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Digestive disorders

Digestive disorders range from the occasional upset stomach, heartburn and nausea to the more serious and life-threatening colorectal cancer. These disorders encompass the gastrointestinal tract as well as the liver, gallbladder and pancreas. Most digestive disorders and diseases are complex, with subtle symptoms, and the causes of many remain unknown. Some may be genetic or develop from multiple factors such as stress, fatigue, diet or smoking. Alcohol abuse also poses a risk for digestive disorders.

The human digestive system is a complex series of organs and glands that processes food. In order to use the food we eat, our body has to break the food down into smaller molecules that it can process; it also has to excrete waste. Most of the digestive organs (like the stomach and intestines) are tube-like and contain the food as it makes its way through the body. The digestive system is essentially a long, twisting tube that runs from the mouth to the anus, plus a few other organs (like the liver and pancreas) that produce or store digestive chemicals.

The digestive system includes the digestive tract and its accessory organs, which process food into molecules that can be absorbed and utilized by the cells of the body. Food is broken down, bit by bit, until the molecules are small enough to be absorbed and the waste products are eliminated. The digestive tract, also called the alimentary

canal or gastrointestinal (GI) tract, consists of a long continuous tube that extends from the mouth to the anus. It includes the mouth, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine. The tongue and teeth are accessory structures located in the mouth. The salivary glands, liver, gallbladder, and pancreas are major accessory organs that have a role in digestion. These organs secrete fluids into the digestive tract.

Digestion begins in the mouth when food is chewed and starch is broken down by ptyalin, an enzyme secreted in saliva. Food then enters the stomach, where it is reduced to tiny particles and further transformed by gastric juices. The solid portion remains in the stomach for one to six hours until it liquefies completely; liquid passes into the duodenum (small intestine), where numerous enzymes produced by the pancreas, along with bile from the liver, break it down further for absorption. When it finally arrives in the large intestine, all nutritional value has been spent, and the only remaining process is the removal of water before final elimination.

There are many disorders and diseases of the digestive system. Some, like gastroesophageal reflux disease, ulcers, and hiatal hernias can cause heartburn. Others may not heartburn as a symptoms, but because some people who have one of the above mentioned conditions also have other disorders of the digestive system, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), information is provided for these also. Digestive disorders causes include toxic chemicals from pesticides and other contaminates in food, blockage or damage in the intestinal track or an obstruction in the bile duct which interfere with the passage of bile salts or prevents the pancreas to produce the enzymes for digestion and absorption. Digestive disorders can also be caused from antibiotics, drug medications, synthetic chemicals and processed food.

Digestive disorders cause autoimmune disorders like allergic reactions, arthritis, bacterial, parasite and viral infection, diabetes, tumors and other health related conditions. Symptoms of digestive disorders and malnutrition are abdominal pain, anemia, bad vision, constipation, depression, diarrhea, dry skin, fatigue, gas, hair loss, heartburn, loss of concentration, low energy, muscle cramps, physical problems, premenstrual syndrome, rectal bleeding, weakness, weight loss or obesity in some. Every vitamin and mineral along with all the other essential nutrients will have different effects from each deficiency.

People suffering from digestive disorders or malnutrition are less likely to detoxify and eliminate the various toxins in the intestines and the rest without proper nutrition. Many toxins the liver deals with originate in the gastrointestinal tract. Our ability to remove these toxins is dependent upon proper function of the liver and enzymes for excreting the toxins. The detoxification and healing process improves by taking the right balance of nutrients.


