A wide variety of gastrointestinal disorders exist. Digestion works by breaking down food through a complex series of organs that run from the mouth all the way down to the anus. This includes the stomach, intestines, liver, gallbladder and pancreas. When digestion is disrupted, it can cause pain and discomfort. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, approximately 70 million Americans suffer from digestive disorders.
One of the most common gastrointestinal disorders that affect digestion is acid reflux (also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD). Acid reflux causes stomach acid to rise back up into the esophagus. It occurs when the valve separating the stomach contents from the esophagus does not close properly. Common symptoms include a bitter taste in the back of the mouth, coughing and difficulty swallowing. People with acid reflux are advised to avoid alcohol, spicy foods, citrus and chocolate, as these foods tend to aggravate the condition. Chronic cases can lead to esophageal cancer.
A variety of autoimmune diseases can also disrupt normal digestion. Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, for example, are painful autoimmune diseases that impair the body’s ability to digest food normally. Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease that deteriorates the lining of the colon. Crohn’s disease is also an inflammatory bowel disease. It causes painful inflammation and irritation of the digestive tract. Dysphagis is another digestive condition that’s associated with difficulty swallowing. Chronic pancreatitis also affects digestion due to chronic inflammation of the pancreas. Irritable bowel syndrome is not a disease, but refers to a group of symptoms that occur in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. It is associated with frequent constipation, diarrhea or a mix of both. Its exact cause is hazy at this point, but experts speculate that it could be triggered by brain-gut signal problems, motor problems in the GI tract, mental health problems, bacteria, food sensitivities or genetics.
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