Health Tips Details
Digestive Disorders
Friday, November 11 2013
Digestive Disorders
How to Prevent Them
Each of us has complained at least once of nausea, bloating, digestion difficulty. Abdominal pains are so common that they are the leading cause for consultation.
Knowing how the digestive system works will help to understand these disorders which most of them are benign and prevent them.

The Digestive System
Our body needs energy intake and nutrients to function. These inputs are provided by food.
The digestive system is used to convert food into simple nutrients able to pass into the bloodstream and then to ensure the elimination of waste from our body.
It extends from the mouth to the anus and includes the alimentary canal itself and its accessory glands: the liver, gallbladder and pancreas.

The long path of food
  • In the mouth, the teeth allow crushing and cutting foods that are then swallowed by the pharynx. Then they pass into the stomach due the regular contractions of the muscles of the esophagus.
  • Gastric time: In the stomach, food will stay one to two hours and be subject to regular mixing. Secretion of acids and enzymes allows also continuing digestion. The pulped food passes through a valve called the pylorus that is regularly connected to the intestine.
  • The intestinal transit: The intestine is divided into two parts: the small intestine and the large intestine (also called the colon). The small intestine measures 6 to 7 meters and is in turn divided into three parts: the duodenum, jejunum and ileum. The digestion ends in the duodenum, thanks to substances produced by the pancreas (pancreatic enzymes) and liver (bile). The only role of the gallbladder is to collect and concentrate bile. These substances then promote the absorption of nutrients in the wall of the small intestine via a specific blood circulation, included in the system that connects the intestine to the liver. Sine the liver has another role, which consists of destroying or neutralizing some toxic substances, such as alcohol, for example.
  • The undigested food and waste eliminated in the bile are transformed into stool through the colon. This 1m50 long organ contains a large amount of bacteria that eventually helps finishing digestion. The stool is stored in the rectum before its expulsion through the anus.

Gastric Disorders
The stomach is located below the diaphragm.
It follows the esophagus and ends with the pylorus.
Its role is to mechanically and chemically break down food through the gastric juices.

Nausea and vomiting
"Liver attack", "heart pain"... But it is the stomach that is involved.

Nausea is the sensation of discomfort in the stomach and vomiting, the rejection of its contents through the mouth. The causes are many, but frequently benign, they are related to gastroenteritis or overeating.
Following one or more vomiting, it is recommended to rinse the mouth with warm water, breathe slowly and drink.
Then avoid milk, fruit juice, caffeine, carbonated beverages and fatty or spicy foods for a few days.

Heartburn and esophagitis
Sometimes the gastric juices, very acidic, revert from the stomach into the esophagus.
If the walls of the stomach are made ??to withstand the acidity, the walls of the esophagus are much more sensitive, causing the burning sensation. This reflux can be favored by lying down, a hernia but also by stress that increases the secretion of acids, intolerance to stimulants or the use of tranquilizers (tobacco, coffee...).
When these reflux become chronic, they can be the cause of esophagitis, that is to say, an inflammation of the lining of the esophagus.
Eating small amounts most often helps the pain go away.
But first, it is desirable to stop irritants (alcohol, tobacco...) and sleep in half-sitting position, then relieve with gastric bandages and anti-secretion that block acid secretion.
In some cases, the doctor will have recourse to surgery.

Gastritis and ulcer
The stomach is protected by a layer of acid resistant mucus. This mucus can deteriorate under the influence of alcohol, prolonged use of medications (especially anti-inflammatory), significant stress...which causes an alteration of the lining of the stomach starting from ulcers to gastritis.
It was discovered that a bacterium, Helicobacter pyroli was involved in some gastritis and most ulcers cases.
Ulcer pains are characteristic: they always appear two hours after meals in the form of burning or cramping and calm when eating.
We need to stop alcohol and tobacco and have several meals in small quantities.
The doctor will prescribe a diet for a few days and the appropriate treatment.
A test available in pharmacies, allows now revealing the presence of the bacteria involved in the ulcer.
The eradication of bacteria by antibiotics allows lasting cures.

