Research Paper: Digestive System

There are multiple biological processes that the human body performs continuously in order to sustain itself. Functions are classified into systems according to their purpose. It is important to understand that all biological processes are highly interrelated, meaning that if one aspect of one system is malfunctioning, the effects sprawl far beyond the location of the function. This is perhaps why symptoms must be traced incredibly thoroughly to judge what the original cause of the malfunction is.

The digestive system is one that includes the functions of consumption, digestion, absorption and expulsion of wastes. The organs involved start at the oral cavity and stretches through the body, ending at the anal cavity. Surrounding systems such as the circulatory, respiratory, and immune and nervous systems all work in corporation to execute all the tasks necessary. Naturally, with such a number of complex functions, in combination with various destructive qualities, such as bacteria, viruses, environmental threats, as well as genetic make-up, malfunctions are bound to occur.
In some cases, the effects may be treated leaving no permanent damage; however some situation may result is irreversible damage that may be fatal.

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Most common signs that the digestion process is unwell are symptoms of diarrhea and constipation. While this is considered a non serious occurrence, it could be a clue that there is a far more serious problem within the system that requires attention. This may include such conditions as an Irritable bowel syndrome, peptic ulcer or even cancer. Typically the more persistent the symptoms, the more neglected the warnings are, the more serious the situation becomes.

The flowing is a more detailed look at the components, purpose and function of the digestive system, as well as several common digestive problems such as gastric bleeding, pain, constipation and diarrhea. Also a brief look at disorders such as the irritable bowel syndrome and peptic ulcers. The disorders are considered on the bases of the symptoms, causes and possible treatments.

The Digestive System

The purpose and reason behind the digestion process is to help break down the food and beverages that are consumed into small molecules in order for the necessary nutrients to be absorbed and utilized by the body. The way the body achieves this is by allowing the gut to physically and chemically alter the ingested nourishment and dispose of the not required wastes. This nourishment is then transformed into vital energy that helps maintain and build the cells that are necessary in the body.

Process of the Digestive System

The overall digestive process involves a mixture of food and drink with the digestive juices. The food is then broken down into small molecules through chewing and the digestive juices and finishes in the small intestine. The movement of the food down along the process is referred to as peristalsis. This resembles and ocean wave traveling though the muscle. Once food is swallowed an involuntary process begins which is controlled by the nerves. The swallowed food is propelled into the esophagus, which connect the mouth and throat to the stomach. At the point where the esophageal sphincter which is a ring of muscle that closes the passage between the two organs. As food approaches this point, the sphincter relaxes and allows food to enter the digestive track.

The liver and the pancreas are digestive organs that also contribute to this process through producing digestive juices that reach the small intestine though small tubes called ducts. The digesting system is also very intertwined with other biological process, for instance the nervous system as well as the circulatory system directly impact the digestive process.


The mouth is the preliminary organ that begins the digestion process. Within the mouth several functions are preformed in order to prepare the contents for the remainder of the process. The mouth or what is biologically referred to as the oral cavity comprises of lips (labia), teeth, cheeks, hard and soft pallet which are located at the forward and latter roof of the mouth. There is also a muscular tongue which is attached to the floor of the mouth by what is called a frenulum. Moreover the oral cavity is connected to the nasal cavity, allowing this function to also participate in the process. The throat is guarded by a ring of palatine or lingual tonsils.

The process that the contents go through begins with the biting process. The initiates the braking down process into suitable size portions in order to better fit in the oral cavity. This process is helped by the muscular work of the jaw, tongue as well as the soluble nature of the saliva that is produced. The prepared contents are swallowed and this completes the voluntary process of ingestion.


Swallowing is a delicate process that insures that the primarily broken down contents begin to move towards the further brake down process. This however has to first pass the delicate respiratory track which is also found in the oral cavity. This is done through a complex working of the tongue, soft palate, pharynx and esophagus. The first stage of this process in voluntary as the tongue pushes the contents down the pharynx. This is followed by a reflexive process of the tongue blocking the mouth, soft palate closes off the nasal cavity and the larynx rises so that the epiglottis closes off the trachea. The contents are then moved onwards to pharynx by the peristalsis as well as gravity.


