DIGESTIVE HEALTH

Welcome to the newest part of the health guru website which will cover digestive diseases from A to Z. This section will provide an overview of some of the more common digestive disorders, and will also provide a reference source if you need more detailed information.

Some of the more common disorder covered including acid reflux disease, coeliac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

REFLUX DISEASE

Acid reflux complaints are an extremely common problem with around 1 in 5 people suffering heartburn at least once a week. There is a significant burden to the healthcare system as well as an impact in quality of life for many people. Reflux disease occurs when stomach contents reflux into the lower oesophagus which typically causes heartburn. The main reason for reflux is thought to be due to transient relaxation of the lower oesophageal sphincter (LOS) which is often triggered by foods. Controlling reflux disease is mostly through diet and lifestyle measures, although occasionally medications will be required. There are some features of reflux disease which require medical assessment, and sometimes upper endoscopy is performed for further testing.

 

COELIAC DISEASE

Coeliac disease is a common condition where gluten causes damage to the small intestine which can lead to many digestive complaints, nutritional deficiencies and increased risk of small bowel cancer. Although there are no current medical treatments for coeliac disease, life long gluten free diet can effectively control coeliac disease. Typical symptoms include bloating, diarrhoea and weight loss, however many people with coeliac disease have mild non-specific symptoms and there are also many cases of silent coeliac disease. Diagnosis can be made on the basis of blood tests and should always be confirmed with small bowel biopsy which is taken at the time of endoscopy.

 

IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a condition characterised by abdominal pain which is associated with abnormal bowel habit. The diagnosis of IBS needs to be made my a doctor, as there are many other medical conditions which mimic IBS but require completely different treatment. Testing of the digestive tract is normal in people with IBS and is sometimes done to exclude more serious conditions such as coeliac disease, inflammatory bowel disease and colon cancer. IBS is predominantly managed by diet and lifestyle measures, although sometimes medications are also required. There has been particular interest in following a low FODMAP diet, and this is particularly effective in reducing bloating and excessive wind.

 

INFLAMMATORY BOWEL DISEASE

Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are the main types of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). There is no known reason for developing IBD, although there seems to be a genetic disposition and environmental factors such as bacteria may play a role in the development of IBD. Abdominal pain, diarrhoea and rectal bleeding are common features of IBD, and weight loss and fevers tend to indicate more severe disease. Early referral to a gastroenterologist is required, and further testing with colonoscopy and biopsy is required to make the diagnosis. Although diet is important in a general sense, IBD generally requires medications to control the disease. IBD is a chronic condition which generally require long term medications to achieve effective control and to keep the bowel healthy.