Large and Small Intestine Diseases

by M. Williams


In humans, the intestines are segmented into the small and large intestines which extend from the pyloric sphincter at the bottom of the stomach to the anus. The small intestine is divided into the duodenum, jejunum and ileum and the large intestine, into the cecum, colon, rectum and the anal canal.

There are many disorders that can affect the intestines and cause symptoms ranging from a bloated abdomen to severe intestinal pain and blood in the stools. These disorders range from the inconsequential indigestion to potentially fatal cancers.

One of the most common conditions affecting the intestines is hemorrhoids or piles. Symptoms of piles include blood in the stools. Treatment can range from simple home care to even surgery. Hemorrhoids are caused by swollen veins in the rectum or the anus that make passing stools a very painful experience. Hemorrhoids may be caused by chronic constipation, infection of the anus and certain diseases such as liver cirrhosis. Treatment of hemorrhoids includes the use of over-the-counter corticosteroid creams to reduce the pain and inflammation and stool softeners to ease the passage of stools through the rectum and anus. Dietary changes involving increased intake of dietary fiber are essential in order to prevent a recurrence of hemorrhoids and prevent constipation. In recurrent cases or those which do not respond to conventional treatment, surgery may be required.

Treatment for intestinal disorders usually aims at solving the problem of intestinal inflammation which is a symptom of a group of disorders known as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). There are two main types of IBD, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. While ulcerative colitis usually affects the colon, Crohn’s disease can affect any segment of the gastrointestinal tract, from the mouth upto the anus.

Both these types of IBD are episodic, meaning the symptoms occur in episodes, gaining in intensity before subsiding. The disease is said to be active when symptoms flare up and there is severe inflammation and is considered to be in a dormant or remissive stage when the symptoms lessen or disappear altogether.

While the exact causes of IBD are not known, it is suspected that the body’s immune system is triggered to act against the intestines thereby causing the inflammation. Other factors that have been known to play a role in the development of IBD include genetic and psychological factors. Some of the factors suspected of triggering the autoimmune response include infections and antigens in cow’s milk.

Symptoms of IBD include stomach or abdominal cramps, blood in the stools, diarrhea, and fever, loss of appetite, anemia and abnormal weight loss. However, these symptoms by themselves are not enough to indicate IBD. To confirm a diagnosis, certain tests need to be performed. Treatment can commence once your doctor has confirmed a diagnosis of IBD, its goal being to suppress the inflammatory response after which medications to decrease the frequency of flare- ups will be prescribed.

Home remedies for swollen intestines caused by IBD mainly revolve around your diet which can play a big role in influencing the symptoms. People with IBD may be placed on a low residue diet because it may decrease the load on the intestines as well as lower the frequency of bowel movements.

For some of those suffering from Crohn’s disease, a liquid diet or a predigested formula may help speed the reduction in intestinal inflammation. For others, a diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables is recommended and dairy products, fatty and spicy foods should be avoided˟.

A number of herbs may also be used to control inflammation. A combination of herbs may be used to improve digestive health and provide some symptomatic relief. Herbs that may help include Matricaria recutita (German chamomile) with its anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic properties, Filipendula ulmaria (Meadowsweet) which helps reduce the secretion of stomach acids and has anti-inflammatory properties and Ulmus fulva which can soothe the stomach and ease the pain. Another herb that has been used by traditional healers in South Africa to treat digestive disorders is Sutherlandia frutescens. However, you should check with your doctor about the suitability of using these herbs for your condition.

Another intestinal disorder that is common to the developing world is colonic or intestinal tuberculosis. Tuberculosis can also affect the intestines and its diagnosis can be difficult to make because of its similarity to Crohn’s disease in terms of its pathology and symptoms.

A major part of the treatment for colonic tuberculosis involves the diet. Those with colonic tuberculosis should abstain from milk and milk products. This is due to the tendency of milk to ferment in the bowel, leading to increased abdominal distention which will only serve to exacerbate the symptoms. The diet should be a high protein one. Ideally, small quantities of meats in the form of a soup should be given at regular intervals throughout the day. Solid meats such as fish and chicken can then be gradually introduced.
Your doctor will advise you on the details of the diet you need to follow.

Whatever be the cause of your intestinal disorder, make sure that you consult your doctor at the earliest.

References

  1. http://www.cdc.gov/ibd/
  2. http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/crohns-disease-000043.htm

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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