The esophagus is the first muscular tube in that is 25-30 cm in length. It purposes is to transfer the contents from the pharynx (the throat) to the stomach. There are basic layers which include the following; mucosa, sub mucosa, muscular is external and the serosal fluid. The Mucosa is innermost moist lining combined with a connective tissue and smooth muscle, that moistens the contents and begins the movement downwards. The sub mucosa is a combination of a soft connective tissue layer, blood vessels, nerves as well as lymphatic’s. The muscle external is responsible for the movement of the gut. Typically there are two layers of the smooth muscle, the circular inner layer, and the outer longitudinal

The Stomach

The stomach has three mechanical tasks; to store, mix and expel the contents that enter. The storing takes place in the upper part, as the sphincter opens and allows the entrance of the contents, the middle part then uses special muscles in order to mix the contents with the digestive juices, containing special enzymes, and the finial emptying of the contents into the small intestine.

Certain factors play a role in the emptying process including the various kind of food that are consumed as well as the muscle capability that is required. Carbohydrates for instance, spend the least of time in the stomach, while proteins remain longer in the stomach and fats remain in the stomach the longest of all. Finally as the juices do their job in braking down the contents into small enough molecules, the absorption of nutrient occurs though the intestinal walls and the contents are transported and lowered down into the large intestine where they are then extracted through the anus in the form of bowel movements.

Small Intestine

The small intestine consists of three parts. The first part is the Duodenum which is roughly 26 cm in lengths. This is the first descending part where the contents proceed from the stomach. Within this part, the breakdown process continues before the contents proceed to the Jejunum, 2,5 meters in length and further to the ileum which is 3.5 meters in length. The small intestine is very crucial to the digestive process. The lining of the small intestine is responsible for absorption of the contents. This is done by creases and villi located on the surface area. The movements or these villie propel the movement through the lining into the blood stream. Therefore the absorption of digested foods is done though this rich venous and capillary drainage of the gut. Towards the end of the small intestine, accumulations of lymphoid tissue are common. The process involved that undigested food to remain in the system for duration of time and it is important to note that this content is rich in bacteria.

Large Intestine (Colon)

The large intestine is the last part of the digestive system. It is roughly 1.5 meters in lengths and stretches from the right liliac region or the pelvis, up across the middle abdomen and end at the anus. The main function the large intestine is the absorption of the remaining extra liquids. The Anus has voluntary and involuntary sphincter and ability to distinguish whether contents are gas or solid. No villi in large intestine, but many goblet cells secreting lubricities mucus.

Production of Juices

The first contact of food with the digestive glands occurs in the mouth and the salivary glands produce saliva which is the moisture in the mouth that helps with the initial breakdown of the food. This silica contains certain enzymes that help in the brake down and digestion process. An enzyme is a substance that works to speed up the chemical reactions that occur in the body. The stomach lining in the next place where there are glands located that continue this process. This particular gland, produce stomach acid, and an enzyme that have the ability to break down protein. The stomach being a will throughout organs also has a lining which protect itself from the braking apart nature of the enzyme which is contains. This lining is refuted to as mucosa, and it is able to withstand the acidity of this fluid. Once the role of the stomach is complete and the contents are lowered into the small intestine, the pancreas and liver produce a wide range of enzymes that aim braking down of carbohydrates, fats and proteins that was contained in the food consumed. There are also glands that are produces by the walls of the intestines.

The liver produces another digestive fluid which is called the bile. Between meals this bile is stores in the gall bladder. During mealtimes, these substance travelers through ducks into the intestine to mix with the fats that is consumed, and transformed into a watery substance. This is then further broken down by enzymes produced by pancreatic and intestinal enzymes.


Most of the nutrients that are consumed whether through food, beverages or supplements are absorbed through the walls of the small intestine. The mucosa which is in the small intestine possesses many folds that are covered by villi, fingerlike projections. The villi are also covered by micro villi for it is this structure that allows a large surface area to be created though which nutrients can then be absorbed. From this stage, specialized cells allow the nutrient to enter the blood stream where they are carried to other parts for storage of additional chemical processes.


It is suggested that 45 to 65 % of recommended daily calories should be in the form of carbohydrates. Foods that are classifies as carbohydrates include breads, pasta, potatoes, peas, rice, fruits and vegetable. Starch and fiber are also contained in many of these foods.

Starch digestion includes braking into maltose. The enzyme in the small intestinal lining breaks this maltose into glucose which is carried through the blood stream to the liver. There it is stored to later provide energy for the body.

