Like other body systems, the digestive system is also prone to a wide variety of diseases and disorders. The severity of these conditions may vary from mild to severe.
What are the various components of the digestive system?
The digestive system begins from the mouth and terminates in the anus. After the mouth, the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and rectum are connected in series.
The tongue, salivary glands, liver, gall bladder, and pancreas are the accessory organs of the digestive system.
What causes diseases in the digestive system?
The common causes of digestive diseases are
- Infection, e.g., bacterial or viral infection.
- Difficulty in digesting specific food items due to enzyme insufficiency. E.g., lactase deficiency
- Poor circulation to the digestive organs
- Perforated or ruptured organs
- Muscle dysfunction
- Side effects of certain medicines such as anti-inflammatory drugs.
What are the signs and symptoms of digestive diseases?
Common signs and symptoms related to gastrointestinal disorders are:-
- Discomfort, bloating, cramps, or pain in the abdomen.
- Unintended weight loss
- Vomiting with or without nausea
- Gastrointestinal reflux disease
- Constipation or diarrhea or at times both alternating
- Incontinence of feces
- Unexplained tiredness
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty in swallowing food or drinks
Various digestive tract disorders may have one or more of these above-mentioned signs and symptoms.
What are the six common diseases related to the digestive system?
The 6 common diseases related to the digestive system are:-
1. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease or GERD
The food from the mouth goes down into the stomach through the esophagus. The lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is a ring of muscles that connects the esophagus and the stomach. If this sphincter is weak the gastric juices can leak and go up into the esophagus. This leads to heartburn. If this acid reflux or heartburn happens more than a couple of times a week, it is diagnosed as GERD. Over time this can seriously harm the esophagus.
2. IBS or Irritable Bowel Disease
It is a common digestive tract disease. The cause of IBS is not clear. However, abdominal pain that happens at least three times a month for three months in a row, diarrhea, or constipation is the common symptom of IBS.
3. Gastritis and peptic ulcer disease (PUD)
Gastritis refers to inflammation of the stomach lining. PUD refers to an open sore in the stomach lining or lining of the upper part of the small intestine. Both these conditions are commonly caused by H.pylori bacterial infection and NSAIDs. Both these conditions have similar symptoms such as nausea and stomach pain.
4. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are IBD types. They are autoimmune diseases caused due to abnormal reactions of the immune system. As a result, there is irritation and swelling in the digestive tract. The end of the small intestine and the beginning of the colon are common sites affected in Crohn’s disease. The colon and rectum are affected by Ulcerative colitis. Pain abdomen, fever, loss of appetite, weight loss, and diarrhoea are the common symptoms of IBD.
It refers to the swollen and painful blood vessels in the anal canal. Itching, pain, and bleeding of bright red blood after passing stools are common symptoms. Constipation and pregnancy are the leading causes of piles. Constipation refers to having less than three bowel movements in a week. Adding more fibre to the diet, taking plenty of water and adequate exercise help to avoid constipation and hence haemorrhoids.
The gall bladder is attached to the intestine. It stores bile synthesized by the liver. This bile can produce small and hard deposits known as gallstones. At times gall stones don’t cause any symptoms and go away on their own. At other times they may cause symptoms such as severe pain abdomen, nausea, vomiting and fever due to infection.
What are the tools available for the diagnosis of digestive system diseases?
The tools to diagnose digestive system disorders are:-
- Lab tests
- Imaging tests such as
– Barium meal test for upper GI
– Barium enema for the lower GI
– CAT scan or Computed Axial Tomography
– MRI or Magnetic Resonance Imaging
– MRCP or Magnetic Resonance Cholangiopancreatography for viewing the bile ducts
– Ultrasound- To view various internal organs and their blood flow.
- Endoscopic procedures
What are the management tips for diseases related to the digestive system?
Some tips for managing digestive problems are:-
- Try and find the digestive triggers- Find out the triggers of indigestion. Common triggers are milk, carbonated drinks and coffee. Travel, Menstrual hormones or stress can also trigger indigestion. For this maintain a journal of what one eats or drinks.
- Eat a healthy and balanced diet
- Add more fibre to your diet
- Eat frequent and small meals
- Take plenty of water.
- Practice healthy hygiene
- Avoid excessive alcohol intake
- Avoid smoking
- Practice stress relaxation techniques.
What is the treatment available for digestive system disorders?
Conventional medicine provides only temporary and symptomatic relief in various digestive system diseases. This makes the person dependent on such medications for the rest of their lives. Prolonged use of such medicines leads to various side effects. On the other hand, the Homeopathic system of medicine provides safe and effective treatment for various digestive diseases. Homeopathic constitutional medicine is the best medicine to treat such digestive diseases. Other common homeopathic medicines for indigestion are:-
- ANTIMONIUM CRUDUM: It is used to treat digestive disorders arising from overeating especially fats, acids and fruits. The tongue in such patients is very thickly coated white.
- CARBO VEGETABILIS: In this, the cause or aggravation of digestive disorder is mainly due to consuming, spoiled meat, fish, fats or medications such as quinine. There is excessive flatulence with highly offensive stools. The patient is better by eructation and constant fanning.
- LYCOPODIUM CLAVATUM: It is suitable when there is associated flatulence and aggravation of symptoms from 4-8 pm. There is great bloating of the abdomen from eating the least amount of food.
- NUX VOMICA: It is best to treat digestive diseases that arise from taking spicy food, and stimulants such as coffee and alcohol. This medicine can also treat indigestion due to painkillers and antibiotic use. The patient complains of frequent and ineffectual urge for stools with various other symptoms.
- PULSATILLA : It is suited to treat digestive diseases that arise or aggravate from consuming fatty food such as ghee, butter, ice cream, etc. The patient as a person is thirstless.
The integrity of the digestive system is very essential to maintaining good health. The various organs of digestion are prone to various diseases. Infection viral or bacterial, enzyme deficiency, lack of hygiene, unhealthy diet, certain medications such as antibiotics and painkillers, stress, and excessive alcohol consumption or smoking are common factors that lead to digestive diseases.
GERD, Irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, haemorrhoids, gallstones, and peptic ulcer disease are common digestive system diseases. Lab tests, endoscopy, and imaging tests such as CT, MRI, and MRCP are common diagnostic tools for digestive disorders.
Identifying one’s own trigger of digestive symptoms, having a fibre-rich diet, taking plenty of water, observing hygiene practices, adequate exercise, and practising mind relaxation techniques are essential to managing these digestive troubles. For the treatment of digestive problems, homeopathy provides a safe and effective solution.