4 Common Gastrointestinal Conditions & How To Manage Them
You are not alone if you have had gastrointestinal conditions. In fact, many studies have shown that common gastrointestinal conditions, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and diarrhoea, are among the top 10 conditions seen by medical professionals.
Some of these conditions are becoming increasingly common in the Asian-Pacific region. According to the Gastroenterology Department at the Singapore General Hospital, Singapore has witnessed a dramatic rise in IBS over the past ten years. Today, approximately 10% of Singaporeans live with IBS, with more women affected than men.
While most common conditions are mild, they can still impact your overall quality of life significantly, causing embarrassing and uncomfortable moments which are often linked to anxiety, depression, and low mood.
In this post, we will delve into four common gastrointestinal conditions and how you can manage them effectively.
What are gastrointestinal conditions?
It is a general term that is used to group conditions related to your digestive system, also known as the gastrointestinal tract. It can be any condition involving your mouth all the way down to your anus and the associated organs, such as gallbladder, liver, and pancreas.
Gastrointestinal conditions are typically categorised as either functional or organic.
Common symptoms among gastrointestinal conditions
While the severity of symptoms may vary between individuals, some of the common symptoms among gastrointestinal conditions include:
- Loss of bowel control
- Having difficulty swallowing
- Sudden weight loss and loss of appetite
- Nausea or vomiting
- Constipation and diarrhoea
- Stomach aches, cramps, and bloating
Condition #1: Gastritis
Gastritis generally describes a group of conditions that cause the inflammation of the stomach lining. The inflammation is usually caused by a bacterial infection or the chronic use of pain relief medications. Additionally, high consumption of alcohol can also lead to gastritis.
The condition can be categorised as chronic or acute, depending on how fast it develops. In rare cases, it can cause ulcers to develop, which increases your risk of stomach cancer. Common gastritis symptoms include fullness, vomiting, nausea, indigestion, or burning ache in your upper abdomen after a meal.
If the cause is due to a bacterial infection, a course of acid suppressants and antibiotics will usually treat it. If it’s caused by pain relief medication or alcohol, the only way is to abstain from consuming them.
Condition #2: Celiac Disease
Also known as gluten-sensitive enteropathy or celiac sprue, celiac disease is an immune reaction to consuming gluten, a common protein in rye, barley, and wheat. An individual with celiac disease will experience an immune response in their small intestine after consuming gluten, which can damage the small intestine lining over time, causing malabsorption.
Some common celiac disease symptoms include constipation, nausea, stomach cramps, flatulence, and diarrhoea. However, most adults who have celiac disease may develop symptoms that are not related to the digestive system, such as joint pain, numbness in the hands and feet, mouth ulcers, anaemia, and dermatitis herpetiformis. There is currently no cure for this condition apart from following a strict gluten-free diet plan to manage the symptoms and allow the intestinal lining to heal.
Condition #3: Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
GERD happens when the stomach acid flows back into the oesophagus repeatedly, causing the oesophagus lining to be irritated and inflamed. Also known as heartburn, it is common among many individuals, occurring from time to time. However, when it happens frequently, it becomes known as GERD.
Some common GERD symptoms include nausea, dysphagia, chest pain, regurgitation of food, frequent heartburn, and laryngitis. While the exact cause of GERD is hard to determine, certain conditions and factors, such as obesity, pregnancy, scleroderma, smoking, late-night meals, and consumption of aspirin, may trigger acid reflux.
Most mild GERD cases can be managed through medications and lifestyle changes. However, in rare cases where the primary steps do not work, surgery is an alternative solution.
Condition #4: Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
IBS affects your intestines and stomach. It is a chronic gastrointestinal condition that will require long-term management. Only a small number of individuals suffer from severe IBS symptoms. Most can easily manage through lifestyle and diet changes. IBS does not result in bowel tissue changes or increased risk of colorectal cancer.
IBS symptoms may vary but stay for a long time. Common symptoms include changes in bowel movement, changes in stool appearance, bloating, or abdominal cramps. While the exact cause of IBS is hard to determine, certain factors, such as food intolerances, dysfunction in the intestinal muscular contractions, stress, and gastroenteritis, may trigger IBS symptoms.
Gastrointestinal conditions are incredibly common. However, most cases result in the surfacing of mild symptoms. Nevertheless, they should be addressed as early as possible as some conditions might increase your risk of developing more severe conditions if treatment is delayed or left intended. Seeking timely treatment with a doctor is crucial and highly advisable.
Here at GUTCARE, we manage and treat conditions related to your digestive system, from mild ones such as IBS symptoms to severe ones such as pancreas cancer symptoms. Having a healthy digestive system is possible through regular gastro cancer screening. Take charge of your gut health.
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