When you swallow, food travels down your esophagus, passes the lower esophageal sphincter, and enters your stomach. Your stomach has three jobs:
- temporary storage of food and liquid
- production of digestive juices
- emptying the mixture into your small intestine
How long this process takes depends on the foods you eat and how well your stomach muscles function. Certain foods, like carbohydrates, pass through quickly, while proteins remain longer. Fats take the most time to process.The digestive system made up of the gastrointestinal tract (GI), liver, pancreas, and gallbladder helps the body digest food. Digestion is important for breaking down food into nutrients, which your body uses for energy, growth, and cell repair.
Some digestive diseases and conditions are acute, lasting only a short time, while others are chronic, or long-lasting.
There’s no need to suffer in silence. Here’s a top-to-bottom look at nine of the most prevalent digestive conditions, their symptoms, and the most effective treatments available. If you suspect you could have one of these issues, don’t delay in speaking with your doctor.
- Gastro-esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) : If you have heartburn or acid reflux more than a couple of times a week, you may have GERD. This can cause serious damage to your esophagus over time. You can treat GERD with lifestyle changes, such as changing what and when you eat, and eating smaller meals. Antacids or prescription-strength acid blockers can also help .
- Peptic Ulcer Disease (PUD) and Gastritis : PUD is an open sore in the lining of the stomach or upper part of the small intestine. Gastritis is inflammation of the stomach lining. These two conditions have similar symptoms, including stomach pain and nausea, and similar causes. A bacterial infection— H. pylori—is the most common cause of PUD and often causes chronic gastritis. Antacids and proton pump inhibitors often help. Antibiotics treat H.pylori infection.
- Stomach Flu : Stomach flu—or gastroenteritis—is an infection of the stomach and upper part of the small intestine. Common symptoms are diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, and cramps. Gastroentitis often clears up on its own, but you lose fluids through diarrhea and vomiting. Prevent dehydration by drinking water and electrolyte drinks.
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) : Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) refers to long-lasting inflammation in the digestive tract. They are autoimmune diseases, which means there is an abnormal immune system reaction. IBD causes irritation and swelling, resulting in diarrhea, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, fever and weight loss. Drugs that block your immune response can treat IBD. Sometimes surgery is necessary.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) : IBS is abdominal pain that occurs at least three times a month for three months in a row. You also might have constipation or diarrhea. IBS doesn’t harm the digestive tract and it’s far more common.. The exact cause of IBS is unclear. Treatment may include eating smaller meals and avoiding foods that cause symptoms. Some people take laxatives, fiber supplements, or probiotics to treat IBS.
- Constipation : Constipation is difficult or infrequent passage of stool. If you have bowel movements less than three times a week, you likely are constipated. A common cause of constipation is not getting enough fiber in your diet. The main symptom of constipation is straining to go. In most cases, increasing fiber, fluids, and exercise will solve this condition. Use laxatives only as a temporary solution.
- Gluten Sensitivity : Symptoms of gluten sensitivity include diarrhea, bloating, and abdominal pain.. Eliminating gluten—a protein in wheat, rye, barley and oats—from your diet is the main treatment for both conditions.
- Gallstones : The gallbladder is an organ attached to your intestine that stores bile—a digestive juice. Bile can form small, hard deposits called gallstones. Some gallstones don’t cause symptoms and go away on their own. Others can cause severe pain or infection. You may also have nausea, vomiting, and fever. Surgery is the usual treatment for gallstones that cause these gallbladder attacks.
1. Carrot and mint juice helps an upset stomach: Boil four sliced carrots, four cups of water, and one teaspoon of dried peppermint or one peppermint teabag. Turn the heat to medium-low and cook about 15 minutes or until carrots are soft. If you’re using a teabag, remove it, then blend the mixture until smooth and enjoy! You can also add a pinch of ground ginger to further soothe, or a squeeze of lemon juice for flavor.
2. Apple cider vinegar soothes an upset stomach: This popular home remedy may also calm an angry tummy. A mixture of one tablespoon apple cider vinegar, one cup warm water, and one tablespoon honey will ease indigestion and may alleviate cramping and gas in your upset stomach. It can also lessen discomfort caused by heartburn.
3. Yogurt reduces discomfort from an upset stomach: You probably don’t crave anything dairy when you have a stomach ache, live bacteria in yoghurt make it a good cure as it eases digestive discomfort. Just make sure to choose non-fat plain yogurt without added sugar or flavors when you have an upset stomach.
4. Heat helps an upset stomach: Place a hot water bottle or heating pad on your upset stomach. The heat increases blood flow to the skin surface and transfers the perception of pain from inside your stomach to the outside.
