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Digestive conditions you should know about

By Christine Traxler, MD

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

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

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This seems to be a sensible article, but if it really originates in Japan, some Japanese names of drugs (katakana brand name and/or name of the chemical -- sometimes very hard to match up with western information) would be helpful, since there are many foreigners who use Japanese national health insurance.

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I am a long-time GERD sufferer so I found this article to be interesting. After exhausting all US GERD medications, I am now starting to seek relief from Japanese brands, such as Ohta Isan, which, by the way, tastes awful.

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@makiminato: Try a bout three almonds. I do not have GERD, but get some nasty indigestion and find them to really help.

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I'm not an MD like the author of this article, but I'll add my two cents to the GERD/heartburn topic. I suffered with this terribly for a while some years ago, and did my own research on it.

My heartburn was very intense, with stomach acid rising into my throat at time, doubling me over. My doctor's solution was to suppress the stomach acid with medication. However, it turned out my issue was actually caused by insufficient stomach acid production. This leads to food staying in the stomach for far too long, leading to irritation and reflux.

Hints that this might apply can be burping excessively after a meal, constipation, gas, irritable stomach, and gluten intolerance. You stomach needs to maintain a good pH to protect against bacterial infections. If hypoacidity is your problem and you keep treating it with antacids, you will exacerbate the problem and create a gateway to infections such as Helicobacter Pylori - which has a direct correlation to the creation of ulcers. The HP bacteria thrive in a low-acid environment, and once they are in place antibiotics may be required to eliminate them.

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If you suspect hypoacidity might be an issue for you, there are some basic non-prescription things you can do: avoid drinking liquids with your food - it dilutes stomach acid. If this is a bad thing for you, your stomach will probably feel 'heavy' after a large drink. Also, burping may follow. Some people take a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in a small amount of water just before eating. This may stimulate stomach acid production. I tried this, with little effect, though. What worked for me was supplementing with Glutamic Acid HCL.

'Glutamic Acid, or glutamate, is an amino acid that occurs naturally in the body. Generally recognized for its power as a neurotransmitter, glutamic acid is a hydrochloride (HCL) and often used to flavor food or as a supplement to promote digestion.'

The product I used contained mainly glutamic acid HCI, but also pepsin, bromelain, betaine HCI. In my case, taking the normal dose (3 pills with each meal) completely stopped by heartburn issue before I had finished the 180 tablets, and it was cheap. Some time later I damaged by digestion with poor food and alcohol and the heartburn resumed. I was able to stop it immediately with the same tablets. Years later and it never came back.

Anyhow, sorry for the flood, but I think it's worth sharing the info after I suffered for so long to learn it. I have also successfully helped a few friends with the exact same issues. It's pretty common. Hope this helps someone :)

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