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12 common gastrointestinal disorders & prevention tips

Common gastrointestinal disorders
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The burden of gastrointestinal disorders in India is increasing at an alarming rate. Several thousands of people across the country are affected by a variety of diseases afflicting the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. In this article, we will explore the most common gastrointestinal disorders as well as some expert-approved measures to prevent them.

This article is authored by Dr Anukalp Prakash, a leading gastroenterologist in Gurgaon

Let’s first understand what is a gastrointestinal disorder.

Basics of gastrointestinal disorder 

Gastrointestinal disorder is a disease that affects the organs present in your GI tract. The GI tract is the pathway from your mouth to anus and involves your digestive organs. 

There are two types of gastrointestinal disorders – functional and structural. 

Functional gastrointestinal issues are the ones in which the organs in your digestive tract look normal but experience difficulty in functioning properly. Structural gastrointestinal problems occur when your GI tract has structural abnormalities in one or more organs. 

Common gastrointestinal disorders 

There is a wide range of health concerns that can affect the functioning of your gastrointestinal tract. Some common gastrointestinal disorders experienced by Indians are:

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) – Irritable bowel syndrome is one of the most common gastrointestinal disorders. In this condition, your colon muscles begin to contract in an atypical way. Common irritable bowel symptoms include pain or cramps in your stomach, bloating, changes in your bowel movement and constipation. 

Constipation – Constipation is a digestive problem that causes difficulty in passing stool or irregular bowel movement. Constipation is identified by symptoms such as passing a hard stool, feeling of not being able to empty stool from your rectum and straining to have bowel movement. 

Hemorrhoids –  Hemorrhoids are also known as piles. It is a condition that causes enlarges, swollen and bulging blood vessels in and around your rectum. There are primarily two types of hemorrhoids – internal and external. Symptoms of hemorrhoids include itching, irritation, pain and discomfort and swelling around your anus. 

Anal fissuresAnal fissures. is a structural gastrointestinal disorder. This condition causes a small tear in the thin tissue that lines your anus causing pain and bleeding during bowel movements. Other symptoms include a visible crack in the skin around the anus and pain after bowel movements. 

GERD – Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a common digestive problem that occurs when stomach acid moves back into your esophagus. Your esophagus is connected to your stomach through a small muscle valve called lower esophageal sphincter (LES). Stomach acid can get into your esophagus when your LES does not close properly. Common symptoms include heartburn, dry cough and bitterness or soreness in the mouth and throat. 

Gallstones – Gallstones is one of the most common gallbladder diseases. Gallstones are small, hardened deposits that form and collect inside your gallbladder. Gallbladder is a pear-shaped organ located at the right side of your abdomen, under your liver. Gallstones symptoms include sharp and sudden pain in your abdomen, back pain, nausea and vomiting. It can effectively treated with gallstone removal surgery called Cholecystectomy

Celiac disease – Celiac disease is a digestive and autoimmune disorder in which your small intestine gets damaged due to the intake of a protein called gluten. Gluten is mainly found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye. Signs and symptoms of celiac disease include digestive issues, skin rashes, unexplained anaemia and musculoskeletal issues. 

Pancreatitis – The pancreas is a small, six-inches long gland located in your upper abdomen. It is responsible for producing and releasing certain enzymes and hormones that help in digestion and regulate your blood sugar. Pancreatitis is a condition that causes inflammation of the pancreas gland. There are two types of pancreatitis – acute and chronic. Common symptoms include pain in the upper abdomen, abdominal tenderness, fever, pain radiating to the back, rapid pulse, nausea and vomiting. 

Crohn’s disease – Crohn’s disease is a part of a group of conditions called inflammatory bowel disease. This inflammation can affect any organ of your digestive system. Symptoms of crohn’s disease include pain and cramps in the abdomen, diarrhea, fever, excessive fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss and mouth soreness. 

Chronic diarrhea – Diarrhea is a common digestive condition that causes loose, watery and highly frequent bowel movements. Chronic diarrhea happens when the above-given symptoms persist for several weeks (more than 4 weeks). Other symptoms of chronic diarrhea include nausea, cramps and bloating. 

Liver cancer – Liver cancer occurs when the cells in your liver begin to multiply abnormally at an unusual rate. There are several types of liver cancer. However, the most common type is hepatocellular carcinoma (beginning in the main type of liver cell – hepatocyte). Symptoms of liver cancer are unexplained, sudden weight loss, pain in the upper abdomen, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, swelling in the abdomen and jaundice. 

Ulcerative colitis – Ulcerative colitis is another type of inflammatory bowel disease which causes inflammation as well as ulcers in your digestive tract. This condition usually occurs in the innermost lining of the large intestine causing symptoms like diarrhea, pain and cramps in the abdomen, pain and bleeding in the rectum, increased urgency to pass stool and weight loss. 

Preventing gastrointestinal disorders 

Most of the above-mentioned gastrointestinal disorders can be prevented effectively by adapting to certain lifestyle measures. Listed below are some expert-approved and recommended measures you can take to avoid developing gastrointestinal issues. 

Eat smaller and frequent meals – You can improve your digestive health by eating small portions of food more frequently. This pattern of eating boosts your metabolism and prevents you from overeating. 

Add more fibre to your diet – Fibre is the indigestible component of plant-derived foods. It helps in increasing the weight, size and softness of your stool. Additionally, eating fibre makes you feel fuller. Eating more fibre helps in enhancing your digestive health and prevents digestive disorders. 

Drinking plenty of water – Increased water intake can help support your digestive health by cleaning your GI tract. It further allows your body to absorb nutrients in a better manner. 

Know your triggers – Certain food items can trigger your digestive problems. For example, regular consumption of spicy, fatty foods can affect your gut causing gastrointestinal disorders such as GERD. You should make a note of your particular trigger foods and drinks and avoid consuming them to improve your health. 

Exercise regularly – You should exercise most days of the week to prevent gastrointestinal disorders. Routine physical activity promotes the flow of blood to the organs in your digestive tract. It further stimulates your gut and lower inflammation. 

The concluding note  

Gastrointestinal disorders can affect anyone at any point of time. It is beneficial to understand your digestive health and identify your risk factors to avoid the above gastrointestinal problems. 

To know more about these above given gastrointestinal disorders, book an appointment with Dr Anukalp Prakash, Department of Gastroenterology, CK Birla Hospital.