Digestion Problems

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What Are Digestion Problems?

The digestive system is an intricate and extensive part of the body. It ranges all the way from the mouth to the rectum. The digestive system is responsible for getting rid of waste and helps your body absorb essential nutrients.

Digestion problems can mean more than unwanted, embarrassing symptoms. Minor problems that are left untreated can lead to more serious, chronic illnesses.

Because there are so many different types of digestion problems, you might mistakenly dismiss them. It’s important to understand common digestion problems — as well as emergency symptoms — so you know when to talk to a doctor.

Chronic Constipation

Ongoing (chronic) constipation indicates a problem with getting rid of waste. This most often occurs when the colon can’t pass or move stools through the rest of the digestive tract. You may experience abdominal pain and bloating as well as fewer bowel movements that are more painful than usual.

Chronic constipation is one of the most common digestive problems in the United States. Getting enough fiber, water, and exercise will likely help curb constipation. Medications can also provide relief in more serious cases.

Food Intolerance

Food intolerance occurs when your digestive system can’t tolerate certain foods. Unlike food allergies, which can cause hives and respiratory problems, an intolerance only affects digestion.

Symptoms of food intolerance include:

  • bloating and/or cramps
  • diarrhea
  • headache
  • heartburn
  • irritability
  • gas
  • vomiting

Food intolerance is usually diagnosed by using a food diary. Recording what you eat and when can help you identify which foods are triggering your symptoms.

Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder, is one type of food intolerance. It causes digestive problems when you eat gluten, a protein in wheat, barley, and rye. People with celiac disease must follow a gluten-free diet to minimize symptoms and damage to the small intestine.

GERD

Heartburn is an occasional occurrence for many adults. This happens when stomach acids go back up into the esophagus, causing chest pain and the trademark burning sensation.

If you have more frequent heartburn, you might have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Such frequent episodes can interfere with your daily life and damage your esophagus.

Symptoms of GERD include:

  • chest discomfort
  • dry cough
  • sour taste in the mouth
  • sore throat
  • swallowing difficulties

Outlook

You may be able to overcome digestion problems with treatment and lifestyle changes. Certain diseases of the digestive system might be long-term, but medications can help alleviate symptoms.

Identifying specific digestion problems and talking with a gastroenterologist can go a long way in terms of helping your doctor give you a proper diagnosis. Remember, you don’t have to put up with constant digestive issues.