If you’re one of the millions who experience digestive issues, you understand how frustrating and uncomfortable they can be. From mild bloating to the more serious gastrointestinal disease (GI), it can be challenging to find relief.
That’s why we’ve compiled this comprehensive guide to help you better understand common GI symptoms and explore natural remedies to help you feel your best.
So, let’s dive into digestive health and discover ways to ease discomfort and promote optimal gut health.
But first, do you know what gastrointestinal disease is? Let’s briefly explore it:
What’s Gastrointestinal Disease?
Gastrointestinal disease is a catch-all term for any condition affecting the digestive tract: the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon, or rectum. There are two types of GI diseases: Structural and Functional . The table below breaks them down for you:
|Type of GI Tract Disorder||Description||Examples|
|Functional||Functional gastrointestinal diseases are conditions where a physical examination reveals a normal GI tract appearance, but the movement of your digestive system is not working as it should be.||Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)DiarrheaNauseaFood poisoningBloatingGasConstipation|
|Structural||Structural disorders of your gastrointestinal tract refer to digestive diseases where an examination reveals an abnormal appearance of your bowel that also doesn’t function properly.||StenosisHemorrhoids (external & internal)Anal fistulaDiverticular diseaseColon polypsAnal fissuresColon cancerInflammatory bowel disease|
This video delves deeper in what GI disease is and outlines some of the most common GI disorders.
Now let’s review some of the most common symptoms of GI disorder.
What Are the 5 Most Common Symptoms of Gastrointestinal Disease?
1 – Abdominal Pain and Cramping
Abdominal pain and cramping are common signs of a wide range of gastrointestinal disorders, from mild to severe. The degree and location of the pain and accompanying symptoms like nausea, constipation, and diarrhea can explain what’s really causing the discomfort.
The most common causes of cramping and abdominal pain include intestinal obstruction, inflammation, indigestion, and infections .
Bowel pain and cramping may indicate that you have one or more of these gastrointestinal conditions:
- Peptic ulcer disease: Occurs when agonizing ulcers form in the stomach or duodenum lining, causing excruciating pain in the upper abdomen, especially when you eat something.
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): IBS is known for causing abdominal pain and stomach cramps alongside other uncomfortable symptoms like bloating and changes in bowel movements. The cause of IBS is linked to the contraction behavior of digestive tract muscles .
- Inflammatory bowel disease: This is a chronic digestive tract inflammatory condition that includes ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disorder.
- Other GI disorders linked to stomach cramps and pains include diverticulitis, gallstones, appendicitis, food intolerances or allergies, gastritis, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Note: Due to the wide range of possible GI illnesses indicated by abdominal pain and cramps, it’s best to seek professional medical attention for proper diagnosis and treatment.
2 – Diarrhea or Constipation
Changes in bowel habits, like constipation or diarrhea, can indicate a gastrointestinal problem.
Constipation, a functional GI challenge, is characterized by difficulty passing stool, infrequent defecation (less than three times a week), and incomplete bowel movements. It’s caused by a lack of enough fiber or roughage in your diet or a disruption in your regular eating routine or diet.
Mild constipation is nothing to worry about, as you can quickly rectify the situation at home by:
- Eating more fiber.
- Working out.
- Passing stool when you have the urge.
However, chronic constipation can lead to GI tract illnesses like hemorrhoids and fissures.
Therefore, it’s best to seek immediate medical attention if you have experienced difficulty with bowel movements for more than three weeks.
Conversely, diarrhea is characterized by watery, loose, frequent stools and abdominal pain.
Most people get diarrhea from eating food that upsets the stomach or from allergies to certain food.
Acute diarrhea (lasts for 2-3 days) is quite common, and patients have nothing to worry about, as taking a solution of salt and sugar with water can fix it. A BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast) can also help.
However, chronic or severe diarrhea (which can go on for weeks) shouldn’t be ignored as it can be fatal due to dehydration. Chronic diarrhea is usually caused by severe GI illnesses like irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, and Crohn’s disease.
