011 482-3010
Gastrointestinal Disorders: Symptoms, Causes, and Management

Gastrointestinal Disorders: Symptoms, Causes, and Management

 


The human
gastrointestinal (GI) system, a complex and intricate network of organs and tissues, plays a pivotal role in digesting food, absorbing nutrients, and expelling waste.

However, it’s susceptible to a range of disorders, many of which can cause discomfort, distress, and long-term health complications.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore some of the most common gastrointestinal disorders, providing insights into their symptoms, causes, and management strategies.

Understanding the Gastrointestinal System

 

Before delving into specific disorders, it’s essential to comprehend the gastrointestinal system’s main components:

Mouth: The digestive process begins here as food is broken down by chewing and mixed with saliva, which contains digestive enzymes.

Esophagus: A muscular tube that transports food from the mouth to the stomach.

Stomach: Food is mixed with digestive juices, including stomach acid and enzymes, to form a semi-liquid mixture called chyme.

Small Intestine: This is where the majority of nutrient absorption occurs. The walls are lined with tiny hair-like structures called villi, which increase the surface area for nutrient uptake.

Large Intestine (Colon): Water and electrolytes are absorbed here, and waste materials are formed into feces for elimination.

Liver: It produces bile, which is essential for fat digestion, and detoxifies the blood.

Gallbladder: Stores and concentrates bile, releasing it into the small intestine when needed for digestion.

Pancreas: It produces digestive enzymes that are secreted into the small intestine and hormones like insulin and glucagon, which regulate blood sugar levels.

 

gastrintestinal disorder symptoms causes 2 - Gastrointestinal Disorders: Symptoms, Causes, and Management

 

Common Gastrointestinal Disorders

 

1. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

Symptoms: Heartburn, regurgitation, chest pain, difficulty swallowing, chronic cough.

Causes: Weak lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which allows stomach acid to flow back into the esophagus, often due to diet, obesity, or a hiatal hernia.

Management: Lifestyle modifications (diet, weight loss), medications to reduce acid production, and in severe cases, surgery to repair the LES.

 

2. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Symptoms: Abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, or both (IBS-D, IBS-C, IBS-M).

Causes: Exact cause is unknown, but factors like altered gut motility, visceral hypersensitivity, and psychological stress may contribute.

Management: Dietary changes (low-FODMAP diet), stress management, medications for specific symptoms, and psychological therapies.

3. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Crohn’s Disease
Symptoms: Abdominal pain, diarrhea, weight loss, fatigue, inflammation can occur anywhere from mouth to anus.

Causes: Likely involves an abnormal immune response and genetic predisposition.

Management: Medications to control inflammation, surgery in severe cases, and lifestyle changes.

 

Ulcerative Colitis
Symptoms: Diarrhea, rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, weight loss, inflammation is limited to the colon and rectum.

Causes: Complex, involving genetics, immune system abnormalities, and environmental factors.

Management: Medications, lifestyle changes, and surgery in some cases.

 

4. Gallstones

Symptoms: Abdominal pain (biliary colic), nausea, vomiting, inflammation of the gallbladder (cholecystitis).

Causes: The formation of hardened deposits in the gallbladder, often due to the imbalance of substances in bile.

Management: Surgery to remove the gallbladder (cholecystectomy) is the most common treatment.

5. Celiac Disease

Symptoms: Digestive symptoms, as well as fatigue, joint pain, skin rash (dermatitis herpetiformis), triggered by gluten consumption.

Causes: An autoimmune reaction to the protein gluten, found in wheat, barley, and rye, in genetically predisposed individuals.

Management: A lifelong gluten-free diet, which typically leads to symptom resolution.

 

6. Diverticulitis

Symptoms: Abdominal pain, fever, changes in bowel habits, typically on the left side of the lower abdomen.

Causes: Small pouches (diverticula) in the colon can become inflamed or infected.

Management: Mild cases are often treated with antibiotics, while severe cases may require surgery.

7. Gastroenteritis

Symptoms: Diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fever, typically caused by viral or bacterial infections.

Causes: Infection with pathogens like norovirus, rotavirus, or food poisoning.

Management: Rest, hydration, and, in severe cases, medications to control symptoms.

gastrointestinal disorders management - Gastrointestinal Disorders: Symptoms, Causes, and Management

Management Strategies for Gastrointestinal Disorders

 

Managing gastrointestinal disorders often involves a combination of lifestyle modifications, dietary changes, medications, and, in some cases, surgery.

Let’s delve into these management strategies:

Lifestyle Modifications:

 

  1. Dietary Changes: Many GI disorders benefit from dietary modifications. For example, GERD may require avoiding acidic and spicy foods, while IBS patients often find relief with a low-FODMAP diet.
  2. Stress Management: Stress can exacerbate many GI conditions, so stress-reduction techniques like yoga, meditation, and deep breathing exercises are essential.
  3. Regular Exercise: Physical activity can help regulate bowel function, reduce stress, and promote overall well-being.
  4. Sleep Hygiene: Ensuring adequate and restful sleep can have a positive impact on GI health.

