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What You Need to Know When Your Stomach Aches

Doctor offers tips on digestive disorders

SATURDAY, March 28 (HealthDay News) -- If your tummy feels funny, it could be a one-time bellyache, but it also could be a sign of something more serious.

Dr. C. Richard Boland, chief of gastroenterology at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, says that everyone should know five things about serious digestive disorders:

  • Symptoms: Alert your doctor if you have persistent symptoms, such as abdominal pain or discomfort, nausea, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, heartburn or blood in the stools.
  • Diagnosis: Because many digestive disorders are not detectable with blood or imaging tests, they can be difficult to diagnosis. Irritable bowel syndrome, for instance, is usually diagnosed by first ruling out all other disorders.
  • Talking to your doctor: Symptoms and your health history play a major role in diagnosing digestive disorders, so be frank with your doctor. Recording your eating habits and symptoms in a journal and being honest about drinking and smoking habits can help the doctor determine your condition faster and more accurately.
  • Lifestyle changes: Knowing your habits can help you change them if they're causing your symptoms. Stomach pain that follows the consumption of dairy products, for example, could indicate lactose intolerance -- a treatable condition that a change in diet can also help.
  • Treatment: Though changing eating habits is usually the first order of attack, it's not a cure-all. Depending on the condition, prescription medications, natural remedies, stress reducers and -- when necessary -- surgery are possible treatments to alleviate symptoms.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about digestive disorders.

-- Kevin McKeever

SOURCE: Baylor University Medical Center, news release, March 2009

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