The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases estimates that 60 to 70 million Americans are affected by digestive diseases. The severity can range from mild to emergency. Some conditions share similar symptoms, which is why it’s important to talk to a gastroenterologist for an accurate diagnosis.
- Lactose Intolerance
The U.S. National Library of Medicine reports that around 65% of the human population has a reduced ability to digest lactose from childhood on. This occurs due to a lack of an enzyme that’s required to digest sugar in milk. People of Asian, African-American, and American Indian descent are more likely to be lactose intolerant.
This digestive disorder can cause bloating, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. It can be treated using over-the-counter medications and switching to milk substitutes.
- GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease)
Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid backs up and enters the esophagus. It can cause burning pain in the chest and usually happens after eating or at night. It’s not uncommon to experience acid reflux once in a while, but if it happens more than twice a week, it could be a symptom of GERD. Other symptoms include bad breath, persistent heartburn, nausea, tooth erosion, trouble swallowing, and abdominal pain. It can be managed through dietary changes and medications.
Diverticulitis happens when pouches, or diverticula, appear in the colon wall and become infected or inflamed. This may be the result of a low-fiber diet that forces the colon to work harder. Symptoms include belly pain, chills, fever, bloating, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, and a loss of appetite. Mild cases may be treated with dietary adjustments, heating pads, relaxation, and over-the-counter medications. Severe cases may require surgery.
If you have questions about digestive disorders, contact your gastroenterologist to discuss symptoms and treatment options.