Signs and Symptoms of Digestive Disease
At several points in everyone’s life, there will be moments of stomach discomfort. It may be because of food poisoning, a 24-hour bug, or overeating. While uncomfortable, it’s common knowledge that more often than not, the pain eventually goes away and you can resume your regular activities. But, what happens when your symptoms are chronic? What if the pain and discomfort are so debilitating, you start wondering if there’s actually something more serious going on with your digestive system?
What is Digestive Disease?
The digestive system — also known as the digestive tract — is composed of the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine (colon), the pancreas, the liver, and the gallbladder. Digestive disease is an umbrella term used to describe any health condition that affects one of these components. They could include:
1. Acid reflux
Also known as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), acid refluxoccurs when the fluids in your stomach move back up into the esophagus. This is more likely to happen after eating a large meal, eating deep-fried foods, being overweight or obese, lying down soon after eating, pregnancy, or smoking.
Symptoms: The first symptom you’ll notice is a burning sensation in your chest and throat. In addition, you’ll likely taste a bitter acid backing into your mouth, belching, sore throat, bloating, and nausea.
The gallbladder is an organ below the liver. It stores bile — a liquid that aids digestion. When there’s too much cholesterol in the bile, these develop into hard, pebble-like masses. The gallstones themselves do not cause pain. However, when they block bile from moving, you experience pain and other symptoms.
Symptoms: In addition to stomach pain, if you have gallstones, you’ll notice dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
3. Peptic ulcers
These are lesions along the lining of the stomach or small intestine. Also called stomach ulcers, peptic ulcers are caused by infection by a bacteria called H. pylori, or abusing aspirin or other anti-inflammatory medications.
Symptoms: Symptoms of ulcers can range from mild to severe. They include heartburn, stomach pain, blood in bowel movements, vomiting, and blood in vomit.
4. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a disorder of the large intestine. It’s a chronic condition that occurs when the muscles on the intestinal wall contract as you digest food. It can also be caused after experiencing gastroenteritis. It’s often exacerbated by stress, hormonal changes, and certain foods.
Symptoms: Bloating, excessive gas, alternating between diarrhea and constipation, and mucus in bowel movements. If you see blood in your stools, see a doctor as soon as possible.
5. Crohn’s Disease
This condition exists whenever a person experiences chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract — meaning anywhere from the esophagus to the rectum. This inflammation can result in your intestines not absorbing nutrients, which can lead to malnutrition. A person can have the disease and not experience any symptoms until they have flare-ups.
Symptoms: Abdominal cramping, an immediate need to go to the bathroom, frequent diarrhea, fever, fatigue, blood in your stool, and weight loss. You’ll also feel reduced appetite and feel like you have little to no energy.
This condition exists when a person develops pockets within the walls of the colon. These pouches are known as diverticula. During digestion, food particles can get stuck in these pockets. Since they are not eliminated during regular bowel movements, diverticula become infected. Once an infection exists, the condition is known as diverticulitis.
Symptoms: Abdominal pain, tenderness, fever, constipation, nausea, and vomiting. Pain is often centralized on the lower left side of the abdomen and persists for several days.
7. Celiac Disease
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder in the small intestine. When someone with the condition eats gluten, their body responds by attacking the small intestine. It can develop at any age. Left untreated, it can lead to more serious health conditions.
Symptoms: Symptoms of celiac disease include bloating, gas, fatigue, constipation, chronic diarrhea, irritability, vomiting, pale stools, and erosion of dental enamel. If the patient is a child, celiac disease may cause them to be small for their age or have delayed puberty.
If You Have Digestive Disease, Let Us Help You
At Pinnacle Research, we specialize in the exploration of disease. We work with over 70 referring physicians in San Antonio and Austin, providing clinical trials in liver disease.
Contact us to discuss how we can help you.