Digestive system comprises of mouth, oesophagus, stomach, small intestine, pancreas, liver, gallbladder, colon, rectum and anus. Any medical problem which causes interruption in the normal functioning of these organs comes under the category of digestive disorders.
Before we discuss about the various digestive disorders let us understand the process of digestion. What we consume travels from mouth to stomach through oesophagus. From there it further travels to the small intestine, then to the pancreas, liver, gallbladder, colon, rectum and then finally to the anus. The procedure is divided in two phases- mechanical and chemical. The mechanical process consists of the biting and cutting of the food so as to break the food into smaller pieces. The food is then treated with many digestive juices (secreted from the organs) such as pepsin, lipases, bile and mucous. Simultaneously, it is absorbed by the body. Eventually, the unwanted material is excreted.
Healthy diet, enough sleep and physical activity are basic elements needed to support proper functioning of the digestive system.
Lifestyle and digestive disorders
Occurrence of some of the digestive disorders is so common that people have accepted them as a part of routine life. According to a study published in the Journal of the Japanese Society of Internal Medicines, there is a very close relationship between lifestyle habits and digestive problems. Wrong food choices usually lead to common digestive issues like bloating and indigestion.
Research reveals that digestive diseases is the number one cause of hospitalization in US and out of those who take conventional remedies and OTC (over the counter) drugs for relief to common digestive diseases, 75 percent of them continue to experience the signs and symptoms. One must be aware of the signs and symptoms of digestive disorders in order to have scope for early diagnosis and better treatment results.
Let us look into the various types of digestive disorders and the factors that lead to the disorders
- Faecal incontinence (loose motions)
- Faecal impaction (constipation)
- Oesophageal ulcers
- Peptic ulcer
- GERD (gastro-oesophageal reflux disease)
- Irritable Bowl Syndrome
- Digestive bleeding
- Menetrier’s Disease
- Oesophageal cancer
- Laryngeal cancer
- Stomach cancer
- Colon cancer
- Rectal cancer
- Gall bladder cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
Factors responsible for digestive disorders
There are many factors that disturb the normal functioning of the digestive system, the prime being stress (both physical and mental) and unhealthy food choices. A diet that is low in fibre and high in refined carbohydrates (junk food) can trigger digestive complications. Those on medication like antibiotics, antacids, antihistamines (for acidity), steroid and NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are at a high risk of developing digestive diseases. Chemicals such as alcohol, tobacco and caffeine (in excess) are also harmful to the system.
The digestive system is regulated by the endocrine system (hormone system). Gastrin, CCK (cholecystokinin) and secretin and the three major hormones controlling the secretion of the digestive juices. Hormonal imbalance too can lead to digestion related problems. Digestive disorders could also be genetically inherited.
Digestion related problems increase with age. Some of the digestive disorders can lead to deficiency of Vitamin B12 (lack of absorption due to a disorder such as chronic diarrhoea). Digestive problems are a major cause of urtacaria. About 70 million Americans are said to be suffering from one or the other digestive problem.