From Heartburn to Hemorrhoids: Understanding Common Digestive Disorders

Pune (Maharashtra) [India], August 8: The human digestive system is a complex and essential part of our bodies, responsible for processing food and absorbing nutrients to sustain life. Unfortunately, digestive disorders are prevalent and can affect individuals of all ages and lifestyles.  From heartburn and irritable bowel syndrome to constipation and hemorrhoids, everyone has had to deal with digestive ailments in some way or the other. 

Let’s delve into some of the most common digestive disorders:

Heartburn: Heartburn is a common digestive disorder, an uncomfortable burning sensation that usually occurs after meals, and is caused by stomach acid regurgitation from the stomach to the esophagus. This causes inflammation of the esophagus and can worsen if left untreated. Symptoms include burning in the chest, a sour taste in the mouth, and indigestion. Heartburn is usually manageable with over-the-counter medications such as antacids or proton pump inhibitors, along with lifestyle modifications such as avoiding large meals and not lying down after eating can help reduce the severity of heartburn. 

Dr. Sanjay Salunkhe, Consulting Gastroenterologist, Jehangir Hospital, says “Digestive problems are becoming increasingly common among citizens of all ages in India. These disorders can range from minor and temporary discomfort to severe, long-term conditions that can require medication and even surgery. We face multiple cases of digestive disorders at our hospital, some of which are very critical so it is advisable for people facing common symptoms or minor discomforts to get it diagnosed and treated timely to avoid unnecessary complications. For those experiencing severe symptoms, consulting with a gastroenterologist is recommended for receiving an accurate diagnosis and finding the best course of treatment.”

Hemorrhoids: Hemorrhoids, or piles, are swollen or inflamed veins in the rectum and anus that can cause discomfort. In fact, the prevalence of hemorrhoids in India can be as high as 35%. This is due to many factors, including dietary factors such as increased consumption of spices, condiments, and fried foods, lifestyle factors like lack of exercise and a sedentary lifestyle, and certain medical issues such as Chronic Liver Disease, Hyperthyroidism, and Diabetes. Treatment includes the use of creams and ointments to provide symptom relief, as well as lifestyle changes to reduce pressure and strain on the rectal area. A balanced, nutritious diet high in fiber can help to reduce straining and pressure and to improve symptoms. For more severe cases, sclerotherapy or surgery may be recommended. 

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease: Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is a more serious form of heartburn, and can cause persistent pain regardless of the individual’s diet or lifestyle. GERD is caused by the continual escape of stomach acids upwards through the esophageal sphincter and can cause complications such as heartburn, esophageal stricture, or even cancer in severe cases. Medical intervention is generally recommended for sufferers of GERD, as the condition can be managed and the symptoms reduced with treatment. In terms of treatment, antacids, proton pump inhibitors, and H2 blockers are all used to reduce acid. There are several strategies that can help prevent GERD, such as avoiding certain foods and drinks, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, etc. 

“Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease is the most common digestive disorder with some estimates indicating that 60 to 80 percent of elderly persons suffer from GERD in India. Specialists at Jehangir Hospital suggest various treatments as per the severity of the disorder, such as lifestyle modifications, proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), antacids and alginates, and prokinetics. Surgery may also be recommended in severe cases. This can involve repairing a hiatal hernia or reconstructing the esophagus to create a tighter barrier between it and the stomach, or performing a LINX procedure to place a device in the stomach to strengthen the lower esophageal sphincter.” adds Dr. Sanjay Salunkhe.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), is characterized by cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, and changes to bowel habits. Stress and anxiety lead to an imbalance of hormones and neurotransmitters and can induce abnormal intestinal movements. As a result, food gets digested too quickly or too slowly, resulting in symptoms like diarrhoea, constipation, abdominal cramps, flatulence, pain in the abdominal area, and/or spasm and bloating. This could eventually lead to a decrease in the quality of life. Treatment includes dietary changes, stress management, medications, and supplements. 

Crohn’s Disease: Crohn’s Disease (CD) is a debilitating gastrointestinal disorder estimated to affect up to five million people worldwide. Crohn’s Disease has a wide range of symptoms including mild inflammation to severe pain and cramping. Other common symptoms include weight loss, fatigue, joint pain, bloody stool, anemia, fever, and night sweats. In some cases, the disease can affect the entire intestines, causing obstruction, which can be painful and very dangerous. anti-inflammatory medications are used to reduce pain and inflammation, while antibiotics may be prescribed to treat any associated infections. Diet modifications can help to reduce the severity of symptoms by reducing the number of potentially irritating foods.

Digestive disorders can be annoying and uncomfortable, but almost all of them are treatable and manageable with lifestyle changes and medications. Being aware of how these ailments work and their triggers is vital in order to deal with them and prevent them. There is always medical help available and it is an ideal way to speak to a doctor or a dietitian if symptoms persist or worsen.