Digestive discomfort is all too common for many adults, but it often goes undiagnosed. When people experience common symptoms of disorders like acid reflux and IBS, they are typically hesitant to visit a doctor, because they may not realize that a chronic condition is behind these symptoms. In addition, some symptoms may not be obvious signs of a digestive disorder, so the root problem goes unresolved, even after a trip to the doctor. Read on to discover some of the most common digestive health issues – and the symptoms you should not ignore – so that you can improve your health with the right diet, lifestyle, and medical care.
Common Digestive Disorders
Anyone can be affected by a digestive disorder, though individuals who are older in age, obese, or lead high-stress lifestyles may be more likely to experience abdominal pain and other symptoms as a result of:
Acid Reflux and GERD
Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus, causing a burning sensation in the chest as well as belching, nausea, and a lingering bitter taste in the mouth. For some people, acid reflux is an occasional problem—often brought on by overeating or indulging in particularly spicy, acidic, or fatty foods. Others will struggle with acid reflux regularly due to GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease. This condition may require a more comprehensive treatment approach, which can include surgery to correct the anatomy in the lower esophagus.
IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome, affects about 10-15% of the U.S. population, though the number is unclear, because many patients will suffer in silence. With IBS, individuals will experience frequent abdominal pain, bloating, and regular bouts of diarrhea and/or constipation. If you are diagnosed with IBS, medication may be prescribed, though lifestyle changes are often necessary to facilitate long-term improvements in digestive health.
Crohn’s disease is just one condition in a group of digestive disorders called inflammatory bowel disease. It is an autoimmune disorder in which the body mistakenly attacks its own cells, causing diarrhea, internal bleeding, unexplained weight loss, and fever. Clinical therapies are necessary to manage Crohn’s disease, with the most common including topical pain relievers, immunosuppressants, surgery, and steroid medication.
If you have noticed dark black stools when you head to the restroom, you may be experiencing intestinal bleeding that could point to very serious conditions requiring immediate medical attention. If, however, you notice bright red blood in your stool, you might have a much more common and less serious condition known as hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids develop when blood vessels at the end of the digestive tract become inflamed, which is often the result of a low-fiber diet. Increasing your fiber intake can reduce hemorrhoids in the long-term, and topical creams and suppositories may eliminate discomfort immediately.
Signs and Symptoms to Watch For
It can be difficult to assess the exact cause of digestive discomfort without the help of a doctor. Whether you see your primary physician in person or connect with a MeMD provider for your care, you should not hesitate to talk to a healthcare professional when you notice any of the following symptoms. Some, such as sore throat and increased saliva production, may seem relatively benign, but they could point to digestive disorders when they are accompanied by more obvious signs like stomach cramps and loose stools.
- Sore throat
- Pain after meals and at rest
- Excess saliva
- Regular constipation or diarrhea
- Food intolerances