Digestive Disorders

Overview

Numerous etiological factors exist that may give rise to digestive disorders. These include dietary and nutritional factors, food allergies, viral-bacterial-parasitic-fungal infections and stress. Conditions such as Celiac disease have their foundations in an allergic response to gluten. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may also have a stress component. Levels of increased and decreased hydrochloric acid may give rise to digestive problems and mal-absorption.

Types of Digestive Disorders

  • GERD
  • Celiac Disease
  • Chron’s Disease
  • Ulcerative Colitis
  • IBS

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Management

Gastro-Esophageal Reflux (GERD)

This condition is caused by reflux of acid and gastric juices into the lower esophagus, which does not have a similar protective lining to acid just as the stomach. Occasionally, reflux of pancreatic secretions may occur, giving rise to alkaline esophagitis. The underlying cause of this condition is an incompetent lower esophageal sphincter. This incompetence is aggravated in conditions of obesity, pregnancy, and smoking. Further aggravating circumstances include drinking carbonated drinks, eating spicy foods, and ingesting large quantities of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories. An increased incidence of gastritis and peptic ulcer disease occurs with GERD.

Symptoms

The most common symptoms in this disorder are heartburn, chest pain, arm pain similar to that felt with ischemic heart disease, voice changes, pain when swallowing, bleeding and resultant anemia. This condition, if left unmanaged, may lead to esophageal cancer. Proton-pump inhibitors and histamine 2 (h2) receptor drugs should not be used long-term as they may mask symptoms but let the condition progress unabated, which may eventually lead to the development of esophageal cancer.

Management

The first step in managing GERD is to find the cause of the problem. This will be done through taking a detailed history as well as appropriate blood tests. The doctor will then put together a management plan that may include an adjusted lifestyle plan, suggested diet, supplements, and possible IV therapies.

Celiac Disease

This condition arises secondary to intolerance to a protein called gluten found in wheat, barley, rye, oats, spelt and kamut. Inflammation of the bowel wall occurs, which results in mal-absorption. Paradoxically, patients with this condition may exhibit weight gain or difficulty in losing weight. This condition may mask many other disorders such as chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, chronic sinusitis, asthma, and an allergic syndrome. Most of these symptoms can be attributable to chronic inflammation.

Management

The doctor starts with getting a detailed background on the patient along with tests. Testing is directed at proving the gluten-sensitivity and measuring the degree of inflammation by the C-reactive protein level. Depending on the results of the testing, a management course is suggested which may include lifestyle/diet plan, supplements, and possible other therapies.

Crohn’s Disease

The cause of this condition is unknown; however, the mechanism of injury is increased inflammation within the gastro-intestinal tract wall, anywhere from the mouth to the anus, but most commonly the terminal ileum and colon. The disease affects most commonly people in their twenties and thirties, Jews of middle European origin, females (slightly more than males) and less commonly in African Americans. Individuals who have had Crohn’s disease longer than ten years also have an increased incidence of colon-rectal cancer.

Management

The doctor first starts with a detailed background along with appropriate testing. After receiving the results, a management plan is formulated which may include a mixture of the following:

  • Drug therapy
  • Growth hormones
  • Specified intravenous therapy (IV therapy)
  • Dietary counseling (Non-Western diet)
  • Additional supplementation
  • DHEA
  • Achieving a stable calcium/magnesium balance

Ulcerative Colitis

In this condition, inflammation of the colon occurs. The involvement is primarily of the large bowel. Unlike Crohn’s disease, it never affects the full thickness of the bowel, and never the small intestine.

Management

The first step is for the doctor to take a detailed history and run appropriate tests. A management plan is then formulated according to the results, but usually consists of general therapies used to manage Crohn’s disease. These include dietary changes, essential fatty acids, glutamine, fiber, and nutritional support with mega doses of vitamins and minerals.

More specific managements include

  • Steroids
  • Detailed supplementation
  • Folate therapy
  • Cytokine modulation

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

This functional bowel disorder may result in severe loss of work and at least 22 million people in the USA are affected. The underlying etiology of this condition is patients with altered visceral sensitivity, element of inflammation within the bowel wall, and hyper-motility of the smooth muscle of the bowel wall also exists.

Symptoms

Psychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety are common as are fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic pelvic pain, and temporo-mandibular dysfunction. Other symptoms are headache, back pain, urinary dysfunction, sexual dysfunction, and insomnia.

Diagnosis is usually made based on alteration of bowel movements, pain relief by defecation, change in frequency of stools, abnormal stool passage, passage of mucus, and feeling of bloating or abdominal distention.

Management

Management begins by first excluding other diseases or infections with similar symptoms. Once IBS is confirmed a management regimen can be constructed consisting of serotonin-receptor modifiers and a specified combination of natural therapies including supplements, laxatives, and stress reduction.

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Learn more about how the Houston Wellness Clinic manages Digestive Disorders.

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