Did you know that each year, 62 million Americans are diagnosed with digestive disorders? And 20 million Americans have chronic digestive diseases, with 25% of digestive diseases requiring surgery.
Your digestive health is key to your overall well-being, and digestive health lab tests are essential tools to maintaining your health.
Don't ignore your health. Your body speaks to you through its symptoms. If you're concerned you might have a digestive order, then keep reading this guide to learn what you need to know about digestive disorders and digestive health lab tests.
What are Digestive Disorders
Digestive orders are conditions that affect the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The GI tract comprises your gallbladder, pancreas, esophagus, liver, stomach, small and large intestines.
The most common digestive orders include irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, and colon cancer.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common and chronic disorder that can affect your digestive tract. Only a small amount of people with IBS have severe signs and symptoms. Typically, IBS doesn't cause changes in your intestinal tissue or increase your risk for colon cancer.
Symptoms vary but usually include:
- Abdominal pain
- Changes in stool appearance
Causes usually include infections or exposure to extremely stressful events, especially during childhood.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a group of disorders that cause chronic inflammation and damage to your digestive tract. The two main types of IBD are ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.
Ulcerative colitis involves ulcers and inflammation along the superficial lining of your large intestine and rectum.
Crohn's disease involves inflammation of the lining of your digestive tract. Crohn's disease can happen anywhere along your digestive tract and often skips certain areas while affecting others. The inflammation from Crohn's disease often involves deeper layers of your digestive tract.
Symptoms of IBD vary, depending on the severity of the inflammation. But most of the time, both Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis cause:
- Abdominal pain
- Weight loss
- Rectal bleeding.
The exact cause of IBD isn't known, but one of the main causes is thought to be an immune system malfunction. When you have an abnormal immune response, your immune system goes on the attack causing inflammation and symptoms of IBD.
Colon cancer is cancer that usually begins in the large intestine or colon area. Colon cancer usually affects older adults, but it happens at any age.
Colon cancer typically begins with small, noncancerous cells clump together and form polyps that attach to the colon's lining. Over time these polyps can grow into colon cancers, especially if you don't get regular colonoscopies and don't have them removed. For this reason, regular screenings for colon cancer are essential.
Colon cancer symptoms usually include a change in your stools like diarrhea or constipation. Other symptoms include rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, and unexplained weight loss.
If you get colon cancer, there are many treatments available to control it, like surgery, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and chemotherapy.
Other Digestive Disorders
Other digestive disorders involve the other organs that are a part of your digestive process. Other digestive diseases include:
- Gallstones and cholecystitis
- Celiac disease
- Liver problems like hepatitis and liver failure
- Peptic ulcer disease
Risk factors for Digestive Disorders
One of the biggest risk factors for digestive disorders is your genetics. Certain digestive diseases are thought to be hereditary. These disorders include:
- Crohn's disease
- Pancreatic cancer
- Certain liver diseases
- Celiac disease
- Cystic fibrosis
Certain diseases in other parts of your body put you at higher risk for digestive disorders such as:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Heart failure
Also, having a history of surgeries like gall bladder surgery, bowel resection, and bariatric surgery can put you at higher risk of developing a digestive order.
Causes of Digestive Disorders
Common causes of digestive orders include:
- bacterial infections
- Viral infections
- Lactose intolerance
- Difficulty digesting certain foods
Other causes include lifestyle choices including:
- High-stress levels
- Drinking alcohol
- Not exercising regularly
Some people experience functional disorders, meaning they experience symptoms, but all test results are normal. Unfortunately, functional disorders cause real symptoms and affect your quality of life, yet they are difficult to treat. Irritable bowel syndrome is an example of a functional disorder.
There are also structural causes from things like an ulcer in your stomach or intestines, as well as a cancerous tumor. Not only do structural problems cause digestive disorders, but so does your age. As we age, food doesn't move through us like it once did.
Signs and Symptoms of Digestive Disorders
Digestive disorders can be mild or serious, but usually, signs of problems in the digestive tract include symptoms like:
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Heartburn or abdominal pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Problems swallowing
- Weight gain or weight loss
Remember symptoms of digestive orders can vary depending on the condition, but for severe abdominal pain or blood in your stool, see your doctor immediately.
Diagnosis of Digestive Disorders
To reach a diagnosis, your doctor will first ask you about your medical history, family history and discuss what symptoms you've been experiencing. A physical exam is done next to assess for any obvious signs of illness.
Your doctor will first order a series of GI lab tests that will help assess your blood levels, inflammatory markers, and overall digestive health. These labs usually include a complete blood count, vitamin B12 level, and a celiac disease panel.
Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may order other tests like a CT scan to study your digestive organs like the liver and pancreas. A barium enema is a series of tests that examine your rectum and the lower part of your small intestine. Barium is given through your rectum via an enema which highlights blockages and other problem areas.
Your doctor may also want you to have a colonoscopy. This procedure involves a long narrow tube that is inserted into your rectum up into the colon, and it helps identity:
An upper endoscopy allows your doctor to examine your esophagus and stomach. Under anesthesia, a tube is inserted through your mouth and throat to visualize the areas of your upper GI tract.
Lab Tests for Digestive Disorders
A digestive health panel is the best place to start to test for gastrointestinal diagnostic lab tests. A panel is a great tool to evaluate your blood, organs, and how a digestive disorder might be impacting your health.
A complete blood count (CBC) measures your blood levels, white blood cells, platelets and is a good indicator of your overall health.
A comprehensive metabolic profile (CMP) checks things like your liver and kidney function, blood glucose, and electrolytes. And a c-reactive protein (CRP) measures the amount of inflammation in your body and can point towards inflammatory bowel disease.
You'll also have a celiac disease panel that will test your antibody levels for the presence of celiac disease, which is an autoimmune reaction to eating gluten. Your iron and total iron-binding capacity is also measured and is a good indicator of inflammatory disorders.
Your vitamin B12 and Vitamin D level are often decreased from malabsorption with digestive orders.
Other gastrointestinal diagnostic tests include a fecal globin by immunochemistry. This test detects blood in your stool and is useful in detecting conditions like ulcerative colitis and colon cancer.
FAQS About Digestive Disorders
What are the most common symptoms of digestive disorders? The most common symptoms you're most likely to experience include:
What are some fun and interesting facts about the digestive system? Some interesting things to know include:
- The average person produces over two pints of saliva each day
- Every muscle in your esophagus work together and act as a giant wave
- The enzymes in your digestive system separate food into nutrients
- Even if you're standing on your head, your body can still digest food
- Your small intestine is about 23 feet long, while your large intestine is 5 feet long
Your digestive system is an amazing and interesting system that keeps your mind and body on track. Many times you can find remedies for digestive issues by a little reading and research.
Digestive Health Lab Tests With Ulta Lab Tests
Ulta Lab Tests offers highly accurate tests, allowing you to make the best decisions about your health. Here are some things you'll love about Ulta Lab Tests:
- Secure and confidential results
- No need for health insurance
- No need for a physician's referral
- Always affordable pricing
- 100% satisfaction guarantee
Order your digestive health lab tests today, and your results will be provided securely and confidentially within 24 to 48 hours in most cases.
Take control with Ulta Lab Tests today!