The food we eat passes through the digestive system and gets mixed with all sorts of enzymes and acids, which pull out the needed nutrients for the body and disposes the rest. But sometimes, the acids in the digestive system do not work on time, or at all or maybe get produced more, and that is when we have an acidity problem. Now this was one of the many digestive system diseases to know of.
So what we shall do today is to first tell you how the digestive system functions, what the digestive system is all about and how the remedies work on the many digestive system diseases known to us.
What is the digestive system?
In layman or simple terms, the digestive system is a very important part of the human body; a set of organs that work in tandem together that helps convert what you eat into energy. The basic nutrients are pulled out from the foods we eat, which in turn is used by the entire body.
What happens when we eat is that the food passes through a very long tube, which is called the gastrointestinal tract (GI) or the alimentary canal. The GI is comprised of oral cavities, the pharynx, the esophagus, the stomach, the small and the large intestines.
Apart from the alimentary canal, there are other accessory organs in the digestive system of due importance. They help the body with digestion, however, you would not have any foods or food particles passing through them.
What are these accessory organ names?
- Salivary glands
- The liver
- The gallbladder
- The pancreas
To make energy for the body, the digestive system helps digest food and water. There are six major functions that happen here. They are-
- Mixing and movement
So that was a short overview on what the digestive system is and what it does. Now to understand the causes of digestive system diseases and to control the symptoms of the same, let’s read further.
Functions of the digestive system
Before we head onto the digestive system diseases list, we would like to introduce to you the functions of the digestive system, which will make you understand why certain problems like GERD and acid refluxes happen.
When we talk about the digestive system organs, we know that they work together so that they can create complex biomolecules which help break down the food we eat into simple monomers. These monomers are absorbed by the body.
The digestive system has many secretions, and enzymes. They range from the mouth and go on until the intestines. There is a role for each of the organ of the digestive system which is played. For example, there are multiple muscle layers in the stomach that help churn the food we eat or mix the food we eat. The mouth has salivary glands and teeth, that help with lubrication and grinding of food respectively.
Medical science says that each of the organ has a pH level different and distinct from the next, and they also have proteins which are specially meant for that particular organ too. Along with this, each of the organs have their own electrolytes and enzymes that help facilitate the activity.
It would depend all on the progression of the food, which determines how the GI tract works. This means, the regulation of varied organs in the digestive system working together, ensures a healthy digestion. And if there are any parts of the food that are not digested in the system, it is the duty and responsibility of the GI tract to get them removed through a process called ‘egestion’. If this does not happen, there are chances of digestive system diseases happening.
In the mouth, the pH levels for normal healthy people would always be neutral. This is because of the presence of saliva in the mouth. However, it also depends on the kinds of foods we eat, which would determine the pH levels of the mouth as well.
The pH levels in the stomach would be that of the lowest, and sometimes as low as 1. But the enzymes of the small intestine would dangle between 6 and 7 on the pH scale, which means, there is a lot of hydrogen ion concentration levels being changed in a short span of space.
There are secretions from the liver and the pancreas that have bicarbonate ions and alkaline bile in them, which again is a remarkable mediating alteration. The phyloric sphincter of the stomach, helps separate the stomach from the small intestine, and acts like a valve in doing so. This helps regulate chyme movement from the stomach and into the intestine, and does not allow a backflow of the same or regurgitation as well.
3 phases of digestive secretions
There are three phases of digestive secretions-
- The cephalic
- The gastric
- The intestinal phases
When we talk of the first phase, which is the cephalic phase, this is when the secretion of digestive enzymes, sight, smell and food thoughts happen. Ever heard the phrase ‘mouthwatering’- it happens at this level. Here the salivary glands are activated along with the glands in the stomach too.
When does the gastric phase of regulation begin? It begins when we swallow the food. This is when the stomach is told to be ready to accept the food which comes through the esophagus. This is the second phase of the digestive system.
The third phase is related to the duodenum and this is when there is a release of liver secretions and secretions from the pancreas as well. And this is called the intestinal phase, which gives feedback to the stomach. It helps alter the secretions and all the activity, through mediators – neuronal and hormonal.
Once again, we must remind you that if one of these phases do not work as planned or as they are intended to, chances are that you may have digestive system diseases.
Now that you know a bit more by reading the functions of the digestive system and its phases, here below are the digestive system diseases listed. We then shall proceed onto home remedies and care for the same.
