Tummy troubles can often be the sign of something more serious, like a gastrointestinal disease and according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, an estimated 60 million and 70 million Americans suffer from GI issues, which come with a hefty price tag. The National Library of Medicine states, "GI diseases contribute substantially to health care use in the United States. Total expenditures for GI diseases are $135.9 billion annually-greater than for other common diseases. Expenditures are likely to continue increasing." Knowing the signs of a GI disease can help get a quicker diagnosis and faster treatment so here's four signs to watch out for, according to Suhail Salem, MD Gastroenterologist with United Medical Doctors and Dignity Health Northridge Hospital. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
What is an Intestinal Disease?
Dr. Salem tells us, "An intestinal disease refers to a problem in either the small or large intestine. There are many causes for intestinal disease, including infections, inflammatory conditions like Crohn's disease or Ulcerative colitis, physical blockages, dysfunction in the muscles that facilitate normal transit through the digestive system, and cancers, among other problems."
Who is at Risk?
Dr. Salem says, "Everyone has the potential to develop an intestinal disease in the course of life. Most people will be familiar with food poisoning, which is most often caused by viral or bacterial contamination of food. Fortunately, most of these are not serious and do not have lasting effects. Some individuals may have a genetic predisposition to intestinal diseases such as Crohn's disease or Ulcerative colitis, Celiac disease (gluten allergy), or colon cancer. Abdominal surgeries increase the risk of scar tissue that can lead to blockages in the intestine. In addition, long term use of medications such as opiates cause paralysis of intestinal function. Chronic medical conditions like Diabetes also affect how the intestinal tract functions and often experience intestinal issues."
How Can You Help Prevent an Intestinal Disease?
Dr. Salem shares, "First, make sure to take care of your intestinal tract by eating the necessary amount of fiber on a daily basis, which is 25-30 grams every day. This will help promote good intestinal function, while also benefiting your health in other ways, such as lowering blood pressure and cholesterol. Avoid unnecessary antibiotics, as this can lead to disruption in your gut microbiome and sometimes lead to serious colonic infections. Make sure to get screened for colon cancer beginning at age 45, or earlier if you have a family history of colon cancer."
How Can an Intestinal Disease Affect Daily Life and Overall Health?
"Intestinal diseases can have a significant impact on daily life and health," Dr. Salem states. "They can lead to various bothersome symptoms that can disrupt daily life. Intestinal diseases may impact your eating habits, including what you eat, how much you can eat, as well as how well you are able to extract nutrients from the food you are eating."
According to Dr. Salem, "Bloating is one of the most common symptoms of intestinal disease. Your intestinal tract comprises 22 feet of small intestine and 5 feet of large intestine. These long digestive tubes can fill up with gas and waste making you feel bloated. There are many different factors that can lead to this feeling, including dietary habits as well as various intestinal diseases."
Dr. Salem tells us, "If there is a blockage or dysfunction in your intestinal tract, food and liquids won't be able to pass through normally and can cause you to vomit."
Dr. Salem explains, "Your intestinal tract normally does a very good job of processing food and water, absorbing most of the fluids along the way, and producing solid waste. Disease of the intestinal tract may compromise your intestines ability to do its job leading to diarrhea."
"Pain in the abdomen could indicate a problem in the intestinal tract," says Dr. Salem. "Diseases including infections, blockages, as well as a poor circulation to the intestines, could all lead to abdominal pain."