What are the gastrointestinal diseases?

Gastrointestinal disease affects the GI tract (GI) from the mouth to your anus. There are two types of functional and structural. Examples include nausea/vomiting and food poisoning.

What are functional gastrointestinal disorders?

Functional diseases are conditions in which the GI tract doesn’t move correctly but looks normal. These are the most common issues affecting the GI tract (including colon and rectum). These include constipation, IBS, nausea and diarrhea.

There are many factors that can cause GI tract dysfunction and motility (ability for your body to move) problems.

  • Consume a low-fiber diet
  • Not enough exercise.
  • Changes in routine or travel
  • Consuming large quantities of dairy products.
  • Stress.
  • Refrain from bowel movements, especially if you have hemorhoids.
  • The use of anti-diarrheal medication that is too often can cause bowel muscle weakness called motility.
  • Anti-acid medications containing aluminum or calcium should be taken.
  • Certain medicines, such as antidepressants, iron tablets and strong pain medications like narcotics, should not be taken.
  • Pregnancy.

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What are structural gastrointestinal disease?

Structural gastrointestinal disorders are conditions where your bowel appears abnormal and doesn’t function properly. Sometimes the structural problem must be surgically corrected. Examples of structural GI diseases are hemorhoids, stenosis and diverticular disease.


Constipation is a condition that makes it difficult to have bowel movements (or pass stool), stools are irregular (less than 3 times per week) or infrequent. Inadequate “roughage” in your diet or disruption to your routine are common causes of constipation.

Constipation can cause strain in your bowel movements. This can cause hard, small stools or anal problems like hemorhoids and fissures. It is rare that constipation is a sign of a more serious medical condition.

The following are ways to treat constipation:

  • Increase the intake of water and fiber in your diet.
  • Regular exercise and increasing intensity as tolerated.
  • Move your bowels if you feel the need (resisting the urge can cause constipation).

Laxatives may be used if these methods fail to work. You should ensure that your colon cancer screenings are current. Follow the instructions for laxative medicine as well as those of your healthcare provider.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (also known as spastic colon syndrome, irritable stomach, or nervous stomach, or IBS) is a condition in which your colon muscle contract more often than normal. Certain foods, medications, and emotional stress can all trigger IBS.

IBS symptoms include:

  • Cramps and abdominal pain.
  • Gas excess
  • Bloating.
  • Changes in bowel habits, such as stools that are harder, looser or more frequent than usual.
  • Alternating constipation with diarrhea

The following treatments are available:

  • Avoiding excessive caffeine.
  • Increasing fiber in your diet.
  • You can monitor which foods trigger IBS and avoid these foods.
  • Reduce stress and learn new ways to deal with it.
  • Follow the instructions of your healthcare provider when prescribing medicines.
  • Avoid dehydration and keep hydrated throughout the day.
  • High quality sleep/rest.


Hemorrhoids can be caused by dilated veins within the anal canal or structural disease. These are enlarged blood vessels that line the anal opening. They can be caused by persistent diarrhea, chronic excess pressure, pregnancy, or straining during bowel movements. There are two types: external and internal hemorhoids.

Internal hemorhoids

Internal hemorhoids refer to blood vessels that are located inside your anal opening. They can become irritated by straining and bleed when they fall into the anus. Internal hemorhoids may eventually prolapse (sink, stick) from the anus.

The following treatments are available:

  • Improve your bowel habits, such as avoiding constipation and not straining during bowel movements. Also, move your bowels whenever you feel the need.
  • The vessels can be removed by your healthcare provider using ligating band.
  • They will be removed by your healthcare provider. Only a few people need surgery for persistent, severe hemorhoids.

External hemorhoids

External hemorhoids refer to veins just below the skin’s surface. Sometimes, external hemorhoidal veins can burst, causing blood clots under the skin. This painful condition is known as a “pile”.

The treatment includes the removal of the clot and vein using local anesthesia, and/or the removal of the hemorhoid.

Anal fissures

Anal fissures can also be a sign of structural disease. These are cracks or splits in your anal opening’s lining. Anal fissures are most commonly caused by the passage of hard or liquidy stool. Cracks in the anal skin expose the muscles that control stool movement through the anus. Anal fissures are one of the most severe problems. This is because the muscles that control the passage of stool through the anus and out of the body become irritated by air or stool. It can cause intense burning pain, bleeding or spasms after bowel movements.

Anal fissures can be treated with pain medication, dietary fiber to reduce large, bulky stool, and sitz baths (sitting in warm water for a few inches). Surgery may be necessary to relieve the pain if these remedies fail to alleviate it.