Medications:

 

  • Antacids and Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs): These medications are often prescribed for GERD to reduce stomach acid.
  • Anti-Inflammatory Drugs: In cases of IBD, anti-inflammatory drugs like mesalamine or steroids are used to control inflammation.
  • Immunosuppressants: For more severe cases of IBD, immunosuppressive drugs may be prescribed to modulate the immune system’s response.
  • Antispasmodics: These medications help relieve abdominal cramping and pain, which are common in IBS.

gi disorders lifestyle change - Gastrointestinal Disorders: Symptoms, Causes, and Management

 

Surgery:

 

In some cases, surgery is necessary to manage or treat gastrointestinal disorders. For example:

  • Cholecystectomy: Surgical removal of the gallbladder to treat gallstones.
  • Colectomy: In cases of severe ulcerative colitis or diverticulitis, removal of a portion of the colon may be required.
  • Ileostomy or Colostomy: In severe cases of IBD, diverticulitis, or trauma, these procedures involve creating a stoma to allow waste to exit the body, bypassing the affected area. 

The Importance of Early Diagnosis and Medical Guidance

 

Gastrointestinal disorders can significantly impact an individual’s quality of life.

While lifestyle modifications and over-the-counter medications can help manage mild symptoms, early diagnosis and medical guidance are crucial for more severe or persistent conditions.

If you suspect you have a gastrointestinal disorder or are experiencing symptoms like chronic abdominal pain, changes in bowel habits, unexplained weight loss, or persistent discomfort, seek medical evaluation and diagnosis from a healthcare provider.

gi disorders diagnose - Gastrointestinal Disorders: Symptoms, Causes, and Management

What Can I Do to Prevent Digestive Issues?

Preventing digestive issues and promoting gastrointestinal health involves adopting a proactive approach to your diet and lifestyle.

Here are some practical steps you can take to minimize the risk of digestive problems and maintain a healthy gut:

  1. Eat a Balanced Diet:
  • Fiber: Include plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes in your diet to promote regular bowel movements and a healthy gut microbiome.
  • Probiotic-Rich Foods: Incorporate yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and other fermented foods to support the growth of beneficial gut bacteria.
  • Limit Sugar and Processed Foods: Excessive sugar and processed foods can negatively impact the gut. Reducing their consumption can help maintain gut health.
  1. Stay Hydrated:
  • Drinking an adequate amount of water is essential for digestion and the absorption of nutrients. Dehydration can lead to constipation.
  1. Control Portion Sizes:
  • Overeating can lead to discomfort and indigestion. Practice portion control to avoid overloading your digestive system.
  1. Manage Stress:
  • Chronic stress can disrupt digestion. Engage in stress-reduction techniques like meditation, yoga, deep breathing, or mindfulness to maintain a healthy gut-brain connection.
  1. Exercise Regularly:
  • Physical activity helps promote gastrointestinal motility and overall well-being.
  1. Get Adequate Sleep:
  • Quality sleep is essential for gut health and overall physical and mental health.
  1. Limit Alcohol and Avoid Excessive Caffeine:
  • Both alcohol and excessive caffeine can irritate the gastrointestinal lining. Moderation is key.
  1. Avoid Smoking:
  • Smoking can contribute to various digestive problems, including acid reflux and peptic ulcers. Quitting smoking is beneficial for both your overall health and your gut.
  1. Be Mindful of Food Intolerances:
  • If you suspect you have food intolerances, such as lactose intolerance or gluten sensitivity, identify and manage these triggers by adjusting your diet accordingly.

gastrointestinal disorders infographic - Gastrointestinal Disorders: Symptoms, Causes, and Management

 

Contact Dr. Schneider

 

In conclusion, gastrointestinal disorders encompass a wide range of conditions that affect the digestive system, from the mouth to the rectum.

These disorders can cause discomfort, pain, and disruption to daily life.

However, with early diagnosis, proper management, and often simple lifestyle changes, many individuals can effectively manage their gastrointestinal issues and improve their quality of life.

Dr. Schneider is located at the Mill Park Hospital, Parktown, Johannesburg.

Services offered include consultation, and endoscopy procedures, including gastroscopy, colonoscopy and video capsule endoscopy.

 

For more information on the diagnosis and treatment of gluten intolerance in Johannesburg, contact Dr. Schneider or book your consultation today.

DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ CAREFULLY

The information on this website is to provide general guidance. In no way does any of the information provided reflect definitive medical advice and self-diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a Gastroenterologist or medical doctor regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs including, but not limited to: abdominal pain, haemorrhoids or anal / rectal bleeding as it may a sign of a serious illness or condition. A thorough consultation and examination should ALWAYS be performed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to call a physician or call our office today and schedule a consultation.

Common Causes of Abdominal Pains

Common Causes of Abdominal Pains

 Overview

 
There are many potential causes of abdominal pain, and it can be difficult to determine the root cause without further investigation.

However, there are some common causes of abdominal pain that are worth considering.

Abdominal pain is often caused by digestive issues like constipation, gas, or indigestion.

If you’re experiencing pain after eating, it’s possible that you have a food intolerance or are not digesting your food properly.

Abdominal pain can have many causes, some of which are more serious than others. If you are experiencing abdominal pain, it is important to see a doctor to determine the cause.

There are many potential causes of abdominal pain, and often the exact cause can be difficult to determine.

In some cases, abdominal pain may be caused by a simple stomachache or gas, while in other cases it may be a sign of a more serious condition like Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative colitis.

In this article we will discuss some common causes of abdominal pains and when you should consider visiting your doctor for a proper diagnosis.

 

Appendicitis

 

One of the most common causes of abdominal pain is appendicitis.

This occurs when the appendix, a small, tube-like organ attached to the large intestine, becomes inflamed and fills with pus.

Although the appendix doesn’t have a known function, it is believed to be involved in the immune system.

Appendicitis is a serious condition that can be life-threatening if not treated promptly.

A person with appendicitis typically experiences a sudden, sharp pain in the lower-right side of their abdomen.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever

If appendicitis is not treated promptly, it can lead to a ruptured appendix, which can be life-threatening.

