Types of Digestive Problems
There are two basic types of health problems—functional, also called physiologic (no disease present), and organic, also called pathologic (symptoms caused by disease). If no pathologic changes can be found in the organ, the symptoms are regarded as annoying but harmless. Most health complaints are described as functional, which means no known associated organic or pathological tissue changes can be found by the physician.
Functional Digestive Problems
Functional gastrointestinal disorders are a group of disorders, including irritable bowel syndrome (or IBS), gastroesophageal reflux disease (or GERD), and chronic constipation or diarrhea. These extremely common conditions all have chronic or recurrent gastrointestinal symptoms that appear for at least twelve weeks within a year. Besides the symptoms, no structural or biochemical causes are found. The only way you can learn if you have a functional disorder is by visiting a health care provider.
Pathologic Digestive Problems
Organic digestive health problems are caused when there is a structural problem with a part of your digestive system. For example, a duodenal ulcer is an actual, visible sore on the inside lining of the first part of the small intestine (duodenum) that goes into the stomach. It is a structural abnormality and therefore an organic digestive problem.
Risk Factors for Digestive Problems
Whether the condition is functional or pathologic, there are a number of factors involved in how well someone’s digestive system functions. A person’s lifestyle—including diet, exercise, smoking, and alcohol consumption— is one of the key indicators. Someone’s personal history is important as well. For example, if you have already had a bout with cancer, you are more likely to battle it again. Likewise, family history and genetics also play a role.
Just because you have one or more risk factors doesn’t mean you will definitely develop poor digestive health. Knowing your risk factors to your digestive health can guide you into making the best choices for yourself—whether it’s making lifestyle changes or learning symptoms you should be concerned about. Regular medical checkups and timely screenings are important for everyone, regardless of the number of risk factors.