There’s something about gastrointestinal issues that makes them difficult to talk about in polite company, which unfortunately leaves many of us suffering one problem or another in silence. “What’s more, gastrointestinal, or GI, diseases are putting an increasing weight on Americans, causing an unprecedented number of clinical visits and hospitalizations than ever before”, stated Stephen Bickston, an American Gastroenterological Association professor of internal medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Nevertheless, treatments for gastrointestinal diseases can be as simple as making informed lifestyle modifications or even taking over-the-counter drugs and medications. Peppermint oil and soluble fiber, for instance, has been used to help people with irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, where a 2008 British Medical Journal study suggested that both of these natural remedies ought to be first-line treatment therapies for IBS. Here’s a rundown of the latest medical knowledge on five of the most common gastrointestinal diseases.
Symptoms of acid reflux, such as heartburn, are among several of the most common digestive discomforts reported by the general population. In a Swedish study, approximately 6 percent of people reported suffering from acid reflux symptoms daily and 14 percent had them at least weekly. Such frequent symptoms may indicate the presence of gastroesophageal reflux disorder, or GERD. Aside from being painful, GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disorder can damage the esophagus throughout the years or even lead to esophageal cancer.
“Heartburn typically involves a hot or burning sensation which rises up from the center of the abdomen area and to the chest under the breastbone or sternum”, states Michael Gold, a gastroenterologist at MedStar Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C. “It might also be accompanied by a sour taste in the mouth, or hypersalivation, in addition to discovering fluid or food out of your mouth, particularly at night time.” Pregnancy, several drugs and medications, as well as consuming alcohol or certain foods can cause heartburn. Children under the age of 12 and a few adults may have GERD without heartburn, instead experiencing asthma-like symptoms, difficulty swallowing, or a dry cough.
Treatment options for acid reflux include drugs and medications that reduce acid levels, like the proton pump inhibitors Aciphex, Nexium, Prevacid, Prilosec, and Protonix, along with the H2 blockers Axid, Pepcid, Tagamet, and Zantac. But taking these drugs and/or medications is not without risk. In 2008, a study found that a proton pump inhibitor can weaken the heart-protective impact of the blood thinner Plavix in patients taking the two drugs/medications together. In severe cases of gastroesophageal reflux disorder, surgeons can tighten a loose muscle found between the esophagus and the stomach, to inhibit the upwards flow of gastric acid. Laparoscopic surgery, which involves small incisions, has been proven to reduce scarring and shorten recovery time in comparison with open procedures.
By one estimate, about 3 in 5 Americans older than 70 years of age have the abnormal lumps called diverticula someplace in the wall of their intestinal tract. However, only 20 percent may experience a complication like diverticulitis, inflammation of a pouch, a tear, or an abscess.
Individuals with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, the two most prevalent inflammatory bowel diseases, complain of abdominal pain and diarrhea and may sometimes experience anemia, rectal bleeding, weight loss and other symptoms. “No definitive tests and evaluations exist for either disease and patients generally endure two primary misdiagnoses”, says R. Balfour Sartor, chief medical adviser to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America. “With Crohn’s”, he states, “appendicitis, irritable bowel syndrome, an ulcer, or an infection can be incorrectly diagnosed.”
In case diverticulitis does develop, symptoms are most likely to manifest through abdominal pain and potentially fever, however, antibiotics can treat the problem. In severe instances, a tear can result in an abscess, which might result in nausea, vomiting, fever, and intense abdominal tenderness which demands surgical repair. Some healthcare specialists consider that a diet too low in fiber could trigger the gastrointestinal disease, which develops growingly common with age and is most widespread in western societies.
Both disorders may emerge from a wayward immune system that leads the body to attack the gastrointestinal tract, or GI tract. Crohn’s disease involves ulcers that could seep deep into the tissue lining at any given section of the GI tract, leading to infection and thickening of the intestinal wall and blockages which may need surgery. Ulcerative colitis, by comparison, interrupts only the colon and rectum, where it also causes ulcers; colitis is characterized by bleeding and pus.