Other common causes of changes in bowel movements include:
- Parasitic infections.
- Chronic inflammation.
- Medications like antibiotics (which can disrupt your gut microbial balance).
- Food intolerances, i.e., lactose and gluten.
- Nervous system disorders (like sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease).
- Colorectal cancer.
- Hormonal changes in menopause or during pregnancy.
3 & 4 – Bloating and Gas
Bloating and gas are usually the first symptoms you experience when you have a digestion problem. Bloating is the sensation of fullness and stiffness in your belly and can be shown by visible swelling. It’s caused by having excess air in your stomach .
The term “gas” refers to air passage through the rectum.
So, How Do Bloating and Gas Occur?
During digestion, most food produces gas as a byproduct. If this gas isn’t disposed of properly and quickly, it can build up in your gut causing discomfort and bloating.
Some food, like beans and cabbage, produce more gas than others, meaning that eating more may accelerate your bloating and gas levels.
Bloating and gas are also caused by other factors, including:
- Swallowing air.
- Underlying digestive disorders like inflammatory bowel disease, lactose intolerance, or celiac disease.
- Bacteria overgrowth in the ileum – this can cause food fermentation, which produces gas.
- Gastroparesis – delayed stomach emptying.
You can easily prevent bloating and gas by observing better eating habits like eating slowly, consuming smaller but frequent meals, chewing your food well, and sitting upright while ingesting.
You can also include regular exercises to facilitate smooth bowel movements in your daily routine.
If you have been experiencing persistent bloating and gas, we recommend visiting your doctor for an examination to root out the underlying causes and get appropriate treatment.
5 – Nausea and Vomiting
Nausea and vomiting can indicate gastrointestinal issues like GERD, IBD, and gastritis.
Nausea and vomiting are usually caused by blockages in the digestive system, inflammation, food poisoning, infections, drug treatments like chemotherapy, or pregnancy .
Suppose your nausea and vomiting aren’t severe. In that case, you can alleviate the symptoms by taking enough fluids for hydration, avoiding spicy, savory, fatty food, avoiding strong smells, and eating smaller meals frequently.
However, if the condition persists, contact your doctor for diagnosis and treatment.
Other Common Symptoms of GI Diseases
- Heartburn and acid reflux — can indicate gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
- Unintentional weight loss
- Rectal bleeding or blood in your stool — can indicate gastrointestinal bleeding.
- Weakness and fatigue — can be a sign of malabsorption of nutrients or anemia.
- Fever and chills — can indicate infections and inflammation in the GI tract.
4 Research-Based Natural Remedies
1- Probiotics and Fermented Foods
Ortho Spore IG
Probiotics and fermented foods have the potential to enhance your gut health naturally by introducing beneficial bacteria to the gut, enhancing digestion, and bolstering the immune system.
And how does that happen? Probiotics and fermented food:
- Improve digestion and absorption by providing beneficial bacteria and enzymes that aid in the breakdown of food into an absorbable state.
- Boost the immune system by promoting the growth of healthy gut microbial to help curb GI infections and diseases.
- Reduce inflammation which alleviates symptoms of IBD.
Note: Not all fermented foods have probiotics. Also, not all probiotics and fermented foods are equal in effectiveness. It’s best to consult your nutritionist before using any supplement or dietary regimen.
2 – Fiber-Rich Foods
Fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate (can’t be broken down by the digestive enzymes in the ileum) sourced from vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and whole grains .
Fiber is critical in maintaining gut health and treating gastrointestinal diseases naturally. Here’s how:
- Fiber-rich foods promote proper and regular bowel movements. They alleviate constipation by increasing stool volume, cohesiveness, and softness, making it easy to pass.
- Promotes the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, which alleviates symptoms of chronic inflammation.
By encouraging regular bowel movements, fiber also helps reduce symptoms of other GI disorders like IBS, IBD, and hemorrhoids.
