Is your stomach not digesting the food you eat easily? Do you contemplate skipping meals because you know you’re going to feel miserable after eating? There are many possible reasons people suffer from uncomfortable issues related to digestion. Here’s a look at some of the more common ones.
What Are Some Potential Causes Of Gastrointestinal Upset?
Your gastrointestinal system is a wonderful system – when it’s working properly. But things can go wrong. Acid reflux, lactose intolerance, and other digestive issues can affect the stomach and intestines. These issues can then lead to troublesome symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and bloating.
If you’re having problems with digestion, talk to your doctor. They will be able to assess the cause of your discomfort. Here are just a few of the potential culprits to discuss with your doctor.
1. Acid Reflux
Stomach acid plays a major role in chemical digestion. For instance, it breaks down proteins into amino acids that your body needs to be its healthiest.1 But when that acid gets into your esophagus, it can cause serious discomfort.
Acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease, is a disorder that leads to the movement of hydrochloric acid from the stomach up into the esophagus. There’s a muscle between the esophagus and stomach known as the lower esophageal sphincter.
This muscle is supposed to close when food moves from the esophagus into the stomach. If it doesn’t, reflux can occur.
Do you notice a burning sensation in your chest or throat when you lie down? Do you have a sour, acidic taste in your mouth? These are classic symptoms associated with this problem. Other symptoms may include:
- Excess saliva
- Trouble swallowing
- Bad breath
- Inflamed gums2
Ulcers usually affect the lining of the stomach and duodenum – the portion of the small intestine located nearest the stomach. A burning sensation in the stomach after eating is one of the more common symptoms. Discomfort can vary in duration, and it may come and go for days or even weeks.
The reason ulcers occur has to do with the acid in your stomach and other digestive organs. These acids are important for digestion, but they can cause a great deal of harm in some instances.
One of the more common misconceptions surrounding ulcers is that they’re caused by stress. It’s true that stress may make an ulcer worse, but it won’t cause one to occur. Likewise, eating spicy foods can worsen ulcers but likely won’t be the reason one develops.3
Just about everyone has a bout with diarrhea at one time or another. It doesn’t matter how young or old you are, or how physically fit you might be. Someone is considered to have diarrhea if they have loose bowel movements three or more times on the same day.
Now, diarrhea can occur for several reasons. You might have ingested food contaminated with bacteria, or drank contaminated water. Parasites in food can sometimes cause diarrhea, as can certain medications. You could also have a condition affecting the colon.
The good news is, diarrhea often clears up on its own after a couple of days.
If you’re still having loose bowel movements after three days or more, it may be time to call a doctor.4
The opposite of diarrhea is constipation. Instead of going to the bathroom multiple times a day, you can’t pass stool at all. Bowel movements may become more and more infrequent.5
One of the most common digestive disorders, constipation is often caused by a lack of fiber in the diet. Insoluble fiber is really important for people with constipation. It speeds the movement of food through the gastrointestinal system. Vegetables and whole grains are good sources of fiber.6
5. Functional Dyspepsia
Have you ever had indigestion? Well, indigestion is called functional dyspepsia. It’s a rather broad term that covers lots of different symptoms, including bloating, pain in the abdomen after eating, and nausea. Symptoms can be frustrating, but a doctor can help you manage them.7
6. Lactose Intolerance
This problem occurs when the digestive juices in your stomach can’t break down lactose, a sugar found in dairy products.
Digestive enzymes in your gastrointestinal system break down fatty acids and other nutrients so your body can use them. One of these enzymes is lactase. It breaks down lactose.
But if you’re lactose intolerant, your body doesn’t make enough lactase.
Symptoms of lactose intolerance can include diarrhea and gas as well as bloating.8
7. Idiopathic Gastroparesis
Gastroparesis is also known as delayed gastric emptying. Delayed gastric emptying means that your stomach doesn’t do a good job of emptying its contents, including nutrients from food or liquids. People who have issues with high blood sugar levels might be at a higher risk for this condition.
If someone is diagnosed with idiopathic gastroparesis, that simply means the cause of the problem is unknown. But there are other types of this condition that have a known cause. For example, gastroparesis has been linked to high blood sugar levels.
People who have gastroparesis due to high blood sugar levels tend to suffer more nausea and vomiting.9
When to See Your Doctor
As you can see, quite a few things can go wrong when it comes to digestion. The stomach and small intestine are where digestive issues typically occur. But there are other organs, such as the pancreas and liver, that can contribute to problems as well.
If you are experiencing extreme digestive discomfort, nausea, loss of appetite, weight loss, or irregular bowel movements, see a doctor. Your doctor will perform an examination and may run some tests.10
Don’t ignore symptoms of a digestive problem. Get them addressed as soon as possible so you can get back to feeling healthy again.