Sugars are digested in one step, by fist braking down in to glucose and fructose, while foods like milk contain another form of sugar which is call lactose which required a different braking down structure.

Fiber is indigestible and moves through the the digestion track without being broken down by enzymes. There are two types of fiber that could be found in food, soluble and insoluble. As the term suggest soluble fiber had a characteristic to become soft and jelly like substance which in contact with water. While the insoluble fiber especial is unchangeable though the digestion process.


Proteins are used to build and repair the tissues of the body. In order for them to perform their duty, they also must be broken down into small molecules. Foods that are high in protein include meat, eggs, and beans. The way in which this process begins as enzymes in the stomach juices, pancreating enzymes, brake down the protean molecules into amino acids. As before these amino acids are carried through the blood stream the location that require them.


Rich source of energy for the body. Fats are first dissolved in the watery substance that is located in the intestine. The bile acids that are produces in the liver, stored in the gall balder work to dissolve the fats into smaller fragment that are then further broken down by the pancreatic and intestinal enzymes. Some of these parts are classifies as fatty acids and cholesterol. The role of the bile is to attach itself to the fatty acids and chelostoroal and aid these cells to more into the mucosa. There these cells become large again and mostly pass into vessel called lymphatic located near the intestine. These are then carries to parts of the body where they can be stored as storage.


Vitamins are an essential part of the absorption that also occurs though the small intestines, Vitamins are classifies in in two groups, water soluble and fat soluble. Water-soluble vitamins include all the B and C while the fat soluble vitamins include A, D, E, and K. The fat soluble vitamins are stored in the liver and fatty tissues of the body, while all water soluble vitamins are not easily stored and frequently flushed through the urine.

Hormone Regulators

There are several hormones that play an integral role in digestion. These function to induce production of particular acids and fluids that are requires. Certain organs such as the gall bladder are controlled by hormones. Some of the most prominent hormones for this process are gastric, secreting and cholecystokinin CCK.


This particular hormone causes the stomach to produce that aid in the digestion and dissolving of certain foods. Additionally this hormone is necessary for normal cell production in the lining of the stomach, small intestine as well as the colon.


This hormone is responsible for the production of the necessary digestive juices in the pancreas containing bicarbonate. The component caries the duty of neutralizing the acidic nature of the stomach as the contents are moved along into the small intestine. The production of Pepsin is also stimulated by seretin. This function is important for the digestion of protein as well as aids the liver in the production of bile.


The main role of CCK is to help produce enzyme in the pancreas as well as causes the gall bladder to empty when it is required. Normal cell production in the pancreas is also governed by this hormone. There are also addition hormones that govern aspects such as the appetite.


When the stomach is empty, this hormone work in the stomach as well as upper intestine in order to stimulate appetite and encourage consumption of food.

Peptide YY

Carries a vice versa effect which notifies the brain that the stomach is full and arrests the appetite

Other hormones have be allocated to impacting appetite include glucagon-like peptide-1 (GPL-1), oxyntomodulin(+5), and pancreatic polypeptide.

Nerve Regulators

There are two classified aids in the control of the digestive process. The extrinsic, outside influence which includes the nerves from coming from the brain or the spinal cord. The chemical released throughout this process include acetylcholine and adrenaline. Acetylcholine causes activity in the digestion causing the contents to move through the system. Adrenaline on the other hand relaxes the muscles involved in the process affectively slowing down and even stopping the digestion the process.

As for the intrinsic, or inside nerve that impact the digestion process, this includes a very dense network integrated in the walls of the esophagus, stomach, small intestine and colon. These nerves are activated in cases where the walls are stretched when they are full, or when the organ become too hollow. Depending on the situation various substances are released in order to speed of slow down the process.


Due to the complexity of the digestion process, there are various amounts of process that can be susceptible to problematic activity. This may occur due to genetics, poor nutrition as well as many other reasons. When troubles occur with this digestion process, there are various conditions that are classifies as disorders. Each disorder jeopardizes the functionality of the aspect which it targets and negatively impacts the well being of the individual that it involves. If these conditions are not addressed early on, the effect could be quite devastating.

Symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, bleeding from the digestive tract, regurgitation, and difficulty swallowing, usually suggest a digestive disorder. More general symptoms, such as abdominal pain, flatulence, loss of appetite, and nausea, may suggest a digestive disorder but also may suggest another type of disorder.