There are a few key things to keep in mind when it comes to appendicitis. First, it is important to be aware of the symptoms.

Second, if you think you might have appendicitis, it is important to seek medical attention immediately.

And finally, there are a few ways to diagnose appendicitis, which include a physical examination, imaging tests, and/or a laparoscopic appendectomy.

 appendicitis abdominal causes - Common Causes of Abdominal Pains

 

Constipation

 

If you’re feeling pain in your abdomen, it might be due to constipation.

Constipation is a common digestive problem, and it can be caused by a variety of things, including a lack of fiber in your diet, not drinking enough water, or certain medications.

If you’re constipated, you might experience hard, dry stools; difficulty passing stools; or a feeling of incomplete bowel movements.

There are a few things you can do to ease constipation and abdominal pain.
Try to eat a diet that’s high in fiber, and drink plenty of fluids.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Feeling bloated or full
  • Hard or lumpy stool
  • Abdominal pain 

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to talk to your doctor to rule out any other potential causes and to develop a plan to treat your constipation.

Crohn’s Disease

 

Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease that may affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract from mouth to anus.

It is a chronic condition, meaning it can last for a long time, even a lifetime.

Treatment typically involves the use of medications such as corticosteroids, immunosuppressants, and/or antibiotics, depending on the severity of the disease.

Some people with Crohn’s disease may require surgery to remove a section of the affected bowel.

Crohn’s disease is a serious condition that can often be debilitating, and sometimes even life-threatening.

There is no cure for Crohn’s disease, but there are treatments available that can help to control the symptoms and improve the quality of life for those affected by it.

Symptoms often include: 

  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Intestinal bleeding

There is no one test to diagnose Crohn’s disease. Doctors may use a combination of tests, including blood tests, stool samples, x-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans, and endoscopy, to confirm the diagnosis.

A diagnosis of Crohn’s disease may also be given if a person has a family history of the disease or certain genetic markers that are associated with it.

crohnsdisease symptoms - Common Causes of Abdominal Pains

Diverticulitis

 

 

Diverticulitis is one of the most common causes of abdominal pain. It is a condition in which the diverticulum, or sac-like pouches, in the lining of the intestine become inflamed or infected.

Diverticulitis is caused by a build-up of bacteria in the intestines.

The pain is usually on the left side of the abdomen and can be severe.

It is important to see a doctor if you think you have diverticulitis because it can lead to serious complications such as perforation of the intestine, abscess, or sepsis.

Treatment usually involves antibiotics and rest. Surgery may be necessary in some cases.
Symptoms often include: 

  • Sharp pain in lower abdomen
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Cramping
  • Bloating

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the best way to diagnose diverticulitis may vary depending on the individual’s symptoms and medical history.

However, some common diagnostic methods for diverticulitis include CT scans, colonoscopies, and blood tests.

 

Gallstones

 

One potential cause of abdominal pain is gallstones.

Gallstones are small stones that form in the gallbladder. They are made up of cholesterol, bilirubin, and calcium.

When gallstones block the bile ducts, they can cause pain in the abdomen.

There are several risk factors for developing gallstones. These include being female, being overweight, having a family history of gallstones, and eating a high-fat diet.

If you experience abdominal pain, it is important to see your doctor to rule out gallstones or other potential causes.

Gallstones can usually be treated with surgery to remove the gallbladder.

Symptoms often include: 

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Bloating
  • Belching

If you think you might have gallstones, it’s important to see a doctor for a diagnosis. There are several ways to diagnose gallstones, but the most common is an abdominal ultrasound.
This test is painless and noninvasive, and it can usually give a clear picture of whether or not you have gallstones.

Other tests, such as CT scans or MRIs, may also be used to diagnose gallstones. If you do have gallstones, there are several treatment options available. 

causes abdominal pains - Common Causes of Abdominal Pains

 

Ulcerative Colitis

 

Ulcerative colitis is a form of inflammatory bowel disease that causes long-lasting inflammation and ulcers in the digestive tract.

The exact cause of ulcerative colitis is unknown, but it is thought to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

There is no cure for ulcerative colitis, but treatments are available to manage the symptoms and prevent further damage to the digestive tract.

Symptoms may include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue

The best way to diagnose ulcerative colitis is to see a doctor. They will be able to take your medical history and perform a physical examination.

They may also order tests, such as a blood test or a colonoscopy.

 common causes abdominal pains - Common Causes of Abdominal Pains

When You Should See a Doctor

There are many potential causes of abdominal pain, and it is important to see a doctor to rule out any serious causes.

However, some common causes of abdominal pain include indigestion, gas, constipation, viral infections, and menstrual cramps.

Most cases of abdominal pain are not serious and will resolve on their own.

However, if the pain is severe or persists for more than a few days, it is important to see a doctor to rule out any potentially serious causes.

I hope that this article has given you some useful information on the common causes of abdominal pain.

If you are suffering from abdominal pain, it is important to see a doctor to rule out any serious causes.

Dr. Schneider offer services such as endoscopy procedures, including gastroscopy, colonoscopy and video capsule endoscopy.

For more information on the diagnosis and treatment of IBD in Johannesburg, contact Dr. Schneider or book your consultation today.

DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ CAREFULLY

The information on this website is to provide general guidance. In no way does any of the information provided reflect definitive medical advice and self-diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a Gastroenterologist or medical doctor regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs including, but not limited to: abdominal pain, haemorrhoids or anal / rectal bleeding as it may a sign of a serious illness or condition. A thorough consultation and examination should ALWAYS be performed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to call a physician or call our office today and schedule a consultation.

