Over 20 million Canadians live with digestive or other gastrointestinal-related disorders, this according to the Canadian Digestive Health Foundation. There are over 15 types of digestive and/or gastrointestinal conditions, and they can all present with similar characteristics. Below is a look at the most common digestive conditions, their symptoms, and information on how they can be treated.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
GERD occurs when stomach acid or bile backs up and goes into the esophagus. The most common symptoms of this disease are regurgitation, heartburn and indigestion, which can range from mild to severe. Individuals who are overweight, smoke, have diabetes or asthma are at an increased risk of developing GERD. If left untreated, GERD can cause inflammation of the esophagus, resulting in complications such as narrowing of the esophagus or bleeding, causing pain and making it difficult to swallow. GERD is usually detected based on the symptoms that the patient is experiencing. However, in some cases further testing may be required such as an upper GI series, also known as a barium swallow or pH probe tests. You may also be referred to a Gastroenterologist; they can perform a test called an endoscopy. An endoscopy examines your esophagus by inserting a thin tube equipped with a small camera down your throat. To treat GERD, over-the-counter medications are usually the first choice for treatment. These include antacids such as Tums, Rolaids, Gaviscon or Maalox and will provide almost immediate relief of heartburn. H2 receptor blockers such as Zantac are also commonly used to treat GERD and can also be found over the counter. Unlike the previous antacids mentioned, they do not work as quickly but will provide you with longer relief. Your physician can also prescribe stronger versions of H2 receptor blockers. In more severe cases of GERD, PPI’s (Proton Pump Inhibitors) are usually recommended. These block acid production and heal damaged tissue. PPI’s include Prevacid and Prilosec, which can be found over-the-counter, as well as prescription-strength medications such as Nexium, Protonix and Dexilant. Side effects of these medications are usually not a concern…however, they can be related to B12 deficiency with long-term use. If medications are not successful, surgery may be required to strengthen the lower esophageal sphincter.
Affecting over 300,000 Canadians and 1 in every 200 people in North America, Celiac Disease is considered one of the top chronic diseases in the world. Celica Disease occurs as a result of sensitivity to gluten Symptoms of Celiac disease can include abdominal pain and/or bloating, constipation and/or diarrhea, weight loss, vomiting, fatigue and anemia. While there is no cure for Celiac Disease, it is important to eat a healthy, gluten-free diet to lessen the symptoms associated with the disease. It can also cause certain nutritional deficiencies, so it may be beneficial to take a multivitamin to ensure you are getting the appropriate amount of nutrients into your body. For specific diet information, visit Dr. Ali Ghahary’s Wordpress blog at http://alighahary.wordpress.com.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Over 12,000 Canadians are diagnosed with IBS every year. It can cause mild to severe symptoms that oftentimes alternate such as persistent abdominal discomfort, diarrhea and constipation. Click here for more information on Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
If you suspect that you might have any of these digestive or gastrointestinal related disorders or others not mentioned here, make an appointment to discuss your concerns with your family physician. Alternatively, there are also physicians like Dr. Ali Ghahary who are available to see patients at their clinics on a walk-in basis.