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Nearly 70 million Americans are affected by gastrointestinal (GI) problems ― conditions that occur in the digestive system. This complex system includes your mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon, rectum, liver, gallbladder and pancreas. Your digestive system breaks down food, eliminates waste and absorbs nutrients to fuel your body.
GI problems like heartburn, diarrhea and constipation may be mild and go away on their own. But some people suffer from more serious digestive issues requiring care from a Mercy gastroenterologist. Mercy’s experts can help reduce or eliminate the pain and discomfort caused by conditions like ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn's disease, celiac disease and other disorders.
Digestive problems can be caused by poor diet, food intolerances, bacteria, infection, stress, medications and chronic medical conditions like IBS. Ongoing or frequent digestive issues can affect your quality of life, so it’s important to discuss them with your Mercy provider.
GI diseases are caused by either functional issues (how well the digestive system’s working) or structural problems (abnormal organs or body structures). Functional GI disease is more common, and it includes issues like constipation and IBS. Poor diet, lack of exercise, overusing laxatives and some prescription medications can cause functional disease. Structural disease includes conditions like colon cancer, hemorrhoids and diverticulitis, which may require surgery to fix.
Simple diet and lifestyle changes can keep your digestive system healthy, so you can feel your best. Limit your intake of processed foods. Food additives, trans fats and artificial sweeteners have been linked to digestive disorders like IBS, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. And get plenty of fiber in your diet, including whole grains, vegetables and fruits.
Staying hydrated helps keep food moving through your digestive system. Exercise also aids digestion. Other ways to protect your digestive health include reducing stress and avoiding harmful habits like smoking and heavy alcohol use. Talk with your Mercy provider or gastroenterologist about any digestive health concerns.
If you’re having digestive trouble, talk with your Mercy provider. He or she will review your medical history and symptoms to find out what’s causing the problem. You may be asked to change your eating habits or take medication, depending on the issue. Your provider may also refer you to a Mercy gastroenterologist for additional testing and treatment.
A healthy lifestyle makes a big difference. Maintaining a balanced diet with plenty of fiber is essential to good digestion. And if you have frequent heartburn or reflux, limit foods like dairy and gluten that trigger these conditions. Staying hydrated also helps – doctors recommending drinking water and caffeine-free, nonalcoholic beverages throughout the day. Physical activity also moves food through your digestive system and reduces inflammation. Talk with your Mercy doctor about other ways to keep your digestive system healthy.
Mercy has digestive health and disorder specialists across most our communities.
Find a gastroenterologist near you.