Indigestion is a label that is used imprecisely by different people to mean different things. The term covers a wide range of symptoms, including dyspepsia, nausea and vomiting, regurgitation, and the sensation of having a lump in the throat.

Functions that involve the Bowel or intestine vary greatly not only from one person to another but also for any one person at different times. In most cases, the easiest time to move their bowels in the morning, typically 30 to 60 minutes after first eating in the morning. However such functions are strongly affected by factors such as diet, stress, drugs, disease, and even social and cultural patterns. In most Western societies, the normal number of bowel movements ranges from 2 or 3 a week to as many as 2 or 3 a day. Changes in the frequency, consistency, or volume of bowel movements or the presence of blood, mucus, pus, or excess fatty material (oil or grease) in the stool may indicate a disorder.


While the feeling of abdominal discomfort and pain is very common and in many cases, minor, more extreme cases of this symptom may suggest significant problem and lead to surgical interference. Pain in the abdominal area is frequently an issue for the young, the hold, those who suffer from immunodeficiency virus (HIV), or those with weakened and or suppressed immune systems.


There are multiple reasons for Abdominal pain, including infection, inflammation, sores such as ulcers, rupturing of organs, muscle contractions that are uncoordinated or blocked by an obstruction, and blockage of blood flow to organs.

There are several cases where disorders may be life threatening and require immediate surgery. Such cases may include a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm, perforated stomach or intestine, blockage of blood flow to the intestine (mesenteric ischemia), and ruptured ectopic pregnancy. Disorders that are also serious and nearly as urgent include intestinal obstruction, appendicitis, and acute inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis). Peritonitis is pain caused by inflammation of the lining of the abdominal cavity (peritoneum), which occurs with many disorders that result in inflammation or infection of abdominal organs or leakage of intestinal contents into the abdomen, such as a perforated ulcer.

Sometimes, disorders or functions outside the abdomen are the causes for the abdomen to produce pain. Conditions include heart attack, pneumonia, and twisting of the testicles testicular torsion. Other problems that cause abdominal pain include diabetic ketoacidosis, porphyries, sickle cell disease, and certain bites and poisons, heavy metal or methanol poisoning, and some scorpion stings. The location of the pain can be a very good indicator of the cause of the pain. Pain that is associated with an organ that is blocked, gallstones, kidney stones, or intestinal obstruction typically comes and goes in waves. Likewise pain produced by a peptic ulcer is often characterized as burning while Pain that accompanies diverticulitis is often limited to the lower left abdomen, whereas the pain of peritonitis is frequently felt throughout the abdomen. Pancreatitis often produces pain that is worsened by rolling over in bed and is relieved somewhat by sitting upright and leaning forward.

Medical tests are preformed to help choose among several different causes suggested by the person’s symptoms and physical examination results. An abdominal CT scan helps identify many, but not all, causes of abdominal pain. Blood and urine tests are frequently obtained. An ultrasound is helpful if gynecologic disorders are suspected.


Abdominal pain is most frequently treated with pain medication, however in some case, in order to accurately pin down the specific cause, medical professionals believed that pain medication has the possibility to The specific cause of the pain is treated. Through much research and recent development, patients have pain control methods during diagnoses and treatment.


When blood appears in the stool of vomit, its origin could be anywhere through the digestive track from the mouth to the anus. The color of the blood indicates whether the bleeding was recent or if it has already subsided. The condition where blood, red or black is visible in vomit is called hematemesis. When blood is vomited, it may be bright red if bleeding is brisk and ongoing. Alternatively, vomited blood may have the appearance of coffee grounds if bleeding has slowed or stopped, due to the partial digestion of the blood by acid in the stomach.

Anal bleeding has two forms; hematochezia if stool is bright red, or Melena, if the stool is blackened. Melena is more likely when bleeding comes from the esophagus, stomach, or small intestine. The black color of melena is caused by blood that has been exposed for several hours to stomach acid and enzymes and to bacteria that normally reside in the large intestine. Hematochezia is more likely when bleeding comes from the large intestine, although it can be caused by very rapid bleeding from the upper portions of the digestive tract as well.

Symptoms of sudden loss of blood may include a rapid pulse, low blood pressure, and reduced urine flow as well as cold, clammy hands and feet. Extreme cases of bleeding may lead to reduced flow of blood to the brain, causing confusion, disorientation, sleepiness, and even extremely low blood pressure. Slow, chronic blood loss may cause symptoms and signs of anemia such as weakness, easy fatigue, pallor, chest pain, and dizziness.


