Bowel Disorders – Symptoms, Causes, and Risk Factors

Bowel disorders or bowel problems are a group of ailments that result from prolonged infection or inflammation of the digestive tract. The mouth, esophagus, stomach, small and large intestine are the parts that make up the digestive tract. Any infection or inflammation in one or more of these parts results in bowel problems.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease, intestinal obstruction, and celiac disease are some common bowel problems. Most of these bowel disorders result from conditions that affect the small and large intestine. These bowel disorders affect the body’s ability to digest and absorb food.

Symptoms of bowel problems
Typical symptoms of the disorder revolve around impaired digestion. These symptoms will vary with the type of disorder and the individual. Common symptoms of bowel disorders are:

  • Abdominal discomfort or pain
  • Bloating of abdomen and gas
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Blood in stools
  • Unexplained, sudden weight loss
  • Incomplete emptying of bowels
  • Abdominal cramping

Potentially severe symptoms like blood in stools, fever or sudden weight loss require immediate medical intervention.

Causes of bowel problems
For most of the bowel disorders, the causes are unknown. Disorders like Crohn’s and IBS do not have clear causes, but their risk or trigger factors have been identified. Celiac disease is a genetic condition; those who have a family history of the disease are more likely to be affected.

Risk factors
Some of the risk factors of bowel disorders are listed below.

  • Smoking is considered a trigger for bowel disorders.
  • Environmental factors like diet are one of the leading causes of bowel disorders. A diet plan that has excessive salt, oil or fat is considered a trigger for bowel disease.
  • Microbial and immunologic factors cause bowel infections.
  • Genetic disposition is a key cause of bowel diseases. Those with a family history of bowel diseases like Celiac disease have a predisposition towards the disease.
  • Injuries to the abdominal area that cause a rupture of internal organs may cause bowel disorders.
  • Surgeries to organs of the digestive tract may cause bowel disorders, especially in cases of improper surgical procedures or inappropriate post-surgical care.
  • Medications such as antibiotics, antiviral or antibacterial medications can impact the digestion system. Side effects of these medications like heartburn or acidity or diarrhea may lead to bowel disorders.

Symptoms of some bowel problems like diarrhea can strike anytime, causing considerable embarrassment for the person. Lifestyle changes go a long way in dealing with these bowel disorders.