Types of digestive system diseases you should know about
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
GERD happens when the stomach goes into the backflow mode and that means it flows back into the esophagus. This is also commonly known as acid reflux. What you will feel or experience would be a pain, and in the middle of the chest is where you will feel it. In most cases, it happens at night or after you eat a meal. It is common for most of us to experience such symptoms once a way, but if it is more than once a week or almost everyday, you could be having a chronic case of GERD. You would feel your breath being smelly, heartburns quite often, nausea and pain of the chest, breathing issues and swallowing issues too.
What are gallstones? Gallstones are hard deposits that are found in the bladder. They are small and pear shaped or sack shaped stones that secrete and store bile meant for digestion. This is one of the many digestive system diseases which affects a large group of the population out there. Gallstones happen when there is excess cholesterol in the bile or the waste, or when the gallbladder is not able to empty out properly. It also happens when the ducts are blocked towards the intestines from the gallbladder. This can cause sharp shooting pains in the upper right abdomen, and you may need doctor’s help for the same. If the medication does not work, the only option then would be surgery, which means that the gallbladder removal has to be done.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
If you have discomfort when passing bowel, painful bowels or stomach pains when passing stool, chances are you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), another of the many digestive system diseases. Experts say, there are ten to twenty percent of the people worldwide that suffer from IBS. Sources from the esteemed International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders say, the signs of this disease can vary from one person to the next. Some are constantly constipated, whilst others are always rushing to defecate. Some have stools which are dry and very hard, while others suffer from watery loose stools. Even bloating is a symptom of IBS which should not be ignored. Once again, the IBS cause is a mystery and is still being researched into. However, experts advise eating a lot of low fat foods, high fibre foods, and avoiding sweets and artificial sweetners, caffeine and alcohol as much as possible that cause IBS. The more you have probiotics which are friendly bacteria, the better it would be. So yogurt is good for the GI.
This is one of the digestive system diseases that does not come single, but comes as a group of digestive conditions. It is an inflammatory condition of the bowel system, also known as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). This is a disease that affects terminal ileum, say experts. The terminal ileum is what connects the small bowel system situated at the colon entrance. However, this condition can also affect any part of the GI as well. Sources from the CCFA or the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation (CCFA) state that eighty percent of people have it, and what causes it is still being researched, since some say it is genetics and family history. Symptoms for this disease would be rectal bleeding and abdominal pains, weight loss and fevers.
Ulcerative colitis, another of the many digestive system diseases would be inflammatory bowel disorder which affects millions across world every year. Quite similar are the symptoms of this disease to that of Crohns, and hence in most cases there are wrong diagnosis as well. Over here, only a small part of the GI is affected, and this would be the large intestine or the colon. What happens here is that the immune system may not recognize the food you eat. It may think of them as pathogens or alien invaders and thus attack. Your colon then would fill its lining with sores and ulcers. If you frequently rush to the bathroom to defecate or have painful bowel and diarrhea movements with blood in it, or you have abdominal cramps, chances are you have this disease.
Tiny and oval shaped, these are small fissures found at the end of the anus’s digestive tract. They behave much the same as what hemorrhoids would. You would have pain and bleeding instances when you pass bowels. When there is immense strain when passing bowels, then fissures are caused. But experts say, even diarrhea and soft stools too can cause anal fissures. Once again, a high fiber diet is a must to have so that this disorder can be treated.
According to research teams in the US and the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, around a quarter of the citizens suffer from Celiac disease, which is a dreaded digestive system diseases. Experts say, that around a good number of people with this disease don’t even know that they have it or may have been misdiagnosed with another condition altogether. Celiac happens to those that have severe sensitivity to gluten and its foods. Gluten is a wheat protein, and found in barley and rye too. When gluten is consumed, the immune system attacks it and the villi in the body is damaged in the small intestines. Villi is important, since it helps absorb the nutrients in the body from the foods you consume. From abdominal pains to bloating and diarrhea and even vomiting, constipation and loss of weight too, can be symptoms to keep a watch about. Some have even experienced lethargy and diarrhea, depression and seizures, bone loss and anemia too, say experts. There are some who do not even have any symptoms shown. So to be careful and if you are gluten intolerant, have no meals that have gluten in them cooked and consumed. You can have flour of rice, lentils, soya, corn and amaranath if need be, which are full of fibre and good for the digestive system.
