Digestive disorders have become more prevalent worldwide due to unhealthy dietary patterns and lifestyle changes. Some of the most common digestive disorders include constipation, GERD, irritable bowel syndrome, and Hepatitis. Thankfully, gastroenterologists can treat a long list of digestive disorders and help you live a healthy life.
Let’s learn about the symptoms, causes, and treatments for each of these concerning but manageable GI issues.
It’s not just for the elderly or people recuperating from surgery or a long illness. Constipation can happen to anyone at any age when diets, activity levels, and underlying health issues, such as an intestinal blockage or nerve damage, change the consistency and frequency of stool.
The strict medical definition of constipation is less than three weekly bowel movements. Other symptoms include:
- Feeling of fullness in the rectum
- Bloating and gas
- Hard stools
Treatments are wide-ranging, depending on the reasons behind the constipation. For most people, this chronic digestive problem can be alleviated with a high-fiber diet, exercise (including exercises to train and strengthen pelvic floor muscles), and laxatives.
Other people may need surgery if their gastroenterologists discover structural problems in the large bowel, such as strictures, blockages, or rectoceles.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
IBS affects numerous American adults, but more women than men. Characterized by alternate bouts of constipation and loose stools or diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome may be precipitated by certain foods, a bout of the flu, and even emotional stress. Additionally, as with many chronic health conditions, excessive alcohol usage and cigarette smoking may lead to IBS.
After an in-office evaluation and imaging, such as a sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy, your GI specialist may suggest diet and lifestyle modifications to control symptoms. Medications and even counseling to reduce emotional stress often prove helpful. Most commonly, symptoms improve with:
- Elimination of irritating foods such as dairy products, artificial sweeteners, junk foods, carbonated beverages, and caffeine (coffee, cola, black tea and chocolate)
- Smoking cessation
- Limiting alcohol
For the best results, people with confirmed IBS should work closely with their GI doctors to develop care plans that reduce or even eliminate symptoms. IBS is highly individualized, producing symptoms that can impact overall well-being; that’s why consultation with an experienced gastroenterologist is important.
Hepatitis B and C are the most common forms of this serious liver infection. They involve liver inflammation caused by viruses contained in body fluids, such as semen. While some people with Hepatitis B or C are asymptomatic, others are very ill, experiencing:
- Dry mouth
- Poor appetite
When gastroenterologists suspect a diagnosis of Hepatitis, they run simple blood tests to confirm it. Some people may need additional imaging tests and/or a liver biopsy to understand what is happening in their upper digestive systems.
Hepatitis C has no cure. However, either kind of Hepatitis can respond well to IV fluids to combat dehydration, antiviral medications, and other interventions. Rest is key to recovery.
Gastro-esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
Gastro-esophageal reflux disease involves chronic back-up of stomach acid into the food pipe or esophagus. Sufferers may feel lumps in their throats, irritation, burning, and difficulty swallowing. Symptoms worsen at night when an individual is flat in bed.
Obesity, hiatal hernia (stomach protrudes through an opening in the diaphragm), and even consumption of greasy foods can lead to reflux symptoms. Pregnancy can, too, as well as smoking, eating too late at night, and consuming too much alcohol.
As GERD can lead to precancerous Barrett’s esophagus, narrow strictures, and even ulceration of the lining of the esophagus, GERD should be treated when episodes become frequent.
Imaging studies, such as an upper endoscopy, along with a discussion of symptoms, can confirm the diagnosis of this digestive health problem. Interventions can include:
- Stopping all tobacco usage
- Dietary changes to avoid fatty, acidic foods
- Sleeping with the head elevated
- Taking acid-suppressing medications, such as Omeprazole
- Losing weight
Surgery can be an option when symptoms do not improve with less invasive strategies.
Your Gastroenterologist in Bradenton and Sarasota, FL
At Intercoastal Medical Group in Sarasota and Bradenton, FL, our specialty care physicians include four board-certified experts in gastroenterology. These physicians see and treat patients at our Cattleridge Medical Building and Lakewood Ranch II location. We have state-of-the-art laboratory services and the latest in imaging technologies on premises for your convenience.