Gastrointestinal disorders: symptoms, treatment and prevention

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Nova Science Publishers, Inc


The digestive system, which extends from the mouth to the anus, is responsible for receiving food, breaking it down into nutrients (digestion), absorbing the nutrients into the bloodstream, and eliminating the undigestible parts of food from the body. It consists of the mouth, throat, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum, and the anus. In addition, the digestive system consists of accessory digestive glands namely the liver, exocrine pancreas, and the biliary system consisting of the gallbladder and the bile duct. Disorders of the gastrointestinal system can be divided into: 1. Upper gastrointestinal disorders which involve diseases of the oral cavity, esophagus, and the stomach. Disorders of the oral cavity include those in the mouth, parotid and other salivary glands, and the pharynx. 2. Intestinal disorders which include disorders of the small intestine, large intestine, those involving both small and large intestine, rectum, and the anus. Conditions affecting the small intestine include conditions like enteritis (duodenitis, jejunitis, ileitis), duodenal (peptic) ulcer, and malabsorption. Those affecting the large intestine include appendicitis, colitis, functional colonic disease (e.g. irritable bowel syndrome, intestinal pseudoobstruction), megacolon, and diverticular disease. Examples of conditions occurring in both large and small intestines are enterocolitis and Crohn’s disease. Conditions affecting the rectum and the anus include proctitis, rectal prolapsed, anorectal fistula/fissure, and hemorrhoids. 3. Accessory digestive gland disorders are disorders of the liver, exocrine pancreas, gallbladder and bile duct. Examples of conditions affecting the liver include disorders of the liver parenchyma such as acute viral hepatitis (hepatitis A,B,C,D,E), yellow fever, cirrhosis, haemochromatosis and tumors like hepatocellular carcinoma. The biliary system could suffer from cholecystitis, gallstones, and cholesterolosis whereas the exocrine pancreas may have developmental abnormalities, pancreatitis, and pancreatic insufficiency. Owing to the nature and location of the condition, symptoms and subsequent treatment and prevention vary significantly. In general terms, congenital disorders may need surgical correction while infectious cases need antimicrobial therapy following identification of specific causative agents. Most of the gastrointestinal disorders are treated symptomatically. In this case, therapy is instituted to correct effects of symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea (antiemetics, oral rehydration salts, intravenous fluid infusion) or muscular disorders like esophageal spasms where long acting anticholinergics or calcium blockers such as nifedipine relief the symptoms. Thus use of antimicrobials, surgery, and symptomatic therapy are major approaches to treatment of gastrointestinal disorders. Apart from congenital and inherited disorders, many gastrointestinal conditions can be prevented by proper and safe nutrition as well as drinking of safe water. Some specific conditions, such as gastritis, gastric and duodenal ulcers, inflammatory bowel diseases, cirrhosis, liver failure, and pancreatitis may need very special attention for treatment. In this book chapter, current findings on research and medical practice on symptoms, treatment and prevention of specific gastrointestinal disorders will be described in detail.


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