Millions of people suffer from digestive problems on a daily basis. It has become a common health issue that no one takes seriously anymore. It is just another thing we live with. Feeling bloated after eating, suffering from acidity, unsatisfactory passage of stools and more; such digestive issues have become a way of life and something every other person suffers from.
The digestive problems we suffer from are nothing but symptoms of major digestive disorders and our body’s way of communicating that with us.
Digestive disorders are diseases that affect our whole gastrointestinal tract. This includes the whole digestive system, starting right from the mouth to the anus. An issue in any one part of this system is what causes problems in our digestive health and if left untreated, can develop into a digestive disorder.
The seven most common digestive disorders people face are:
Acidity or heartburn or GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) is the unpleasant and burning sensation you feel in your chest and throat. It results from stomach acid flowing backward from our stomach to the oesophagus. What no one understands is that this feeling is not a normal reaction.
Our body has a system in place that, ideally, does not allow anything to flow backwards from the stomach. This is done by a Sphincter placed at the end of the oesophagus. This sphincter is very tight. When the pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is reduced due to some root cause, only then is the backward flow of stomach acid and food, in some cases, possible
Acidity is a symptom of GERD and not a disease in itself. But not everyone who faces acidity has GERD.
One of the leading root causes of GERD is obesity. In obesity, the intra-abdominal pressure is increased, which causes the relaxation of LES. This, in turn, leads to the leakage of gastric contents back to the oesophagus. Thereby giving way to GERD. Additionally, Acidity is caused by smoking, drinking, excess intake of processed foods and more.
TIP: The best way to prevent acidity is to avoid lying down or bending after having food.
Bloating or abdominal discomfort is the name given to the build-up of gas in the stomach. A Bloated stomach can feel tight and packed and leave you feeling uncomfortable. Bloating and gas happen mainly due to swallowing a lot of air while eating. That is why it is recommended to chew your food by keeping your mouth closed.
The other reasons for gas and bloating are either the presence of many antinutrients in the food or certain food habits like eating a lot or eating too fast.
TIP: The best way to stop feeling bloated is to identify the foods that cause bloating and start avoiding those foods. This identification needs to be done by experimenting with foods. Everybody is different, so the foods that cause bloating for one person can differ from someone else’s
No passing of stools for three consecutive days is the actual meaning of constipation. But, one can also be said to be constipated if they are facing difficulty in their bowel movement. i.e., The stools are either hard or not as frequent as they should be. Constipation, in simple words, is the hindered passage of stool out of the body.
The root cause of constipation is a Sedentary Lifestyle. A sedentary lifestyle can affect your muscle tone, which is essential for regular bowel movements. Also, our colon responds well to activities. Other root causes include low water intake, consumption of processed foods and not eating a sufficient amount of food.
Untreated and recurrent constipation can give rise to Piles.
TIP: Keep hydrated. Drinking enough water can help you prevent and treat constipation. Also, make sure to include some form of exercise in your daily routine. For example, exercise at least 30 min daily.
Diarrhoea refers to the passing of loose and watery stools and an increase in the frequency. It can also include different symptoms like nausea, bloating, vomiting and fever, to name a few. Diarrhoea is usually caused by eating roadside food or stomach flu. It can also be caused by a virus in the gut or an infection in the intestinal tract.
There are three types of Clinical Diarrhoea:
- Acute Watery Diarrhoea – lasts several hours or days and includes cholera;
- Acute Bloody Diarrhoea – also called dysentery
- Persistent Diarrhoea – lasts 14 days or longer.
The root cause of Diarrhoea is food poisoning, i.e., consumption of toxic or pathogenic substances with food or Food Intolerance. There can be some foods your body cannot digest or is intolerant towards.
TIP: Include soluble fibre in your diet. But make sure that you go easy with the inclusion. Just because they are suitable for digestion does not mean you eat a lot or include them in each and every meal. Do not dump a lot of fibre insensibly.
Piles or Haemorrhoids are swelling of veins in the lower rectum and anus. They cause a lot of discomfort and can be painful based on how severe it is. A few symptoms of Piles are painful lumps or itchiness, discomfort during bowel movements, and blood in stools. There are three types of Piles:
- Internal - Haemorrhoids developed inside the rectum. These can be detected by the presence of itchiness or discomfort in or around the anus. They are usually neither seen nor felt.
- External - These can be seen as red, swollen lumps in or around the anus. It can cause painful passage of stools and a burning feeling in that area.
One of the leading causes of Piles is untreated and chronic constipation. Few other reasons can be excess pressure put during bowel movement, lifting of heavy equipment frequently, and anal intercourse.
TIP: Avoid all kinds of processed foods, especially ones that are packed, tinned and canned, as processing takes away all the fibre and other nutrients from the food. And the exclusion of fibre from our diet can cause problems in our digestive health.
6. Stomach Ulcer:
The burning sensation in the stomach can be caused due to stomach or peptic ulcers. They are painful lesions or sores on the lining of our stomach caused by the presence of stomach acid. We all know that our stomach produces acid to digest food. It is protected from the harmful effects of the acid by the presence of a lining in the stomach. But there are some root causes or stressors present that harm/ destroy the lining, causing the stomach acid to show its effects on stomach cells.
A burning sensation in the stomach can also be a symptom of some other problem (gastric irritant)
The main contributor to stomach ulcers is the recurrent use of painkillers. Other root causes are the presence of bacteria in the stomach, drinking alcohol, eating a lot of spicy food and smoking.
TIP: The best way to treat stomach ulcers is to stop taking painkillers. And in order to do so, rather than taking steps to relieve the pain, identify what is causing you the pain in the first place and start working on healing it. It can be done by getting to the root cause of your chronic and frequent pain and treating it.
The burning feeling in the upper abdomen or discomfort in the stomach after eating are signs of indigestion. It can be caused by an unsound lifestyle like regular consumption of greasy and spicy foods, overeating, overconsumption of caffeinated drinks and many more.
The primary root cause of indigestion is the decrease in stomach acid and stress.
TIP: Eliminate the usage of antacids from your routine as the regular popping of antacids leads to the reduction of stomach acid. Better treat your acidity using the Functional Nutrition approach.
Many of us face many more types of digestive disorders in our daily lives, and we have since started ignoring them. But, we can take steps to ensure that we never face any such digestive problems regularly and that if we do, it is painless and fleeting.
To do so, we must keep in mind that these disorders are a result of our lifestyle. Just taking a few precautions, we can prevent suffering from digestive issues. As we read above, Medications are the biggest culprit of digestive problems, along with our eating habits. So, by getting rid of our medications and cultivating an excellent nutritious diet, we can prevent any further digestive issues.
The best way to get rid of any problem is to find its root cause and treat it holistically or without medications. Functional Nutrition uses food as medicine, supplementation, lifestyle changes, and inclusion of holistic medical practices to treat the root cause of chronic diseases and dysfunctions.