The digestive system is a vast array and series of hollow twisting tubes and several hormones and nerve regulators, plus the 2 solid organs- the liver and pancreas. The digestive system can be easily affected by disease, diet and stress. Most common symptoms are that of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation, abdominal pain. Most conditions cause a mix of some of these symptoms. Therefore it is very hard to diagnose with symptoms alone as these are similar in most digestive disorders.
Some common digestive disorders are - Heartburn/GERD, Celiac disease, Irritable bowel syndrome. Other less common but more severe in terms of symptoms, prognosis and treatment are IBD which involves Crohn's disease, Barrett's esophagus, diverticulosis/diverticulitis, colon polyps.
The former category of disorders require, other than medications, a lot of life style modifications which help a lot towards eliminating symptoms and giving relief. This includes eliminating certain kinds of products from the diet. For example: GERD - eliminating or decreasing the amount of caffeine in the diet is helpful. Eating small frequent meals, not eating close to bedtime and avoiding alcohol at night also helps. Celiac disease - eliminating gluten is the treatment although regular check ups are crucial as well.
Our digestive system has what is called the Enteric nervous system which consists of millions of neurons and neural synapses just like our brain. It produces several neurotransmitters. GI system has been sometimes called the 'second brain'. Therefore disorders of the GI tract affect us at more than one level and more than we even know. We have recently through many studies been able to understand a little more about the function of this 'brain' and a lot of things are coming to light. For example: It has been found that 95% of body's serotonin is found in the gut. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that has been associated with causing Depression. It was also found that Irritable bowel syndrome is thought to be related to serotonin levels in the gut.
So it is very important to make sure that the digestive system is functioning well.
Tips for you-
The diet should consist of atleast 6-8 glasses of water everyday.
It should include lot of fruits and vegetables.
Make sure you are getting required daily amount of fiber in the diet.
Avoid processed food that tends to make the gut sluggish.
Watch the signals that your body is sending you via changes in digestion.
More info on type of foods that can help digestion in next post.