It’s important to note: That different people may require varying amounts and types of dietary fiber depending on their needs and how much their bodies can handle. This is because some fibers can exacerbate IBS symptoms, so it’s best to consult a healthcare provider to determine the best type and amount of fiber to consume.
3 – Ginger and Peppermint
Ginger and peppermint have been traditionally used for years to treat many ailments, including gastrointestinal diseases.
These herbs are utilized for their pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties, which help alleviate symptoms of GI disorders such as:
- Bloating and gas.
- Nausea and vomiting (especially for chemotherapy patients).
Ginger contains compounds gingerol and shogaol, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, while peppermint has methanol which contains pain-reducing properties. These herbs help relax GI tract muscles which can help alleviate symptoms of common GI illnesses like IBS and IBD.
4 – Chamomile Tea
Chamomile tea is a natural and healthy beverage made from the chamomile flower. It’s an effective remedy for treating various health issues, including GI and digestive problems.
Here are some of the major ways drinking chamomile tea can enhance your gut health and alleviate symptoms of common GI diseases:
- It promotes healthy digestion by stimulating the production of digestive enzymes.
- It Relieves digestive symptoms like gas, indigestion, and bloating.
- Promotes GI tract muscle relaxation, encouraging normal bowel movements and curbing issues like diarrhea and constipation.
Please Note: While chamomile tea is generally safe for most people, it may react with different medications causing uncomfortable side effects. Therefore, discuss with your healthcare provider before adding chamomile tea to your dietary regimen.
The above GI diseases’ natural remedies can be paired with these Expert Tips and Supplements to improve your gut health!
What Are Some of the Major Ways You Can Prevent Gastrointestinal Diseases
The table below highlights some ways you could avoid getting GI illnesses.
|Way To Prevent GI Diseases||Description|
|Hydration||Drinking enough water and fluids smoothes your digestion process and prevents dehydration — which causes GI issues like constipation.|
|Stress Management||Some GI diseases like IBS are stress related. Managing stress through techniques like therapy and medication can improve your gut health.|
|Regular Exercises||Regular workouts promote healthy digestion and bowel movements.|
|Healthy Diet and Lifestyle Choices||Eating a wholesome diet rich in fluids, fiber, vitamins, whole grains, and avoiding foods high in fats and processed ingredients can improve your digestive health and prevent the development of GI diseases.|
|Proper Hygiene and Food Handling||Washing your hands before eating, among other hygienic practices, can reduce the risk of foodborne diseases and digestive infections.|
|Use Gut Health Supplements||Including probiotics and other gut health supplements like Dynamic GI integrity in your diet can improve digestion and reduce the risk of GI illnesses.|
Take Care of Your GI Tract Health!
It’s really important to catch the early signs of gastrointestinal disease and get medical attention as soon as possible.
If you’re interested in natural remedies, that’s great, but talk to your healthcare provider first. And if your symptoms don’t go away or worsen, don’t hesitate to see a doctor.
Oh, and if you want to learn more about caring for your gut, we recommend checking out “How To Improve Gut Health Naturally: Painless Research-Backed Tips” — it’s a super helpful article!
NOTHING IN THIS WEBSITE IS INTENDED AS, OR SHOULD BE CONSTRUED AS, MEDICAL ADVICE. ANY HEALTHCARE AND/OR NUTRITIONAL MATERIAL CONTAINED IN THIS WEBSITE IS FOR CONSUMER INFORMATIONAL AND EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. SUCH MATERIAL IS NOT INTENDED AS MEDICAL ADVICE FOR CONDITIONS OR TREATMENT, NOR IS IT INTENDED AS A SUBSTITUTE FOR A MEDICAL EXAMINATION BY A HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONAL. CONSUMERS SHOULD CONSULT THEIR OWN HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONALS FOR INDIVIDUAL MEDICAL RECOMMENDATIONS.
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