According to a Centers for Disease Control (CDC), around 8 million Americans visited the emergency room with digestive problems in 2016. Nearly three times that many visited their primary care doctor with similar complaints. This post looks at common digestive problems and how to avoid them.
How Does the Digestive System Work?
The digestive system, also called the GI (gastrointestinal) tract, is composed of the stomach, large and small intestines, and the esophagus. It is through this system that your body digests food, absorbs nutrients, and transports them to each of the body’s cells.
However, certain conditions can cause turmoil in the proper working of this system, causing painful and uncomfortable digestive problems.
Most symptoms of digestive issues are easily resolved with proper care. However, more severe issues need prompt medical intervention to prevent the situation from getting worse.
Here are a few commonly experienced digestive problems and how to prevent them.
Heartburn is characterized by a burning feeling in chest, typically shortly after eating. While heartburn can be effectively managed with the help of over-the-counter antacids, consult a doctor if heartburn is accompanied by weight loss, vomiting, or problems swallowing.
You can counter heartburn by following lifestyle changes prescribed by your doctor. Some of these changes may include:
- Having dinner at least 3 hours before going to bed
- Eating 3–4 small meals throughout the day as opposed to large meals.
- Maintaining a healthy body weight
- Avoiding smoking, which can aggravate heartburn
Irritable Bowel Syndrome, aka IBS
According to the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders, IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome, is the most prevalent GI disorder, accounting for 2.4–3.5 million physician visits annually in the US.
Symptoms of IBS include loose stools, bloating, and gas. The condition can result in weight loss and bloody stools in severe cases.
IBS can be caused by food intolerances or bacterial overgrowth in the GI tract. To counter this, probiotic supplements are recommended. However, consult your physician for the effective management of IBS.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
The muscles that connect your esophagus and stomach can become weak and cause acid reflux. Persistent acid reflux and heartburn indicate GERD, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease.
GERD is a common digestive issue that affects 20% of people in America than can result in extreme epigastric pain and discomfort. However, if you experience weight loss and loss of appetite in addition to GERD, consult your doctor soon.
GERD can be managed with certain lifestyle changes including:
- Eating frequent and small meals
- Taking acid blockers before eating
- Avoiding oily and spicy foods
Gastroenteritis—more commonly known as stomach flu—occurs when the stomach or small intestine become infected. Symptoms of stomach flu include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps and pain.
The norovirus and rotavirus are common causes of stomach flu.
Stomach flu can cause severe dehydration because of excessive vomiting and diarrhea. Make sure to up your fluids intake if you experience stomach flu.
Stomach Flu Prevention
The following tips help prevent viral gastroenteritis:
- Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, particularly before preparing food and after using the restroom
- Do not share utensils and plates with someone who is sick
- Do not eat foods that are raw or undercooked
- Thoroughly wash fruits and vegetables
For effective management and treatment of digestive issues, reach out to us.
At Stripes Urgent Care, we offer urgent care services for digestive problems and abdominal pain in Gold Canyon, AZ. You can contact us today to make an appointment.