The odd upset of the bowels are not uncommon. We all suffer with a bowel upset at some point or the other in life. For most people it is short-lived and recovery is quick, often within a few days. For others, these upset bowels can last for years or even a lifetime. Understanding what is occurring in the bowels, and the conditions that may give rise to the symptoms referred to as upset bowels is important in identifying the possible causes.
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Heartburn is the main symptom of the most common upper gastrointestinal problem – acid reflux, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) as it medically known. GERD affects between 25% to 40% of Americans and about 10% suffer with symptoms daily. While we all know the typical symptoms like heartburn and nausea, many people do not realize that acid reflux also affects sleep. In fact acid reflux may occur for many of the same reasons that affect sleep. It can be a vicious cycle that leads to long term sleeping problems despite the use of strong prescription sleeping pills.
Flatus refers to gas passed out of the rectum, or as a ‘fart’ as it is commonly known. Although it is the source of much amusement in the media, passing flatus (flatulence) is normal for the healthy body. The problem arises when flatus is excessive and uncontrollable. We all consider it normal to pass out some gas from our mouth (a belch or burp) during and just after eating. But when we repeatedly pass flatus around meal time we tend to think that this may be abnormal. After all the food and drink we consumed should never reach the other end of the alimentary tract so quickly. And it does not. Flatus during and immediately after meals is not from the food you just ate. It occurs for other reasons.
continue reading Flatus After Eating and During Meals, Causes and Diseases
Physical activity is one of the recommended lifestyle measures for good health but diarrhea after a workout can be distressing. It is not entirely uncommon to have the urge for a bowel movement after exercise but diarrhea is not considered as a normal bowel habit. Fortunately most cases of diarrhea after exercise are never serious and tends to resolve on its own within a short period of time. However, sometimes the exercise could have triggered or exacerbated an underlying health problem that may be the cause of your diarrhea. This health problem needs to be investigated and treated appropriately.
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.
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.
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