Diarrhea is a symptom and can describe a number of alterations in bowel movement where the stool is frequent, excessive and often not well formed. We all experience diarrhea several times in our lives, and often a few times in a year even if we do not have any underlying diseases. Diarrhea is usually short-lived, resolves on its own and does not cause any further complications. But some episodes of diarrhea can be worse than others. Most of us find watery diarrhea to be the worst and it can be more dangerous since the body is losing copious amounts of fluid in the stool. In some types of watery diarrhea, you can lose several liters of water within just a few hours which can be life-threatening.
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Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is believed to affect as much as 20% of the American population. The exact cause is still unknown but it appears to be due to an abnormality is the speed and contractility of the muscles in the intestinal wall. Abdominal pain is common and the changes in bowel habit can range from diarrhea to constipation and sometimes even an alternation of these two symptoms. Excessive gas with abdominal bloating are other common symptoms. Although there is no cure for IBS, it can be effectively managed with drugs, diet and lifestyle.
Constipation and diarrhea are at the opposite ends of the spectrum of abnormal bowel habit. After a bout of diarrhea, constipation may seem like a welcomed relief from the frequent trips to the toilet, loose/watery stool, excessive gas and sometimes abdominal pains. But constipation can end up being as distressing as diarrhea itself. And it can occur soon after you get over the diarrhea.
We all suffer from indigestion every now and then. Indigestion is usually not a serious condition. In fact it is not a disease as we sometimes think of it but rather a collection of uncomfortable symptoms in the upper abdomen. Most of the time we experience indigestion during and after a meal. The cause is not always clear but most of the known causes seem to be associated with the digestive system. However, there are some instances where these symptoms that we think of as indigestion may be linked to other organs and even serious conditions like a heart problem.
Probiotics are any foods or products which contain different types of microbes that are needed in the digestive tract. Most of us think that all microbes are bad but this is not so. There are many different species of bacteria that are needed in our gut to maintain a healthy digestive system. There is now more evidence that this optimal balance of different gut microbes may in fact help with extra-intestinal conditions like allergies and respiratory infections. While our body does its utmost to maintain these microbes, sometimes it needs help in the form of probiotics.
Normal stool consistency is firm but soft. The moisture content in stool has to be sufficient to ensure that the stool remains soft but not watery and unable to retain its form. However, as the water content in stool decreases, it becomes dry and hard. As a a result passing stool can be difficult and even painful. It may lead to conditions like hemorrhoids.
After food is digested and nutrients absorbed, intestinal chyme from the small intestine passes into the large intestine. It is this watery chyme that will be solidified to form stool. The large intestine absorbs water from the chyme as it moves through. The chyme is transformed from a watery consistency to mush and then solid stool as we know it. However, if there are problems in the large intestine where water is absorbed excessively then the stool may become dry and hard. This can also happen if stool stays in the colon of the large intestine for too long.
Gas in the digestive tract is normal. Some of it is expelled orally as a belch. Remaining gas is expelled via the rectum as flatus. Just what quantity constitutes excessive gas is debatable. It is known that most people will pass flatus between 15 to 20 times a day. The number of belches daily varies greatly from one person to another. While the exact quantity cannot be definitively identified, most of us know when we are passing too much gas. Not only is it embarrassing in a social setting, it can also be uncomfortable.
Dehydration is a serious complication of fluid loss associated with vomiting and/or diarrhea. In fact dehydration can lead to death. It is one of the main complications associated with vomiting and diarrhea and one of the primary reasons for fatal outcomes with these conditions, particularly in children. In the large majority of cases, dehydration can be prevented. Unfortunately many people do not know the facts about how to rehydrate properly, when to start and what to use to prevent dehydration.
As the cooler months of the year approach, the stomach flu season starts up in the United States. It starts as early as October and ends around April each year, usually peaking in January. The stomach flu is an acute viral infection marked by profuse diarrhea, sometimes vomiting, nausea, abdominal cramps and a fever. The symptoms usually last for 2 to 3 days and do not require treatment. However, the duration and approach to managing the stomach flu largely depends on the cause. While the stomach flu itself is not dangerous, the complications such as dehydration can be deadly if not properly managed.
A queasy stomach is one way of describing a host of gastrointestinal symptoms from nausea, indigestion and bloating to cramps, flatulence and sometimes even diarrhoea. As a non-medical term, a queasy stomach may mean different things to different people but the underlying intention is to describe that “all is not well” with the digestive tract. It is difficult to isolate these sensations specifically to the stomach and may include the bowels or esophagus as well. Often it is related to food – either starting after eating or when a person is hungry.
Nausea is a common symptom that is present in a wide range of conditions. It is a feeling of wanting to vomit or being ‘sick in the stomach’ as is commonly described. Most of us think that nausea is related to problems with digestive tract. While digestive conditions do account for vast majority of nausea incidents in life, sometimes nausea stems from hormonal problems, injury to the head, medication and certain toxins. It is always important to find the exact cause of nausea, especially if it is persistent or comes and goes on a frequent basis. Without treating the root cause, remedying nausea may at best only offer short term relief.
There are many different types of bowel conditions but IBS and IBD are among the two most common. These are two conditions are often confused with each other. Despite the commonality in location and some symptoms between both conditions, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are two entirely separate conditions. One is a disease, the other is not. One is associated with a higher risk of cancer, the other other is not. One may require surgery to remove a portion of the bowel, the other does not. But both conditions can be debilitating and adversely affect a person’s quality of life.
A burning sensation in the stomach is not always hunger pangs. It can be a symptom of some stomach problem. Yet all too often these different signals are confused for one another. Gastrointestinal complaints that present with a burning stomach sensation or pain are common throughout the globe. In many of these conditions, eating seems to help ease the pain in part or completely. But it is only short term relief. These changes in eating patterns leads to obvious consequences that are undesirable – the main one of which is weight gain. But it also has other equally severe consequences like disturbance in sleeping patterns.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is the most common condition that affects the upper part of the gut. Most of us simply know it as acid reflux or by the main symptom – heartburn. But there is much more to the condition than just heartburn. Sometimes gastroesophageal reflux disease does not even present with heartburn. A person may have almost none of the typical signs and symptoms of acid reflux but could be suffering with the condition to a severe degree.
So how do you know if you are suffering with acid reflux? Despite being the most common upper GI condition, many cases remain undiagnosed. Acid reflux is a condition where stomach acid passes into the esophagus (food pipe) when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) fails to prevent this backward movement of the stomach contents.
There are a number of stomach problems that have become widespread in modern society. Gastritis and stomach ulcers are two of the more frequently seen conditions. Stomach cancer is now one of the more common types of cancer. However, there are a host of other stomach problems that either affect the stomach function or structure. In order to diagnose a stomach problem, your doctor may have to do certain tests, scans or scopes. There are several types of stomach diagnostic investigations. Your doctor may do more than one type of investigation to confirm a diagnosis. It is important to understand the basics of some of these investigations.
Not every person has the ideal bowel habit which is as regular as clockwork. It is inconvenient to have to pass stool at an unexpected time, experience loose watery stool or pass very hard stool infrequently. These are signs of poor bowel habit. It is important to first see a doctor to find out if these disturbances may be due to any bowel diseases, be it acute of chronic. If there is no apparent bowel abnormality then you should look at various ways to improve your bowel habit. The reality is that good bowel habit is frequent, regular and somewhat predictable bowel movements with the passage of soft and firm stool that is easily evacuated. If your bowel habit is not as “picture perfect” as this, then consider these tips for better bowel habit.
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