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What are the Most Common Digestive Symptoms?

D. Jeffress
D. Jeffress

An individual can experience digestive problems for a number of different reasons. Common digestive symptoms such as bloating, gas, indigestion, diarrhea, and constipation may be due to improper diets, bacterial infections, dehydration, or more serious conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, hyperthyroidism, or ulcers. Digestive symptoms are usually short-lived and mildly uncomfortable, and can be treated by making simple lifestyle changes and taking over-the-counter medication. More severe or persistent problems, however, should be reported to a physician, who can check for the presence of underlying causes and prescribe the most appropriate treatment.

Gas and bloating are two of the most common digestive symptoms. Bloating refers to an enlargement or swelling in the abdominal area, causing a person to feel tightness in the stomach area. Excessive gas and bloating are usually attributed to overeating, swallowing too much air, an intolerance to lactose or another food product, or a diet that is high in carbohydrates. In addition, a woman may feel bloated while she is menstruating due to natural retention of water and fluids. Most instances of gas and bloating go away within hours or days with no treatment or small doses of over-the-counter digestive supplements, though excessive symptoms should be reported to a doctor immediately.

A diagram showing ulcerative colitis and other colon problems.
A diagram showing ulcerative colitis and other colon problems.

Indigestion, also known as stomach upset, is a condition that is frequently accompanied by gas and bloating. A person with indigestion may feel slight pain or discomfort in his or her upper abdomen. Indigestion can be caused by eating too much or too fast, consuming spicy or fatty foods that irritate the digestive system, smoking, or drinking alcohol. Home treatments like eating healthy foods, quitting bad habits, and taking antacids are usually enough to combat mild indigestion.

Some of the organs of the digestive system.
Some of the organs of the digestive system.

Constipation and diarrhea are other common digestive symptoms of many different conditions. An individual may experience constipation when he or she is dehydrated, has an illness or infection, or consumes too much fiber. Diarrhea is a common symptom of viruses, bacterial infections, and lactose intolerance. As with other digestive symptoms, constipation and diarrhea are usually temporary conditions. They can typically be overcome by consuming plenty of fluids and taking antibiotics or antiviral medications to combat underlying illnesses.

Bloating is one of the most common digestive symptoms.
Bloating is one of the most common digestive symptoms.

An individual who does not find relief by treating digestive symptoms at home should seek the guidance of a trained physician to determine the causes of his or her ailments. Doctors can perform physical examinations, take ultrasounds and x-rays, and collect stool samples to check for chronic conditions. Symptoms may be signs of irritable bowel syndrome, severe infections, or inflammatory conditions such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis. In rare cases, symptoms of indigestion, diarrhea, constipation, and bloating may be indicative of tumors, ulcers, or stomach cancers.

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    • A diagram showing ulcerative colitis and other colon problems.
      By: Alila
      A diagram showing ulcerative colitis and other colon problems.
    • Some of the organs of the digestive system.
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      Some of the organs of the digestive system.
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      Bloating is one of the most common digestive symptoms.
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      Eating healthy foods, like fruits and vegetables, may help to soothe some digestive problems.
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      Stool samples that are collected at home are usually placed into plastic containers.