Small Intestine Disorders - Overview
The small intestine does much of the labor of digesting. With help from the liver and pancreas, which provide digestive juices, it breaks down food into a form that allows for maximum nutrient absorption. Much of the distress of digestion centers in the stomach, small intestines and colon.
The following symptoms may signal problems with the digestive process:
- chronic diarrhea
- early satiety/loss of appetite
- weight loss
- pale, foul-smelling stool
- abdominal bloating/gaseousness
- abdominal pain
- bloody diarrhea
- rectal bleeding
- unexplained anemia
- recurrent GI bleeding
- calcium, vitamin D, iron, or folate deficiency
- premature osteoporosis
People who are sensitive to wheat, rye, barley, and oats have gluten sensitivity. When they eat these grains, the immune system attacks the small intestine, blunting the tiny villi that absorb nutrients. A hereditary disorder, celiac disease prevents the small intestine from doing its work. The disease is more common in people of European heritage. The only cure is a gluten-free diet. Similar symptoms may occur with lactose (milk) intolerance or fructose intolerance.
Inflammatory bowel diseases may involve anywhere along the gastrointestinal tract from the anus to the esophagus. Crohn’s Disease may affect any part of the GI tract, while ulcerative colitis is limited to the colon.
Cramping, gaseousness, bloating, and a change in bowel habits can be a sign of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). With IBS, there is no sign of apparent structural disease, so it is called a functional disorder. It affects 20% of the population, and unlike the inflammatory bowel diseases, it does not cause injury to the intestinal lining. It can be controlled by diet and medication.