Bleeding may occur due to several reasons such as peptic ulcers, arteriovenous malformations, and dilated veins in the esophagus, irritation from use of certain drugs, such as aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, inflammatory bowel disease, as well as cancer. Chronic liver disease or hereditary clotting are condition under which bleeding is more likely. Medications that can cause bleeding include anticoagulants such as heparin and warfarin and those that affect platelet function such as aspirin.


Element such as location, duration and the actual cause are investigated when such conditions are reported. The physical examination in such cases includes a digital rectal examination to feel for masses. An analysis of stool is done to detect if blood is present in the stool as this sometimes suggest a cause and location as well as clue to what other testing should be done.
When blood in vomit is reported, a procedure called nasogastric is done, where a small hollow plastic tube is passed through the nasal passage. Through this tube the contents of the stomach are extracted. Blood in the contents of a red color suggest current bleeding which blacked masses suggest past occurrences of bleeding. The nasogastric tube is usually left in place until it is clear that all bleeding has stopped. If the nasogastric tube reveals signs of active bleeding, or the person’s symptoms strongly suggest the bleeding is originating in the upper digestive tract, the doctor usually performs upper endoscopy. Upper endoscopy is a visual examination of the esophagus, stomach, and the first segment of the small intestine (duodenum) using a flexible tube called an endoscope. An upper endoscopy allows for the source of the bleeding to be identified, and often treat it. Similarly, colonoscopy is performed if symptoms suggest the bleeding is originating in the lower digestive tract, or if upper endoscopy does not reveal a bleeding site.

There are cases where such exams still fail to uncover the cause of bleeding. For such people, if bleeding is severe, angiography is preformed where the patient is injected with red blood cells labeled with a radioactive marker. With the use of a special scanning camera, the radioactive marker can sometimes show the approximate location of the bleeding. If bleeding is slow, doctors may instead take x-rays after the person drinks liquid barium. Another option is capsule which is especially useful in the small intestine, but it is not very useful in either the colon or stomach, because these organs are too big to get good pictures of their inner lining. Blood tests are useful by seeing the person’s blood count to see how much blood has been lost. A low platelet count is a risk factor for bleeding. Other blood tests include prothrombin time (PT), partial thromboplastin time (PTT), and tests of liver function, which help detect problems with blood clotting.


Those who suffer with sudden, severe blood loss require intravenous fluids and sometimes an emergency blood transfusion to stabilize their condition. Those with blood clotting abnormalities may require transfusion of platelets or fresh frozen plasma or injections of vitamin K. In most situation, gastrointestinal bleeding stops in its own. However in those cases where it required intervention, during the endoscopic procedure an electrocautery device, injections laser all can be used to aid the situation. If all treatment options do not help, surgery should be considered.


Pain and discomfort in the chest and back area could also be an indicator of a malfunction within the digestive process. Some symptoms are very close to those of heart problems. The middle of the chest or upper back can result from disorders of the esophagus or from disorders of the heart or aorta. Symptoms may be similar. Gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD), caused by stomach acid splashing up into the esophagus, can produce a burning sensation or a tightness under the breastbone (sternum), which may resemble those of heart disease. Spasms of the esophagus and other esophageal muscle disorders can cause a severe squeezing sensation also resembling the pain of heart disease. Other symptoms may suggest that there is esophageal disorder. What is referred to as heartburn is in fact a splashing of acid into chest, neck and sometime throat, typically following meals. Esophageal disorders are noticed by a difficulty in swallowing. If there is an exertion problem, this is most likely associated with problem of the heart. If there are systems suggesting heart troubles, test to identify those are done first and digestive test could be exhaustive. Treatments are specific to cause and only administered when the cause is identified with certainty.


Diarrhea is characterized as an increase in the amount, wateriness and frequency. While the desire to have a bowel movement often is not considered to be diarrhea as it is normal to move bowels 3 to 5 times a day. People who eat large amounts of vegetable fiber may produce more than a pound of stool a day, but the stool in such cases is well formed and not watery. Diarrhea occurs when not enough water is removed from the stool, making the stool loose and poorly formed. Typically this condition is accompanied by gas, cramping, an urgency to defecate, and, if the diarrhea is caused by an infectious organism or a toxic substance, nausea and vomiting could be involved.

