Causes and Symptoms (Magill’s Medical Guide, Sixth Edition)
What and how people eat, their digestion, and their toilet habits affect their health more than any other voluntary daily activity. Breathing, circulation, and the brain’s control of most bodily functions normally take place without conscious thought. The intake of nourishment and elimination of wastes, by contrast, afford a great variety of choices. Accordingly, poor or self-destructive eating and toilet habits lie behind many gastrointestinal (GI) disorders. Yet not all disorders result from an individual’s habits. Many arise because of a person’s cultural or physical environment, some are hereditary or congenital, and a fair amount have no known cause. All told, more than one hundred disorders may originate in the GI tract and its organs, including infections, cancer, dysfunctions, obstructions, autoimmune diseases, malabsorption of nutrients, and reactions to toxins taken in during eating, drinking, or breathing. Furthermore, diseases in other organs, systemic infections such as lupus, immune suppression such as that caused by acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), reactions to altered body conditions as during pregnancy, and psychiatric problems can all reverberate to the gut.
The symptoms of GI disorders range from mildly annoying to life-threatening, although seldom does any single symptom except massive bleeding lead quickly to death. Indigestion, bloating, and gas send more people to gastroenterologists...
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Treatment and Therapy (Magill’s Medical Guide, Sixth Edition)
The majority of GI disorders are transient and pose no short-term or long-term threat to life. The body’s natural defenses can combat most bacterial and viral infections in the gut without help. Even potentially dangerous noninfectious conditions, such as pancreatitis, resolve on their own if the irritating agent is eliminated. Many disorders require a gastroenterologist’s help, however, and even despite help can make people semi-invalids. Regulation of diet and the use of drugs to combat infections or relieve pain are important treatments. If these fail, as is likely to happen in such serious conditions as chronic inflammatory disease and cancer, cures or palliation is yet possible because of gastroenterological technology, particularly endoscopy, and surgical techniques developed in the twentieth century.
While it is not true that GI disorders would necessarily disappear with improved diet, since genetic disorders would remain, gastroenterologists stress that proper nourishment is the first line of defense against trouble. For example, incidence of stomach cancer plummets in countries where people eat fresh foods and use refrigeration rather than salting and smoking to preserve food. Regions where fiber makes up a high percentage of the diet, such as Africa, have a far lower incidence of inflammatory bowel disease. Last, and certainly not least, groups that do not drink alcohol or smoke (such as Mormons) have far...
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For Further Information: (Magill’s Medical Guide, Sixth Edition)
Feldman, Mark, Lawrence S. Friedman, and Lawrence J. Brandt, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran’s Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease: Pathophysiology, Diagnosis, Management. New ed. 2 vols. Philadelphia: Saunders/Elsevier, 2010. A comprehensive textbook of gastrointestinal diseases and physiology. Contains excellent chapters on all disorders mentioned in the text, as well as some beautiful endoscopic photographs.
Heuman, Douglas M., A. Scott Mills, and Hunter H. McGuire, Jr. Gastroenterology. Philadephia: W. B. Saunders, 1997. A review of digestive system diseases and methods of treating them. Includes a bibliography and an index.
Janowitz, Henry D. Indigestion: Living Better with Upper Intestinal Problems, from Heartburn to Ulcers and Gallstones. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994. Clear explanations of common ailments, especially those related to aging, to help people prevent or manage GI disorders. With charts and illustrations.
Sachar, David B., Jerome D. Waye, and Blair S. Lewis, eds. Pocket Guide to Gastroenterology. Rev. ed. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins, 1991. In detailed outlines intended for physicians, this handbook contains a wealth of information from which general readers can profit despite the extensive use of medical terminology.
Thompson, W. Grant. The Angry Gut: Coping with Colitis and Crohn’s Disease. New York: Plenum Press,...
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