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Digestive disorders: Constipation, bloating, abdominal cramps

Flatulence, feeling of fullness or constipation are digestive orders that almost everyone is familiar with. Usually, these symptoms are caused by problems while the food is digested. Various digestive organs can play a role in the development of digestive disorders. Experts term digestive disorders dyspepsia.

What does digestion mean?

The digestive system grinds food and breaks it down. Thus, the body has the possibility to absorb the nutrients it Needs.
Blood and lymph then transport food components taken from the intestine to where they are needed. The proportion of food that cannot be absorbed by the body is excreted together with degradation products as stool.

What digestive organs are there?

Our digestive tract has the following stations:

  • Mouth
  • Oesophagus
  • Stomach
  • Small intestine (3rd segment: Duodenum, jejunum, ileum)
  • Colon
  • Anus

Digestion starts in the mouth

The food is chewed and the enzymes already start digesting the first large food components. "You should chew your food properly!". The better the food is chewed and masticated, the easier further digestion is.

Stomach: Thorough mixing and acidification

Food is ground up and thoroughly mixed with gastric juice in the stomach.
Gastric juice is often called gastric acid because it is extremely acidic. It consists of water, hydrochloric acid and enzymes among other things. Gastric juice breaks down protein from the food and acts as a disinfectant.
Furthermore, the lower part of the stomach mechanically grinds down the food through strong muscle movements. Then, the resulting stomach contents are transported in small portions to the small intestine.

Intestine: Nutrient uptake

The first station in the small intestine is the duodenum. Here, the (gastric) acidic stomach contents are first neutralised using bicarbonate. This basic juice is produced by the pancreas. Pancreatic juice also contains enzymes that break down proteins, sugar and fats. Other digestive juices are produced by the liver (bile) and ileal glands. The stomach contents are broken down further in the small intestine and the nutrients are made fit for uptake and transport by the blood. They are taken up by the bloodstream or lymph channels and transported to where they are needed for intake or production of energy. 
The intestinal content moves forward at a speed of 1 to 4 cm per minute. This means: Its retention time in the small intestine is approx. 2 to 4 hours.
The residual waste from the food is then transported to the large intestine, 1.5 m long, (lat.: colon) and reduced there.  The "finished" faeces are then supplied to the rectum for a bowel movement. The chyme remains in the entire large intestine for between 5 and 70 hours.

What types of digestive disorders are there? Why do you get digestive disorders?

The most common digestive disorders are:

  • Feeling of fullness due to a lack of gastric juices (bile, pancreatic juice, gastric juice)
  • Flatulence due to excessive production of gas from foods that are hard to digest.
  • Heartburn, reflux and acidic indigestion from too much gastric acid
  • Abdominal pain caused by inflammation of the gastric mucosa (gastritis) or intestinal mucosa (colitis)
  • Food intolerances. These can give rise to flatulence, diarrhoea and pain (lactose intolerance, fructose intolerance)
  • Infections (gastroenteritis) that result in vomiting and diarrhoea. Pathogens can be bacterial (e.g. Salmonella) or viral (noroviruses, rotaviruses).
  • Disruption to the intestinal flora (dysbiosis). The outcome of which can be varied: Alternating between diarrhoea and constipation, abdominal pain, feeling of fullness.
  • Severe, stabbing pain in the upper abdomen may point to inflammation or gall stones in the bile duct.
  • The organs of the urinary tract can also cause abdominal pain. Painful colic can result from stones in the ureter.

What is hard to digest and why?

Fatty meals that are too large make excessive demands on the upper section of the digestive system. There is just not enough capacity and not enough digestive juice from the pancreas to break food down into its individual components. The consequence: undigested nutrients reach the large intestine. The bacteria of the colon flora produce large quantities of gas when breaking down the nutrients.

The same phenomenon occurs if food is eaten that contains indigestible constituents for humans - e.g., legumes, varieties of cabbage and onions. Then the gases are also bothersome. Gases are introduced directly by fizzy beverages and whipped food.

Not to forget the air we swallow while eating, drinking and even talking. The danger is especially great in stress situations. This phenomenon is further intensified by sitting still.

What helps digestive disorders?

  • Enjoy a relaxed meal 
  • Avoid stress
  • Preferably eat small meals
  • Do not eat too much before going to bed
  • Avoid food and drinks that cause flatulence: Legumes, varieties of cabbage, onions, whipped desserts and carbonated beverages.
  • Massage the abdomen lightly in a clockwise direction
  • Provide warmth, for example, using a hot-water bottle
  • Abdominal packs

How can you stimulate digestion?

Bitter substances stimulate the production of digestive juices. The function of the pancreas can also be supported by directly supplying pancreatic enzymes.
Both are achieved in the drug Pascopankreat® Tablets: The dry extract of wormwood and Condurango bark in the yellow tablets contains high amounts of bitter substances and therefore stimulates production of digestive juices if taken shortly before a meal. The red tablets contain effective pancreatic enzymes.