Some news that may be “easy to stomach” is that the international Digestive Disease Week is a virtual event happening between 21-23 May, 2021.

At any one point along life’s journey, a person can suffered a degree of digestive difficulty. The feeling can be terribly painful and sometimes embarrassing. Gut wrenching pain is a feeling that invokes a memory for when it happened and impresses the amount of pain one had committed to memory. Some people have it worse than others and find themselves living with chronic digestive diseases.

A digestive disorder is a problem in the digestive tract that prevents a person from being completely healthy. Some disorders are mild and others can be almost unbearable.

Living with a Digestive Disorder

There’s no set way to be living with digestive disorders. The types and severity of the disorders call for individual assessment and treatment by medical professionals. Some digestive problems can be mistaken as hereditary because what digestive difficulties one member has is usually shared. Further digging reveals this is so because the family that eats together develop similar eating habits and therefore eventually similar eating disorders.

Common Digestive Disorders

Common is a relative term – there is no definite percentages that determine what common is. There is, however, an approximation that a large number of the population suffers from disease of the digestive tract. Stomach ache in children is quite common. From indigestion to constipation, children’s tummies are delicate habitats in which their emotions are often reflected. They complain of tummy aches when they are nervous or upset and have butterflies in their stomach when excited. This illustrates how fragile little tummies are. Leaving their stomach problems alone may lead to even worse conditions.

Gastroesophageal/Gastro-oesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD/GORD) – a chronic digestive disorder characterised by heartburn and gut acid frequently coming back up. This chronic illness is an effect of the problem of the band of muscle at the base of the esophagus. This muscle ordinarily enables food and drink to stay down.

GERD is manageable when treated and maintained. Lifestyle choices are the leading causes of acid reflux flare ups. These include smoking, coffee and high fat or fried food. To prevent GERD or GORD a sufferer should avoid cigarettes, caffeine and other beverages and certain foods.

Symptoms – heartburn or burning like sensations and chest pain are the usual symptoms of GERD/GORD as acid or sourness comes back up from the stomach. Problems with swallowing, throwing up and a blocked sensation in the throat may also be typical symptoms.

Tips to Avoid Flare Ups

Stay away from trigger food such as oily and fatty foods. Fried pork, french fries and the like. For reflux and heartburn, avoid spicy foods, black pepper, red wine and chocolates. Caffeine, peppermint and peppermint-flavoured food and citrus fruit and products are to be avoided too. Consuming more green vegetables and root crops will prevent constant reflux.

Typical Digestive Diseases & Symptoms

Diarrhoea – is frequent watery stool that may be caused by certain foods, a bacterial infection or other toxins, certain therapies, food sensitivity or intolerance (lactose or celiac disease) and poor food absorption. Dehydration is one of the dangers of untreated diarrhea.

Diarrhoea that lasts more than two days should be checked by a medical professional. Some home remedies for diarrhoea include consuming bananas, rice, apple sauce and toast.

Risks – diarrhoea is the means of the body to clear out infection, viruses and bacteria. It is expected to clear out in a couple of days or three at the most.

Hydration is important to prevent complications. Some medications are the source of diarrhoea as they change the bacterial equilibrium in the intestines. It is best to discuss with your doctor if your medicine has this side-effect.

Ulcerative Colitis – this is a lengthy condition of colon inflammation – a type of inflammatory bowel disease involving trouble and ulcers in the digestive tract particularly the large intestine. Considering it is five feet or 1.5 meters long, the extent of pain and trouble one has depends on the severity and location of the affected area. There may be fever present, chills, bloating, skin and eye inflammation and dehydration depending on the cause.

Symptoms – abdominal pain, abdominal cramps, weight loss, fatigue. A specific symptom is a feeling of urgency to “go”, then an inability to move your bowels even with the urgency. There can also be diarrhea, rectal pain and blood in the stool. It can be scary experiencing it for the first time. But ulcerative colitis is highly treatable and people with this disorder can still enjoy a full life.

What to eat – pasta, white bread, crackers, dried cranberries, apple sauce, ripe bananas, soft easily-digestible food, cooked vegetables, probiotics and more water to prevent dehydration.

Avoid – alcohol, dried fruits and legumes, caffeine and carbonated drinks, high fibre food, sugary, sweet and spicy meals, raw fruits, vegetables and nuts or food high in fibre.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) – a functional long-term gastrointestinal disorder affecting the large intestine. Functional because all the parts are complete but not working properly. Discomfort of the abdomen is present along with bowel movement problems, bloating, diarrhea or constipation all at the same time or one after the other.

Of every five Australians, one will show the symptoms of IBS – more than likely women – as IBS is more common in women than in men. Both young and old people can have IBS and symptoms can be present for a few days and go on for weeks. Its precise cause is generally unknown but stress can trigger flare-ups.

Symptoms – diarrhoea, bloating, constipation are among the symptoms of IBS. Additional symptoms include abdominal pain, stomach cramps, food intolerance where there is a missed signal between the stomach and the brain.

Known triggers – Food high in FODMAPs (Fermentable Olidgasaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols), beans, wheat, apples, cabbages, garlic, dairy and artificial sweeteners. It is best to consult and ask for a medical professional’s help to determine if it’s IBS, what caused it and the triggers for your particular case as well as proposed treatments.

Gluten Intolerance and Celiac Disease

Gluten sensitivity is common in most adults, occurring in women more than men. Gluten is a protein that is in grains like barley, wheat and rye. Some people avoid this protein because it does not provide any essential nutrient. People with gluten sensitivity are not able to properly digest gluten and end up with digestive distress. When gluten is ingested, the immune system damages the small intestine.

Symptoms of gluten intolerance include bloating, diarrhoea, irritable bowel, constipation and gas.

The other side of the coin is celiac disease. This is an autoimmune disease that targets the small intestine or the skin. Repeated attacks will lead to the small intestine being unable to absorb nutrients that eventually leads to complication and more deficiencies like anemia, osteoporosis and more complicated autoimmune diseases including lymphoma of the small intestine.

Another form of celiac disease is dermatitis herpetiformis (DH) where the immune system focuses on the skin rather than the intestine and creates painful itchy, bumpy rashes that manifest on both sides of a particular part of the body.

Prevention – going gluten-free is the best way to manage these medical conditions. Complying with a strict gluten-free diet allows the small intestine to heal and do its job. Most breads, noodles, pastries and snacks and some condiments are made with grain containing gluten. Select gluten-free alternatives to avoid discomfort and pain.

Hemorrhoids – or piles are bumps and red lumps that are distended veins quite like varicose veins but located in your anus and/or lower rectum. A high percentage of adults have had hemorrhoids periodically. There are a number of reasons but the primary cause is unknown. The stress and pressure developing in the lower rectum exerting to much during bowel movements. Persistent constipation and diarrhea can also cause hemorrhoids.

Symptoms – some hemorrhoids are an effect of an illness. There may be irritation and pain on the affected area and constant itching, swollen lumps and blood traces near or around the anus together with painful bowel movements.

A large number of people actually suffer from these digestive disorders. A day or two suffering from one of these might not be a big deal but when it is recurring frequently then a trip to the doctor is in order as some of these conditions share similar symptoms. These diseases can be easy to manage in their initial stages, left alone, they may lead to even bigger complications that can even be life threatening.

Digestive Disease Week is a virtual event happening between 21-23 May, 2021. For more information check out their website https://ddw.org