The gastrointestinal tract is an extensive part of the human body. While the stomach occupies a comparatively small part of the digestive tract, the human intestine is several meters long and is located in several loops in the human lower abdomen. Accordingly, gastrointestinal diseases can be diverse and take on threatening proportions.
What are gastrointestinal diseases?
According to Homethodology, gastrointestinal diseases include all diseases of the digestive tract with the exception of the upper digestive organs, which also include the mouth, throat and esophagus.
The gastrointestinal tract includes the stomach and intestines, which can be divided into the small intestine, large intestine, rectum and anus, but also organs such as the duodenum, liver, gallbladder and the hormone-producing pancreas.
Gastrointestinal diseases include far more diseases than just stomach pain, flatulence, constipation, diarrhea and vomiting, especially since these are symptoms and not causes.
The causes of gastrointestinal diseases are as diverse as the gastrointestinal tract itself. Ulcers can develop in both the stomach and the intestines. Psychological stress usually promotes the development of these ulcers, and there is a proven close connection, especially with inflammation of the gastric mucosa and gastric ulcers.
Such ulcers can initially occur acutely, but also chronically. A chronic inflammatory bowel disease is, for example, the so-called Crohn’s disease (terminal ileitis, ulcerative colitis), which progresses in phases and, in the worst case, can be fatal at a young age.
There can also be “bulges” in the intestines in which stool collects, hardens and can cause serious health problems. These bulges are called diverticula. Such diseases can be the result of weak connective tissue and frequent constipation (constipation).
It is known that liver diseases can occur as a result of excessive alcohol consumption or the abuse of medicines and drugs (abuse). Viral infections ( hepatitis diseases) can also cause lasting damage to the liver. These are the most common causes of the diverse diseases of the digestive tract.
Typical & common diseases
- gastric ulcer
- Inflammation of the stomach lining (gastritis)
- Abdominal influenza
- duodenal ulcer
- irritable stomach
- stomach cancer
- Crohn’s disease (chronic intestinal inflammation)
- ulcerative colitis
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
Typical symptoms of gastrointestinal diseases are abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, flatulence, constipation and diarrhea. Which complaints are in the foreground depends on the type of illness. Acute inflammation of the gastric mucosa (gastritis) is manifested by sudden pain in the upper abdomen, which is accompanied by nausea, loss of appetite and occasionally vomiting.
Typically, the symptoms improve for a short time after eating. If these symptoms develop over a long period of time, chronic inflammation of the gastric mucosa can be behind it – this is often accompanied by an aversion to certain foods, a feeling of fullness, diarrhea and flatulence.
Stomach pain, nausea and loss of appetite can also hide a stomach ulcer, a duodenal ulcer or stomach cancer. This must be considered in particular in the case of constant weight loss or black stool ( tarry stool ). The symptoms caused by an irritable stomach vary greatly and range from stomach pains to heartburn and loss of appetite to vegetative disorders such as cardiovascular problems and increased sweating.
An irritable stomach is often accompanied by an irritable bowel characterized by stool irregularities. Inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are usually manifested by cramping abdominal pain, weight loss and slimy-mushy diarrhea. There is a general feeling of illness, and a slight fever, nausea and loss of appetite are also possible. Characteristic of appendicitis are abdominal pain, which increasingly shifts to the lower right abdomen, as well as fever, nausea and vomiting.
Diagnosis & History
The diagnosis of gastro-intestinal diseases can usually be made from the patient’s description. This diagnosis is usually secured via gastroscopy or colonoscopy, in which a corresponding probe is inserted orally or rectally, possibly under local anaesthetic.
This examination provides direct, detailed images that allow for an accurate diagnosis. Laboratory tests of the blood or the stool can also give important indications of diseases. Gastrointestinal diseases always cause pain, with the exception of liver diseases. Here there is only a pain in the capsule, the liver itself does not hurt.
In the case of stomach diseases in particular, it is therefore important to find out what type of pain it is. A so-called early pain, i.e. shortly after eating the meal, can indicate inflammation of the stomach entrance. A late pain, i.e. a pain that occurs a long time after the meal has been eaten, can indicate that the stomach outlet is inflamed.
The course of gastrointestinal diseases is just as diverse as the causes. Usually, however, the diet is restricted, which can lead to rapid weight loss. Or they have severe diarrhea that can cause dehydration, which can also be life-threatening.
In most cases, the gastrointestinal diseases do not lead to any particular complications and do not lead to a serious course. They can be treated relatively well, so that there are no further consequential damages. Those affected primarily suffer from diarrhea or constipation. It is also not uncommon for pain in the stomach or abdomen to occur, which significantly reduces the quality of life.
Especially at night, this pain can lead to sleep disorders and thus to depression. Many of those affected also suffer from a loss of appetite and weight loss. Chronic diarrhea can also lead to severe dehydration. Complications usually arise when the gastrointestinal disorders are not treated properly.