Treating either disease requires beating back, then constantly holding in check, the inappropriate inflammatory response. Both steps are accomplished by means of a combination of prescription anti-inflammatories, steroids and immunosuppressants. Crohn’s patients might also be given antibiotics or other specialized drugs and medications. The current debate stands as to whether Crohn’s disease sufferers benefit if given highly potent treatment therapies early in the course of the gastrointestinal disease instead of escalating potency with time from milder initial treatments, as is traditionally done, clarified Themos Dassopoulos, manager of inflammatory bowel diseases at Washington University at St. Louis. Surgery “cures” ulcerative disorders by simply taking away the colon but signifies that patients will need to wear a pouch, internally or externally, for waste. “Inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD, patients must take particular caution when using NSAIDs, such as aspirin, since these painkillers may cause additional gut inflammation in 10 to 20 percent of individuals, ” states Dassopoulos.
The fact that Americans spend $725 million annually on laxatives indicates that trying to unclog the nation’s plumbing, so to speak, is a national pastime. But overuse of stimulant laxatives, which cause the intestines to contract rhythmically, can make the gut more reliant on these, requiring more of them and finally rendering the aid ineffective. First, a little bit of clarification on the frequency of your flushing: “There is no need to worry about having a daily bowel motion; anywhere between three times a day and three times per week is normal”, says Sandler.
“However, if you are having discomfort and can not make your bowels move, try out an over-the-counter remedy such as milk of magnesia’,’ he states. And should you have attempted laxatives or not, going a week without a bowel movement is a very good reason to see the doctor, ” says Sandler. Constipation, hard stools, and straining could result in hemorrhoids or an anal fissure. Constipation is best avoided through regular exercise and a diet high in fiber from whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. To elderly folks, that are inclined to become constipated more frequently: Be sure you’re hydrating properly and conscious of any drugs and medications which may be causing your bowel movements to be backed up.
Just a quarter of people with gallstones typically require treatment. That’s fortunate, because every year nearly 1 million Americans are diagnosed with these small pebbles, which are largely made of cholesterol and bile salts. Eliminating these typically requires removal of the gallbladder, one of the most frequent surgeries in the United States.
“Gallstones can get blamed for symptoms caused by other, more elusive culprits, such as irritable bowel syndrome”, states Robert Sandler, chief of the division of gastroenterology and hepatology together with the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. An ultrasound evaluation may pick them up while missing the real issue. “If you’re told you’ve got to have gallstones out however they aren’t bothering you, get a second opinion”, he advises. Removal may be mandatory when the stones instigate infection or inflammation of the gallbladder, pancreas, or liver. This can happen if a stone going out of the intestine becomes trapped, blocking the flow of bile, at the ducts between the liver and the small intestine.
The pain of a gallstone lodged at a duct normally comes on quickly at the right upper abdomen, between the shoulder blades, or beneath the right shoulder, and also means a visit to the ER is necessary, as may fever, vomiting, nausea, or pain lasting more than five hours. Gallbladder removal may be accomplished laparoscopically and more recently has been completed with no external incision by going through your mouth or vagina. Obesity can also be a risk factor for gallstones, and it is theorized that they increase due to a lack of fiber and an excessive amount of fat from the western diet. Losing weight then regaining it also seems to set the stage for the common gastrointestinal disease. In a 2006 study of men, the more frequent the weight cycling and the bigger the amount of pounds fall and are regained, the larger the chances of developing gallstones. Women, in particular those people who are pregnant or using birth control pills, face an increased risk of developing gallstones as well.
We will continue to discuss the common issues affecting the gastrointestinal tract, or GI tract, including the colon as well as rectum and anal problems, in the following series of articles. The 5 common gastrointestinal diseases mentioned above can manifest pain and discomfort as well as a variety of other symptoms if left untreated. Be sure to seek proper medical attention. The scope of our information is limited to chiropractic and spinal injuries and conditions. To discuss the subject matter, please feel free to ask Dr. Jimenez or contact us at 915-850-0900 .
By Dr. Alex Jimenez
Overall health and wellness are essential towards maintaining the proper mental and physical balance in the body. From eating a balanced nutrition as well as exercising and participating in physical activities, to sleeping a healthy amount of time on a regular basis, following the best health and wellness tips can ultimately help maintain overall well-being. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables can go a long way towards helping people become healthy.
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