The gastrointestinal tract is the system that nourishes the body by processing the food that is ingested. There are several organs involved in the process, which can produce a variety of symptoms when there is a malfunction.
Signs and Symptoms
Each GI disorder presents with a different set of symptoms but there are several general points that should be promptly brought to the attention of the primary care physician for further evaluation.
- Blood in the stool
- Severe abdominal pain
- Change in bowel habits
- Unplanned weight loss
- Heartburn not relieved by antacids
There are some GI disorders that present with more specific signs and symptoms:
- Constipation: This acute or chronic disorder is the difficult or infrequent passage of stool, less than every 3 days.
- Perianal abscess: Purulent drainage is noted from a blocked gland inside anus with this acute problem.
- Gallstones: Pain in the middle to right upper abdomen and clay-colored stool are symptoms of this GI disorder.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): A burning sensation in lower esophagus and stomach is a classic symptom of this uncomfortable problem.
- Hepatitis (inflammation of the liver): Jaundice and generalized itching are alerts that medical attention is imperative.
The list of GI disorders is vast and varied. Any change in normal function of digestion should be promptly explored with a healthcare professional.
There are several risks that can predispose a person to some type of GI disorder. Some general factors include:
- Inadequate dietary roughage can lead to strained bowel movements and subsequent hemorrhoid development.
- Smoking irritates the lining of the stomach and can influence GERD and ulcer irritation.
- Excessive alcohol intake can further inflame the stomach as well as cause hepatitis.
- Advancing age increases the presence of diverticular disease; 50% of the population over 50 years old has diverticulosis.
- Being female increases the risk of developing irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
- Family history of colon cancer increases a person's risk of developing the same disease.
- Women, especially those of Native American and Hispanic descent, are more likely to develop gallstones than men.
The negative effects of gastrointestinal disorders are far reaching, whether they are acute or chronic. Proper nutrition is imperative to an efficiently functioning body. The proper digestion of the food ingested is the charge of the digestive tract. Promptly report any and all variables to a healthcare professional for evaluation and treatment to ensure that there is no serious problem preventing you from having a healthy GI tract.