Common digestive disorders

Diverticular disease - Diverticular disease is a condition in which small pouches, called diverticula, develop in the wall of the colon, or large intestine. The pouches develop at weak spots in the wall of the colon. These weak spots occur because of excess pressure in the colon, or existing weakness in the colon wall, that eventually bulge out to form pouches. High pressure inside the intestine may cause these outpouchings (called diverticula) to develop in areas of weakness within the wall of the colon. The development of these pouches is called diverticulosis.
Inflammatory bowel diseases - Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a chronic disorder that causes an inflamed and swollen digestive tract or intestinal wall. When the digestive tract becomes inflamed or swollen with IBD, sores (ulcers) form and bleed. This in turn, can cause abdominal pain, watery diarrhea, blood in the stool, fatigue, reduced appetite, weight loss, or fever. The two most common forms of IBD are ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn's disease (CD). A healthy digestive system removes nutrients from food so they can be absorbed into the bloodstream. It then stores the unwanted waste until it passes out of the body.
Malabsorption - Malabsorption is a broad term used to describe the inability to absorb nutrients through the gut lining into the bloodstream. The impaired absorption by the intestines of nutrients from food. Malabsorption is not a disease by itself, but rather the result of some other condition that is present. The small intestine (also called the small bowel) is typically involved in malabsorption, since the majority of nutrients are absorbed there. Malabsorption may affect one or more of the many nutrients present in the diet, including protein, fat, carbohydrate, vitamins, and minerals.
Gastroenteritis - Gastroenteritis is a catchall term for infection or irritation of the digestive tract, particularly the stomach and intestine. It is frequently referred to as the stomach or intestinal flu, although the influenza virus is not associated with this illness. Major symptoms include nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps. These symptoms are sometimes also accompanied by fever and overall weakness. Gastroenteritis typically lasts about three days. Adults usually recover without problem, but children, the elderly, and anyone with an underlying disease are more vulnerable to complications such as dehydration.
Pancreatitis - Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas that may occur as an acute, painful attack, or may be a chronic condition developing gradually over time. It is caused when pancreatic enzyme secretions build up and begin to digest the organ itself. Another term for this condition is auto digestion, which occurs when, for some unknown reason, the pancreas' powerful enzymes are activated in the pancreas itself rather than in the duodenum. It is believed that trypsin sets off a domino effect, activating other enzymes to speed the auto digestive process.
Constipation - Constipation refers to infrequent or hard stools, or difficulty passing stools. More specifically, constipation may involve pain during the passage of a bowel movement, the inability to pass a bowel movement after straining or pushing for more than 10 minutes, or no bowel movements after more than 3 days. Constipation is the passage of small amounts of hard, dry bowel movements, usually fewer than three times a week. People who are constipated may find having a bowel movement difficult and painful.
Irritable bowel syndrome - Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common intestinal condition characterized by abdominal pain and cramps; changes in bowel movements (diarrhea, constipation, or both); gassiness; bloating; nausea; and other symptoms. There is no cure for IBS. Much about the condition remains unknown or poorly understood; however, dietary changes, drugs, and psychological treatment are often able to eliminate or substantially reduce its symptoms.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease - Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD, or GORD) is injury to the esophagus that develops from chronic exposure of the esophagus to acid coming up from the stomach (reflux). In contrast, heartburn is the symptom of acid in the esophagus, characterized by a burning discomfort behind the breastbone (sternum). Findings in GERD include esophagitis (reflux esophagitis) - inflammatory changes in the esophageal lining (mucosa), strictures, difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) and chronic chest pain.
Hepatitis - Hepatitis is the inflammation of the liver, resulting in liver cell damage and destruction. Hepatitis is the Latin word for liver inflammation. It is characterised by the destruction of a number of liver cells and the presence of inflammatory cells in the liver tissue. Hepatitis can be caused by diseases that primarily attack the liver cells. It can also arise as a result of a disease such as mononucleosis. Most cases of hepatitis are caused by viruses that infect liver cells and begin replicating. They are defined by the letters A through G: Hepatitis A, B, and C are the most common viral forms of hepatitis.
Digestive health Mainpage

Topics in digestive disorders

Signs and symptoms of digestive diseases
Anal and rectal disorders
Diverticular disease
Inflammatory bowel diseases
Peptic disorders (Stomach disease)
Emergencies of digestive system
Liver diseases
Irritable bowel syndrome
Diagnostic tests for digestive disorders

Featured articles

Crohn's disease
Ulcerative colitis
Peptic ulcer
Gastroesophageal reflux disease
Hepatitis A
Hepatitis B
Hepatitis C
Liver transplant
Colon cancer
Stomach cancer
Colorectal cancer (bowel cancer)

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