April is National Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Awareness month and an appropriate time to address common gastrointestinal (GI) issues. Maybe you simply think you have a sensitive stomach or the added anxieties from the pandemic are the culprit. Either way, don’t brush discomfort aside when help is available.
We sought the advice of Benjamin VanCura, M.D., NCH Medical Group gastroenterologist, to explain the differences in some of the most common gut issues and the treatments available.
IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) IBS is a disorder of the gastrointestinal tract characterized by chronic abdominal pain and altered bowel habits. Common symptoms include alternating constipation and diarrhea, as well as abdominal bloating. After a diagnosis is confirmed possible treatments include fiber supplementation, probiotics and stress management.
Diverticulitis Diverticulitis is an infection and/or inflammation of pockets that form in the colon, called diverticulosis. Common symptoms include left lower quadrant abdominal pain and fever. Treatment is generally with antibiotics.
Crohn’s disease Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory condition which can affect any portion of the gastrointestinal tract. The potential symptoms can vary greatly, depending on which location of the GI tract the disease involves. Treatment options range from medicines to reduce GI inflammation to surgical options.
Celiac disease Celiac disease is an immune-mediated inflammatory disease of the small intestine caused by sensitivity to dietary gluten. Possible symptoms include abdominal pain, bloating and diarrhea. Once diagnosis is confirmed, treatment is centered on complete gluten elimination from the diet.
Many of these symptoms are similar and centered on pain and bloating and Dr. VanCura cautions against self-diagnosis.
“The hazards of self-diagnosing include a delay in medical diagnosis, delay in treatment and potential worsening of underlying conditions,” explained Dr. VanCura.
“Having a prompt, thorough evaluation by either a primary care physician and/or gastroenterologist is the best way to determine a GI problem and to what extent stress may be contributing.”
Pay attention to your body. Severe abdominal pain, blood in the stool and intractable nausea and vomiting may require immediate medical attention.
Patients with GI concerns can speak to their primary care physician or, depending on their insurance plan, make an appointment directly with a gastroenterologist.