Gut Check

Gut Check

Digestive problems leaving you with tummy troubles? Everyone gets a stomach ache once in a while, but there are actually several organs in your digestive system that can cause abdominal pain. Digestive issues can be troublesome causing a growing number of doctor’s visits and hospitalizations for Americans.

Though your gut is an essential part of your digestive system, it also plays an important role in your overall wellness. Your colon and intestines host many different bacteria, called microflora, which vary from person to person based on infant nutrition, use of antibiotics, age, and diet. It may sound strange that your gut has bacteria, but microflora are incredibly important to your health, as a fundamental part of your immune system, and influence the absorption of minerals into your body. It is important that you have the correct balance of bacteria in your gut. An imbalance in these bacteria can cause issues like irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, gastroenteritis, and even colon cancer. Clinical studies have shown that certain food products, called probiotics, can stimulate growth of your microflora and may help keep them in balance, leaving you with a happier gut.

There are several other digestive problems that can keep you feeling down and out. Many digestive issues are controllable, while others have a genetic component. If you are experiencing belly symptoms, talk to your doctor to find out the cause, condition, and the best course of action. Here are some of the more common conditions:

GERD: GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, is  one of the most common digestive problems. A weak muscle between the stomach and the esophagus allows stomach acid to splash upwards, causing pain in the upper stomach or lower chest. This pain is often referred to as heartburn.

Peptic ulcers: Ulcers in the stomach or small intestine (called peptic ulcers) can cause mid to upper abdominal pain. If untreated, ulcers can cause internal bleeding or lead to serious infection.

Gallstones: Gallstones, which form in the gallbladder, cause swelling and can block the opening to the intestine. Gallstones can cause pain in the right upper abdomen.

Lactose intolerance: There are many people who cannot digest lactose, a sugar that is found in dairy products.Ingesting milk products causes mild abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea, and indigestion in people with lactose intolerance.

Diverticulitis: Diverticulitis, which is quite common in Americans over age 70, causes abnormal hollows in the walls of the intestines or colon. These pockets can become inflamed as areas that are weakened tear and cause cramping in the lower abdomen.

Pancreatitis: Pancreas inflammation, or pancreatitis, can cause burning mid to upper abdominal pain. Acute pancreatitis comes on suddenly and generally lasts for a few days, while chronic pancreatitis occurs over many years. For some, mild cases go away without treatment, but severe cases can be life-threatening.

Food poisoning: Food poisoning, from viruses or bacteria such as salmonella, can cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, and  vomiting.

Medication side effects: Some drug side effects include abdominal pain. NSAIDs, types of pain medication that include ibuprofen and aspirin, can cause swelling and stomach pain and possibly the formation of ulcers.

If you are experiencing stomach pain, talk to your doctor for an accurate diagnosis to develop an appropriate treatment plan.

Do you need to request an appointment, or would you like to learn more about UPMC Susquehanna digestive health services near you? Call 570-321-3454.