate certain trigger foods. Gluten, wheat, and soy are a few of the most common culprits that contribute to leaky gut syndrome.