Digestive problems can significantly disrupt your quality of life. They lead to missed days of work and the resulting financial and emotional distress. You can feel like life passes you by while you remain trapped in the bathroom.
Discovering the root cause of your symptoms can help you feel better more quickly. Here are eight potential underlying reasons for new digestive problems and what steps you can take to address them.
1. Heart Disease
Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women worldwide, accounting for roughly 16% of lives lost globally. However, your first signs of trouble may come from your gut, particularly if you’re female. Women are more likely to manifest — and dismiss — cardiac symptoms as mere indigestion when they’re signs of more severe trouble.
If you have heart disease, you may experience severe nausea and bloating in the first two hours after eating a meal. You may feel a dull ache in your abdomen and back and vomit. As your condition worsens, your body produces higher levels of hydrochloric acid, leading to painful stomach ulcers. This excess acid production also interferes with how your body absorbs nutrients, causing weight loss.
Scientists learn more about the gut-brain axis every day. Alterations in intestinal microbes cause associated changes in mood and thought patterns, leading to different behaviors. These bacteria send signals up the vagus nerve and other pathways, telling your brain to produce various levels of hormones and neurotransmitters that can increase either calmness and serenity or promote anxiety and discomfort.
The mechanism works both ways. Even mild stress can alter the bacterial balance in the gut, causing a flood of molecular reactions. Researchers now believe using probiotics may be one way to treat anxiety and depression.
In the meantime, you can improve your gut-brain axis through two means. One is improving your diet. A plant-based meal plan high in fiber feeds your intestinal bacteria the prebiotics they need to flourish, and eating probiotic-rich foods like yogurt and kombucha can help maintain healthy levels.
The second is by managing your stress. Participate in activities like yoga and meditation to calm your body. Give yourself enough time to recover from stressful life changes like starting a job or moving to a new home. Delegate your daily duties so that you don’t feel overwhelmed yet compelled to handle it all.
3. Autoimmune Disease
Autoimmune diseases like Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis (UC) can cause disabling intestinal distress. What’s tragic is these disorders typically develop in teens and young adults who are starting on their life path. The costs associated with chronic illness in America can cause significant hardship for people trying to manage their disease and save enough money to attend school or buy their first home.
UC limits itself to the colon, while Crohn’s can strike anywhere in the digestive tract. In these autoimmune disorders, your body attacks healthy tissue by mistake. Both conditions cause chronic inflammation and symptoms ranging from pain, urgency and difficulties absorbing nutrients.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a group of symptoms including diarrhea, constipation or both. Unlike Crohn’s disease or UC, IBS occurs with no visible scarring along the digestive tract.
However, this condition can nevertheless impact overall quality of life. You may find relief in altering your diet to add more fiber, eliminate gluten or practice a low FODMAP plan. Some people believe that undiagnosed food allergies may contribute to IBS symptoms, although discovering the offending substance can require multiple elimination diets — or extensive testing.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) can cause considerable digestive discomfort. In this disorder, your ovaries develop numerous small fluid-filled follicles but fail to release eggs.
This condition is often associated with excessive insulin and low-grade inflammation. Dietary changes can lend some relief. Stay away from foods with excess sugar and white flour. Your body rapidly absorbs both substances, spiking your blood glucose. Plus, all-purpose flour contains a chemical byproduct called alloxan that scientists use to destroy the pancreas — your insulin-producing organ — in laboratory animals. The combination is a recipe for disaster.
6. New Medications
Nearly any new medication can impact your intestinal flora. The result could be digestive problems.
Talk to your doctor if your symptoms are severe. Sometimes, you only need a few days to adjust. In other cases, you may need to switch to a different medication. It’s a wise idea to schedule a follow-up appointment any time you get a new prescription — you can always cancel it within the appropriate time frame if it turns out that you don’t need it.
Diverticulitis arises from the inflammation of pouches in your intestines called diverticula. You could have this condition for years without knowing it until it becomes severe.
Symptoms include pain on the left side after having a bowel movement, bright red blood in your poop, abdominal pain and fever. In severe cases, you can develop an obstruction, leading to constipation, thin stools, belly bloating, vomiting and tenderness. Some cases clear up with dietary changes, while others require medication or surgery.
You probably dread the big C, but it is one reason to call your doctor without delay when you develop new digestive problems. For example, early signs of pancreatic cancer include appetite and weight loss.
Fortunately, treatment advances improve your chances of survival if you go early. Please don’t let healthcare costs delay you getting the help you need. Nearly half of all cancer patients lose their life savings to obtain care in the United States — but the earlier you start, the less you are likely to pay.
Potential Underlying Reasons for New Digestive Problems
Stomach trouble can disrupt your entire life. Recognize these eight potential underlying reasons for new digestive problems.