I see all causes of digestive disease especially irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease and reflux disorders.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
This is a common condition of the digestive system, affecting approximately 1 in 5 people in the UK at some point in their life. The symptoms of this condition vary between individuals and most commonly include either diarrhoea, constipation, or bouts of both. Additionally, these symptoms usually come and go and are worse during times of stress or after eating certain foods.
To diagnose you with IBS your doctor will ask about your symptoms and might ask you to keep a food diary to see whether you are affected by certain foods. A blood test may be required to rule out other conditions. Although there is no cure for IBS there are medications that can be used to manage symptoms and changes can also be made to your diet or lifestyle.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
This term is mainly used to describe two diseases: ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. Both are chronic diseases that involve inflammation of the GI tract with ulcerative colitis affecting only the large intestine and Crohn's disease affecting the entire digestive system. It is thought that approximately one in every 250 in the UK are affected by IBD.
The main symptoms of these diseases include abdominal pain, recurrent or bloody diarrhoea, weight loss or extreme tiredness. These can come and go in bouts and although the causes are unknown they might be due to genetic factors or disruption to the immune system.
There is currently not cure for these diseases but medication is aimed at managing symptoms. Surgery might also be required to either remove the inflamed section of the digestive system in ulcerative colitis or to repair the damage in Crohn's disease.
These are common conditions where the stomach acid leaks out of the stomach and into the oesophagus. This leakage can lead to heartburn, an unpleasant taste in the mouth or pain and difficulty swallowing and these symptoms may be worse when bending over or lying down.
The most common cause is thought to be a problem with the lower oesophageal sphincter (LOS) muscle, which opens to led food pass into the stomach and closes to prevent acid leaking back into the oesophagus. However, sufferers of reflux disorders are thought to have a weakened LOS that allows the acid to leak backwards. Some risk factors for this are obesity, fatty diet, consuming tobacco, alcohol, coffee or chocolate, pregnancy and stress.
Diagnosis can usually be conducted just by asking about your symptoms, although sometimes further investigations may be required if you have difficulty swallowing or your symptoms do not improve after taking medication.
Medications can be used to manage symptoms of these disorders. Also, lifestyle changes may have a beneficial impact, such as losing weight if you are obese or reducing/stopping your consumption of tobacco, alcohol, coffee and chocolate. In some cases surgery is required if the aforementioned changes have not had any effect. This surgery is considered if you have chronic symptoms and do not want to take medication on a long-term basis.