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This is an umbrella project for Digestive disorders.

Please do NOT add profiles to this project UNLESS there is no other disorder that seem to fit.

The digestive system is made up of the gastrointestinal tract (GI) which includes the esophagus, stomach, small & large intestines and rectum, and the liver, pancreas, and gallbladder. Even though anatomically part of the GI tract, diseases of the mouth are often not considered alongside other gastrointestinal diseases. However, some diseases involving other areas of the GI tract can manifest in the mouth.

Digestion is important for breaking down food into nutrients, which your body uses for energy, growth, and cell repair. Symptoms may include bloating, diarrhea, gas, stomach pain, and stomach cramps.

In the mouth, stomach, and small intestine, the mucosa contains tiny glands that produce juices to help digest food. The digestive tract also contains a layer of smooth muscle that helps break down food and move it along the tract.

Two solid digestive organs, the liver and the pancreas, produce digestive juices that reach the intestine through small tubes called ducts. The gallbladder stores the liver's digestive juices until they are needed in the intestine. Parts of the nervous and circulatory systems also play major roles in the digestive system.

Mechanical and chemical digestion begin in the mouth where food is chewed, and mixed with saliva to break down starches. The stomach continues to break food down mechanically and chemically through the churning of the stomach and mixing with enzymes. Absorption occurs in the stomach and gastrointestinal tract, and the process finishes with excretion.

Some digestive diseases and conditions are acute, lasting only a short time, while others are chronic, or long-lasting and may range from mild to serious and life threatening.

Gastrointestinal Disorders can be Functional or Structural.

  1. (inx Medical - Know the Difference: Structural Versus Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders)

Functional Gastrointestinal disorders (FGIDs)

  1. Wikipedia - Functional gastrointestinal disorder
  2. PMC- Common Functional Gastroenterologic Disorders Associated with Abdominal Pain
  3. UNC Center for Functional GI & Motility Disorders
  • Functional GI disorders are those in which the gastrointestinal (GI) tract looks normal but is a result of abnormal functioning of the GI tract & are characterized by persistent & recurring GI symptoms, with no structural abnormalities or evidence of a disease or condition.
    • There are three primary features of FGIDs --
      • motility -- GI muscle spasms that cause pain
      • sensation -- GI tract’s nerves don’t respond normally to stimuli like digestion, causing pain
      • brain-gut dysfunction -- The brain & the GI tract aren’t communicating normally
    • They are the most common problems affecting the GI tract amd can affect any part of the GI tract, including the esophagus, stomach, bile duct and/or intestines including the colon & rectum.
    • Examples of Functional GI disorders include: Functional Dysphagia, Functional Dyspepsia, Functional Constipation, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) (most common), infant colic.
    • It is important to understand that these are not psychiatric disorders, although stress and psychological difficulties can make FGID worse.
    • Approximately 25 million Americans have functional GI disorders.
    • 50-80% of people with FGID symptoms do not consult a physician, although they may take over-the-counter medications and report significantly more job absenteeism and disability than people without these symptoms.
    • Globally, irritable bowel syndrome and functional dyspepsia alone may affect 16–26% of the population.

Structural disorders

Causes of Digestive Diseases:

A variety of gastrointestinal diseases cause stomach problems, ranging from acid reflux to Crohn’s disease. Some digestive diseases can be easily remedied with a change in diet or with over-the-counter medications, but some can be life threatening and require surgery.

Since the medical community categorizes so many conditions as digestive diseases, the causes are also as extensive. In fact, some of the stomach problems actually cause other conditions when not correctly treated.

Even with such a huge range of causes, some risk factors are consistent for most digestive diseases:

  • Bacterial infections
  • Eating foods that irritate the digestive system or are low in fiber
  • Allergies
  • High-fat diets or eating large amounts of dairy products
  • Stress
  • Radiation therapy
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Genetic diseases
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Cancers
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Surgery
  • Abdominal trauma
  • Medications—especially aspirin, antidepressants, iron pills, strong pain medicines
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Smoking

Statistical info:

  1. Florida Hospital - Survivability of Digestive Diseases
  2. (NIH - Digestive Diseases - Statistics for the United States) Data for digestive diseases as a group and for specific diseases are provided in various categories.