Constipation – Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and Prevention.

Constipation – Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and Prevention.

 

What is Constipation

 

Constipation is a condition in which a person has difficulty passing stool.

This may cause a person to feel bloated and uncomfortable. There are many possible causes of constipation, including a lack of fiber in the diet, dehydration, and certain medications.

Having less than three bowel movements a week is, technically the definition of constipation.

Constipation is often treated with home remedies, such as increasing fiber intake and drinking plenty of fluids. More severe cases may require medical treatment.

Constipation is a common problem that can be treated at home with lifestyle changes and home remedies.

Other key features that usually define constipation include:

  • Dry / hard stool
  • Painful bowel movement and difficulty passing stool
  • The feeling that you have not fully emptied your bowel

If constipation persists, you should consider seeing a doctor.

In this article we discuss everything about constipation and the prevention and treatment thereof.

What Causes Constipation?

There are many different things that can cause constipation. Some of the more common causes include not eating enough fiber, not drinking enough water, and not getting enough exercise.

Constipation can also be a side effect of certain medications. If you are constipated, it is important to see your doctor to rule out any underlying medical conditions.

There are a few things you can do to help relieve constipation. If you are constipated, your doctor may recommend a stool softener or laxative.

 

Symptoms of Constipation

 

Symptoms can vary from person to person, but the most common symptoms are as follows:

  • The feeling of not having completely emptied your bowel
  • Feeling nauseous
  • Feeling bloated
  • Having stomach cramps
  • Having stomachache
  • Difficulty in passing stools
  • Dry or hard/lumpy stools
  • You have less that 3 bowel movements a week 

 

Diagnosis of Constipation


To diagnose constipation, your doctor will ask about your medical history and your diet.

Your doctor may also do a physical exam. This may include a rectal exam.

If your doctor suspects that another condition is causing your constipation, you may need tests, such as a CT scan or an MRI.

These tests can help find the cause of your constipation.

 

Untitled 900 × 600 px 1 - Constipation – Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and Prevention.

 

Complications of Constipation

If you’re constipated, you may not be able to have a bowel movement.

This can cause stool to build up in your intestines, which can lead to complications such as the following:

  • Hemorrhoids
  • Anal fissures
  • Intestinal blockages.

If you’re constipated for more than a week, you should see a doctor. They may prescribe a laxative or enema to help you relieve constipation.

In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove impacted stool from your intestines.

Constipation can be uncomfortable and even painful. But it’s important to treat it so it doesn’t lead to more serious complications.

 

Finding the Cause of Constipation

Depending on your symptoms, medical history and overall health, your doctor may order several test or procedures to determine what the cause of your constipation is.

 

Lab Testing

Your doctor might order a blood or urine test to see if there are signs of hypothyroidism, diabetes, or anemia.

Stool Testing

A stool sample might be requested to check for signs of infection, cancer, or inflammation.

Imaging Test

CT (computed tomography), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or lower gastrointestinal tract series may be ordered to identify problems that could be the cause of your constipation.

Colonoscopy

A colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy– an internal view of your colon with a scope – may be performed. During this procedure, a small sample of tissue (biopsy) may be taken to test for cancer or other problems, and any found polyps will be removed.

 

How to Treat Constipation

If you’re anything like the average person, you probably don’t think much about your bowel movements.

But when you’re backed up, it’s all you can think about. Constipation is one of the most common gastrointestinal problems, and it’s responsible for some pretty uncomfortable symptoms.

The good news is that there are things you can do to ease the pain and get things moving again.

Here are a few tips for treating constipation:

  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Staying hydrated is key for keeping your digestive system running smoothly.
  • When you’re constipated, aim for six to eight glasses of water a day.
  • Eat more fiber.

 Home Remedies for Constipation

 

Are you suffering from constipation?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. According to the National Institutes of Health, about 4 million Americans suffer from constipation every year.

There are many different home remedies for constipation that can help relieve your symptoms.

Some of the most popular home remedies include:

  • Eat more fiber in your diet
  • Avoid dairy
  • Eat prunes
  • Drink magnesium citrate
  • Eat prebiotic foods
  • Try a FODMAP diet
  • Over-the-counter laxatives
  • Take probiotic supplements

Untitled 900 × 600 px 2 - Constipation – Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and Prevention.

 

Dietary Changes to Consider:

 

If you are constipated, you may want to consider increasing your dietary fiber intake.

There are many high-fiber foods that you can eat to help relieve constipation.

Some of these foods include:

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grain breads and cereals
  • Beans and lentils
  • Nuts and seeds

If you are having trouble getting enough fiber in your diet, you may want to consider taking a fiber supplement.

 

Untitled 900 × 600 px - Constipation – Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and Prevention.

 

 Over-the-counter Treatments for constipation

 

If you’re struggling with constipation, you’re not alone.

There are a number of over-the-counter treatments that can help relieve constipation. The first step is to increase your fluid intake.

This will help to soften your stools and make them easier to pass. Aim for eight glasses of water a day. You can also try adding prune juice or lemon juice to your water.

There are a number of over-the-counter laxatives that can help relieve constipation. These include stool softeners, fiber supplements, and enemas. Be sure to follow the directions on the package.

 

Other Medical Treatments

 

There are a variety of other medical treatments for constipation. If you have tried dietary changes and increased physical activity, and your constipation persists, you may want to talk to your doctor about other options.

One medical treatment for constipation is laxatives. Laxatives work by softening the stool and increasing the frequency of bowel movements.

