Please Heed the Pain of these Diseases

Some digestive problems are easily remedied, without needing professional care. Other conditions are more complex, requiring skillful management and steps to prevent complications.

Here we discuss three disorders warranting medical intervention. One symptom they have in common is cramping abdominal pain. Below is an overview of diverticulitis, celiac disease, and irritable bowel syndrome.

1. HOT POCKETS

medical illustration showing diverticulosis and diverticulitisAfter age 50, it’s common to develop bulging sacs in the lower section of the large intestine or “colon.” These pockets arise in weak areas of the colon wall. Constipation raises internal pressure, forcing lax tissue to balloon outward. These marble-sized pouches are known as “diverticula.” Having multiple pockets is called “diverticulosis.”

Diverticula are vulnerable to tearing, bleeding, infection, and inflammation. Their injured condition is termed “diverticulitis.” Symptoms include pain, diarrhea, fever, vomiting, gas, bloating, and constipation. Typically, the abdominal pain is left-sided.

Causes

Diverticula are more likely in people who skimp on dietary fiber. The risk of diverticulitis increases with:

  • smoking
  • being overweight
  • having a sedentary lifestyle
  • a family history
  • long-term use of ibuprofen, opiates, steroids, and naproxen

Healing

For uncomplicated diverticulitis, the initial therapy is a liquid diet, enabling the colon to rest and heal. If diverticula are infected, our doctors prescribe antibiotics. For pain relief, they may advise acetaminophen. Also helpful is placing a heating pad over the abdomen, set to “low.”

As the colon recovers, low-fiber foods are introduced. Once well tolerated, there’s a gradual increase in fiber, found in beans, grains, fruits, and vegetables. Prompt treatment of diverticulitis staves off complications.

Prevention

Key to avoiding recurrence is maintaining a high-fiber diet. Roughage efficiently moves food through the digestive tract, preventing it from lodging in diverticula and trapping harmful bacteria.

2. GLUTEN DAMAGE

Gluten is a unique type of protein. It enables bread dough to rise, makes it elastic, and imparts chewiness to baked goods. Gluten is present in many grains, such as rye, barley, and wheat.

For a person with celiac disease, gluten triggers an abnormal immune response in the small intestine. Antibodies attack villi, finger-shaped projections lining the intestinal wall, vital for nutrient absorption.

Symptoms

Celiac disease symptomsmedical illustration of celiac disease | Digestive Care Physicians are wide-ranging. Primary among them are abdominal pain, bloating, chronic diarrhea, vomiting, and stools that are pale, fatty, and foul-smelling. Discomfort typically ensues within hours of eating a glutinous food or the following day.

In children, nutrient malabsorption causes weight loss, delayed growth, short stature, fatigue, dental defects, irritability, and behavioral problems. Over time, the disease can lead to bone loss, anemia, migraines, canker sores, skin rash, joint pain, arthritis, depression, and anxiety.

Women may skip their menstrual periods, have infertility problems, or miscarry during pregnancy. Celiac disease can also spawn diabetes and intestinal cancer.

Causes

The disorder tends to run in families, via two specific genes. Viral infection can prompt intestinal changes and the expression of these genes.

Other possible triggers are surgery, bacterial gastroenteritis, and extreme emotional stress. Therefore, it’s possible to tolerate gluten into adulthood and suddenly develop celiac disease. In women, involved genes may be activated by pregnancy and childbirth.

Management

Staying clear of gluten enables villi to heal and symptoms to abate. To avoid the protein, you must be a label detective. Gluten can be present in soups, sauces, salad dressings, food colorings, thickeners, and flavorings!

In addition to wheat, barley, and rye, gluten exists in the following popular grain products – semolina, durum, enriched white flour, farina, couscous, orzo, panko, self-rising flour, and matzo. While oats don’t contain gluten, they can be contaminated by equipment used to process glutinous foods.

Gluten can also be employed as a binding agent in prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines. Therefore, it’s crucial to clear medications with a pharmacist before taking them, to ensure they’re gluten-free. Regarding supplements, skip those that state “wheat” on the label. Here’s the comprehensive array of products people with celiac disease must avoid.

