Your Doctor

10 Digestive Issues and What They Might Mean

Digestive complaints can be easy to cope with in day-to-day life. Some issues might be able to be treated with simple lifestyle changes but other problems might be a sign of a serious medical condition, which needs to be diagnosed and treated accordingly. Here are some tips from Dr Riccardo Di Cuffa about gut issues you might be having, and what they might mean:- 

1. If you feel uncomfortable after eating spicy food or being stressed then this might be a sign of a helicobacter pylori infection, which is a common cause of stomach ulcers. They disturb the barrier that protects the stomach lining and this allows stomach acid to irritate the stomach wall which can lead to stomach ulcers. Spicy food and stress may cause an increase in acid production, which puts you at higher risk.

2. If you are often suffering from loose stool, constipation or bloating and pain then you might be suffering from irritable bowel syndrome. Nearly 20% of adults in the UK suffer from this condition and it’s caused by an overactive or underactive bowel, which causes variation in stool type. 

3. If you are suffering from recurring diarrhoea and abdominal cramping it might be more than just irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Crohn’s disease could be the cause of your suffering. If it is Crohn’s disease then you might also find that there is blood or mucus in your stools, you are extremely tired much of the time and you are unintentionally losing weight. 

4. If you suffer from diarrhoea or loose stools after you’ve been drinking then it may be because alcohol speeds up the digestive process, which is why you need to go as soon as you wake up. This fast digestive process means that the colon doesn’t have time to absorb water, which is why your stool is often watery after a night of drinking alcohol. 

5. If you suffer from abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, vomiting and weight loss then this could also be a sign of coeliac disease. Coeliac is an autoimmune disease, which is cured by completely avoiding gluten. Eating gluten will cause your immune system to attack your body by damaging your villi, which are in the small intestine and are there to absorb nutrients.

6. If you are experiencing pain or itchiness around the anus and problems sitting comfortably then this could be a sign that you have haemorrhoids (piles). This is caused by a dilation of the blood vessels at the end of the digestive tract. It’s a very common condition, which might be caused by chronic constipation, diarrhoea, pregnancy, straining bowel movements. A lack of fibre in your diet can be a lead to constipation and excessive straining.

7. If you suffer from rectal bleeding as well as fever and abdominal pain, then this could be a sign that you have diverticulitis. As we age, we tend to develop small pouches called diverticula in the large colon. If these pouches become inflamed, then it can cause diverticulitis. This is often treated with antibiotics. 

8. If you are experiencing rectal bleeding and pain on passing a stool, then it could be an anal fissure that you’re suffering from. These are tiny tears in the lining of the anus at the end of your digestive tract, which may bleed after opening your bowels. They are probably caused by straining or hard bowel movements. 

9. If you are suffering from diarrhoea on a regular basis but do not feel any abdominal pain then you might be lactose intolerant. Your body may not have the ability to process the milk sugar in cow’s milk. It’s likely that your symptoms would get worse after eating dairy and cutting lactose out your diet will stop most symptoms. 

10. If you become bloated throughout the day, but have a flat stomach in the morning then you might be suffering from aerophagia. This is a condition that is characterised by excessive swallowing of air i.e. eating too quickly.