Indigestion is a problem that occurs in one organ of the digestive system, or more than one digestive organ simultaneously.
The digestive system consists of a number of organs, starting from the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and anus. The liver, pancreas, and gallbladder also play a role in digesting food, but are not passed by food or located outside the digestive tract.
The digestive system functions to receive and digest food into nutrients that can be absorbed. The nutrients are then distributed throughout the body through the bloodstream. The digestive system also functions to separate and dispose of parts of food that cannot be digested by the body. When the body cannot digest food properly, these conditions can cause food intolerance.
Symptoms of Digestive Disorders
Indigestion can cause a variety of symptoms, such as:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Burning sensation in the chest (heartburn)
- Gastric pains
- Stomach ache
- Vomiting blood or bowel movements
- Weight up or down
Causes of Digestive Disorders
The cause of indigestion varies greatly, depending on the disease. Below will be explained several digestive disorders and their underlying causes.
- Gastric acid reflux disease
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition when stomach acid rises to the esophagus (esophagus). This condition occurs due to weakening of the esophageal muscle ring which serves to prevent food from returning to the esophagus after entering the stomach.
Oesophagitis is inflammation of the lining of the esophagus that can cause pain, difficulty swallowing, and pain in the chest. If left untreated, oesophagitis can cause narrowing of the esophagus.
Achalasia is a condition when the nerves in the esophagus (esophagus) are damaged. This condition causes the valve muscles between the esophagus and stomach to lose flexibility, making it difficult to push food into the stomach.
Gastritis is inflammation of the stomach wall, which can occur suddenly (acute), or last long (chronic). This condition can cause stomach ulcers.
- Gastric ulcer
Peptic ulcers are open sores that form in the lining of the stomach, or can also occur in the intestines of 12 fingers (duodenal ulcer). Gastric ulcers can be caused by bacterial infections, and long-term use of aspirin or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
- Celiac disease
Celiac disease is a disease caused by the immune system’s reaction to the consumption of gluten, which is a protein that can be found in wheat. In people with celiac disease, gluten will trigger an immune system reaction in the small intestine. If the condition persists, the lining of the small intestine can be damaged and prevent nutrients from being absorbed.
- Gallstone Disease
Gallstone disease is a condition when there is a blockage in the bile duct. Blockages are caused by stones resulting from cholesterol crystallization. In some cases, gallstones are formed from the crystallization of bilirubin or a substance that causes jaundice.
Cholecystitis is inflammation of the gallbladder. Inflammation is triggered by the blockage of the gallbladder by gallstones or tumors. Blockage causes trapped fluid in the gallbladder, and triggers inflammation.
Hepatitis is a term that refers to inflammation of the liver. This condition can be caused by viral infections, autoimmune diseases, as well as exposure to alcohol, drugs, chemical poisons, or drugs.
Cirrhosis is the formation of scar tissue in the liver, which causes decreased liver function or even fails to function. Cirrhosis is a long-term result of hepatitis.
Pancreatitis is inflammation of the organs of the pancreas. The pancreas is an organ that produces enzymes to digest food and hormones to regulate blood sugar levels. Pancreatitis can be caused by gallstone disease or alcoholism.
- Inflammatory bowel
As the name suggests, inflammation of the intestine is a condition when the intestine becomes inflamed. Intestinal inflammation consists of 2 types, namely Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. The difference is, inflammation of ulcerative colitis only occurs in the large intestine. Whereas in Crohn’s disease, inflammation can occur in all parts of the digestive tract.
Diverticulitis is inflammation of the diverticula. Diverticula itself are abnormal pockets that form in the digestive tract. Diverticulitis can cause symptoms of fever, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, constipation or diarrhea.
Proctitis is inflammation of the rectum (the end of the large intestine that connects to the anus). This condition can cause a feeling of wanting to defecate frequently (tenesmus). Proctitis also causes pain in the stomach, rectum and anus.
- Colon cancer
Colon cancer can start from a benign tumor called an adenoma polyp. Over time, these polyps develop into malignant.
- Fissura ani
Anal fissures are open sores on the tissue lining the anus. This condition can cause pain and tension in the rectum or anus. Patients can also experience bleeding during bowel movements.
Hemorrhoids are swelling of blood vessels around or inside the anus. Although hemorrhoids can cause no symptoms, in some cases it can cause itching and pain in the anus, as well as blood or pus discharge during or after bowel movements.
Diagnosis of Digestive Disorders
The doctor will suspect the patient has indigestion, if there are symptoms that have been described above. As for ascertaining the underlying causes of the symptoms, the gastroenterologist will carry out a physical examination and supporting examinations, such as:
- Test samples in the laboratory. In this examination, the doctor will take a sample of blood, urine, or feces of the patient, to be examined in the laboratory. These samples can help doctors know the causes of digestive system disorders, for example patients infected with bacteria or viruses.
- Endoscopy is done to see the condition of organs in the digestive tract using a small tube equipped with a camera. The tube can be inserted through the mouth, rectum, or through a small incision made near the organ to be examined. In addition to seeing visually, endoscopy also functions to take tissue samples (biopsies) on the affected organ, for examination under a microscope.
- Imaging Test. Imaging tests are performed to see the condition of organs in the digestive tract. A number of imaging tests that can be done to diagnose digestive disorders include X-rays with barium dye, ultrasound, CT scans, or MRI.
Treatment for Digestive Disorders
Treatment for digestive disorders varies greatly. Depending on the cause and severity, the doctor can prescribe medication, or carry out surgical procedures, as will be described below.
Medications deal with digestive disorders
Some medications that doctors can prescribe to treat digestive disorders are:
- Ulcer drugs, such as antacids, histamine-2 inhibitors (H2 blockers), and proton pump inhibitors.
- Drugs that decrease the immune system for autoimmune diseases (immunosuppressive drugs).
- Drugs that relax the anal muscles, such as nifedipine or nitroglycerin.
- Botox injection.
Depending on the type and severity of digestive disorders suffered by the patient, the doctor can choose one of a number of medical procedures below:
- Cholecystectomy, to remove gallstones.
- Intestinal excision in cases of diverticulitis and colon cancer.
- The act of binding (ligation), injecting substances to shrink blood vessels (scelotherapy), and lase therapy), to treat hemorrhoids.
- Proctocolectomy (surgical removal of the entire colon and rectum), to treat ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
- Liver transplantation in cases of severe cirrhosis.
Treatment for indigestion may require significant costs. Therefore, it is better for you to have a trusted health insurance to ease the cost of treatment.
Complications of Digestive Disorders
If not treated immediately, digestive disorders can cause serious complications, both in the affected organs and the surrounding organs. Some of these complications are:
- Gastrointestinal bleeding
- Anemia (deficiency of red blood cells)
- Osteoporosis (bone loss)
- Fistula (abnormal channel) between the intestine and bladder
- Splenomegaly (enlarged spleen)
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Esophageal narrowing
Prevention of Digestive Disorders
Indigestion can be prevented by living a healthy lifestyle, including:
- Maintain ideal body weight, or lose slowly if you are overweight.
- Increase fibrous foods, such as fruits and vegetables.
- Exercise regularly.
- Adequate fluid intake.
- Do not delay if you feel like going to defecate.
- Do not push too hard when defecating.
- Avoid sitting or squatting for too long in the toilet.
- Avoiding alcohol consumption.
- Implement safe sexual behavior by using condoms and not changing partners, and avoid sharing syringes, to prevent viral hepatitis.