Malfunction of the Digestive System

by Garreth Myers

The digestive system is a collection of many different organs and components. Any problem with any of the parts of the digestive system or its associated organs can result in a different condition with its own unique set of symptoms and requiring specific treatment.

Gastro-esophageal Reflux Disease: One of the most common disorders of the digestive system occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter malfunctions and doesn't close properly. The malfunctioning sphincter allows gastric juices to leak back into the esophagus, resulting in a condition known as gastro-esophageal reflux disease or GERD. The reflux causes the typical symptoms of acidity and heartburn and over the long term may even damage the esophagus. Pregnant women and those who smoke and drink, those who are obese or overweight or suffer from a condition known as histal hernia, all run a higher risk of developing GERD. Treatment options for people suffering from this condition include dietary and lifestyle changes and the use of over-the-counter medications such as antacids. For chronic cases, medications such as proton pump inhibitors that reduce the amount of acid produced by the stomach may be prescribed.

Peptic Ulcers: Another common gastric disorder that affects millions of people every year is the problem of ulcers, also known as peptic ulcers. A peptic ulcer is caused by damage to the walls of the stomach or the duodenum due to the action of stomach acids or due to bacterial infection. This happens when the protective barriers that line the inner walls of these organs fail. A wound or a sore is created in the wall and will result in a burning and painful sensation in the stomach. The pain may be sporadic, lasting for up to days or weeks and may occur on an empty stomach. Peptic ulcers are usually caused by bacterial infections but may also be caused by long term use of non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs. Stress and spicy foods, two factors that are reputed to cause ulcers, do not cause them but can aggravate the symptoms. Left untreated, these ulcers can get worse. Treatment options include dietary and lifestyle changes, medication to block the secretion of stomach acids, antibiotics to kill bacteria and surgery in cases that do not respond to other treatment.

Lactose Intolerance: Lactose intolerance, another common digestive problem, occurs when the cells of the small intestine stop secreting lactase, an enzyme necessary for the digestion of lactose. Symptoms of lactose intolerance include abdominal bloating and cramps, diarrhea, flatulence and nausea and will be noticed shortly after the consumption of any dairy products. It is usually treated by excluding or decreasing the amount of dairy and dairy products in the diet. More problematic is the case of infants who suffer from lactose intolerance. If you suspect that your child has this condition, you should consult a doctor immediately.

There are many disorders that affect the organs associated with the digestive system. These are disorders that affect the liver, gallbladder and the pancreas.

Amongst liver disorders and diseases, Hepatitis A, B and C are viral diseases that can damage the liver. Hepatitis A is spread by poor hygiene and food and water contamination and while rare in the US, it is endemic in certain third world countries. Hepatitis B and C are transmitted by contaminated blood products and by sexual contact. Both these conditions can cause acute liver damage and may even lead to liver cancer.

Cirrhosis of the liver is another common malady seen mainly in the case of alcoholics. It is a disease caused by the liver being overburdened by too many toxins which eventually leads to the cells of the liver getting damaged.

Disorders of the pancreas include diabetes, a disease that affects millions of people the world over. Diabetes results when the pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone necessary for converting sugar into energy. This is known as Type 1 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body stops being responsive to the effect of insulin. Both these conditions result in elevated levels of blood sugar which is extremely damaging to the body.

References:
  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001311/
  2. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/pepticulcer.html
  3. http://www.emc.maricopa.edu/faculty/farabee/biobk/biobookdigest.html

Warning: The reader of this article should exercise all precautionary measures while following instructions on the home remedies from this article. Avoid using any of these products if you are allergic to it. The responsibility lies with the reader and not with the site or the writer.
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