Common Digestive Health Disorders & Treatment Options

A healthy digestive system is vital for good health. However, digestive problems can begin at an early age and are an issue of concern for many. According to PubMed, the Reflux prevalence is 30% in New Zealand, while 21% of adults present with irritable Bowel Syndrome.

People who neglect their health are likely to suffer digestive issues. Many take digestive supplements, which may not help much. For instance, people who consume more than they can digest or those who indulge in junk foods are more susceptible to digestive disorders.

Common digestive disorders

Digestive disorders are conditions that affect the functioning of the digestive system. These are categorized into; functional GI disorders and organic disorders. These exhibit different symptoms and the treatment options vary. For this reason, specialists at the gastroenterology centre offer various testing services to support digestive health.

 Examples of common digestive disorders include;

1. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

IBS is a functional gastrointestinal disorder. It is a long-term gastrointestinal issue that causes changes and disturbances to your bowel functions. The condition may cause persistent discomfort, abdominal pain, and changes in bowel movements.

However, patients endure this with no severe complications. The common symptoms of IBS include; diarrhea and constipation, or both. These may ease once a patient learns how to manage the condition.

Other common symptoms of IBS include;

  • Abdominal cramping and pain
  • Feeling that bowels are full even after passing stool
  • Rectal mucus
  • Abdominal swelling and bloating

The symptoms may flare up or worsen after taking meals. These vary between males and females. For females, constipation is more prevalent, while men are likely to experience diarrhea.

Common cause of IBS

 IBS symptoms flare up after consuming certain food products. These can be chocolate, milk, or alcohol. Moreover, foods like beans, carrots, onions, and celery also trigger cramping and bloating. Other factors include microbial imbalance, infection, stress, and genetic factors.

Diagnosis and treatment options

The professional may perform tests like;

  • Colonoscopy
  • X-ray or CT scan
  • Upper endoscopy
  • Lactose intolerance tests
  • Breath test for bacterial overgrowth
  • Stool tests

IBS treatment will focus on alleviating the symptoms and discomfort. This can be controlled by stress management and dietary changes. The doctor will also prescribe medications to ease the symptoms.

 Examples of IBS medications include;

  • Alosetron
  • Eluxadoline
  • Xifaxan
  • Amitiza
  • Linaclotide

2. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)

The condition occurs when multiple bacteria colonize the small intestines. SIBO causes bloating, diarrhea, and sometimes constipation. This is because the small intestines cannot handle the massive growth of bacteria. If this happens, the bacteria ferment food leading to bloating and constipation.

SIBO is related to IBS, and IBS patients are highly likely to suffer from SIBO.

SIBO symptoms

  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Unexplained vitamin deficiency

Patients with certain health conditions have a high likelihood of getting SIBO. These include people with short bowel syndrome, diabetes, chronic kidney failure, and hypothyroidism.

Diagnosis and treatment

 The doctor will perform a physical examination and ask about the symptoms during SIBO diagnosis. They will feel your abdomen to detect excessive bloating.

 The doctor will also perform tests like;

  • Breath test
  • Small bowel aspirate and culture
  • Blood tests
  • Mobility test
  • Intestinal permeability test
  • Stool tests

 Treatment options

 SIBO can be complex to treat, depending on the cause. However, various treatment options are available. These include antibiotics, dietary changes, and fecal microbiota transplants.

3. Gallstones

Gallstones are tiny stones that form in the gallbladder. Most patients don’t show any symptoms and won’t know if they have gallstones. However, a patient will show signs of infection if the gallstones form in front of the gall bladder’s opening.

In this case, the symptoms may include;

  • High temperature
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Persistent pain below the hips
  • Jaundice


 Treatment may include the removal of the gallbladder, or the doctor may remove the gallstones from the bile duct. Although gallstones may be hard to diagnose due to lack of symptoms, it’s advisable to seek prompt medical help when you suffer from;

  • Abdominal pain lasting more than 8 hours
  • Jaundice
  • High temperature or chills

4. Celiac disease

Celiac disease is a condition affecting the immune system. It’s an auto-immune condition that affects the intestinal lining if one consumes gluten foods. It’s worth noting that Celiac disease is a severe health condition that can damage the intestines if untreated.

Celiac disease may exhibit in various forms; the symptoms may include;

  • Constipation
  • Pale and smellier stools
  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating and gas
  • Long-term diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

If you notice symptoms, it’s advisable to seek prompt medical attention. Untreated celiac disease can cause complications including; bone softening, malnutrition, reproduction, and nervous system problems.


 If a patient presents with the symptoms mentioned above, the doctor will perform a celiac disease diagnosis and recommend medical and dietary treatment.

This includes;

  • Flu jabs
  • Gluten-free diet
  • Hib vaccine
  • Pneumococcal vaccine

5. Crohn’s disease

 This is an inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammation of the GI tract, particularly in the small intestines. Crohn’s disease may result from an auto-immune reaction to certain bacteria in the digestive system. Other factors that may cause the disease include genetic and environmental factors.

Crohn’s disease exhibits various disease symptoms; these may include;

  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Stomach pain
  • Bloody stools
  • Fatigue

Diagnosis and treatment

 The doctor will perform bowel tests to determine if you suffer from the condition. The professional will also prescribe drugs to minimize the inflammation, but in some cases, surgery may be necessary.

Treatment may include;

  • Steroid medicines:
  • Immunosuppressants
  • Biological medicines
  • Liquid diet

 6. Ulcerative colitis (UC)

Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammation in the rectum and large intestines. The swelling may spread to other parts if left untreated. The common causes of UC are auto-immune responses, genetics, and environmental factovs.US symptoms include; long-term diarrhea, unexplained weight loss, tiredness, and abdominal pain.

If you notice the symptoms, seek medical attention for proper diagnosis. The doctor will perform blood and stool tests to determine whether you suffer from UC.

Other tests may include;

  • Colonoscopy
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy
  • X-ray
  • CT scan
  • Computerized tomography (CT)
  • Magnetic resonance (MR) enterography.

Treatment for Ulcerative colitis

Treatment involves drug therapy and sometimes surgery. The medications given may include;

  • Anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Corticosteroids
  • 5-aminosalicylates
  • Immunosuppressant drugs
  • Azathioprine
  • Cyclosporine
  • Tofacitinib
Healthy body

The bottom line

 There are different types of digestive disorders, and understanding their symptoms helps in seeking early diagnosis and treatment. Regular checkups also help. Therefore, schedule a visit to the doctor and have the specialist diagnose any digestive issue you may have. Photo by Alexandra Gorn on Unsplash