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7 Most Common Digestive Conditions

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Digestive issues can make living life to its fullest difficult. And nearly one in five of us are affected by some type of digestive disease that prevents our bodies from properly breaking down food into the nutrients needed for energy, growth and cell repair.

We’re here to break down the seven most common digestive conditions, along with symptoms and how to find relief.

What Is a Digestive Disease?

Digestive diseases are a group of illnesses that occur when the digestive system doesn’t function properly. Health experts split them into two categories — organic and functional GI disorders.

Organic GI disorders occur when there are structural abnormalities in the digestive system, which prevents it from working properly.

In functional GI disorders, the GI tract appears to be structurally normal but still doesn’t function well.

Digestive Conditions We See the Most

Some of the most common digestive issues include GERD, ulcers, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diverticulosis, colorectal cancer and celiac disease.

While some digestive problems last only a short time, others are chronic in that they last longer or recur frequently. Symptoms may include:

  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Gas
  • Stomach pain
  • Stomach cramps

Here is more information about each of the seven most common digestive conditions we treat at AdventHealth.

GERD

GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, affects an estimated 20 percent of the U.S. population. GERD is very common, and it differs from the occasional feeling of “heartburn” in that it causes troublesome symptoms and/or complications. It’s important to seek evaluation from a physician because it can be treated, which can help prevent more serious digestive problems down the road.

Common symptoms of GERD include heartburn (burning sensation behind the breastbone), regurgitation (where acid and or food comes up from the stomach into the mouth) and epigastric pain. Other not so common symptoms are chest pain, nausea, difficulty swallowing or painful swallowing.

Ulcers

If you’re feeling the burning pain and indigestion associated with an ulcer, you’re not alone. About 10% of adults experience an ulcer at some point in their lives.

Ulcers are open sores on an organ that are caused by inflammation, and in most cases, trace back to a bacterium in your system.

Ulcer pain isn’t like normal abdominal pain or a stomachache. If your pain doesn’t settle with the help of antacids, and you experience nausea, bloating, vomiting, or a change in appetite, your doctor can perform tests for an accurate diagnosis, and we’ll help you find relief from your ulcer.

Crohn’s Disease

Crohn's disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes inflammation of the tissues in your digestive tract, which can lead to abdominal pain, chronic diarrhea, exhaustion, weight loss and malnutrition.

Inflammation caused by Crohn's disease can involve different areas of the digestive tract in different people, most commonly the small intestine. This inflammation often spreads into the deeper layers of the bowel.

Crohn's disease can be both painful and debilitating, and rarely can lead to life-threatening complications.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Usually developing in adults over age 40, IBS is a common health condition that affects your stomach and large intestine (gastrointestinal tract) for days, weeks or months at a time. In general, the condition tends to affect women twice as often as men and can run in families.

The exact cause of IBS has not yet been determined, but according to recent studies, it appears to be related to an oversensitivity of the nerves in your gut.

Not to be confused with the more severe inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), IBS doesn’t typically cause serious health complications. But it can lead to uncomfortable symptoms — including daily bloating, gas, cramps, abdominal pain, constipation and diarrhea — that can keep you from the activities you love.

Diverticulitis

Diverticulitis is a serious disease that involves the inflammation of small pouches called diverticula that develop along the walls of the intestines, causing intense abdominal pain.

In addition, diverticulitis can sometimes lead to individuals requiring a colostomy after surgery to treat the disease.

Treatment goals for diverticulosis include preventing complications, so we’ll start by empowering you to make lifestyle changes, like high-fiber diets, exercising, and drinking more water. Diverticulitis treatments tailored to your needs can include:

  • Bed rest
  • High-fiber diet
  • Liquid diet
  • Low-residue diet
  • Medications
  • Muscle relaxers
  • Surgery

Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer includes cancers of the colon or rectum. It’s America’s second leading cause of cancer-related deaths, and people are being diagnosed at younger ages than ever before. Screening is crucial — especially with certain risk factors.

Symptoms of colorectal cancer can include:

  • Anemia
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Bloating
  • Blood in the toilet after a bowel movement
  • Changes in bowel habits
  • Low back pain
  • Unexplained fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Urge to have a bowel movement when there’s no need

If diagnosed early, colorectal cancer has a five-year survival rate of about 90%. The primary treatment is surgery, though doctors use chemotherapy for advanced colon cancer. Other approaches include radiation therapy, immunotherapy and targeted drug therapy.

Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease where ingesting gluten — proteins found in wheat, rye and barley — triggers an immune repose in the body that attacks the small intestine. It damages the villi — small hair-like projections that line the small intestine — that allow the body to properly absorb vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.

According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, two and one-half million Americans are undiagnosed and at risk for long-term health complications from celiac disease.

Most common celiac symptoms are bloating and abdominal pain. More severe symptoms can include weight loss, anemia, fertility issues and abnormal liver enzymes.

Untreated, celiac can cause long-term damage to the body, including anemia, osteoporosis, malnutrition and in rare cases, intestinal cancers.

The good news is that celiac disease can be successfully managed by adopting a completely gluten-free diet. Thanks to increased awareness of gluten and the abundant availability of gluten-free products, it’s also easier than ever before. Patients who remove gluten exposure can eliminate symptoms, and follow-up endoscopies typically reveal no evidence of damage to the small intestine.

Trust Us to Help You Manage Chronic Digestive Issues

You’re ready to feel like you again. And we’re ready to help, with proven treatments of digestive disorders like Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulosis, celiac disease and more.

While our expert physicians and surgeons have the knowledge and medicine to help get the symptoms of your digestive disorder under control, we’ll also arm you with the knowledge and motivation you need to keep them that way, from personalized diet and exercise plans to around-the-clock support.

Learn more about how we can help you feel better and live your best life. You deserve to feel whole.

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