Liver Disorders
The liver is the largest gland in the body.
Weighing about 1.5 kg, it is located below the diaphragm to the right of the abdomen. This is the main chemical factory of our body.
Along with the gallbladder, it ensures several essential functions:
  • Protect us from toxics and store vitamins and energy in the form of sugar,
  • Synthesizing urea,
  • Produce the essential elements for a good blood coagulation.

Hepatitis
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver that can be acute (it lasts for a short time) or chronic (evolving for years).
The causes are multiple.
They may be toxic, which means related to poisoning. The most common is alcohol poisoning.
They can also be related to drugs. In case of overdose, many drugs can actually cause hepatitis. This is the case of a paracetamol overdose.
Finally, they may be of viral origin. Hepatitis A is the most common and easiest to contract but in the vast benign majority.
Hepatitis B is transmitted through blood or sexual contact and can be cured without side-effects or cause serious complications.
Hepatitis C, transmitted by blood, chronically progresses and may, like the previous, cause cirrhosis and cancer.
The most common expression of hepatitis is called the jaundice or icterus (orange-yellow color of the conjunctiva of the eyes and skin) and may be accompanied by fatigue, nausea, abdominal pain, headaches. It mainly requires rest and nutritional and hygiene practices. As for chronic forms, there are quite heavy and not 100% effective treatments. Contrariwise, it is recommended to be vaccinated against hepatitis B and in some cases against hepatitis A. There is currently no vaccine against hepatitis C.

Cirrhosis
It is an irreversible disease of the liver caused by an alteration of its cells.
The liver becomes hard, stony, and full of nodules. The real danger is that this disease remains silent for a long time, the first signs appear only when 80 % of the liver is destroyed.
The signs are weight loss, loss of appetite, fatigue and yellowing of the whites of the eyes and skin.
The main causes of cirrhosis are alcohol abuse in at least 50 % of the cases and chronic viral hepatitis.
If most of the more or less severe complications of cirrhosis are treatable today, the disease is irreversible.
It is obvious that the first treatment is the immediate elimination of alcohol followed by a strict healthy lifestyle.

Other Intestinal Transit Disorders
The intestines, all measuring 9-10 meters, digest and absorb our food and evacuate those who cannot be digested.
All these operations sometimes cause some inconveniences.
Constipation, bloating, pain...
Transit disorders represent about a quarter of consultations with general practitioners.

Constipation
It affects one third of the population, especially women.
It can be defined as a downturn in the colon and a difficult or unusual discharge of feces.
Constipation occurs when stool frequency is less than once every three days.
It is occasional when linked to a diet, jet lag, prolonged bed rest... Its chronic state may be due to an organic disorder, certain diseases (hemorrhoids, pyloric stenosis, cancer, diabetes, kidney failure...) and medication (antihistamines, anti-cough, barbiturates...).
But in most cases, we find chronic functional constipation.
In case of constipation, it is important to drink plenty of water, increase fiber intake, and eat green vegetables and fresh fruit every day, preferably with the skin.
Physical exercise (gymnastics, swimming, walking...) is generally considered an excellent treatment.

Diarrhea
It is an increase in the stool volume, flow and frequency.
Its symptoms are relatively common and generally benign, it can have different origins: food poisoning, bacterial viral or parasitic infections. Any diarrhea that lasts more than five days requires a visit to a doctor.
For toddlers and elderly, a visit is required after 24 hours if no improvement appears because risks of dehydration are significant.
In case of diarrhea, increase the frequency of meals but reducing the quantities, remove the unfermented dairy and opt for yogurt.
Eat apples and carrots preferably cooked and skinless, rice, semolina, pasta but not other carbohydrates and starches (peas, corn, lentils...) and rehydrate yourself with water.
Babies, children and elderly can take a rehydration solution that you will find in drugstore.

