The gastrointestinal (or GI) tract is very complex – so it’s no wonder there are many different types of digestive problems. While minor digestive issues are common, it’s important that you get them checked out if they don’t resolve themselves after a few days. If minor issues aren’t addressed, they can sometimes lead to big trouble.
These are just a few of the more common digestive problems that can affect your stomach, GI tract, and digestive system.
Acid reflux can be a painful issue affecting your digestion. It occurs when your esophagus doesn’t open and close as it should when you swallow, leading to an accumulation of digestive fluids and food. These foods and fluids contain acid, which can burn your throat and chest. Several over-the-counter medications may help you manage symptoms, but you might need to get medical help if you experience acid reflux frequently.1
This is one of the more frustrating digestive problems. Constipation occurs when your colon has difficulty performing its job of moving stool through your intestines. People with constipation will typically experience pain in the abdomen and, of course, find it very difficult to have a bowel movement. When they do have one, it’s usually more painful than normal. When it comes to common digestive problems, constipation is uncomfortable, but it’s rarely serious. Increasing your amount of exercise, as well as your intake of fiber, can help reduce the chances of this issue occurring.
If you get an upset stomach from time to time, you’ve probably had to deal with the frustration of diarrhea as well. There are a lot of potential causes of this condition. Sometimes, an infection of the digestive system can lead to diarrhea, as can eating contaminated food, or drinking contaminated water. Certain foods and medicines may also cause diarrhea. If you have diarrhea, be sure to drink plenty of fluids, to replace those you’ve lost. If diarrhea lasts for more than two days, or if you notice blood or have a fever, get to a doctor as soon as you can. The same is true if you have severe pain in your stomach, or if you become severely dehydrated.
Diverticulosis occurs when small pouches develop in your large intestine. Diverticulitis occurs when these pouches become inflamed, often in the lower part of your large intestine – in an area known as the sigmoid colon. Unfortunately, diverticulosis is one of the more common issues affecting the digestive system – and if diverticulitis develops, the condition becomes more serious.
If you don’t get enough roughage in your diet, you may be at a higher risk of developing diverticulitis. Increasing fluid intake and changing your diet (to one recommended by a medical professional) can sometimes help address this problem. There are some cases, though, where surgery may be needed.4
Some people have difficulty properly digesting certain types of foods. This can lead to diarrhea, cramping and bloating, gas, and vomiting. Food intolerance can, in some instances, also lead to heartburn, headaches, and even irritability. It can be challenging, however, to pinpoint the exact food that’s causing the issue. If this is the case, try keeping a food diary – this can help you figure out what’s triggering your symptoms.5
One example of food intolerance is known as celiac disease. This autoimmune disorder occurs when people eat gluten, a protein found in rye, barley, or wheat. For those with this condition, consuming gluten may actually damage their small intestine. In order to minimize symptoms, people with celiac disease need to avoid foods containing gluten.6
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
Gastroesophageal reflux disease is another one of the more common digestive problems. It happens when acid flows backward into your esophagus. This disorder can, in some instances, become so troublesome that it can affect the quality of your daily life. Symptoms of GERD include difficulty swallowing, a sour taste in the mouth and/or throat, discomfort in the chest, and coughing.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Irritable bowel syndrome goes by many different names. These include nervous stomach, spastic colon, and irritable colon. IBS occurs as a result of excessive contractions of the muscles in your colon. It is often triggered by certain types of food, medications, and stress.8
Symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, which can come and go, include cramping and pain in the stomach area, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation. There are, thankfully, several ways to manage IBS symptoms. These include learning methods of dealing with or minimizing stress, and avoiding foods that trigger IBS symptoms. Taking certain medications, and increasing your fiber intake, may also prove helpful.9
This is one of the more serious, chronic problems involving digestion. Ulcerative colitis leads to swelling and irritation in the lining of your large intestine.
It also results in the development of ulcers, which gives the condition its name.
Ulcerative colitis usually comes on gradually, worsening as time goes by. Symptoms include needing to go to the bathroom urgently, fever, weight loss, nausea, and fatigue. In some instances, ulcerative colitis can lead to the development of rashes, joint pain, and even eye irritation. Medications are sometimes used to address this problem, but surgery is needed in some instances.10
Wrapping it Up
As you can see, there are a lot of issues that can affect digestion. If you experience difficulty swallowing, trouble having a bowel movement, or if you are sensitive to certain types of food, be sure to see a doctor. He or she will perform an examination, determine the cause of your problems, and then come up with a plan to address it – so you can get back to normal as quickly as possible.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Indigestion