Since the severity of digestive diseases vary depending on the condition and the patient’s health, each person’s prognosis differs. When caught early, digestive diseases can usually be treated with medications or surgery, but like any disease left untreated, these conditions can cause permanent damage to the body and even death.

In fact, many of the less critical conditions, like acid reflux, diarrhea and constipation require over-the-counter medications and possible dietary/lifestyle changes to manage the symptoms. If not treated correctly, these common digestive diseases can cause GI tract bleeding, infections and permanent damage to the body. The ensuing scarring can even become cancerous. Also, these conditions can lead to chronic GI tract conditions that inhibit a patient’s quality of life.

  • All Digestive Diseases
    • Prevalence: 60 to 70 million people affected by all digestive diseases
    • Ambulatory care visits: 48.3 million (2010)
    • Hospitalizations: 21.7 million (2010)
    • Mortality: 245,921 deaths (2009)
  • Diverticular Disease
    • Prevalence: 2.2 million people (1998)
    • Ambulatory care visits: 2.7 million (2009)
    • Hospitalizations: 814,000 (2010)
    • Mortality: 2,889 deaths (2010)
  • Gallstones
    • Prevalence: 20 million people (2004)
    • Ambulatory care visits: 2.2 million (2006–2007) (includes all disorders of the gallbladder and biliary tract)
    • Surgical procedures: 503,000 (2006) (laparoscopic cholecystectomies only)
    • Hospitalizations: 675,000 (2010)
    • Mortality: 994 deaths (2010)
  • Gastrointestinal Infections
    • Prevalence: Nonfood-borne gastroenteritis: 135 million people (1998); food-borne illness: 76 million people (1998)
    • Ambulatory care visits: 2.3 million (2004)
    • Hospitalizations: 487,000 (2010)
    • Mortality: 11,022 deaths (2011)
  • Crohn’s Disease
    • Prevalence: 359,000 people (1998)
    • Ambulatory care visits: 1.1 million (2004)
    • Hospitalizations: 187,000 (2010)
    • Mortality: 611 deaths (2010)
  • Ulcerative Colitis
    • Prevalence: 619,000 people (1998)
    • Ambulatory care visits: 716,000 (2004)
    • Hospitalizations: 107,000 (2010)
    • Mortality: 305 deaths (2010)
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
    • Prevalence: 15.3 million people (1998)
    • Ambulatory care visits: 1.6 million (2009)
    • Hospitalizations: 280,000 (2010)
    • Mortality: 21 deaths (2010)
  • Liver Disease
    • Prevalence: 3.0 million people (2011)
    • Ambulatory care visits: 635,000 (2009) (cirrhosis only)
    • Procedures: 6,342 (2011) (liver transplants)
    • Hospitalizations: 1.2 million (2010)
    • Mortality: 42,923 deaths (2010)
  • Pancreatitis
    • Prevalence: 1.1 million people (1998)
    • Incidence: Acute: 17 cases per 100,000 people (2003); chronic: 8.2 cases per 100,000 people (1981)
    • Ambulatory care visits: 881,000 (2004)
    • Hospitalizations: 553,000 (2010)
    • Mortality: 3,413 deaths (2010)
  • Peptic Ulcer Disease
    • Prevalence: 15.5 million people (2011)
    • Ambulatory care visits: 669,000 (2006–2007)
    • Hospitalizations: 358,000 (2010)
    • Mortality: 2,981 deaths (2011)
  • Hepatitis B
    • Prevalence of chronic infection: 800,000 to 1.4 million people (2007)
    • Incidence: 3,350 new acute clinical cases (2010)
    • Ambulatory care visits: 729,000 (2004)
    • Hospitalizations: 61,000 (2010)
    • Mortality: 588 deaths (2010)
  • Hepatitis C
    • Prevalence of chronic infection: 2.7 to 3.9 million people (2007)
    • Incidence: 850 new acute clinical cases (2010)
    • Ambulatory care visits: 1.2 million (2009)
    • Hospitalizations: 419,000 (2010)
    • Mortality: 6,844 deaths (2010)
  • Twenty million Americans suffer from chronic digestive diseases
  • Digestive diseases necessitate 25 per centum of all surgical operations
  • Digestive diseases are one of the most prevalent causes of disability in the work force
  • More Americans are hospitalized with digestive diseases than any other type of disease
  • Digestive diseases rank third among illnesses in total economic cost in the United States
  • Fourteen million cases of acute digestive diseases are treated in this country each year, including one-third of all malignancies and some of the most common acute infections
  • Digestive diseases represent one of the Nation's most serious health problems in terms of discomfort and pain, personal expenditures for treatment, working hours lost, and mortality
  • In the United States, digestive diseases cause yearly expenditures of over $17,000,000,000 in direct health care costs and a total annual economic burden of nearly $50,000,000,000

Treatment of Digestive Diseases:

For the wide range of more than 40 conditions categorized as digestive diseases, treatments can range from lifestyle changes to medication to surgery.

  • Digestive diseases must be diagnosed and treated separately depending on the severity of the condition, symptoms, and patient’s medical history.
  • Crohn’s disease vs ulcerative colitis, for example, are treated separately or in conjunction as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) depending on the severity and symptoms.
    • Crohn’s disease specifically concerns the intestines.
    • Ulcerative colitis concerns the colon.
    • When both conditions exist, it is referred to as IBD. Both conditions may only need treatment when symptoms are apparent. When symptoms are present, the conditions are treated with medications and surgery depending on the severity.

Other Digestive Disease Treatments:

  • Like Crohn’s disease vs ulcerative colitis, many of the digestive diseases have the same symptoms and treatments. Gastroenterologists use a range of treatments depending on the severity, symptoms and the patient’s medical history such as the following:
  • Lifestyle changes—stop smoking, limit alcohol consumption, light exercise
  • Dietary changes—avoid high-fat, acidic foods. Introduce more fiber healthy foods
  • Over-the-counter medications—antacids and pain relievers may treat less severe conditions
  • Prescription medications and antibiotics—prescriptions treat the disease and may be used for the short term or long term depending on the condition
  • Hospitalization—some conditions require stabilization, IV fluids, stomach draining and assessment at the hospital.
  • Surgery—for severe cases where the GI tract has been damaged or needs repair, surgery can remove cancerous or dead tissue
  • Radiation/chemotherapy—These treatments may be used for cancers.


References to the digestive system can be traced back to the ancient Egyptians. Some milestones in the study of the gastrointestinal system include:

  • Claudius Galen (circa 130-200) lived at the end of the ancient Greek period and reviewed the teachings of Hippocrates and other Greek doctors. He theorized that the stomach acted independently from other systems in the body, almost with a separate brain. This was widely accepted until the 17th century.
  • In 1780, Italian physician Lazzaro Spallanzani conducted experiments to prove the impact of gastric juice on the digestion process.
  • Philipp Bozzini developed the Lichtleiter in 1805. This instrument, which was used to examine the urinary tract, rectum and pharynx, was the earliest endoscopy.
  • Adolf Kussmaul, a German physician, developed the gastroscope in 1868, using a sword swallower to help develop the diagnostic process.
  • Rudolph Schindler, known to some as the “father of gastroscopy,” described many of the diseases involving the human digestive system in his illustrated textbook issued during World War I. He and Georg Wolf developed a semi-flexible gastroscope in 1932.
  • In 1970, Hiromi Shinya, a Japanese-born general surgeon, delivered the first report of a colonoscopy to the New York Surgical Society and in May 1971 presented his experiences to the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy.
  • In 2005, Australians Barry Marshall and Robin Warren were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discovery of Helicobacter pylori and its role in peptic ulcer disease.

References & Further Reading: