Digestive issues are at an all-time high these days –for many reasons that we’ll go into in another article. Likely, most people you know have digestive concerns: acid reflux, constipation, or the occasional stomach ulcer. While digestive issues are now common, it’s important to remember that common is not normal.
If you deal with digestive issues, you might wonder whether it’s time to consult with a doctor. Many people wait until their digestive complaints are severe enough to need medical attention. We, at The Wellness Way, take A Different Approach.
This article will cover six of the most common digestive problems that typically send people to their doctor’s office.
What Are Some Common Digestive Tract Issues?
Some of the most common digestive symptoms people struggle with today are nausea, abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, vomiting, and heartburn. These symptoms can be signs of many digestive issues, some mild and some severe. However, at The Wellness Way, we believe that any chronic digestive complaints are a reason to come in for a consult. After all, mild symptoms can indicate that something more is brewing. It’s better to address causes early on rather than wait until a diagnosed disease develops. Let’s start with the stomach.
1. Gastritis and Its Common Symptoms
Gastritis is inflammation of the stomach lining. While there are many causes of gastritis, the most common are autoimmunity, infections, such as H. pylori, and medication side effects (for example, steroid drugs or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs). Alcohol consumption and tobacco smoking can also create conditions that lead to gastritis.
Symptoms of Gastritis
Here are some common symptoms of gastritis:
- Abdominal pain (especially a burning, gnawing pain)
- Nausea and vomiting
- Indigestion (with bloating, burping, or belching)
- Loss of appetite
Certain foods, such as spicy, fried, or fatty foods, can aggravate symptoms. Alcohol and coffee consumption can also increase symptoms.
Overcoming gastritis is a matter of removing the causes behind it. Since gastritis is (literally) inflammation of the stomach, we’ll look at what’s causing that inflammation and address those causes. That may include reviewing medication side effects, treating infections, and suggesting dietary and lifestyle changes. If it’s autoimmune gastritis, we’ll look at addressing autoimmunity and healing the gut lining. Food allergies are a likely culprit here.
2. Peptic Ulcers
Peptic ulcers, also known as stomach ulcers, or just ulcers, are sores in the lining of the stomach. They often go along with gastritis because of the irritation there. They can also develop in the esophagus or small intestine. While they can be related to H. pylori infections and medication use, alcohol and nicotine can also play a role. Ulcers are more common in men than in women.
Symptoms of Peptic Ulcers
Symptoms of peptic ulcers include the following:
- Abdominal pain or discomfort
- Loss of appetite leading to weight loss
- Bloody stools
Overcoming Peptic Ulcers
To eliminate peptic ulcers, you have to remove the cause. That usually means treating infections and discontinuing medications that could be causing them. Extra protein and adding particular vitamins and minerals, like vitamin A, vitamin C, zinc, and selenium, may also help if you’re deficient. Many people with peptic ulcers have insufficient protein intake or are lacking in specific vitamins and minerals. Common insufficiencies include vitamin A, C, zinc, and selenium. Knowing why you are deficient is essential. Does it have to do with a dysfunction in a system or organ utilizing that nutrient, or are you simply lacking? There is a way to find out. We don’t want to guess; that’s why we test.
3. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is undigested food and digestive juices backing up into the esophagus. While that occasionally happens to everyone, people are diagnosed with GERD when they have ongoing aggravating symptoms. GERD patients usually have irritation of the esophagus or throat. This diagnosis is also more common in men than in women.
Symptoms of GERD
Here are common symptoms of GERD:
- Heartburn or chest pain
- Nausea or vomiting
- Hoarse voice or sore throat
- Dental erosions
- Chronic cough
Some people have all these symptoms, and some may only have heartburn or regurgitation. Each case is unique.
Resolving GERD requires finding what’s causing it. Some potential causes include medications, overeating, obesity, a hiatal hernia, food allergies, gut infections, and bad lifestyle habits, like smoking or indulging in excess alcohol. It may also accompany pregnancy and resolve when the baby is born.
Testing for food allergies and gut infections can help rule out some less obvious possible causes.
4. Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) means just that: an irritated bowel. It’s one of the most common digestive disorders out there. Unfortunately, IBS doesn’t tend to be a short-term issue; it can last for years if not treated. IBS is often the result of an infection (post-infectious IBS) or imbalance of gut bacteria, but it can also be due to dysregulation of the nervous system.
Symptoms of IBS
IBS symptoms are more common in women than men. These are some common symptoms of IBS in general. Depending on the type (IBS-D or IBS-C), your system will either be sped up (diarrhea) or slowed down (constipation).
- Abdominal pain or discomfort during bowel movements
- Gas and bloating
- Changes in bowel movements, both the frequency the and consistency
- Difficulty sleeping
Symptoms vary a lot, person to person. The three categories of IBS are IBS-D for diarrhea-dominant, IBS-C for constipation-dominant, and IBS-M for mixed patterns (both diarrhea and constipation). IBS symptoms are often triggered by certain foods or food categories, like FODMAPs –Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, And Polyols.
Resolving IBS requires finding the causes and aggravating factors, including infections (including parasites) and food allergies. Thorough diagnostic testing can help identify the best course forward.
5. Chronic Diarrhea
Chronic diarrhea is when diarrhea isn’t just tied to a short-term infection, illness, or food reaction but lasts for more than two weeks. Bacterial or parasite infections can lead to diarrhea as post-infectious IBS. It’s often tied to medications, including antibiotics, painkillers, and diabetic medications. It can also accompany Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis).
Symptoms of Chronic Diarrhea
With chronic diarrhea, these symptoms persist for at least two weeks.
- Frequent loose stools
- Urgent need to use the bathroom
- Loss of control of bowel movements
- Undigested food in stools
Overcoming Chronic Diarrhea
Reactions to foods like lactose or gluten can also lead to chronic diarrhea. Lactose tends to cause watery diarrhea, while gluten often causes fatty (malabsorption) diarrhea. Comprehensive lab testing helps doctors determine the cause and make a care plan.
The opposite problem, of course, is chronic constipation.
6. Chronic Constipation
Chronic constipation is when constipation isn’t tied to an isolated illness or event but goes on for weeks or months. Doctors consider it chronic constipation when stool frequency is less than three times per week.
Symptoms of Chronic Constipation
- Decreased stool frequency
- Small, pellet-like stools
- Straining to pass stools
- Pain when passing stools
Overcoming Chronic Constipation
Resolving chronic constipation is usually a matter of addressing diet and lifestyle habits that have led to the condition. These include food allergies, including gluten and dairy allergies, medication side effects, low thyroid, and other diseases and conditions.
Dealing With Digestive Issues the Wellness Way
We don’t guess; we test! If you have digestive issues, we are likely to start by giving you a comprehensive stool test and checking your food allergies. We use these powerful and proven lab tests to dig deeper and create a personalized plan to guide you back to health. The human body was not designed for illness. When given the right tools, it has an innate ability to heal and return to normal digestive function. Contact one of our Wellness Way Clinics today!
- Gastritis – StatPearls – NCBI Bookshelf (nih.gov)
- Peptic Ulcer Disease – StatPearls – NCBI Bookshelf (nih.gov)
- Nutritional care in peptic ulcer – PMC (nih.gov)
- Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease – StatPearls – NCBI Bookshelf (nih.gov)
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome – StatPearls – NCBI Bookshelf (nih.gov)
- Diarrhea – StatPearls – NCBI Bookshelf (nih.gov)
- Constipation – StatPearls – NCBI Bookshelf (nih.gov)