Note that if the disorder isn’t diagnosed and treated, it can spark other autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis. Here are further possible complications.

Gluten-Free Diet

At this point, you may question, “What’s safe to eat for someone with celiac disease?” Foods with the green light are fruits, nuts, legumes, vegetables, and dairy. Satisfying gluten-free grains include millet, amaranth, and wild rice. Here are other tasty options on a celiac disease diet.

You can also buy foods labeled gluten-free. Such products must adhere to the Food and Drug Administration ruling of having less than 20 parts per million of gluten.

3. SKITTISH COLON

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)medical illustration showing Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) results from having a sensitive colon. Unlike diverticulitis and celiac disease, IBS isn’t a structural problem.

Flare-ups vary in how they manifest. Most commonly, they include bloating, gas, mucus in stool, and cramping abdominal pain. There may be vacillating bouts of diarrhea and constipation. Frequently, pain is relieved by having a bowel movement.

Causes

Multiple factors play a role in developing the disorder. Since 70 percent of people with IBS are women, hormones appear to be involved. For many women, symptoms worsen during menstrual periods and pregnancy.

Another possible cause is uncoordinated nerve signals between the brain and colon. Genes may be contributory, along with certain foods. Above all, IBS is provoked by stress and bacterial imbalance.

Management

To control spasms, diarrhea, and pain, our doctors can prescribe medication. To moderate constipation, they may suggest laxatives or fiber supplements.

Are you familiar with probiotics? These friendly bacteria live in your large intestine, aiding digestion and curbing harmful germs. Amazingly, they also build emotional equilibrium!

In a 2015 study, men daily taking a probiotic had lower blood levels of cortisol, a hormone generated by stress. The men also reported less anxiety. The research was conducted at University College Cork, Ireland.

With IBS, probiotic levels are often compromised. Our doctors may recommend a supplement to boost colonization and restore bacterial balance.

To counter strife, use relaxation techniques, such as yoga, meditation, and aromatherapy. A 2015 study reported in PLOS One found that relaxation techniques suppress IBS symptoms, along with the genes that govern inflammation and stress responses.

Exercise also eases tension, especially types that connect you with nature, like gardening, biking, and hiking. With professional counseling, you can learn coping skills to manage challenges. Essential for weathering stress is getting sound sleep.

Dietary Changes

In many cases, symptoms are tamed by avoiding specific foods. If dairy is problematic, a lactase enzyme tablet before consumption can help, addressing lactose intolerance. Also, try low-fat or non-fat versions of dairy foods. If these strategies don’t help, consider omitting milk products while supplementing with calcium.

Definitely nix caffeinated drinks, sugar-free products, fried foods, processed fare, and alcohol. You may want to avoid chocolate, due to the caffeine and sugar it contains. If diarrhea worsens after ingesting gluten, eliminate it from your diet.

You’ll likely reduce cramps, bloating, and gas by avoiding beans, garlic, cabbage, onions, broccoli, and cauliflower. Additionally, our doctors may suggest a low-FODMAP diet, omitting hard-to-digest carbs and sugar alcohols.

INTESTINAL S.O.S.

Abdominal pain is your body’s distress signal. Please don’t ignore it. Promptly call Digestive Care Physicians, and make an appointment. A board-certified gastroenterologist will find the source of discomfort and work to relieve it. Additionally, our staff dietician can guide your food choices.

YOUR ALLY

For your convenience, we have four offices, in Cumming, Lawrenceville, Alpharetta, and Johns Creek. Serving greater Atlanta, we care for patients from Canton, Milton, Roswell, Marietta, Duluth, Sandy Springs, Suwanee, and surrounding cities. Our phone number is (770) 227-2222.

Our doctors excel in resolving abdominal pain. Relief is at hand!

Note – The information shared here cannot replace professional diagnosis and treatment. For any digestive complaints, see a skilled and caring gastroenterologist at Digestive Care Physicians.

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