5. Turmeric: Another herb used to treat common digestive disorders is turmeric. The active component in turmeric is curcumin, the substance that gives turmeric its yellow color. Turmeric frequently is used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine to aid digestion and liver function, along with a host of other non-digestive ailments.
6. Fennel makes an upset stomach feel better: Whether it’s indigestion or gas and bloating, fennel can help. Sip a fennel tea, chew on a few fennel seeds or crunch on some raw. It supports digestion, reduces gas, helps with cramping, and reduces nausea from an upset stomach.
7. Caraway seeds ease an upset stomach: Caraway seeds are packed with vitamins and minerals, which inhibit the growth of bad bacteria that causes indigestion and bloating and contributes to an upset stomach. Nibble on a handful after eating your meal, or if you feel gassy.
When to See a Doctor , It’s time to get medical help if:
- You have severe belly pain or the pain lasts several days
- You have nausea and fever and can’t keep food down for several days
- You have bloody stools
- It hurts to pee
- You have blood in your urine
- You cannot pass stools, especially if you’re also vomiting
- You had an injury to your belly in the days before the pain started
- You have heartburn that doesn’t get better with over-the-counter drugs or lasts longer than 2 weeks
- Maintain a healthy diet
- Avoid foods that trigger acid reflux or indigestion
- Consider prebiotic or probiotic supplements
- Stay active
- Anxiety and worry can upset the delicate balance of digestion, beat stress
- Stop smoking to prevent reflux
- It’s very easy to spend our working lives eating on the move or at our desks, gulping down food between meetings and then crashing out in front of the TV with a takeaway in the evenings, But eating this way can play havoc with our digestive system. Eat properly and slowly.
- If you’re overweight, your tummy fat puts pressure on your stomach and can cause heartburn. Shedding some pounds may relieve digestive symptoms like heartburn and other acid-related stomach complaints.
- Sleep: The amount of sleep we get can affect our bowel habits. Much like the rest of our body, our digestive system needs time to rest. Going to bed and getting up at regular hours each day can help our digestive system work more effectively and improve the regularity of our bowel habits.
We have compiled some useful diet tips below which could help ease and avoid bowel related problems and help you to maintain a healthy digestive system.
- Choose a wholegrain breakfast cereal or porridge in the morning, you could even add a handful of nuts and seeds or some fruit
- Eat small regular meals.
- Swap white bread for wholegrain or granary bread.
- Eat a balanced diet, with a variety of different foods. Choose foods that are rich in fibre such as fruit, vegetables and starchy carbohydrates. A moderate amount of lean meat, fish, eggs and protein alternatives are also recommended, along with milk and dairy foods.
- Limit the amount of sugary and fatty foods you eat. If you feel hungry and need a snack, try to keep hunger at bay with nuts or a piece of fruit.
- Chew well. Break down each mouthful into small pieces. This helps release the enzymes that aid digestion so that food is processed thoroughly and all the goodness extracted.
- Don’t miss meals. A lack of food in the system can cause excessive gas – and lead to a gurgling, wind filled stomach.
- Try and avoid eating large or fatty meals before going to sleep.
- Wearing tight clothes may encourage food contents to re-enter the esophagus by squeezing the stomach too much, so this should be avoided.
- While sleeping, the head should be placed in an elevated position, a minimum of 6 inches above the feet. Using a prop such as a pillow under the head will help maintain the flow of digestive juices downwards to the intestines instead of to the esophagus.
- Weight gain increases the pressure on the abdomen and pushes the stomach up. This can cause the stomach acid to regurgitate into the esophagus. So maintaining a healthy body weight is important. Regular exercise will help to maintain an appropriate body weight and also promotes good digestion. However, exercising immediately after meals is not advisable.
- As alcohol can create irritation to the lining of the stomach, reducing alcohol consumption will help in mitigating dyspepsia. Avoiding late-night snacks, giving up smoking, attempting a lifestyle that is stress-free, going to bed 2–3 hours after food intake, getting sufficient sleep, spending time in activities that bring joy, and drinking plenty of water are some of the other self-care techniques that can be practiced to manage indigestion.
The following guides are offered to help you in your quest to feel better. You can click through to the ones that best relate to the symptoms you are experiencing. If you are curious, click through them all to see if you find an extra tip that might just work for you.
Everyone suffers from nausea and vomiting at some point or the other, but the problem can usually be resolved with proper self-care, rest, and a few home treatments.If the condition persists, worsens, or becomes increasingly frequent, you should get evaluated by a doctor to identify and treat the underlying cause for your nausea or vomiting.