Celiac sprue is a digestive problem that damages the small intestine, where the most crucial part of digestion takes place. It is considered an autoimmune disorder, which simply means that the body’s own immune system is turning on itself. During a normal digestive process, the small intestine’s job is to absorb the nutrients in food. Celiac sprue interferes with that process and the people who suffer from it cannot tolerate gluten.
Common GI Illnesses
Diverticular disease is another one of the most common gastrointestinal problems, affecting around 30 million Americans. It is more common for those over the age of 40 and the risk increases as you age. Diverticulosis is a condition in which small balloon-like sacs develop in the colon and they balloon outward from the inside of the colon wall. Is there is just one it is called a diverticulum, and if there are several it is known as diverticula. They can occur anywhere in the colon, but the more common near the end or on the left side of the colon.
Gastrointestinal Reflux (GERD)
Everyone has heartburn every once in a while. But do you really know what heartburn is or why you might be getting it? Gastrointestinal reflux, or heartburn, is one of the most common of gastrointestinal problems and happens when the gastric juices back up into the esophagus, the reverse of what happens during the normal digestive process. During the normal digestive process, a valve-like structure known as the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) opens to let food into the stomach and then closes to keep the food and stomach acid from going back up into the esophagus. Most often, gastrointestinal reflux occurs when the LES fails to function properly allowing the food and acid to creep up into the esophagus creating the burning sensation. This burning pain usually occurs about 20-30 minutes after eating, especially after a heavy or spicy meal.
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver that can cause harm or death of liver cells and is spread by fecal contamination, contaminated water and contact with infected blood or body fluids. There are many different kinds of hepatitis and some can be mild and can go unnoticed while others can be severe and life threatening. Sometimes a persons immune system can eliminate some of the hepatitis viruses, and some can be controlled using medication.
A hiatal hernia forms when part of the stomach extends into the chest, through an opening in the diaphragm. The diaphragm normally has a small opening called the hiatus, which allows food to pass through on its way to connect to the stomach. A hiatal hernia forms when the muscle tissues around the opening become weak and the upper part of the stomach extends up into the chest cavity. Other possible causes include persistent and intense pressure to those muscles caused by coughing, vomiting or heavy lifting, an injury to the area or being born with a large hiatus.
H. pylori is an infection that occurs when a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori infects the stomach or part of the small intestine and can be contracted through direct contact with saliva or fecal matter or through the spread of untreated water. Many researchers believe that it affects at least half of the people in the world. Like many gastrointestinal problems, it can have varying symptoms depending on the person and can include nausea, vomiting and weight loss.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is one of the most common gastrointestinal problems and affects about 20% of adults. IBS usually begins during early adulthood, very beginning after the age of 50. For those who have IBS it simply means that the intestinal system does not work like normal, causing symptoms like abdominal pain, heartburn or diarrhea and constipation.
Inflammatory Bowel Disorder has similar symptoms to IBS, but is more serious. IBD is actually a term for a variety of gastrointestinal diseases. Between 1 and 2 million Americans have IBD and it is usually categorized as either ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. Ulcerative colitis is the less serious of the two and generally affects the colon and/or rectum whereas Crohn’s disease can affect the esophagus, stomach, colon and small intestines.
Lactose intolerance the inability to digest lactose, the complex, natural sugar found in milk and milk products and can be caused by having an inadequate amount of lactase, a deficiency of lactose, or can be caused by taking certain medications. The symptoms worsen if the deficiency increases. Discomfort can begin as early as thirty minutes after eating something with lactose in it and as late as eight hours. There are diet changes and medications that can help make lactose intolerance easier to deal with.
Pancreatitis is when the pancreas is inflamed or infected and the damage occurs when the body’s own digestive enzymes attack the pancreas, a process called autodigestion. The cause of pancreatic cancer, is still being researched, but gastroenteroinstestinal specialists have found that that heavy smokers are twice as likely to develop pancreatic cancer. High fat diets combined with heavy alcohol use can also increase the risk of pancreatitis. Symptoms usually begin with pain in the upper abdomen and can escalate quickly and become more severe and can include fever, dehydration, clammy skin, nausea and vomiting.
Polyps and Cancer
A colonoscopy done, or any other colon cancer-screening test, helps the gastroenterologist look for polyps. A polyp is a small abnormal growth that can appear on the inner colon lining, also known as the large intestine, and it sticks out into the colon passageway. Polyps can be raised or they can have a flat surface and can be classified three different ways: benign, meaning they are not cancerous; pre-cancerous, meaning they could become cancer, or they are already cancerous. Polyp removal is an important tool in preventing colon cancer.
Ulcerative colitis affects the inner lining of the large intestine (colon) causing the rectum to become inflamed. It can develop slowly or begin suddenly, and has a wide array of symptoms. The most common symptoms are cramping in the lower abdomen and bloody diarrhea.
It is important to discuss any gastrointestinal problems with your gastroenterologist. While many problems may seem small, there could be underlying problems that can create more problems if they are ignored. Many of these disorders have similar symptoms, which is another reason to schedule an appointment with Springfield Gastroenterology to make sure you know what you have and how to diagnose it.
The best way to stay healthy is to educate yourself. Learn more about your body and the conditions that could affect your health with these recommended readings: