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Common Gastrointestinal Disorders & Dietary Interventions Video

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  • 0:04 GI Tract
  • 0:51 Gastrointestinal Disorders
  • 2:42 Dietary Interventions
  • 4:49 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

Common GI disorders, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease, are irritated by certain foods. Learn about foods that should be avoided as well as foods that benefit the GI tract.

GI Tract

Let's talk about your bowel. Now that's not an invitation you hear every day! Your bowel, or more specifically your gastrointestinal (GI) tract, is probably not something you pay a lot of attention to until there is a problem. Your GI tract is the tube that runs from the mouth to the anus. It breaks down the foods you eat and extracts their nutrients. You then use those nutrients for energy. When everything is running smoothly, you feel great, but when problems arise you may notice very uncomfortable symptoms, such as stomach upset, pain, diarrhea or constipation. In this lesson, we will discuss some common gastrointestinal disorders and how you can change your diet to help deal with their symptoms.

Gastrointestinal Disorders

Disorders can occur anywhere along the GI tract. Let's define some of the more common problems. Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD for short, is a chronic disorder in which stomach acids flow back (reflux) into the esophagus. As you can imagine, this acid is very irritating to the lining of the esophagus and results in a burning pain felt in the middle of the chest.

As we continue to move down the GI tract, we often encounter problems arising in the intestines. For example, celiac disease is a chronic disorder affecting the small intestine that involves a sensitivity to gluten. Gluten is a protein found in certain grains, such as wheat, barley and rye. When a person with celiac disease eats one of these foods, they end up with abdominal pain and diarrhea.

Pain and the disruption of normal bowel function are symptoms seen in a number of GI tract disorders. For instance, irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease are chronic disorders that results in abdominal pain, cramps, diarrhea and possibly constipation. These two conditions have similar sounding names and similar symptoms, but can be differentiated based on the damage they cause. IBD causes destructive inflammation, which damages the tract lining, whereas IBS does not show signs of harm.

We should also mention diverticulosis, which is the development of small, pouch-like bulges called diverticula in the large intestine. People with this condition oftentimes do not experience any symptoms, but if the pouches become inflamed, pain can result.

Dietary Interventions

Because the GI tract's job is to handle the foods we eat, it makes sense that dietary changes would have an effect on gastrointestinal disorders. In some cases, we see that eliminating irritating foods can help. For example, GERD is made worse by chocolate, peppermint, fatty foods, coffee and alcohol. Therefore, eliminating these foods from your diet alleviates symptoms. If you suffer with GERD, you should also eat smaller meals. Big meals overfill your stomach and push the acids up.

Patients suffering from celiac disease cannot tolerate gluten in their diet, so they need to avoid any foods that contain wheat, barley and rye. People with IBS and IBD may feel better when they eliminate dairy products, fatty foods, spicy foods, high-fiber foods, caffeine and alcohol. However, dietary interventions might not be enough for a person with IBD, which can require medication or surgery.

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