There are different types of laxatives, and your doctor can help you determine which type is right for you.

Another medical treatment for constipation is enemas. Enemas work by flushing out the rectum and colon with fluid. This can help to soften the stool and make it easier to pass.

 

Prevention of Constipation

 

There are a few things that you can do to help prevent constipation.

First, make sure that you are drinking enough fluids. This will help to keep your stool soft.

Second, eat plenty of high-fiber foods. These will help to add bulk to your stool and make it easier to pass. Following a healthy diet is important if you are already struggling with constipation.

Third, make sure that you are getting enough exercise. This will help to keep your digestive system moving.

Lastly, if you are having trouble going, try using a stool softener or laxative. These can help to make it easier to pass stool.

 Untitled 900 × 600 px 3 - Constipation – Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and Prevention.

 

When To See a Gastroenterologist

There is no definitive answer to the question of when to see a gastroenterologist. However, there are some general guidelines that can help you decide when to seek medical help.

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you should see a gastroenterologist as soon as possible:

  • Persistent nausea or vomiting
    Abdominal pain or cramping
    • Bleeding from the rectum
    • Unexplained weight loss
     

For more information on the diagnosis and treatment of constipation in Johannesburg, contact Dr. Schneider or book your consultation today.

DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ CAREFULLY

The information on this website is to provide general guidance. In no way does any of the information provided reflect definitive medical advice and self-diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a Gastroenterologist or medical doctor regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs including, but not limited to: abdominal pain, haemorrhoids or anal / rectal bleeding as it may a sign of a serious illness or condition. A thorough consultation and examination should ALWAYS be performed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to call a physician or call our office today and schedule a consultation.

[39350 _i=”0″ _address=”2.0.0.0″ /]
Lactose Intolerance: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Lactose Intolerance: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

 What is Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance, or less commonly, milk-alkali syndrome, is the inability to digest lactose.

People with this condition have a problem digesting lactose, the sugar found in dairy products. Lactose intolerance is relatively common. 

This is due to a temporary lack of required lactase as an enzyme needed for digestion of dairy products such as milk and yogurt. 

Common sources include milk products made from cow’s milk; there are lesser-known sources such as goat’s and sheep’s milk. 

Lactose can also be found in larger amounts in processed foods with a longer shelf life such as canned vegetables, sausages, baked goods, and frozen dinners. 

Rarely, lactose can be found in minute amounts in certain other foods including yeast extract (marmite), certain brands of muesli bars, soy, and soybean products like soymilk ice cream (watch out for faux ice cream) vegan animal free dairy alternatives like coconut-based products including rice alternatives that use coconut extract instead of real sugar.

It can sometimes result in stomach pain or nausea, but usually these symptoms won’t be too severe and will go away after eating only small amounts of the offending foods.

The condition affects between 30 and 50 million Americans – or up to 75 percent of all adults worldwide. 

If you have a sensitivity to lactose, then it’s possible that you will have loose or even watery stool after eating foods that contain the sugar such as milk and ice cream. 

It can sometimes result in stomach pain or nausea, but usually these symptoms won’t be too severe and will go away after eating only small amounts of the offending foods. 

 lactose intolerance symptoms - Lactose Intolerance: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

 

Causes of Lactose Intolerance

  
Lactose intolerance is caused by a shortage of lactase, an enzyme produced in the small intestine which helps to break down lactose for easy digestion.

There are two main types of lactose intolerance, and both have different causes: 

Primary Lactose Intolerance

Primary lactose intolerance is an inability of the body to digest lactose.

Lactose is broken down by an enzyme called lactase, which is produced by cells in the small intestine.

If people have primary lactose intolerance, they don’t produce enough of this enzyme to break down the amount of lactose reaching the bowel, causing symptoms such as diarrhoea and cramps.

An absence of lactase doesn’t usually cause any health problems until babies start drinking cows’ milk – a baby will stop producing its own supply by five years old.

However, some adults are born with primary lactose intolerance due to a gene mutation that can be passed from parent to child.

Alternatively it could develop as part of another digestive problem such as Crohn’s or Celiac disease or in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Secondary Lactose Intolerance

Secondary is lactose intolerance (LI) which is caused by an underlying issue, such as surgery, illness, or a virus.

In these cases, the body loses the ability to digest lactose with normal fluid production of the enzyme that breaks down lactose.

Secondary LI can happen at any age and happens most commonly due to damage to the small intestine or following surgery.

Without enough lactase, undigested lactose is unable to pass through into the colon where it is broken down by bacteria, producing toxins and causing discomfort as a result. 

This leads to the illness known as lactose intolerance. 

These cases can result in severe cases of food allergies or symptoms that mimic other diseases like Crohn’s disease.

It should be stressed that not everyone that drinks milk will develop lactose intolerance, but there are several risk factors and causes that can leave people with the condition.

These include:

  • Newborn babies produce little or no lactase and must be introduced slowly in their diets over time to avoid symptoms
  • Being younger when first ingesting lactose in large quantities
  • Being unable to produce the right amount of lactase
  • People over 40 have lower levels of production
  • Some cases can also be caused by injury or surgery on the small intestines
  • Some people are simply born without adequate amounts of lactase for digestion
  • Being unable to produce the right amount of lactase needed for digesting dairy products

For those who can’t tolerate the lactose in dairy products, they should completely avoid it and seek another source of nutrients. 

 lactose intolerance causes - Lactose Intolerance: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

  

Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance

 

 

Symptoms of lactose intolerance can usually start from 30 minutes to two hours after eating or drinking lactose contained foods. 

In such cases, undigested lactose remains in the bowel where it draws water and ferments, leading to unpleasant symptoms such as: 

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach Cramps
  • Bloating
  • Gas 

The symptoms of lactose intolerance vary from person to person and can be mild or severe depending on the amount of lactose you’re able to consume in one sitting. 

Most people are unaware they have a problem with dairy products until they feel symptoms, and once they start avoiding dairy foods, it can take anywhere from four days to two weeks before they feel normal again. 

For others that have a more severe problem and process the enzyme lactase inefficiently, symptoms may occur more quickly after consuming milk or dairy products.
 

Treatment of Lactose Intolerance

 

Awareness of lactose intolerance is increasing at a rapid pace, but many people still don’t know about it or exactly what causes it.

There are many treatment options available for those intolerants to lactose.

The first is to cut out products which contain lactose and if you don’t like doing that, drink Lactase Enzyme Milk with your dairy products.

This reduces symptoms such as bloating and diarrhea.

Now that you know the symptoms of being lactose intolerant, let’s look at some treatment options available: 

  • Limit milk and other dairy products
  • Consume small servings of dairy products in your meals
  • Adding lactase enzyme to milk to break down the lactose
  • Probiotics or prebiotics

lactose intolerance foods to avoid - Lactose Intolerance: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

 

Lactose Intolerant Diet

 

Avoiding dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt can seem difficult for lactose intolerant people.

Many people aren’t aware that there are certain foods that can help to relieve lactose intolerance, in addition to avoiding high lactose-containing foods.
 

Foods to Eat:

  • Fruits: Oranges, Apples, Berries, Peaches, Plums, Grapes, Pineapples
  • Nuts: Almonds, Walnuts, Pistachios, Cashews, Brazil nuts, Hazelnuts
  • Vegetables: Garlic, Kale, Spinach, Arugula, Zucchini, Carrots, Onions
  • Whole Grains: Barley, Buckwheat, Quinoa, Couscous, Wheat, Oats
  • Meat: Beef, Lamb, Pork, Veal
  • Poultry: Chicken, Turkey, Goose, Duck
  • Beverages: Water, Tea, Brewed Coffee, Coconut Water
  • Seafood: Tuna, Mackerel, Salmon, Anchovies, Lobster, Sardines, Clams

 Foods to Avoid:

  • Milk: Cow’s Milk, Goat’s Milk
  • Cheese: Soft Cheeses – Cream Cheese, Cottage Cheese, Mozzarella, Ricotta
  • Butter
  • Yogurt
  • Whipped Cream
  • Sour Cream
  • Buttermilk
  • Ice Cream
  • Frozen Yogurt

However, you must remember to always test dairy items before ingesting them because there continues to be some debate as to whether all people lactose intolerant are sensitive to dairy items. 

Also remember not to eliminate all dairy items at once so as not cause adverse reactions or ‘rebound intolerance’.  

lactose intolerance infographic - Lactose Intolerance: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Summary

 

Being lactose intolerant can be challenging, but it does not necessarily mean that it needs to have a negative effect on your quality of life.

There are however lifestyle and dietary changes which can be implemented, along with the medicinal prescriptions from a doctor, that can alleviate most, if not all, of the suffering experienced by those with lactose intolerance.

At GiDoc JHB, we know digestive problems can affect your quality of life, but it doesn’t have to. 

Dr. Schneider is dedicated to providing compassionate, comprehensive and personalized care for all patients.

For more information contact Dr. Schneider or visit www.gidocjhb.co.za and book your consultation today.

 

DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ CAREFULLY

The information on this website is to provide general guidance. In no way does any of the information provided reflect definitive medical advice and self-diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a Gastroenterologist or medical doctor regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs including, but not limited to: abdominal pain, haemorrhoids or anal / rectal bleeding as it may a sign of a serious illness or condition. A thorough consultation and examination should ALWAYS be performed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to call a physician or call our office today and schedule a consultation.

How to Determine When Your Stomach Pains Mean You Need a Gastroenterologist?

How to Determine When Your Stomach Pains Mean You Need a Gastroenterologist?

If you’re experiencing stomach pain but are unsure whether it is serious enough to see a specialist, read here to learn how to differentiate between ordinary pain and stomach illnesses. It may be time to book an appointment with your specialist.

 

Most of us have experienced an upset stomach from an acute illness, this is most often something that one can self-medicate at home, or even with a visit to your GP if you feel your symptoms need medical assistance.

 

But what should you do if you have stomach pain that occurs frequently or lasts for long periods?

 

If the usual remedies don’t work and the discomfort persists long term, you might find you have an underlying condition that affects your gastrointestinal system. If you do decide to visit your GP as well, they will recommend seeing a gastroenterologist for specialist care.

 

There could be many reasons you should consult a gastroenterologist, also known as a digestion doctor, if you are experiencing discomfort and unusual symptoms.

 

It is a common misconception that a gastroenterologist is just a stomach doctor and deals exclusively with that area of the body, but in fact, these specialists help treat conditions for many different areas of your body.

 

A gastroenterologist can assist with symptoms ranging from the esophagus all the way down to the rectum.

 

This post will explore the various reasons one might need to make an appointment and get an expert opinion to get you feeling right as rain again.

 

 

What Is a Gastroenterologist?

 

 

Most of us don’t have an in-depth understanding of the specialization of a digestion doctor until we are in huge amounts of pain that does not subside the way that some acute illnesses usually would.

This is when we’re forced to seek specialized help from specialists such as a gastroenterologist. 

stomach pains - How to Determine When Your Stomach Pains Mean You Need a Gastroenterologist?