As the loss of this liquid occurs, dehydration and a loss of electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, chloride, and bicarbonate from the blood are common results of diarrhea. If large amounts of fluid and electrolytes are lost, the person feels weak, and blood pressure can drop enough to cause fainting, heart rhythm abnormalities and other serious disorders. Those who are young, old or those who are disabled are especially prone to this.


Normally consistency of stool is 60% to 90% water. When this is exceeded, that is classified as Diarrhea. This occurs due to the fact that the process happens too quickly not allowing the fluids to be properly absorbed. The causes of such a condition vary greatly. These include drugs and chemicals, infection with viruses, bacteria, parasites, certain food, stress, tumors, chronic disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, and mal-absorption syndromes.

Rapid passage (transit) of stool is one of the most common causes of diarrhea. Stool must remain in the large intestine for a certain amount of time in order to have normal consistency. Stool that leaves the large intestine too quickly is watery. Many medical conditions and treatments can decrease the amount of time that stool stays in the large intestine, including an overactive thyroid, drugs such as antacids containing magnesium, laxatives, prostaglandins, serotonin, and even caffeine. Many foods, especially those that are acidic, can increase the rate of transit. Some people are intolerant of specific foods and always develop diarrhea after eating them. Stress and anxiety are also common causes.

Osmotic diarrhea occurs when substances remain in the colon due to the fact that they cannot be absorbed. These substances cause excessive amounts of water to remain in the stool, leading to diarrhea. Certain foods such as fruits and beans can cause osmotic diarrhea. Also, lactase deficiency can lead to osmotic diarrhea. Lactase is an enzyme normally found in the small intestine that converts lactose to glucose and galactose, so that it can be absorbed into the bloodstream. When people with lactase deficiency drink milk or eat dairy products, lactose is not digested. As lactose accumulates in the intestine, it causes osmotic diarrhea—a condition known as lactose intolerance. The severity of osmotic diarrhea depends on how much of the osmotic substance is consumed. Diarrhea stops soon after the person stops eating or drinking the substance. Blood in the digestive tract also acts as an osmotic agent and results in black, tarry stools. Another cause of osmotic diarrhea is an overgrowth of normal intestinal bacteria or the growth of bacteria normally not found in the intestines. Antibiotics can cause osmotic diarrhea by destroying the normal intestinal bacteria.

Secretory diarrhea occurs when the small and large intestines secrete salts, especially sodium chloride, and water into the stool. Certain toxins, such as the toxin produced by a cholera infection or during some viral infections, can cause these secretions. Infections by certain bacteria and parasites can also stimulate secretions. The diarrhea can be massive, more than a quart of stool an hour in cholera. Other substances that cause salt and water secretion include certain laxatives, such as castor oil, and bile acids, which may build up after surgery to remove part of the small intestine. Certain rare tumors, such as characinoid, gastrinoma, and vipoma are also able to cause secretory diarrhea.

Inflammatory diarrhea happens due to the inflammation, ulceration, engorging of the lining of the large intestine. This releases proteins, blood, mucus, and other fluids, which increase the bulk and fluid content of the stool. This type of diarrhea can be caused by many diseases, including ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, tuberculosis, and cancers such as lymphoma and adenocarcinoma. When the lining of the rectum is affected, the person often feels an urgent need to move his bowels and has frequent bowel movements because the inflamed rectum is more sensitive to expansion by stool.


This condition is known as the inability to have a bowel movement less than three times a week. The stool is hard, difficult and painful to pass, and very small in size. The timing of bowel movement varies from individuals meaning that in some cases the norm could vary from three times a day to three times a week. Fewer than three times a week is reason for concern. This condition is a symptom in itself rather than a disease. It is likely that everyone at one point is affected by this, with a poor diet being the typical cause. Most constipation is temporary and passes without serious or permanent harm done, however understanding the causes, means of prevention and treatment are essential in finding relief. While this condition is very common, the numbers show that most often women and adults over the age of 65 and older are affected more frequently. Constipation during pregnancy is common especially after child birth or surgery. Most often treatment is with over the counter laxatives.


