There are advertisements all over the television that claim to help you with your digestive problems. Do they work and what kinds of digestive problems do they help you with? Let’s take a look at the various digestive conditions you may have and what you can do about them.
The first is called gastro esophageal reflux disease or GERD. We call it “heartburn.” It usually occurs after eating but can occur at night when you’re lying down. It feels like a burning or sharp pain in the chest associated with the sensation of acid in the back of your throat or belching. It is a very painful condition to have.
Up until recently, doctors could only give medications to neutralize the acid in the stomach with medications like TUMS and Maalox. They work fast to make you feel better but they don’t last long, so you end up taking them over and over again throughout the day. Newer medications have since been made to counteract the effects of GERD.
These include H2 blockers like Zantac (ranitidine) and acid pump inhibitors like Prevacid and Prilosec. Acid pump inhibitors work the best and are taken once per day but can’t be taken in pregnancy, a time when heartburn is a common problem.
A stomach ulcer is another common digestive problem you could have. This, like GERD, is a problem of too much stomach acid affecting the lining of the digestive tract, in this case, the stomach. It can be made worse by having an infection by the bacterium Helicobacter pylori. Many people are chronically infected with this bacterium and don’t know it until they get a stomach ulcer or similar problem. Medications like Zantac, Prilosec, Prevacid and antibiotics can clear up the stomach acid and can reduce the risk of recurrences of stomach ulcers.
There are several illnesses related to the small intestines or the large intestines. You can have a condition called irritable bowel syndrome. This syndrome affects women more than men and results in cramps and abdominal pain, food intolerances, diarrhea or constipation (or both). When doctors look at the lining of the large or small intestines, they don’t see any abnormality and so the condition is felt to be functional with no known cause. If you have irritable bowel syndrome, you need to consider watching your diet, reducing stress and taking antispasmodic medication.
A newer treatment for irritable bowel syndrome is the use of probiotics which can be taken in supplement form or in certain yogurts. Probiotics are considered to be “healthy bacteria” that colonize the large intestines and take the place of “bad bacteria” that can cause constipation, cramping, or diarrhea. They can be taken daily and, over a period of time, your bowels will normalize.
More serious conditions of the small and/or large intestines include Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Crohn’s disease is an autoimmune disease in which your body attacks part of the lining of the digestive tract. It can affect any portion of the digestive tract from the mouth to the anus. It results in crimpy abdominal pain, mucous in the stools, blood in the stools and frequent diarrhea. There are several prescription medications you can use to control the symptoms of the disease.
Ulcerative colitis is similar to Crohn’s disease but it affects just the large colon. It causes cramp abdominal pain, blood in the stools and frequent diarrhea. While these two diseases are similar, they look different under the microscope. Neither condition is curable although the symptoms can be managed.
With both ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, there is a higher than average risk of getting colon cancer, especially at a young age. This means you need to be screened with a colonoscopy at regular intervals. Some people have their colons removed prophylactically because of the high risk of getting cancer of the colon.© Modern Tokyo Times