This can lead to the formation of polyps or other diseases. Treatment of gastrointestinal diseases in most cases does not lead to special complications. They can be treated with medication and the disease usually progresses positively. The life expectancy of the patient is usually not reduced or limited by the gastrointestinal diseases.
When should you go to the doctor?
A visit to the doctor is advisable if you have repeated problems going to the toilet. Diarrhea or constipation is a condition that should be treated. In many cases, there is a significant deterioration in the state of health within a few hours. In case of fatigue, abdominal pain or discomfort, a doctor is needed. If there is noise in the stomach or intestines, medical advice should be sought.
Consult a doctor if you experience gas, loss of appetite, weight loss or a feeling of pressure in the abdomen. If the symptoms worsen or the symptoms spread further, you should see a doctor as soon as possible. In the event of a decrease in performance, fever, sweating or bleeding from the intestines, the affected person needs help. He should undergo medical tests to determine the cause.
If everyday obligations can no longer be fulfilled or if the person concerned no longer has control over the sphincter muscle, a doctor’s visit is advisable. If you feel dry inside, have cramps in your abdomen or are more irritable, you should see a doctor. Discomfort with moving or sitting should also be examined by a doctor.
Treatment & Therapy
The treatment options are of course based on the underlying disease. As a rule, drug therapy, possibly also psychotherapy or autogenic training, is recommended first, since the gastrointestinal tract is very sensitive to stress.
In the case of diseases of the intestine, an operation may be necessary to remove the affected parts of the intestine or to treat them in some other way. The diet often has to be adapted to the disease temporarily or permanently.
Outlook & Forecast
The prognosis of a gastrointestinal disease is linked to the cause of the disorder. In the case of a bacterial infection or a viral disease, the symptoms are usually alleviated and the patient recovers within a few days or weeks. In some cases, the organism can help itself to a sufficient degree with a stable and healthy immune system and without the presence of the disease. Medical care is not always necessary to improve health.
An inflammatory disease is the further course and the prognosis depends on whether the disease becomes chronic. In the case of a chronic gastrointestinal disease, there is usually no recovery for several years despite all efforts. Emotional and psychological factors often play a decisive role in the overall process. Therefore, in addition to drug therapy, the mental state of the patient is often decisive in these cases. Alleviations must be documented if additional psychotherapeutic care is initiated.
In acute cases, a life-threatening condition can develop. In the event of cancer or an intestinal perforation, immediate action must be taken to ensure the survival of the person concerned. The sooner medical treatment is initiated, the better the chances of recovery. In these patients, early detection of the disease is particularly important for determining the future prognosis.
Preventive measures can usually be taken for gastrointestinal diseases. In general, you can pay attention to a healthy, balanced diet and avoid being underweight or overweight so as not to overwhelm the gastrointestinal tract.
For example, diarrhea and constipation can be avoided. Stress reduction definitely has a positive effect on gastrointestinal diseases, so autogenic training and relaxation measures not only have a healing effect.
Regular colorectal cancer screening should be observed, as colorectal cancer only causes pain at a very late stage. Otherwise, of course, the usual hygiene guidelines help to prevent infections of the gastrointestinal tract. In case of doubt, the doctor you trust always has individual advice and information.
The aftercare of gastrointestinal diseases is primarily based on the cause. This should be decided individually by the patient with his treating physician. Depending on the severity of the disease and its characteristics. In order to detect any malignant cells in the stomach as early as possible, an endoscopic control with a gastroscopy should be carried out if the symptoms persist.
Every patient should also discuss with their family doctor whether certain dietary changes should be considered. In addition, symptoms such as frequent heartburn, stabbing stomach pains or vomiting blood must be linked to the previous history and clarified in the future.
You can do that yourself
Gastrointestinal disorders are accompanied by a large number of symptoms, which are caused by an equally large number of underlying diseases. Whether and what the patient can do himself depends on the type of complaint.
Diffuse gastro-intestinal complaints, which are noticeable through acid regurgitation, flatulence, stomach pain or diarrhea, often occur. In mild cases, such disorders can initially be treated by yourself. In the case of vague stomach pains and irritation of the gastric mucosa, naturopathy recommends a so-called chamomile tea roll cure. 250 milliliters of chamomile tea are prepared and drunk. The patient then lies on his back for five minutes and then, every five minutes, rolls onto his left side, then onto his stomach and finally onto his right side.
In the case of regular gastric hyperacidity, doing without greasy food and too much alcohol usually helps. In the case of acute hyperacidity, healing earth, Bullrich salt or baking soda can be taken. A mild but very effective remedy for diarrhea is dried blueberries, which can be bought in herbal shops and specialized pharmacies. Three tablespoons of the fruit are taken at the beginning of the treatment and then one tablespoon at intervals of about four hours and chewed well.
Anyone who regularly suffers from nervous stomach pains should learn relaxation techniques. Mild sedatives from the pharmacy or health food store can also be taken temporarily.
If those affected regularly suffer from gastrointestinal disorders, a doctor should be consulted to clarify the causes.