Constipation is caused by a slowing down of the digestion process. The lack of mobility allows for the colon to absorb too much fluid, causing the stool to be hard and dry. There are many reasons for this to occur. While is some cases a lack of fiber in the diet might be the cause, in other cases its lack of physical activity, especially in the elderly. Certain medications and products like milk have a tendency to bring about this symptom. Conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, pregnancy, aging, and travel, all have a direct impact on the speed of the digestion process. Other reasons may include a dependency of laxatives, ignoring the urge to have a bowel movements, dehydration, specific diseases or conditions such as stroke, problems with the colon and rectum, as well as problems with intestinal function (chronic idiopathic constipation).


Of course treating constipation depends on the cause therefore there are several possible ways of dealing with such a state. Fiber is very important to regular bowl movements. The most common cause is a diet with not enough fiber or one that is high in fats, such as cheese, eggs, and meat. Fiber has two forms, soluble and insoluble. A soluble fiber easily dissolves in water and becomes a soft get like substance. Insoluble substance on the other hand passes though the intestine virtually unchanged. This substance helps push the contents through the colon.
As a lack of liquids plays a major role in the consistency of the stool, maintaining hydrated in order to stay regular. While research has shown that intake or liquids does not always reverse constipation, some relief is still felt. However liquids that include caffeine or alcohol still are known to worsen the condition due to the fact that such substances have a dehydrating quality. Consuming foods like vegetable juices and clear soups, beets, can all aid one with such symptoms.

When the condition continues to persist, animas and laxatives may provide relief however this treatment should be used with caution as using this method or treatment may lead the body to fall into dependence and stop working towards recovery. There are several forms of laxatives that are prescribes on an individual bases. Bulk forming laxatives, considered the safest, knows as fiber supplements that are taken with water. Some side effects from this remedy could be discomfort, blooding and pain. Stimulants are another form that causes the muscle contractions in the intestines. One ingredient, phenolphthalein, however has been recently linked to cancer. Osmotic is another drug available that causes fluids to flow in a specific way through the colon resulting in bowel expulsion. This drug is especially idiopathic constipation. Stool softeners moisten the stool and prevent constipation. Typically recommended for post surgical and post labor symptoms. However prolonged use this drug may result in electrolyte imbalance.

Lubricants grease the stool, aiding then to go through smother. Mineral oil is the most common example. This form of treatment is known to bring results in less the 8 hours. Saline laxative also are used to provide relief by promoting absorption. The way in which this occurs is that they act as a sponge to bring water to the colon. They are most frequently used to treat acute constipation as long as there is no found obstruction. In this form there have also been reported findings electrolytes imbalances, especially in cases with small children of those who suffer from a renal deficiency. Finally, chloride channel activators are also used to increase intestinal fluid and mobility which helps with the passage of stool. This drug is known to be safe for use for up to 12months. One who is using laxatives must slowly stop using them to help the system regain its abilities to perform independently.

Treatments for other causes of constipation may include discontinuing certain medication or even performing a surgical procedure for the correction of an anorectic problem such as prolapsed where the bottom portion of the colon is inverted. Surgical removal of the colon could also be an option when the symptoms are saver and caused by colonic inertia. This procedure must be considered only in extreme cases such as the side effects could also be extreme and painful.

Continues symptoms of constipation left untreated could also lead to consequences such as hemorrhoids. This is a condition where the anal fissures tears due to forcing of hard stool through the sphincter muscle. As a result, there is anal bleeding, and mucus in the stool. In some cases the lining from the intestine to push out from the anus due to stain and pressure. The treatment for this is typically warm baths or ice packs.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Irritable bowel syndrome is a disorder that is identifies by symptoms such as cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, constipation and diarrhea. This condition causes a great deal of discomfort but does not permanently damage the intestine, and does not lead to serious illnesses such as cancer. While in some cases the symptoms can be debilitating and prevent the suffered from attending work and social events, it is still common for the most part to control the symptoms with controlling diet and stress management. The statistical information of 20% of the adult population makes this one of this one of the most common disorders diagnosed today. It has been noted that this disorder is more frequently occurs in females and typically before the age of 35.


As mention before, the main symptoms of this disorder are abdominal pain and discomfort. Having said that, symptoms tend to vary according to the individual. In some case the individual experiences constipation, which is characterized as a hardness of stool that is very difficult to pass. It is often that those individuals also complain of cramping and abdominal pain while trying to have a bowel movement with little to no results. This occurs when digesting slows down and the further constipation could lead to toxicity levels to rise. In others, the discomfort takes the form of diarrhea, which is the result of excess amount of fluids in the stool due to the increased speed of the process. Frequent sudden urges to have a bowel moment could accompany such a state.

