You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who has not experienced a gastrointestinal issue at some point in their life. While GI problems are extremely common, they are not normal.
If you are experiencing digestive issues, seek the help of a qualified gastroenterologist who can examine you and order the appropriate tests to make sure that your GI symptoms are not due to life-threatening conditions.
Here are the most common GI problems and how to treat them.
If you are constipated, it is very difficult to pass stool and you may be passing stool much less frequently than is normal for you. Constipation makes you strain when trying to pass stool; the result is expelling small, hard stool. Complications of constipation include the development of hemorrhoids and anal fissures.
Dehydration and a lack of fiber in the diet are common causes of constipation. Other causes include long periods of inactivity, or a side effect of certain medications.
Treatment for constipation usually includes increasing your fiber intake, being more active and sticking to a regular bowel movement schedule. Your doctor may recommend that you take stool softeners or laxatives if necessary.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
IBS is a GI condition in which the colon contracts frequently, causing cramping, excessive gas, bloating, and a change in the consistency of your stool. If you have IBS, you may have periods of being constipated alternating with periods of diarrhea. The exact cause of IBS is unknown, although triggers may include certain foods, medications, and stress. Diagnosing IBS is difficult because its symptoms are shared by many other conditions.
Treatment for IBS varies depending on its triggers. Doctors usually recommend avoidance of triggers and stress management. In severe cases, medication may be prescribed by your doctor.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
GERD or acid reflux is caused by stomach acid flowing back up your esophagus, irritating it. With GERD, you will experience a burning sensation in your chest as a result of the acid usually following a meal. If you experience burning in the middle of your chest and your throat after having a meal at least three times a week, you probably have GERD. More symptoms include tooth enamel erosion, nausea, and pain when swallowing. Treatment for GERD usually includes avoidance of foods that trigger the symptoms, which are usually acidic foods such as tomatoes, pineapples, and orange juice. Prescription-strength antacids are typically used to reduce the excessive production of stomach acid.
Hardened bile deposits that form in your gallbladder are called gallstones. They usually form due to an imbalance of bile production within the body. The gallbladder produces bile to help break down fatty foods during digestion. Gallstones may result in zero symptoms – in which case, no treatment is necessary – or severe abdominal pain and jaundice (the yellowing of the skin and eyes). Gallstones can block the pathway between your intestines and gallbladder that can cause pain in your upper abdomen.
Treatment for gallstones in patients with symptoms may start with medication to dissolve the stones. In severe cases, surgery to remove the gallbladder may be recommended.
Gastroenterologist in Pennsylvania
Carlisle Digestive Disease Associates has been treating patients with gastrointestinal issues since 1990. Our board-certified gastroenterologists are all experienced in treating the full spectrum of conditions that can affect the digestive tract. No GI problem is too simple or too complex for us. We welcome you to our patient-friendly central Pennsylvania facility. You may call us at (717) 245-2228 or request an appointment now.