Numerous studies have shown that preventable illnesses comprise a significant proportion of total health care costs.
At Lefas we recognize this and the focus in our health care delivery systems has begun to shift from one based almost solely on disease treatment to one that emphasizes disease prevention through dietary and lifestyle changes, risk-factor identification and reduction, screening, early disease therapy, and reduction in environmental toxins.
Gastrointestinal disorders is the term used to refer to any condition or disease that occurs within the gastrointestinal tract. The gastrointestinal tract (also called the GI tract) is a series of hollow organs that form a long continuous passage from our mouth to our anus. The organs that make up our GI tract are our mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and anus.
Our GI tract, together with our liver, pancreas, and gallbladder, make up our digestive system. An extensive network of blood vessels supply blood to these organs and also transport nutrients away to other organs in the body. Nerves and hormones work together to regulate the functioning of the digestive system and bacteria that reside within our GI tract (called our gut flora or microbiome) play a role in digestion, immunity, and our overall health. A membranous sac called the peritoneum holds all the digestive system organs in place.
Common gastrointestinal disorders include:
Constipation is the term used to describe difficulty or infrequency in passing stools (feces). Not everybody has a daily bowel movement, so the passage of time between bowel motions before constipation occurs varies from person to person. When somebody is constipated their stools are usually small, hard, dry, and difficult to pass. Other symptoms may include bloating or distention in the stomach and pain during a bowel movement. Learn more on constipation here.
Crohn’s disease is a chronic bowel disease that causes patches of inflammation in the GI tract anywhere between the mouth and the anus, although the area where the small intestine joins the large intestine is most commonly affected.
Symptoms of diarrhea include frequent, loose, watery stools (feces) which are usually accompanied by an urgent need to go to the toilet. Abdominal pain or cramping may also occur, and sometimes nausea or vomiting. Learn more on diarrhea here.
Diverticular disease is a chronic condition in which small pockets or out-pouching’s, called diverticula occur in the bowel. Diverticula can become inflamed when undigested food gets trapped within them, causing pain and constipation, and sometimes fever, nausea, or cramping. This is called diverticulitis.
•Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD):
GERD is also known as heartburn or acid reflux. It occurs when the ring of muscle fibers that surrounds the entrance to our stomach (known as the lower esophageal sphincter) becomes weak, and instead of remaining tightly closed to prevent the backflow of food back up our esophagus, it remains partially open, allowing partially digested food and stomach acid to leak back up the esophagus, causing irritation.
The primary symptoms associated with GERD are regurgitation, heartburn, chest pain and nausea. GERD is most commonly treated with antacids, H2 blockers, or Proton Pump Inhibitors.
•Hemorrhoids and anal fissures:
Hemorrhoids occur when the anal cushions (which are small areas of vein-containing tissues that seal the anal opening, preventing incontinence) become engorged and swollen. They can occur either externally or internally and both types typically bleed when a bowel motion is passed.
•Peptic Ulcer Disease (PUD):
Peptic ulcer disease is an umbrella term used to describe both gastric and duodenal ulcers, which are small holes that can occur in the lining of your stomach (gastric ulcer) or upper part of your small intestine (duodenal ulcers). Duodenal ulcers are the most common type and are more likely in men aged between 30 and 50 years. Gastric ulcers most often affect middle-aged or elderly people.
The most common cause is an infection with a bacteria called Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), that is usually acquired in childhood, although most people never develop ulcers.
Ulcerative colitis affects only the innermost lining of the colon. Although the colon is the only part of the bowel affected, the whole of the colon is inflamed. Symptoms are similar to Crohn’s disease and include diarrhea and the frequent need to have a bowel movement (also called tenesmus). Pus and mucus may also occur as a result of ulcers that form in the colon. Other symptoms include rectal bleeding or bloody stools, abdominal pain, tiredness, and loss of appetite.
Vomiting is when the contents of the stomach are forcefully expelled through the mouth, usually involuntarily. Nausea is the term used to describe feeling sick or like you are just about to vomit. Infection from bacteria, viruses, or other micro-organisms is one of the most common causes of vomiting.
Overindulgence in alcohol, food allergies, migraines, and pregnancy may also cause vomiting. Treatment depends on the cause and may include antiemetics and rehydration solutions, depending on how suitable these are for the person with the vomiting.