It has been observed that this syndrome is more common in females, especially during their menstrual cycle suggesting that reproductive hormones play a role. There are also tendencies to feel anxiety and depression which is brought on by the discomfort of the state, and also from a lack of proper absorption.


Genetics, stress, poor nutrition, hormonal unbalances have all been linked to IBS and IBS symptoms. While there is no one particular cause of the overall syndrome, there are several attribution factors that have been noted. Sensitivity in the colon to specific foods has been known to trigger curtain systems and the epithelium, which is responsible for the control of fluids in and out of the colon, is unable to perform its task as the speeds of movement is increased. Serotonin has also been linked with the normal functions of the gastrointestinal functions (GI). In normal situations 95% is located in the gestural track while the remaining five is in the brain. In those who suffer with IBS, the transport of serotonin is affected causing there to be abnormal amounts of serotonin in the GI tract, leading to more symptoms and discomfort.
There is some research that shows there is a connection with the cause of IBS to a bacterial infection in the GI tract. Patients with gastroenteritis have been known to later develop IBS. People with celiac disease have also been found to have symptoms similar to IBS. It is in this case where foods such a wheat barley gluten and rye are unable to be digested by the person with such a condition. Such attempts cause pain and discomfort.


While there are specific methods to deal with the treatment of the individual symptoms, at this point there is no overall cure that is available. Some of these remedies include laxatives, anti de formulas, spasm control medication as well as pain relief medications. Unfortunately treating individual symptoms rather than the core problem may lead to further complications to the overall condition. One example of this is the use of anti-spasmodic or anti depression medications which interfere in the digestion flow and could additional symptoms.

Peptic Ulcers

Ulcers are essentially described as sores or in some cases holes in the stomach or duodenum, which is the beginning of the small intestine. Helicobacter pylor is the leading bacteria known for causing this condition. Statistics show that 20% of those under 40 experience this while those over sixty are at a 50% ring of developing this. While the bacterium responsible for this is known, the way in which individuals contract this bacterium is still debatable. If persistent systems are ignored, internal bleeding and rupturing is a strong possibility.


Symptoms may include a dull gnarring ache with a tendency to come and go throughout the day. This is usually observed 2 to 3 hours after a meal, or when the stomach is empty, quite frequently in the middle of the night. This discomfort is however is relieved by eating. There are also additional symptoms that require immediate attention. This includes a sudden sharp pain, blood in the stool or a backend stool, likewise blood or black vomit.


As was previously mentioned, the Helicobacter Pylor has been proved to be the main cause of this disorder. The way in which it works is by embedding itself into the lining of the stomach or the duodenum allowing acid to get though the lining. Both the acid and the bacteria have an irritating quality which causes the sores or tears to appear. The H. Pylor bacterium has the ability to survive the acidity of the stomach as it secretes a neutralizing enzyme that protects it. The spiral shape of this bacterium allows the bacterium to stay firmly in the lining.
There are several suspected methods of contracting this bacterium. One is through drinking water or consuming something that is contaminated. Traces of this bacterium have been found in saliva pointing to the option that mouth to mouth contact can also pass the bacteria on. In cases where symptoms include blood in stool or vomit, the cause may be a ruptured blood vessel or an saver obstruction preventing the contents to continue to move along.


In order to treat this condition is it primarily important to diagnose it correctly. This is mainly achieved though a G.I (gastrointestinal) exam or endoscopic procedures. This allows for a closer look at the internal activities, and shows if the symptoms or pain and discomfort are in fact caused by the ulcers. In some cases a fragment of the tissue is extracted and examined, this is referred to as a biopsy. If there should happen to be internal bleeder, they are sometimes treaded with an internal heat probe that aid in the clotting of the blood. Alternatively, bleeding could be stopped by clotting medications.

Works Cited
Camilleri, Michael. Constipation. Chicago: NIH Publication No. 07–2754, 2007.
Chang, Lin. Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Los Angeles: National Institutes of Health, 2007.
D.R.Johnson. Faculty of Biological Sciences, University of Leeds. July 2007. 27 May 2009 <>.
—. „i.“ n.d.
Publication, NIH. H. pylori and Peptic Ulce. Bethesda: NIH Publication No. 07–4225, 2004.
—. Your igestive system and how it works. Milwaukee: Los Angeles, 2004.


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