Approximately 10% to 20% of the world’s population is affected by a digestive disorder. Nearly everybody experiences gastrointestinal discomfort at some point or another, which affects quality of life.
Herewith a list of symptoms that may be experienced when suffering from a gut condition. This is by no means a full list, and you do not need to tick all the boxes to conclude that you have an actual gut condition.
Conditions that appear to be unrelated to the gut, such as rheumatic disease and Alzheimer’s’, may also be ‘symptomatic conditions’ due to one or more gut disorders. Another example is that of women with endometriosis – they are more likely to have irritable bowel disease. Gastro-intestinal disease itself, frequently exist with other diseases, as there are many well-documented co-morbidities.
A symptom such as constipation, may in fact also be a condition. However, constipation may be the result of another gut condition. We have listed symptoms, possible causes and described gut conditions below. This information is not here to diagnose, and we do suggest that you consult a qualified health professional.
Symptoms related to gastrointestinal disorders
Abdominal Pain & Cramps
Bloating & Flatulence
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Symptoms of gut conditions
‘Listen’ to your gut. Be mindful of the signals your body is sending you. Let your gut have its say. Symptoms such as bloating and gas affect mood and are often combined with reduced concentration and energy.
- Abdominal pain
- Acid reflux and
A note on our protocols for optimal gut health support
We have designed protocols to assist with the comprehensive management of gut conditions. These protocols include diet and lifestyle advise and information to help you choose the correct remedy, or combination of remedies, from our Progast® range of products.
Everybody is unique, so please only start a protocol with the guidance of your health care practitioner. The conditions and protocols on progast.global are to be seen as helpful descriptions and not treatments or cures.
Causes of gut conditions
The best results are achieved when we address the cause of digestive diseases instead of only offering symptomatic relief. There are several reasons for the development of gastrointestinal discomfort, like daily stress and anxiety, food sensitivity, intolerances and allergies, side-effects of pharmaceutical drugs, genetic predisposition, altered gut flora or deregulation of gut-brain cross-talk.
Interesting gut facts
- More than 90% of serotonin, the mood and stress management neurotransmitter, resides in the gut.
- More than 70% of immune cells reside in the gut.
- The gut lining is only one cell thick and these cells have the most rapid rate of turnover of any cell in the human body.
Intestine lining and villi
Gut conditions or functional gastrointestinal conditions (FGIDs)
In the absence of organic disease, digestive diseases encompass more than 40 acute and chronic conditions of the gastrointestinal tract, ranging from common digestive disorders such as Functional Dyspepsia (FD) and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), to serious, life-threatening diseases such as Diverticulosis and Colorectal Cancer. Despite a clear range of symptoms, these conditions are not well understood.
Women are two to six times more likely to experience gut disorders than men:
- Women secrete less stomach acid and experience slower gastric emptying that can result in bloating.
- Women tend to use more nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) throughout their lifetime which can irritate the stomach lining.
- Women have slower emptying from the large intestine that can cause occasional issues with regularity, and it tends to worsen with age.
- Women have slower gallbladder emptying that can lead to occasional discomfort.
- Women’s enzyme systems in their livers and small intestines differ from men’s and can affect how their bodies break down medication.
- Women’s bodies also tend to be more sensitive to irritants, such as gas, in their GI tracts which can trigger messages to the brain and in turn, a stressful response back to the gut, further impacting bowel function.
Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)
Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) is a condition of microflora imbalance that is getting a lot more attention now and is becoming more recognized as a fairly widespread condition. Bad bacteria that normally reside in the colon, are found in the small intestine where they don’t belong. They’re in the wrong location in the GI tract and produce a lot of gas, bloating, diarrhoea and weight loss. Because we snack throughout the day, the villi in the small intestine that needs to clean up regularly, are not able to make everything pristine, and bacteria move in. The condition can be caused by pharmaceutical medications such as antibiotic use or the use of proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). Various factors, such as pressure from constipation, can relax the valve that separates the small from the large intestine, causing the flow back of bad bacteria. This results in SIBO.
IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease)
Inflammatory Bowel Disease is used to describe chronic inflammatory conditions of the gastrointestinal tract such as Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease. IBD results from a combination of genetic predisposition, a dysregulated immune system, environmental factors and changes in the gut microbiome. The dysregulated immune system attacks various parts of the body. Inflammatory gut conditions can set the stage for secondary manifestations such as osteoporosis and arthritis.
IBS (Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome)
IBS is defined (by Rome III, a classification system of functional gastro-intestinal disorders) as recurrent abdominal pain for at least three days a month for at least the three previous months, with improvement of symptoms upon defecation; onset with a change in form, frequency or appearance of bowel movement. (Hotoleanu et.al. 2008). IBS should only be a diagnosis after ruling out other serious gut disorders such as IBD, diverticulitis and colon cancer and also rule out a parasitic infestation.
Gastroesophageal and bile reflux (GERD)
The stomach acid is ‘corked’ in place by a valve called the oesophageal sphincter. When we eat a high protein diet, eat too fast or under stress, we do not excrete enough stomach acid or enzymes and this causes the toxic by-product of protein digestion, ammonia gas, to form. It is the ammonia gas that bubbles up with stomach acid, causing acid reflux or heartburn.
Hernias are related to naturally occurring weaknesses in the tissues that normally anchor the gastroesophageal junction to the diaphragm and to activities or conditions that increase pressure within the abdomen. Examples are strenuous coughing, vomiting, straining while defecating, sudden physical exertion and pregnancy. A hernia may get larger over time, it can cut off blood flow and lead to the death of the affected tissue, requiring immediate surgery. It needs constant monitoring.
Constipation is not merely the presence of pellets of dried, shrunken, and hard material, eliminated with a struggle a few times a week. Constipation is a weak bowel. It is the absence of two or three effortless and odourless bowel movements a day – without bloating, urgency, discomfort or mucus. The stool should be formed – shaped as a cast of the colon – and sink readily in the water in the toilet bowl. There should be no visible mucus on the stool or in the toilet bowl.
Infantile colic is a very common disorder, defined as distress or crying in an otherwise healthy infant that lasts for more than 3 hours a day, 3 or more days a week, for at least 3 weeks. Bouts of screaming, excessive crying or irritability are common expressions of colic with tummy distension, excessive or trapped gas, clenched fists, and facial expressions indicating pain.
According to the American Academy of Paediatrics, colic affects more boys than girls, and around a fifth of all babies between the ages of two and four weeks. The cause of colic is unknown, and there is unlikely to be one cause. Experts tend to agree on some of the main causes: food sensitivities linked to a mother’s breast milk or a baby’s formula, gastro-intestinal tract immaturity, reflux and overstimulation. Apart from paying special attention to the right quantity of food, feeding and burping techniques, and ensuring that your baby is getting enough sleep, herbal medicine may be helpful.
Create an environment of comfort, calm and relaxation. Keep sensory stimulation to a minimum before and during a feed. Holding or carrying the baby in a sling close to the body (skin on skin contact), has shown to relax the baby.
It is very distressing to not be able to console your screaming baby. Take deep calming breaths throughout and keep telling yourself that this phase will pass. Despite the distress and discomfort, babies suffering with colic are usually gaining weight, healthy in all other respects and will grow out of the colicky stage eventually. We have designed a colic protocol to assist with the comprehensive management of colic.
A baby who is crying inconsolably may be ill or in real pain. Seek medical attention quickly for these potentially serious symptoms:
- Persistent diarrhoea or vomiting
- A high-pitched cry
- Unusually drowsy
- Sunken or bulging fontanelle.