The digestive system is a complex network that plays a critical role in your health and well-being. A healthy digestive system takes in nutrients from food and drinks while eliminating waste from the body. However, when problems occur in your gastrointestinal (G.I.) tract, you may feel uncomfortable or even debilitating symptoms.
Gastrointestinal disorders can affect any part of the G.I. tract; they are more common than you think. Regardless of severity, these problems can significantly impact your quality of life. Learning about the most common gastrointestinal problems and their symptoms will help you seek professional help when needed.
Gastritis involves an inflammation of the stomach lining, often caused by a bacterial infection which can last for a long time. Symptoms include indigestion, nausea, vomiting, and a feeling of fullness in your upper abdomen after eating. In more severe cases, gastritis can cause stomach ulcers and an increased risk of developing stomach cancer.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
The primary symptoms of GERD are frequent heartburn, regurgitation of food or sour liquid, difficulty swallowing, coughing, wheezing, and chest pain. GERD occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter, a muscle at the end of your esophagus, doesn’t close all the way. Certain factors can increase the risk of GERD, including obesity, smoking, pregnancy, and consuming foods or drinks high in fat, citrus, caffeine, or alcohol.
Gastroenteritis, inaccurately known as the stomach flu, is the inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. The primary symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramping, and fever. People often confuse this problem with food poisoning due to their similar symptoms, which is why it’s important to learn the differences between a gastrointestinal illness and food poisoning.
Peptic ulcers are open sores on the inside lining of the stomach and upper portion of the small intestine. The most common symptom is stomach pain, but peptic ulcers can cause bloating, heartburn, nausea, and vomiting. The leading cause of peptic ulcers is a bacterial infection, but they can also result from long-term use of pain medications.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
IBS is a common disorder that affects the large intestine and causes symptoms like cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea, and constipation. While it can cause significant discomfort, IBS doesn’t change bowel tissue or increase your risk of colorectal cancer, unlike severe intestinal diseases like Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis.
Awareness of these common gastrointestinal problems and their symptoms can help with early detection and treatment, leading to a better quality of life. Consult a healthcare professional if you are experiencing any of these symptoms persistently.