Chronic Bowel Problems: How a Swift Diagnosis Could Save Your Life

* This is a collaborative post on chronic bowel problems

Bowel problems are no walk in the park, and can often be more severe than we first think, especially if they go undiagnosed. To discover more about these chronic conditions, read on…

Chronic Bowel Problems: How a Swift Diagnosis Could Save Your Life

Bowel problems come in all forms and affect everybody differently. They are a continued source of discomfort for anyone who has them and, in some cases, they can actually be life-threatening.

When you have bowel problems, it’s important to find out what is causing it swiftly. A delay in diagnosis could exacerbate the condition, especially if you continue to eat specific foods, or do anything else, that aggravates your bowel.

Today, we’ll be covering some of the main bowel problems and their symptoms, so you can get a clearer picture of which condition you might have. We will also list the causes of these diseases, so you know what not to do if you have one, explain how they are treated, and show you why a delayed diagnosis could be life threatening. Let’s get into it…

What are the Most Common Bowel Problems?

Bowel disorders can affect either the large or small intestine and, in a nutshell, they reduce the body’s ability to absorb food. Some of the most common bowel disorders are:

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Irritable bowel syndrome is a lifelong bowel problem, that affects both the large and small intestine. It causes frequent gastrointestinal problems that can have a big impact on your life, especially if left untreated.

The symptoms of IBS are stomach pain or cramps, which are worse after you’ve eaten, and better once you’ve relieved yourself. It can also cause visible bloating, and diarrhoea or constipation. There’s no cure for IBS; it tends to be treated with diet and medication which can reduce the symptoms.

Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s disease is also a lifelong bowel problem, where parts of the digestive system become inflamed. The disease affects people of all ages, but the symptoms usually start in childhood or young adulthood. The primary symptoms include diarrhoea, stomach aches and cramps, blood in your poo, tiredness (fatigue), and weight loss. 

Coeliac Disease/Gluten Intolerance

Coeliac disease is a bowel problem where your immune system attacks its own tissue if you eat gluten. This attack damages the gut, and makes it difficult for the body to absorb vital nutrients.

The primary symptoms look much the same as the other conditions; diarrhoea, stomach aches, bloating, indigestion and constipation. However, there are a lot of symptoms that generally go unnoticed. Sufferers can feel fatigued due to malnutrition, develop an itchy rash, struggle to get pregnant, suffer nerve damage, and develop ataxia, which affects co-ordination, balance and speech.

Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative colitis is a long-term bowel problem where the colon and rectum become inflamed. It can also cause ulcers to develop on the colon’s lining, which can bleed and produce pus.

The symptoms include recurring diarrhoea, which can contain blood or pus, tummy pain, and frequent emptying of the bowels. Weight loss and fatigue are also on this list. The severity of the symptoms varies from mild to significant, the latter of which can have a big impact on the everyday lives of sufferers.

causes of bowel problems  - gluten and bread goods

What are the Causes and Treatment of Bowel Disorders?

Now that we have the diagnosis out of the way, hopefully you have a better idea of what your bowel problems might be. Now, let’s move on to the causes and treatment so you know what you can and can’t control to mitigate each condition…

IBS Causes and Treatments

In many cases, we don’t know the exact cause of these conditions. Flare-ups of IBS can happen for no apparent reason, but sometimes they are triggered by alcohol, caffeine, certain foods and even stress.

Since there’s no treatment for irritable bowel syndrome, and no one diet or medicine works the same for everyone, the NHS just suggest cooking your own meals from fresh food, exercising, keeping a diary of what you eat, and trying probiotics to control the symptoms.

Crohn’s Disease Causes and Treatments

With Crohn’s, again, there is no definitive cause. We do know that if someone in your family has it, you’re more likely to get it. This is also more likely if you have a problem with your immune system already. Also, having had a stomach bug and smoking are said to play a factor.

The treatment for this disease can be more severe, ranging from medicines to reduce and prevent future inflammation, to the surgical removal of a small part of the digestive system. In the most severe cases, and if left untreated for a long period of time, a colostomy bag will have to be fitted for excrement.

Coeliac Disease/Gluten Intolerance Causes and Treatments

As is the theme with these bowel problems, we don’t know why people develop coeliac disease. Perceived factors include:

  • Family history of the disease;
  • Environmental factors, such as having a digestive system infection in early childhood or giving a baby gluten before it’s 6 months old;
  • And having another pre-existing condition, such as type-1 diabetes thyroid conditions, or epilepsy.

Even if we don’t know exactly what causes the disease, we do know what causes flare-ups – the consumption of gluten. Wheat, barley and rye all contain gluten, and can be found in pasta, cereals, cakes, bread and all sorts of other places. So, steering clear from gluten is the one sure preventative.

Ulcerative Colitis Causes and Treatments

Ulcerative colitis is thought to be an autoimmune disease, and there are some genetic factors at play. Where you live also seems to be a factor, as its most commonly found in urban areas of the northern parts of Western Europe and America. Again, the symptoms are treated with medicine, and sometimes with surgery, but there is no cure.

Ulcerative colitis is thought to be an autoimmune disease, and there are some genetic factors at play.

Why a Delayed Diagnosis Could be Dangerous and Even Fatal?

Now it’s time to convince you that delaying your diagnosis could be a huge mistake. IBS is the least terrifying of the above conditions when left undiagnosed. It does not result in more serious medical problems, such as colitis or cancer, but the longer you leave your diagnosis, the longer you’ll spend in pain and discomfort.

Crohn’s disease isn’t fatal in itself but, if left untreated, the complications of the disease could be. Bowel cancer, fistulas and bowel obstructions can all be caused by Crohn’s disease, and have the chance to end your life prematurely.

With Ulcerative colitis, the earlier a person receives treatment, the more effective it’s likely to be, so it’s important to get that diagnosis and start treatment. It’s a progressive condition that doesn’t get better on its own and, if left untreated, symptoms may persist and get worse with inflammation spreading further in the colon. This inflammation can eventually lead to colonic dysplasia and even colorectal cancer.

Our fourth and final bowel condition is coeliac disease. This disease causes a long list of bowel problems when left untreated, i.e. when you keep eating gluten because you haven’t received a diagnosis yet.

Coeliac causes malnutrition, which can make it difficult for your body to recover from wounds and infections. You can become lactose intolerant, so you won’t be able to consume dairy anymore either. If you become pregnant, you run the risk of giving birth to a baby with low birth weight. And finally, coeliac can increase your risk of developing bowel cancer.

Most of the more disruptive symptoms of these four bowel conditions, including the fatal ones, can be completely avoided if you are diagnosed early and receive the correct treatment. If you believe you have any of these conditions, make sure to get yourself tested as soon as possible to avoid the more serious symptoms.

All you need to do to receive a diagnosis is go to your GP, tell them your symptoms, and they will run some tests to see which of the many bowel conditions you have. Once that’s done, you’ll be put on one of the treatments listed above, and on your way to a life with a less inflamed gut.

Thanks for stopping by today, I hope you have found this post useful. If you are looking for other health-related posts to read you will find them in my health category.

rachel bustin
Thank you for sharing

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