Most common digestive disorders: part 2
So, we continue to consider the most common digestive disorders. Last time, we used vitamin B12 deficiency and improper chewing. We also discussed what steps need to be taken in case of lactose intolerance and why the bacterium called Helicobacter pylori is dangerous. Today we will continue to talk about the most common digestive disorders.
A more common and often overlooked digestive disorder is hypochlorhydria. Achlorhydria or hypochlorhydria is a condition when hydrochloric acid production is absent or reduced. It is usually secondary to an underlying medical condition. So, hypochlorhydria can lead to insufficient food dissolution, and therefore to impaired absorption of nutrients. Elderly people often suffer from hypochlorhydria. Its symptoms are often confused with symptoms of another disorder – high acidity, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). The result of this confusion is the use of antacids, which only makes the disease worse.
When achlorhydria is suspected, multiple tests are conducted to confirm the diagnosis and to find its primary cause1:
- Antiparietal and anti-intrinsic factor antibody
- Biopsy of stomach
- Gastric pH monitoring
- Serum pepsinogen level (a low serum pepsinogen level indicates achlorhydria)
- Serum gastrin levels. High serum gastrin levels greater than 500 to 1000 pg/mL may indicate achlorhydria
- Tests for detecting H. pylori infection
- Hemoglobin level
This condition can also be detected by determining the mineral composition of the hair.
Leaky Gut Syndrome (LEPS)
Furthermore, let’s talk about leaky gut, although this disorder causes some controversial discussion. Let’s start with describing the nature of this disorder. So, the intestinal epithelial lining, together with factors secreted from it, forms a barrier. But in pathologic conditions, the permeability of the epithelial lining may be compromised allowing the passage of toxins, antigens, and bacteria in the lumen to enter the blood stream creating a “leaky gut.” In individuals with a genetic predisposition, a leaky gut can allow environmental factors to enter the body and trigger an autoimmune disease2.
In most cases, poor nutrition is the cause of this condition. Stress or long-term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as aspirin or ibuprofen) may be another cause.
In addition, gut microbiota plays a huge role in maintaining the epithelial barrier. Research has shown that the intestinal microbiome plays an important role in modulating risk of several chronic diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer3.
How to normalize your gut microbiota
Changing microbial composition through diet can have significant therapeutic value. First, proper nutrition leads to a decrease in inflammation. It allows the mucous membrane to heal. When it comes to nutrition, we need to mention low glycemic and high fiber foods again. Secondly, some foods and drugs, such as alcohol, caffeine, and NSAIDs can irritate the small intestine. Therefore, it is advised to avoid them.
Now, a few words about fermented foods containing lactic acid bacteria: fermented milk products and yoghurt are a source of edible microorganisms. As such, they can beneficially regulate gut health and even treat or prevent inflammatory bowel disease4.
Lactobacillus and prebiotics
Lactobacilli and prebiotics can also be of use to you. Studies show that taking probiotics can effectively replace pathogenic bacteria in the gut with beneficial cultures. It has also been proven that nutrients, prebiotics, and even plant extracts (e.g., indigo naturalis) improve barrier function, which we wrote about above5. In addition, intake of probiotics, as well as yoghurt containing probiotics, caused a reduction in triglycerides, total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, VLDL-cholesterol, and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP).
In a number of other studies, taking lactobacillus (Lactobacillus bulgaricus) together with the prebiotic fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) resulted in significant improvements in inflammatory, metabolic and enzymatic performance6. And since we mentioned fructooligosaccharide, let’s say a few words about it. First, this naturally occurring prebiotic, which contains fiber, provides additional nutrition for beneficial gut bacteria. As a rule, it is recommended to take it 2-5 g per day. Second, it is also among the top 8 prebiotic fiber with ample evidence for digestive health, along with lactulose7. So fructo-oligosaccharide (FOS) is a very well-established prebiotic!
Enzymes to facilitate digestion
Among other things, supplementation with enzymes helps break down food to facilitate digestion. For example, digestive enzymes are able to break down proteins, carbohydrates and lipids, and adding them to a diet may play a role in the treatment of digestive disorders, from lactose intolerance to cystic fibrosis8.Besides, supplements containing garlic9, bioflavonoids10, and aloe vera11 may help the situation as well.
Among other things, the Doctor may also recommend a food allergy test. It’s value is in identifying foods that irritate your digestive system. These might include wheat, dairy products, or citrus fruits.
Irritable bowel syndrome
One of the most common digestive disorders of the lower gastrointestinal tract is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It is a chronic and debilitating functional gastrointestinal disorder that affects 9–23% of the world’s population (World Gastroenterology Organization, 2009)12. There are no tests to diagnose it. As a rule, it is identified through the process of elimination, when research does not confirm other disorders. The exact cause of IBS is still unclear. The symptoms of this disease can vary from patient to patient and change over time. Patients report that the most disturbing symptoms are abdominal pain, colic, pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and a feeling of incomplete bowel movement. Upper GI abnormalities such as heartburn, nausea, and excessive belching often accompany these symptoms.
Let’s take a look at what can help people with these disorders. First, research shows a clear relationship between this disease and fat intake. So, with an increase in fat intake, both the amount of stool and diarrhea increase13. In addition, long-term consumption of unhealthy fats, refined sugars, and starch can cause irritation and inflammation. Such products contribute to the development of inflammatory processes. And, of course, there is a connection between IBS and stress. So practice relaxation, meditation, etc. It will also help to reduce the frequency and ease the severity of the disease.
In addition, supplements such as peppermint oil can alleviate the condition14.
And finally, if you suspect you have one of the conditions, you definitely need to talk to your doctor. The challenge is to determine the true cause of the problem and learn about the best treatment options. In our next posts, we’ll discuss medical tests that can help determine healthy your digestive system is. So you can easily include them in your inspection plan!
Finally, it is important to follow the dietary recommendations! Keep in mind that a lot of digestive disorders are primarily caused by a poor diet.
This article was last reviewed by Svetlana Baloban, Healsens, on 16 October 2020. This article was last modified on 15 October 2020.
- Leaky Gut As a Danger Signal for Autoimmune Diseases
- Influence of diet on the gut microbiome and implications for human health
- Influence of diet on the gut microbiome and implications for human health
- The Leaky Gut: Mechanisms, Measurement and Clinical Implications in Humans
- Gut-liver axis and probiotics: Their role in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
- Health Effects and Sources of Prebiotic Dietary Fiber
- Digestive Enzyme Supplementation in Gastrointestinal Diseases
- Garlic: a review of potential therapeutic effects
- Emerging role of bioflavonoids in gastroenterology: Especially their effects on intestinal neoplasia
- Pharmacological Update Properties of Aloe Vera and its Major Active Constituents
- World Gastroenterology Organization. Irritable bowel syndrome: a global perspective. World Gastroenterology Organisation Global Guideline 2009
- Irritable bowel syndrome: Pathogenesis, diagnosis, treatment, and evidence-based medicine
- Peppermint oil for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: a systematic review and meta-analysis