4 Lesser-Known Signs Of Digestive Problems

1204

Digestion is a complex process that involves many organs. Its primary goal is to break down food and help your body absorb vital nutrients. The body relies on saliva, gastric juices, muscle contractions and other processes to get the job done.

Unfortunately, things don't always go as planned. "Most people have some sort of digestive issue daily or weekly, and certainly over the course of a lifetime," says Eva Alsheik, M.D., a gastroenterologist at Henry Ford Health System. "When your gut is out of balance, it can affect your overall health and manifest in surprising ways."

Surprising Signs Of Digestive Distress

You're probably already familiar with the telltale signs of digestive problems, things like abdominal pain, heartburn, constipation, diarrhea and gas. But it turns out GI distress can produce many other symptoms — even minor ones that might seem unrelated.

"Your gut health is closely connected to how you feel as a whole," Dr. Alsheik says.

Here are four lesser-known signs that digestive issues may be brewing:

  1. Skin irritation: Conditions like psoriasis may be linked to digestive issues. If your digestive system isn't absorbing nutrients, as is the case in celiac disease, you may develop a skin rash that looks like psoriasis. Crohn’s disease can also present with different types of rashes that can signal inflammation in the gut.
  2. Anxiety: Our guts remain in constant communication with our minds. When you're suffering from GI upset, your body sends signals to the central nervous system that can cause mood changes. Similarly, if you're battling an anxious mind, you might experience tummy troubles.
  3. Bad breath: Halitosis (bad breath) is remarkably common. It may also be rooted in digestive problems. Conditions like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can also lead to bad breath. Reflux brings acid and possible odors from the belly right up into the oral cavity. Reflux can also lead to enamel loss and cavities.
  4. Weight fluctuations: Weight loss or gain can also be a sign of tummy troubles. Conditions such as celiac disease, chronic pancreatitis and inflammatory bowel disease may lead to weight loss. Constipation and bloating may lead to weight gain.

How To Keep Your Gut Happy

Dismissing digestive complaints can lead to bigger problems down the line, so it's important to recognize early warning signs. Your first clue to whether your digestive system is operating at full capacity: How you feel.

"It's becoming more and more apparent just how much our gut microbiomes affect all things in our body," Dr. Alsheik says. "A good, healthy bacterial composition in the gut helps us digest food and absorb nutrients. It's what gives us energy and makes us feel healthy."

So how do you maintain that healthy gut microbiome? It's pretty simple:

Over age 45? Talk to your doctor about colon cancer screening. While the standard age for screening used to be 50, the rising number of cases of colon cancer in people under 50 has caused the American Cancer Society and other cancer experts to recommend colon cancer screening beginning at age 45, especially in people with a family history of the disease. The upshot: You may not need a colonoscopy. "New, less-invasive screening tests are available for average risk patients," Dr. Alsheik says.

Want more health and wellness advice? 
Subscribe today for weekly emails to get all the latest tips from Henry Ford experts. 
 

To find a doctor at Henry Ford, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936).

Dr. Eva Alsheik is a gastroenterologist who sees patients at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit and at Henry Ford Medical Center - Columbus.

Categories: FeelWell