Aerophagia, bloating and flatulence
These symptoms are often associated with poor digestion, cramps and abdominal spasms.
The flatulence is occasional and it is often the result of poor swallowing.
It is favored by chewing gum, straw and soft drinks, but also bread, meringue, scrambled eggs...
Bloating and flatulence can have several causes.
Intestinal gases are a normal phenomenon in the digestion of food. They are formed when bacteria in the colon attack substances which the stomach and the small intestine did not digest.
Some foods contribute more than others to the formation of gas. These are beverages or fermented cheese, beans, cabbage, lentils, artichokes, onions, bananas, nuts, chips, melons, plums...
Occasionally, taking antibiotics can cause flatulence. Other possibilities: the poor absorption of carbohydrates, especially lactose in milk or fructose in honey.
If these troubles often occur, it may be the case of a colon with an abnormal sensitivity to gases and here again stress and anxiety are aggravating factors.
The best treatment is to limit foods that support the formation of gas. It is also necessary to eat slowly, chewing well and limit fluid intake during meals.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome
The colon may be the seat of chronic disorders, often mild, but tiring and sometimes disabling.
Irritable bowel syndrome, spastic colon, functional bowel disorder.
Many terms trying to put a name to a different set of symptoms: constipation, bloating, flatulence, diarrhea, pain...
This disease affects more likely women and anxious individuals.

If the causes are not known, it often evokes visceral hypersensitivity and abnormal intestinal motility.
Psychological factors (stress, anxiety) associated with food irritating the mucous membranes (fats, alcohol, coffee, tea, chocolate but also beans, lentils, cabbage...) are often the cause of these disturbances.
The diagnosis is made after an examination and a clinical examination.
Additional tests may be ordered to rule out organic disease, such as inflammatory colitis, colorectal, parasitic cancer...
You may be required to undergo a colonoscopy, an enema or an analysis of stool parasites.
Although irritable bowel syndrome is benign, it is difficult to get rid of it.
A healthy lifestyle is the best solution, to which we can be add psychotherapy or treatments.
Several drugs (antispasmodics, laxatives, anxiolytics...) are often associated to relieve symptoms.

When to Consult, Symptoms that Should Alert
Nearly 600 different diseases may be involved in digestive disorders.

Fortunately, in most cases, they are minor illnesses even if they are annoying.
Be careful to warning signs that require quick reference.

Recent problems
Starting from 45-50 years, it is better to consult a doctor when digestive symptoms appear for the first time.
Gastric reflux, heartburn, difficulty digesting or swallowing, diarrhea or constipation may indicate colorectal cancer and like any cancer, the sooner it is diagnosed, the more the chances of cure are high.

Traces of blood in stool
This is one of the first symptoms of many gastrointestinal diseases: hemorrhoids, polyps, colitis, tumors of the colon or rectum...
Therefore, it is advisable to undergo a screening test every two years starting from 50 years old.
This painless test involves the analysis of a small portion of the stool by a laboratory. The result is known in a few days and if positive, a colonoscopy will determine more precisely the state of the colon.

Family history
If a close family member (parent, child, brother or sister) was the victim of colorectal cancer, it is prudent to perform a colonoscopy about ten years before the age at which the cancer was diagnosed with your parent.

Association with other symptoms
Most digestive disorders become worrisome if they combine with other symptoms.
You should check if:
  • Your heartburns are associated with wheezing and coughing, nausea or vomiting
  • You suffer from discomfort in the liver area with fatigue and itching
  • Your stomach pain is alleviated by taking certain foods and your belly is hard
  • Your digestive disorders accompanied by abnormal weight loss
  • Your disorders are accompanied by vomiting or coughing up blood
This list is not exhaustive and it is best to seek medical advice if your digestive problems persist.

Prevention of Digestive Disorders and Healthy Lifestyle
Although these disorders are very diverse in nature, they can be avoided or mitigated by some basic rules of hygiene.