Where Can Stomach Pains Come From?

 

 

When we consider the gastrointestinal system, most people would naturally assume that this is limited to the stomach and intestines.

In reality, gastroenterology involves looking at the normal function and diseases of the entire gastrointestinal tract – including your esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon and rectum, pancreas, gallbladder, bile ducts, and liver.

Issues with any of these parts of the body could cause what appears to be stomach pain and may warrant a visit to a gastroenterologist to confirm a diagnosis and receive treatment.

 

 

Conditions Managed by Gastroenterologists

 

 

Some of the most common ailments that one would visit a gastroenterologists for include the following:

      • Cancer (Gastrointestinal, Liver, Pancreatic, Colorectal)
      • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
      • Celiac Disease
      • Inflammatory Bowel Disease
      • Gallbladder Disease
      • GERD (Heartburn, Acid Reflux)
      • Hemorrhoids (Swollen Veins in the Lowest Part of the Rectum and Anus)
      • Polyps (Abnormal Tissue Growths)
      • Ulcers (Painful Sores in the Stomach Lining)
      • Pancreatitis

Some of the above conditions can become much worse and potentially cause severe long-term complications if one does not get the required medical attention as soon as possible.

Below, we will look at some of the instances where your stomach pain is no longer something that can be cured by a home remedy, but rather requires an appointment with a gastroenterologist.

stomach conditions and when to see gastroenterologist - How to Determine When Your Stomach Pains Mean You Need a Gastroenterologist?

 

Types and Sources of Stomach Pain

 

 

Stomach pain can be a difficult pain to diagnose oneself, because often the pain is not actually located in what the average person calls the stomach area but is in fact more pinpointed to a specific region of the abdominal cavity.

Many vital organs make up this general area, such as the small and large intestines, appendix, kidneys, liver, and gallbladder.

The digestive tract is also found in this general area of the body, along with all the building blocks like muscles, bones, blood vessels, and other structures.

It is clear just from listing these various areas and components that there is a lot more going on in the abdomen than just the stomach, and this is what can make it difficult for you to differentiate between and locate the issue yourself.  

There are, of course, acute ailments that most of us have experienced in the past and at least have an idea of the familiar sensation – something like indigestion, bloating and gas, or constipation.

This pain is passing, doesn’t last for long periods of time, and does not occur repeatedly. These ailments typically present as generalised pain.

 

Stomach Pain That Requires a Gastroenterologist

 

 

Generalised pain is something you should be able to recognise as a separate sensation to abdominal pain, which is localised to a particular region.

If you can feel, for example, that your kidneys are in pain (read here to see where they are located if you are unsure) you can then monitor it accordingly.

If it does not pass in a short amount of time but instead persists, or even worsens, it may indicate that it’s time to see your doctor.

Let’s have a look at some signs which may indicate it is necessary to seek specialised medical assistance.

 

1.    Intense Pain Accompanied by Bloody Diarrhea

 

Intense pain that comes on quickly can be a sign that you are suffering from a foodborne illness, having consumed contaminated food.

This could be a result of food poisoning, Salmonella, or E. Coli. These are generalized pains and are likely something you will have experienced before and will subside within hours.

If the pain is persistent and is accompanied by blood in diarrhoea, you could be experiencing something more serious, possibly ulcerative colitis or another inflammatory bowel disease.

stomach pain and vomiting gastroenterology - How to Determine When Your Stomach Pains Mean You Need a Gastroenterologist?

2. Sudden Pain Paired with Vomiting

 

As with the first sign, this could be as a result of contracting a foodborne illness which would then pass within several hours or days.

Alternatively, you could be experiencing acute gastroenteritis (‘stomach flu’). Gastroenteritis is caused by a bacteria, virus, or parasite and causes inflammation of the intestine lining.

Viral gastroenteritis is very common today and is another instance where home care will suffice, and the pain will not last past a few days.

As such, it’s not essential to see a gastroenterologist but if you are struggling to keep fluids down then a visit to the doctor is needed.

 

3. Intense Stomach Pain in Lower Abdomen

 

If your pain is located in the lower abdomen, this could be something that subsides after a bowel movement, indicating you may be suffering from IBS.

Irritable bowel syndrome can sometimes seem like it’s acute pain and passes quickly but keep track of how often this happens.

It is normal to have occasional constipation, however, if you are experiencing less than three bowel movements a week coupled with intense lower abdomen pain, the issue is more serious.

 

stomach pain in lower abdomin - How to Determine When Your Stomach Pains Mean You Need a Gastroenterologist?

4. Side or Lower Back Pain

 

Experiencing pain in your side or lower back could indicate kidney stones if this abdominal pain is also accompanied by discomfort and pain when urinating.

Kidney stones cause pain due to their sharp crystalline structure which irritates the urinary tract as it passes through.

Some people will find this pain almost unbearable and is uncommon in acute illnesses, making it easier to know that this is a serious instance in which a visit to your gastroenterologist is necessary.

 

 

In conclusion

 

 

It is very unlikely that you have never experienced any form of stomach pain in your life, but most of these cases will have been acute illnesses and short-lived symptoms.

These forms of stomach pain are quite mild and don’t require attention from a medical professional.

If the pain persists for long periods, intensifies over time, or is localized rather than generalised pain then you should aim to seek assistance from your doctor as soon as possible.

 

 

Learn More from the Experts

 

 

GiDoc Johannesburg is here to provide you with expert medical advice in the field of gastroenterology.

