Gastrointestinal diseases: Causes, symptoms, and treatment
The gastrointestinal tract comprises not only the stomach and the intestines but all organs that are involved in taking up and digesting food. This includes the mouth, oesophagus, stomach, small and large intestines. With a length between 5.5 to 7.5 meters, the intestines are the most important part of the digestive tract.
The causes and symptoms of gastrointestinal or digestive tract diseases can vary greatly. The most common gastrointestinal diseases are inflammation and infection, but nausea, diarrhoea and heartburn (medical: reflux) or food poisoning can also be the reason for queasiness. The diseases can be acute, such as with stomach flu, or chronic, such as in Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.
The causes range from a genetic predisposition to infections by pathogens, taking medications up to fatty food with lots of meat and not enough exercise.
How to recognise gastrointestinal diseases
Depending on the type of gastrointestinal disease, different symptoms appear. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea can, for example, appear with a stomach flu, viral and bacterial infections. Heartburn appears when stomach acid rises up into the oesophagus (so-called sulphur burps). The following symptoms are generally typical for gastrointestinal diseases:
• Abdominal pain, cramps
• Possibly fever
Digestive disorders, diarrhoea, or travel sicknesses happen especially often on trips. One reason is insufficient hygiene at the site but unfamiliar food and spices can upset the stomach too. To prevent this experts recommend: "Cook it, boil it, peel it or forget it". And: Ice cubes and tap water should also be avoided on long-distance travel to avoid possible contaminants.
How gastrointestinal diseases are treated
It is important to take a lot of fluids when you have an acute gastrointestinal disease to balance out the loss of water and electrolytes through diarrhoea and vomiting – this is especially important in small children and the elderly. Tee, broth, or oral hydration solutions are suitable for this purpose. Experts do not advise taking the home remedies pretzel sticks and Coca-Cola because they contain too much sugar and salt that are ingested in uncontrolled amounts and can therefore make diarrhoea even worse. Bed rest can help if the afflicted person feels weak and tired. A warm water bottle can help soothe abdominal cramps and pain. In addition, there are various drugs that help in cases with non-specific gastrointestinal complaints, diarrhoea, vomiting, nausea, or heartburn.