If you notice bright red blood droplets in the bowel or the toilet bowl, it could be a sign of this disease. This is a condition or a very common disorder of the digestive system. Hemorrhoids, in layman terms, would be the blood vessels inflammation which are located at the end of the digestive tract. They can itch and be very painful, and cause constipation of the chronic kinds, loose diarrhea, painful and strained bowel movements; all because the diet you have has less of fibre in it. Hence, you need to exercise more, eat a high fiber diet and drink plenty of water each day to avoid this disorder.
There are small pouches in the GI which are called or known as diverticula. They are formed where there are weak spots in the digestive system lining, and mostly seen in the colon, say experts. There can or cannot be any symptoms of the same, but if you do not have symptoms, it would be a disorder called diverticulosis. This disorder rarely causes any major discomfort or problems, and is seen in adults mostly. However, if the pouches enlarge, it could lead to symptoms such as abdominal pains and fevers. In some cases, obesity takes the blame for such conditions as well. Diets for the same have to be high in fiber and whole grains, say experts
Now that you know of the many digestive system disorders let us now take a look at how to remedy them at home through natural ways!
Here are a couple of ingredients and home remedies that are easy to make or find at home. Try them!
- Helps improve digestion
- Enhances the diet
- Stimulant for the digestive juices
- Stimulant for the enzymes to digest fods
- Reduces nausea and vomiting and flatulence
- Reduces diarrhea and bloating and indigestion too
- It is antibacterial and anti-inflammatory
- Have ginger tea if you do not want to chew the ginger root
Yogurt and curd
- Both are probiotics which are good for the digestive system
- Helps with the healthy functioning of the digestive system
- Contains Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria, which are good bacteria
- Helps balance the pH levels and bacteria flora in the GI
- Prevents the occurrence of abdominal bloating, IBD and flatulence
- Helps treat digestive juices
- Helps with digestion
- Prevents digestive system problems
- It is an antispasmodic and a carminative herb with anti inflammatory properties
- Helps reduce bloating and gas, intestinal cramps and vomiting and nausea
- Can help treat celiac and lactose intolerance too
- Having a cup of peppermint tea a day can be the best remedy for GI disorders
- Supports and helps the digestive system like a pro
- Treats GERD and acid reflux, heart burns too
- Contains low stomach acidity
- Provides anti inflammatory effects
- Prevents spasms in the intestine
- Prevents IBS and bloating
- Chewing a teaspoon of fennel seeds provides instant relief
- Has antispasmodic properties
- Is an antioxidant and has anti inflammatory properties
- Has anti flatulent properties
- Treats ulcers and sores of the colon
- Treats upset stomachs
- Treats aches and pains of the stomach
- Have a pinch of asafetida in warm water after a meal for relief
Apple Cider Vinegar
- Has an alkalizing effect in the body
- Reduces heartburn, GERD and acid reflux
- Reduces causes of bloating and gas, indigestion and stomach aches
- A tablespoon of ACV mixed with a glass of warm water should be drunk after a heavy meal.
- Commonly known as ISABGOL
- Promotes digestive system health
- Is a natural laxative
- Has insoluble fibers that makes bowel movements easy
- Does not allow the stomach to bloat
- Does not allow gas to form
- Does not allow constipation from happening
- Half a teaspoon of psyllium husk should be added to a cup of warm milk or water and consumed after a meal
- Is a powerful laxative
- Supports the digestive system
- The compound in aloe vera called polysaccharides is the reason why most digestive system problems vanish
- Helps treat sores in the colon and stomach ulcers.
- Is antibacterial and antiviral
- Is anti inflammatory and anti fungal
- A teaspoon of aloe vera gel in warm water should be consumed every morning on an empty stomach. Please do not consume aloe vera if you are breast feeding or are pregnant.
- Helps with the digestive system at large and over all
- Has curcumin in it which is an active agent that stimulates bile release from the gallbladder
- Helps with digestion
- Helps with liver functioning
- Is an anti inflammatory agent
- Helps the GI stay healthy
- Cures all forms of diseases related to digestive system
- Have a pinch of turmeric with warm milk each night for each bowel movements and cleansing of the colon and the GI.
- Has high fiber content
- Promotes better health for the intestine
- Helps with easy bowel movements
- Helps reduce GERD and heartburns and acid reflux
- Have it as a breakfast meal at least twice a week!
So here was a mini guide on the various diseases related to digestive system and how to remedy them. We also gave you an overview of the digestive system and its functions too for a better understanding. Your thoughts please!
Disclaimer: Please note, the information here is research based and is not the final say on diseases related to digestive system. Should you need help for the same, talking to a doctor would be the best. Their words would take precedence over what is written here and elsewhere online.
Images Source: pinterest