• Holly Erikitola

What Are Your Digestive Symptoms Telling You?



Trying to resolve digestive issues can quickly become an expensive and time-consuming business. When you’re desperate for relief it can be tempting to try anything and everything in the hope it may help.


Probiotics, prebiotics, digestive enzymes, laxatives, ox bile, antacids, Imodium, special diets, stress management – the list goes on. Before you know it, you’ve spent a fortune and still don’t feel any different.


Don’t get me wrong these options are all great at what they do, but the key question is: Which is right for you and your unique combination of symptoms and issues?


Here’s the first thing I tell my clients:


“YOU CAN’T FIX SOMETHING IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT’S WRONG WITH IT.”


This includes your digestive system. Having a good understanding of how digestion works is vital to being able to identify which part isn’t working properly and needs support. In this article, I want to focus on four major parts of the digestive system which tend to cause the most issues.


1. STOMACH


Your stomach churns your food to help break it down into smaller pieces. It has cells in its lining which produce gastric juices including the highly corrosive hydrochloric acid. These juices break food down even further. It’s a very acidic environment which also protects us against infection.


Common stomach problems include; low stomach acid, a weak lower esophageal sphincter which allows gastric juices to enter the esophagus and gastroparesis which slows stomach emptying due to damaged nerves which control the muscles which move food along.


SYMPTOMS OF STOMACH ISSUES


  • Acid reflux

  • Indigestion

  • Gas/Wind

  • Bloating

  • Stomach Pain

  • Nausea

  • Aversion to Meat

  • Constipation

  • Undigested Food in Stool

  • Frequent Food Poisoning


2. LIVER/GALLBLADDER


We don’t always remember that the liver has a role in digestion, but it produces bile, an important liquid substance that helps to break down the fat that we eat so it can be absorbed. Bile is stored and concentrated in the gallbladder.


Liver and gallbladder issues which affect digestion include; liver inflammation which can cause low bile production, gallstones causing blocked bile ducts, therefore slowing bile flow or gallbladder removal.


SYMPTOMS OF LIVER/GALLBLADDER ISSUES


  • Indigestion

  • Nausea

  • Vitamin A, D, E or K Deficiency

  • Light Coloured Stool

  • Greasy/Fatty Stool

  • Floating Stool

  • Pain Below Right Ribs


3. PANCREAS


Most of us know the pancreas produces insulin but it also produces vital digestive enzymes which help us break down the protein, carbohydrates and fat we eat. Bear in mind while we eat large pieces of food, the nutrients it contains need to be very small so they can be absorbed when they get to the small intestine.


Pancreatic issues can be caused by coexisting conditions such as Coeliac disease, Crohn's disease or inflammation.


SYMPTOMS OF ISSUES IN THE PANCREAS


  • Indigestion

  • Nausea

  • Bloating

  • Undigested Food in Stool

  • Gas/Wind

  • Pain

  • Constipation



4. SMALL INTESTINE


The small intestine is where most of the nutrients you’ve eaten are absorbed. It’s lined by a delicate row of cells through which these nutrients are absorbed and transported into your body via blood and lymph vessels so they can be used.


Common problems in the small intestine include; increased intestinal permeability (leaky gut), inflammation and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).


SYMPTOMS OF ISSUES IN THE SMALL INTESTINE


  • Pain

  • Constipation

  • Skin Issues

  • Food Sensitivities

  • Nutrient Deficiencies

  • Indigestion

  • Diarrhoea

  • Bloating

  • Gas/Wind


I always recommend keeping a detailed journal. Make a note of what you eat, which symptoms you experience and exactly when they start. Also, write down the frequency and quality of your bowel movements. Do this for 3-5 days if you can. It may be time-consuming, but this information will help you to know what to do next.


The first step towards improving your symptoms is always knowing which part of your digestive system isn’t working properly. Once you know that you can investigate why, and you’ll be able to create a targeted plan of action using the tools you specifically need rather than trying random recommendations.


If you've been experiencing digestive issues such as abdominal pain, bloating and changes in bowel habits for a while, you could have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).


READ NEXT: WHAT IS IBS? >