A good digestion and a healthy function of the digestive tract are a foundation of good health. Diseases of gastrointestinal tract are many, because the digestive system is complex. One of the key aspects affecting the function of digestive tract is the diet that we eat. As a result of an accelerated pace of life and higher demands at work and in personal lives people prefer quantity rather than quality; they are not quite aware of the food content they buy, they succumb to narcotic and psychotropic substances, they prefer to use chemicals as a quick fix to pain, and this all creates a great stress on digestion and the immune system. If several risk factors of the modern times accumulate, immunity is compromised and the body falls ill, where it suffers the most.
A very common digestive problem is diarrhoea and it may affect children and adults. It is usually induced by infection or food poisoning; however, it can be a consequence of a detox process, which the body requires. Before selecting a drug to alleviate diarrhoea, it should be realised what causes accelerated intestinal activity. The culprit is usually mouldy food, a change of environment (holidays abroad), stressful situation, dietary error and other causes. If short-lived and unaccompanied by other signs (fever, vomiting, etc.), the diarrhoea subsides spontaneously and a serious disease can be ruled out. Anyhow, the bowel should be helped by adequate amounts of fluids and by boosting the immune system. In case of long-lasting and recurrent diarrhoea, medical help should be sought.
The opposite of diarrhoea is constipation and flatulence. Though it may be a result of haemorrhoids, a poor thyroid function, diet low in fibre, or inadequate exercise, causes may be more serious. As a fast relief from constipation people often prefer laxatives, but those are not the best choice. Other options exist that may provide a long-lasting help to the guts. Natural remedies include herbal teas, increased fluid intake, aerobic exercise, prunes, mineral water with a laxative effect, sauerkraut juice taken on an empty stomach, and many others. If the bowel movement remains the same and constipation persists, this may suggest a more severe health problem which needs to be discussed with a nutritional therapist or a GP.
Pyrosis, heartburn or excess stomach acid may be harmless, but if persistent, it causes many serious diseases. A fast relief in a form of baking soda or drugs are not the right solution for the body as its acidity has a more profound source. An altered diet is essential in this case, as well as choosing alkaline foods and limiting foods that could promote acidic environment. Drinking alcohol and smoking are strictly banned during excess acidity in the body. Yet there are many general tips that may help with this problem. For example, a few almonds a day are a great natural antidote and also pickled gherkins; they have an immediate effect on chemical reactions in the stomach. Supportive tea infusions include mint, dandelion, lemon balm and sweet flag.
Other common diseases of GIT include hernia and appendicitis, and these require a surgical intervention. Similarly to other digestive disorders the immune system becomes weak, so it should be enhanced.
The most serious diseases of GIT are cancers. Even they have various stages of severity in regards to their phase at the time of diagnosis. A very insidious cancer of GIT is pancreatic cancer. Due to its asymptomatic nature showing no signs at all, its malignancy and progression is more severe than in other cancers.
More severe and very specific digestive disorders include colon cancer. Benign tumour is called a polyp. It is a small growth in the wall of the bowel which poses no life risk to a patient; polyps do not metastasise and they can be easily removed via colonoscopy. However, if left untreated, they can change into malignant life-threatening tumours. Malignant colon cancer can grow very quickly and spread into the body through the intestinal wall. A complicated stage of the disease when nearby tissues and organs are attacked and tumours expand is almost incurable.
Protrusions called polyps may appear in the stomach lining and be harmless; however, there is a risk of enlargement and malignancy that may become stomach cancer. Strikingly, the highest incidence of stomach cancer is in people with blood type A.
A very serious disease of GIT affecting smokers, heavy drinkers and older men is oesophageal cancer. At its very beginnings, there is excess stomach acid that may lead to inflammation of the oesophagus provoked by the return of foods and stomach acid from the stomach into the oesophagus (acid reflux). Narrowing of the food pipe and accumulation of food at this area may arise from chemical causes such as acid or caustic burn.
Other serious diseases of GIT are Crohn’s disease (chronic inflammation of digestive tract) or ulcerative colitis (colon disease). These illnesses are often confused as they both refer to the immune disorder.