05/03/2021 / Digestive Disease & Gastroenterology

Common Gastrointestinal Disorders; Symptoms and Treatments

The gastrointestinal tract (GIT) acts as a doorway for all the nutrients and various other substances. All the disruptions associated with the intake of food, disorders affecting the GIT, and its accessory organs influence your overall health

Common Gastrointestinal Disorders; Symptoms and Treatments
Mazia AhmedMazia Ahmed

Mazia Ahmed

MSc Nutrition Science, Ph.D. Scholar

Table of Content


The gastrointestinal tract (GIT) acts as a doorway for all the nutrients and various other substances. All the disruptions associated with the intake of food, disorders affecting the GIT and its accessory organs (such as liver, pancreas, gallbladder, etc.) have an influence on the overall health of an individual. Starting from the oral cavity (mouth), the GIT continues through the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and finally ends at the anus. Disruptions in different parts of GIT results in various disorders which are briefly discussed below:

Disorder of the Esophagus

1. Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

GERD is the most common disorder of the esophagus which is prevalent in about 20% of adults in western culture. It is characterized by the occurrence of tissue damage resulting from the frequent or extended exposure of the oesophageal tissue to acids refluxing from the stomach.

2 Common Disorders of the Stomach    

1. Gastritis

Inflammation (swelling) of the mucosal lining of the stomach is called gastritis. The most common cause of gastritis is the use of aspirin for a long duration of time and the ingestion of alcoholic beverages. Symptoms include a feeling of fullness, nausea, anorexia (reduced appetite), and pain in the upper abdominal region. 

2. Peptic Ulcers

A bacteria, called Helicobacter pylori is usually responsible for causing sores/ulcers in the mucosal lining of the esophagus/stomach/duodenum. Along with the infection by H. pylori, the usage of a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSIAD) can also significantly increase the risk of formation of peptic ulcers and can cause ulcer bleeding.

Common Gastrointestinal Disorders: Symptoms and Treatments 1

5 Common Disorders of the Intestines

The main function of the intestine is to digest and absorb nutrients and water from the food passing through its lumen. Disorders associated with the intestine results in impaired function and can significantly affect the absorption of nutrients from the food. Common problems with frequency and consistency of bowel movements are:

1. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

Inflammatory bowel disease is used to describe a disorder that affects your digestive tract, and common IBD disease are Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn's disease.

2. Ulcerative Colitis

It is a form of inflammatory bowel disease that causes ulcers and inflammation in the inner lining of the colon and rectum. Major symptoms include abdominal pain, pus and mucus in stools, bloody diarrhea, anemia, and anorexia. 

3. Crohn’s Disease

It is a long-term (chronic) inflammatory disorder of the intestine. It affects the GIT right from the oral cavity and extending to the rectum. In this disease, the lumen of the intestine decreases. This results in slower movement of food which causes cramping/abdominal discomfort when the food is ingested. Other symptoms include fever, weight loss, nausea, mouth ulcers, anal fissures, vomiting, etc. Chronic watery diarrhea may occur resulting from bile salt malabsorption, microbial overgrowth, and ulceration. 

4. Diverticulosis

Diverticulosis is a medical condition characterized by the development of various small pouches (diverticulums) in the mucosal lining of the colon due to chronic constipation. Most people suffering from this disease do not show any symptoms. 

5. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

IBS is a functional bowel disorder characterized by discomfort or pain in the abdominal region along with various other symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation (or episodes of both), and flatulence.

Treatment for Esophagus Disorder

A change in eating behavior and lifestyle modification can help in controlling GERD. Antacids and antisecretory agents such as antagonists of histamine receptors are also prescribed. Chewing food properly, sitting straight for around two hours after every meal, and having dinner three hours before going to bed are also suggested to such patients to reduce the symptoms. 

Common Gastrointestinal Disorders: Symptoms and Treatments 2

2 Medical Treatments for Stomach Disorder

1. Gastritis Treatment

To reduce stomach acid is the first and foremost step to treat gastritis. This can be achieved by taking antacids and other proton pump inhibitors. The individuals suffering from gastritis are advised to eat food at regular intervals. The foods which can cause stomach discomfort and flatulence (mostly cruciferous vegetables) are avoided. High-fat foods, heavily spiced foods, and strong flavoring compounds are also restricted.

2. Peptic Ulcers Treatment

The treatment includes prescribing antibiotics to kill infections along with prebiotics and probiotics which aids in coating the mucosal lining and reduce the formation of ulcers. The patient should take three regular meals and in-between snacks with no added spices and irritants.

4 Medical Treatment for Intestine Disorders

1. Ulcerative Colitis Treatment

Treatment of ulcerative colitis focuses on reducing inflammation. Probiotic bacteria are reported to provide relief in this disease by reducing inflammation and increasing the number of anti-inflammatory molecules in the gut. Medications may be prescribed to reduce inflammation. A low fiber diet is needed to minimize fecal volume as excessive fecal matter can create an obstruction. Red meat, dairy products, artificial sweeteners, and caffeine consumption is restricted.

2. Crohn’s Disease Treatment

Anti-inflammatory and anti-diarrheal medications are mostly prescribed. A low fiber diet with high protein and energy is suggested for such patients along with a limited intake of fat. 

3. Diverticulosis Treatment

The main goal of treating diverticulosis is to cure constipation. For this reason, a high fiber diet accompanied by adequate intake of liquids is suggested for such individuals.

4. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Treatment

Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome depends on the symptoms. Offending foods that can trigger diarrhea or constipation should be identified and avoided. The most common foods identified as a causative agent for IBS are lactose (milk and milk products) and gluten (wheat and wheat products). Treatment of IBS aims to relieve symptoms. Usually, a high fiber diet is suggested to cure constipation and certain lifestyle modifications (such as regular exercise) is advised before prescribing any drug to the patient. 

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