Gastrointestinal Disorders

Gastrointestinal disorders is the term used to refer to any condition or disease that occurs within the gastrointestinal tract. The gastrointestinal tract (also called the GI tract) is a series of hollow organs that form a long continuous passage from our mouth to our anus. The organs that make up our gastrointestinal tract are our mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and anus.  A number of different conditions or diseases can affect the gastrointestinal tract and have an impact on digestion and/or our overall health. Some conditions have similar symptoms, and further medical investigations may be required before a doctor arrives at a diagnosis. Gastrointestinal disorders include such conditions as constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, hemorrhoids, anal fissures, perianal abscesses, anal fistulas, perianal infections, diverticular diseases, colitis, colon polyps and cancer. Many of these can be prevented or minimized by maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

What are Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders?

A functional gastrointestinal disorder comprises symptoms arising in the mid or lower gastrointestinal tract that are not attributable to anatomic or biochemical defects. The symptoms include abdominal pain, early satiety, nausea, bloating, distention and various symptoms of disordered defecation. The 3 most common functional bowel disorders are irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), constipation and functional dyspepsia.

Many factors may upset the Gastrointestinal tract and its motility (or ability to keep moving) including:

  • Eating a diet low in fiber.
  • Not enough exercise.
  • Traveling or other changes in routine.
  • Eating large amounts of dairy products.
  • Stress.
  • Resisting the urge to have a bowel movement.
  • Resisting the urge to have bowel movements due to pain from hemorrhoids.
  • Overusing laxatives (stool softeners) that over time weaken the bowel muscles.
  • Taking antacid medicines containing calcium or aluminum.
  • Taking certain medicines (especially antidepressants, iron pills and strong pain medicines such as narcotics).
  • Pregnancy.

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