Perianal abscesses

A structural disease called perianal abscess can also occur. This happens when tiny anal glands on your inside become blocked. The bacteria that is always present in these glands can cause an infection. An abscess is formed when pus forms. The healthcare provider will usually administer local anesthesia to drain the abscess.

Anal fistula

Anal fistula, which is a structural condition, often occurs after drainage of an abscess. It is an abnormal tube-shaped passageway that runs from your anal canal to the skin at the opening of the anus. This tiny channel allows body wastes to travel through your anal canal and out through your skin, causing irritation and itching. Fistulas can also cause bleeding, drainage, and pain. They are not usually self-healing and require surgery to drain the abscess or “close off” fistula.

Other perianal diseases

Sometimes, the skin glands around your anus can become infected and require draining. An abscess can develop just behind the anus. It may contain a small tuft at the back end of the pelvis (known as a pilonidal cyst).

Anal warts and herpes are all sexually transmitted diseases that can impact the anus.

Diverticular Disease

A structural disease called diverticulosis can be described as small outpouchings or diverticula in your large intestine’s muscular wall. These are found in weaker areas of the bowel. They are most common in the sigmoid col, which is the high-pressure area lower large intestine.

Diverticular disease, which is extremely common in Western cultures, affects 10% of those over 40 years old and 50% of those over 60 years old in Western countries. Too little fiber (or roughage) is often the cause. Diverticulosis may progress into diverticulitis.

About 10% of outpouchings suffer from complications of diverticular diseases. These complications include bleeding, inflammation, and obstruction. Diverticulitis can be treated with constipation, antibiotics and other medications if the condition is severe. If there are severe complications, surgery may be necessary to remove the affected diseased section of the colon.

Colon polyps, and cancer

Every year, 130,000 Americans get diagnosed with colorectal carcinoma. This is the second-most common type of cancer in America. Colorectal cancer can be treated with advanced technology. It is possible to detect, prevent and treat colorectal cancer using a variety screening tests.

Screening is crucial

Most colorectal cancers start as benign (non-cancerous), growths in your colon and around the rectum. These polyps can cause cancer by growing and allowing abnormal cells to grow. Colorectal cancer can be prevented by removing polyps. A flexible, lighted tube known as a colonoscope can be used to remove most precancerous polyps. Colorectal cancer, if not detected in its early stages can spread throughout the body. Advanced cancers require more complex surgical procedures.

Early forms of colorectal carcinoma do not usually cause symptoms. This makes it important to screen for them. If symptoms do present, it is possible that the cancer has advanced. You might notice blood in the stool or mixed with it, changes in bowel habits, narrowing the stool, constant tiredness, and abdominal pain.

The majority of cases of colorectal carcinoma are diagnosed in one of these four ways:

  • Screening people starting at age 45 who are at high risk of colorectal carcinoma.
  • Screening people who are at greater risk of colorectal cancer, such as those with a family history or personal history of colon polyps.
  • Patients with symptoms should be examined for signs of a bowel problem.
  • Chances of finding out at a routine checkup.

Early detection is key to a successful cure.


There are many types of colitis. These are conditions that cause inflammation of the bowel. These are:

  • Infectious colitis.
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Crohn’s Disease (cause unknown).
  • Ischemic colitis is caused by insufficient blood reaching the colon.
  • Radiation colitis (after radiotherapy).

Colitis can cause diarrhea, rectal bleeding and abdominal cramps. The diagnosis is made through colonoscopy or biopsy.


Can gastrointestinal diseases can be prevented?

A healthy lifestyle, good bowel habits, and regular screenings for cancer can help to prevent or minimize many diseases of the colon and rectum.

For patients with average risk, a colonoscopy should be performed at 45. A colonoscopy may not be necessary if you have a history of colorectal cancer, polyps or other serious health issues. A colonoscopy should be performed 10 years earlier than the affected family member. If your brother has been diagnosed with colorectal cancer, or polyps, it is a good idea to start screening for them at 35.

You should immediately consult your healthcare provider if you experience symptoms of colorectal carcinoma. These are some of the most common symptoms:

  • Changes in your normal bowel habits.
  • Stools with blood that are either dark or brightly lit will have blood on them.
  • Gas or abdominal pains that are unusual.
  • Very narrow stool
  • Feeling that your bowel is not empty completely after you have passed stool.
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue.
  • Anemia (lower blood count)

Other types gastrointestinal diseases

There are many other gastrointestinal disorders. While some of these are covered, others are not. Other structural and functional diseases include peptic and gastritis.


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