Your stomach says a lot about your overall health. As part of the digestive system, or gastrointestinal (GI) system, it helps the body break down food and absorb nutrients. Those nutrients provide energy and contribute to cell growth. The digestive tract, which includes the stomach along with the esophagus, small and large intestines, pancreas, liver and gallbladder, also eliminates waste from the body.
GI problems can block the body’s absorption of nutrients, resulting in serious issues. Digestive discomfort can also signal conditions ranging from stress to inflammation or infection. Listen to your gut. By understanding a few common conditions, you can address potential stomach problems before they become serious.
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Celiac disease is a condition triggered by the consumption of gluten (a protein found in foods containing wheat, barley or rye) that damages the small intestine and prevents it from absorbing important nutrients. Symptoms include abdominal pain, decreased appetite, nausea and weight loss, as well as bruising, muscle cramps and skin issues.
You should see your personal doctor if symptoms of Celiac disease continue, especially if you have a family history of the disease.
If you're diagnosed with Celiac disease, you should avoid eating foods that contain gluten.
Crohn's disease is an inflammatory bowel disease that impacts the intestines (or, sometimes, other parts of the digestive tract), causing everything from fever, fatigue and abdominal pain to ulcers, skin issues and weight loss.
See your personal doctor if you're experiencing severe pain, blood in the stool, weight loss or persistent fever.
Stress management, dietary changes, medications (including anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics and others) and, in severe cases, surgery are all used to treat Crohn's disease.
Diverticulitis happens when inflamed or infected pouches in the digestive system (often in the large intestine) trigger abdominal pain, nausea, fever and bloating.
If you're experiencing serious nausea, vomiting or back pain, persistent high fever or blood in your stool, talk to a doctor.
If you are diagnosed with diverticulitis, the treatment options are rest, pain medications, dietary changes and, in extreme cases, antibiotics or surgery.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
IBS is a large intestine (colon) disorder that causes pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea or constipation.
If you have symptoms that persist and you notice a change in bowel habits, discuss it with your personal doctor.
Regular exercise and sleep routines, stress relief, dietary changes or, in serious cases, medication can all help treat IBS.
Lactose intolerance is a condition that makes it difficult to digest lactose, a type of sugar in milk and dairy products, and leads to bloating, cramps, gas and diarrhea.
Talk to your doctor if your symptoms continue, or you notice symptoms in children.
If you're diagnosed with lactose intolerance, limit the amount of milk and dairy products in your diet. You can also try lactase, which is a dietary supplement that can help you digest lactose.
Six strategies to aid digestive health
- Eat fiber-rich foods such as berries, whole grains and legumes.
- Chew slowly and thoroughly.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Exercise regularly.
- Manage stress.
- Avoid cigarettes and tobacco.
- MedlinePlus.gov — Digestive diseases External Site
- MedlinePlus.gov — Irritable bowel syndrome External Site
- MedlinePlus.gov — Diverticulitis External Site
- MedlinePlus.gov — Crohn disease External Site
- MedlinePlus.gov — Celiac disease - sprue External Site
- MedlinePlus.gov — Lactose intolerance External Site
- MedlinePlus.gov — Digestive diseases also called gastrointestinal diseases External Site
- Health.Harvard.edu — The gut-brain connection External Site
- Health.Harvard.edu — Stress and the sensitive gut External Site
- MayoClinic.org — Irritable bowel syndrome External Site
- MayoClinic.org — Diverticulitis External Site
- MayoClinic.org — Crohn's disease External Site
- MayoClinic.org — Celiac disease External Site