Book an appointment online or give us a call at 011 482-3010 to find out more.

 

 

 

DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ CAREFULLY

The information on this website is to provide general guidance. In no way does any of the information provided reflect definitive medical advice and self-diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a Gastroenterologist or medical doctor regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs including, but not limited to: abdominal pain, haemorrhoids or anal / rectal bleeding as it may a sign of a serious illness or condition. A thorough consultation and examination should ALWAYS be performed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to call a physician or call our office today and schedule a consultation.

How Your Digestive System Works

How Your Digestive System Works

GIDOCJHB is dedicated to providing high-quality health care and support for patients with digestive problems.

We are known to be patient-centred and are focused on privacy and value.

When you experience digestive discomfort, we provide relief in the form of advice and other treatment methods.

Dr Schneider has extensive training in diagnosing and treating conditions affecting the oesophagus, stomach, intestines, pancreas, liver, and gallbladder.

We aim to identify the source of symptoms and create a care plan tailored towards treating the problem area.

 

digestive system function - How Your Digestive System Works

What is the Digestive System?

Think of your body like an engine. The human body uses the process of digestion to break down food into a form that can be absorbed and used for fuel.

The organs of the digestive system are the mouth, oesophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver, gallbladder, small intestine, large intestine, and anus.

Understanding how these organs work together to digest food is key to understanding how digestion works.   

 

Why Is Digestion Important?

The digestive system carries out three important purposes: mixing food, moving food through the digestive tract (peristalsis) and using chemicals to break down food into smaller molecules.

In other words, when we eat everyday foods such as vegetables, bread, and meat, they are not in a form that the body can use as nutrients.

Our food and drink must be changed into smaller molecules of nutrients before they can be absorbed into the blood and carried to cells throughout the body for us to focus and live more healthy.

Digestion is the process by which food and drink are broken down into their smallest parts so that the body can use them to give you energy and to repair and grow your body.

 

Schedule An Appointment With Dr Schneider

 

How Does my Digestive Process Work?

digestive system health - How Your Digestive System Works

Each part of your digestive system helps to move food and liquid through your GI tract, break food and liquid into smaller parts, or both.

Digestion begins in the mouth, where food and liquids are taken in.

It ends in the small intestine. Some people assume that it ends in the anus but it is the anus from where the digested food is removed.

The Mouth

Your digestive process begins as you chew food in your mouth. To help you absorb different foods, your saliva helps break down what you’re eating and turn it into chemicals called enzymes.

The Esophagus

Once you’ve swallowed your food it needs to travel down the oesophagus to reach the stomach (which is the pipe that connects your mouth to your stomach.)

This means that food can only travel in a single direction regardless of your body position, so you could even stand on your head while eating and food will continue to move through your oesophagus to your stomach (although this is not recommended).

The Stomach

After food enters your stomach, the stomach muscles mix the food and liquid with digestive juices. The stomach slowly empties its contents, called chyme, into your small intestine.

The Small Intestine

Most nutrients are absorbed in the small intestine, where food is broken down even more by enzymes released from the pancreas and bile from the liver.

Anything left in the small intestine moves into the large intestine, which is also known as the colon.

The Large Intestine (colon)

The bulk of what enters the colon is excess liquid waste matter. It is here that much of the water is re-absorbed, which changes the waste into a soft, solid form known as a stool (faeces).

The colon separates the waste into small segments and pushes them into the lower colon. The lower colon stores this stool until it is moved to the rectum for elimination as faeces.

The Rectum

This is a chamber about 8 inches in length that receive the stool from the colon and holds it until you poop.

It has sensors that send a message to the brain, which then decides whether to release the sphincter muscles, contract the rectum, and expel the faeces.

 

healthy digestive system - How Your Digestive System Works

How to Protect the Digestive System

Your digestive system is uniquely designed to ensure that the food you eat is converted into nutrients that you can then use for energy, growth, and cell repair – in other words, for the essentials you need to live.

Here are a few tips that will help protect your digestive system and help you live a more healthy life:

Be Mindful of Your Diet – eating a good amount of fats, proteins, fibre and vegetables help to move your food through your intestines.

Learn More About the Food You Eat – read the ingredients before you buy food and become better informed about your nutrition.

For example, there are two types of fibre – soluble and insoluble. Both have an important role to play in digestion.

Drink Enough Water – Water helps dissolve fats and soluble fibre and helps food pass through your intestines.

Exercise Frequently – Keeping active is good for your health, and particularly for your digestion

Try to Not Stress Much – stress and anxiety are very damaging to your digestive system. Too much stress can also lead to serious digestive disorders.

 

Frequently Asked Questions About the Digestive System

 

How long does it take for food to travel through my system?

The majority of the trip can take up to 36 hours

Is eating lots of fibre that important?

Yes. Fibre is a component of all plant-based foods, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables and it benefits your digestion and reduces your risk of chronic disease.

How much bowel movements should I have a day to be considered healthy?

The frequency of bowel movements varies from person to person and can be anywhere from three a week to three a day.

Most people will find that they have a regular bowel pattern that works for them.

The digestive system is responsible for breaking down the food. True or False?

True. The digestive system is responsible for getting food into and out of the body.

    DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ CAREFULLY

    The information on this website is to provide general guidance. In no way does any of the information provided reflect definitive medical advice and self-diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a Gastroenterologist or medical doctor regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs including, but not limited to: abdominal pain, haemorrhoids or anal / rectal bleeding as it may a sign of a serious illness or condition. A thorough consultation and examination should ALWAYS be performed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to call a physician or call our office today and schedule a consultation.