Better behavior
  • Eat small amounts of food at once
  • Eat three balanced meals and snacks
  • Eat slowly and chew well
  • Dine in a quiet place and in regular hours
  • Avoid very hot or very cold foods
  • Drink lots of water, 8 glasses a day at least, preferably between meals
  • Exercise, move regularly
  • Avoid chewing gum and soft drinks
  • Wait at least two hours after the last meal before you go to bed
  • Never smoke on empty stomach or better, stop smoking! Tobacco stimulates acid secretion in the stomach
  • Get vaccinated against hepatitis B

Dietary advice
Each individual reacts differently to certain foods.
However it is recommended to:
  • Consume fiber regularly (fruits, vegetables, oatmeal, brown rice, barley, wheat bran...)
  • Focus on asparagus, beets, carrots, mushrooms, green or yellow beans, lettuce, tomatoes ( skinned and seedless), apples, pears , cereals, pasta, rice, tapioca, semolina crackers rather than fresh bread, fat dairy products, eggs...
  • Eat cooked steamed vegetables
  • Consume with moderation nuts, fermentable vegetables (cabbage, beans, peas, lentils, corn...), seeds and nuts (peanuts, coconut, almonds, pistachios...), strong spices (garlic, onion, shallot, cloves, pepper and other spices)
  • Avoid coffee, tea , chocolate, cola , alcohol and fruit juices that irritate the stomach and intestine and stimulate acid secretion
  • Avoid pepper, particularly irritating to the stomach
  • Avoid fried foods and fat, very difficult to digest and excite contractions of the colon. Prefer steaming, grilling, stewing, cooking in foil.
Identify your food intolerances especially lactose (milk product that contains it the less is yogurt), fructose (fruit and vegetables that contain it the most are dried fruit, canned fruit, candies, caramel, honey) and sorbitol (food sweetener) .

Digestive Problems: Infants and Children
Discharges, vomiting, gastroenteritis... are extremely common in infants and should not really cause any worry. Certain precautions are to be taken.

Regurgitation
It happens without effort from the child and in no way compromises their health. It often occurs when the stomach can no longer hold all the ingested milk or just after the rot.
It is advisable to make small breaks when you're feeding.
And about 4-5 months, the regurgitation will disappear with the transition to a less liquid diet.

Reflux
It is the moving up of acid gastric contents into the esophagus.
When it occurs after a meal, it is often related to the immaturity of the digestive tract and is easily treated by thickening the milk and lifting up a little bit the child while eating the bottle.
But when discharges are plentiful, painful and occur at any time, the pediatrician may prescribe drugs to neutralize the acidity or to promote the closure of the stomach.

Vomiting
Unlike the regurgitation, vomiting is active. If it occurs in isolation, it may be a small passenger digestive disorder. Teething, ear infection or a cold can also cause vomiting.
The best treatment is a little sugary water or a small jam sandwich for younger. By cons, it is essential to see if vomiting occurs after a fall and / or fever.

Diarrhea
It consists of the frequent passing of stools most of the time due to a poor diet: too much sugar, fruit juice protein.
The priority is to give drink to the child. An infant less than three months can dehydrate in a few hours.
Give water in large quantities and also think of rehydration solutions. You can also offer him a strawberry syrup or grenadine. Eliminate milk and replace it with carrot juice.
And put him on the rice, ham, potatoes and mashed bananas diet.
Check if the diarrhea persists, if the child loses weight and if fever develops.

Constipation
Stools are rare (less than three times per week), hard and passed with difficulty.
Give younger children fruit juice and older foods rich in fiber.
Remove the milk and make them drinking water.

Colic
If your baby moves and seems to have a stomach ache, he is probably a victim of colic.
Prior to three months, colic is common because his digestive system is weak.
To calm down, you can rub his belly in clockwise direction; hold him in your arms on his flat belly and rock gently.
There is also a vaccine. Check with your regular doctor.

Older children also suffer from digestive disorders
Most are benign. The difficulty is to know from the area in pain. Children often show their navel, regardless they suffer from the stomach or intestine.
But sometimes stomach ache is triggered on Sunday evening, before school, or before doing something that does not please the child.
It is then his way to make you understand that there is a problem: understanding that they will leave you, fear, anxiety...

It is up to you to be listening!
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