What are Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders

functional gastrointestinal disorder

Functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGDs) are digestive system abnormalities that lack detectable biomarkers hence symptoms cannot be attributed to the presence of physiological or anatomical abnormalities. This condition is marked by persistent or recurring stomach pain or distress accompanied by abnormal bowel movements. As a result, many conventional medical tests to be carried out to identify FGDs, including CT scans, x-rays several blood tests, and endoscopy, might produce normal or negative (non-disease) findings despite having symptoms.

Different types of functional gastrointestinal disorders:

A recent scientific report suggests that around 40% of adults have some type of FGDs worldwide, whereas this is more prevalent among women. FGDs can develop anywhere in the gastrointestinal system, including the esophageal, abdomen, and intestines. As per the medical sources, FGDs can be diagnosed as 33 adults` and 20 pediatric gastrointestinal disorders. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is the most prevalent and well-researched FGD, primarily marked by continuous stomach discomfort and changes in bowel movements, constipation, and is reported to impact one in every seven adults in the United States. Whereas other FGDs include Functional dyspepsia (upper gastrointestinal disorder, feelings of heaviness, bloating, or nausea), frequent vomiting, sharp abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and gastroesophageal reflux disorder.

Approximately 25 million Americans suffer from functional gastrointestinal problems. The University of North Carolina School of Medicine reveals the fact that about 50 to 80 percent of people with characteristics of functional gastrointestinal disorders do not prefer to see the doctor, despite the fact that they may use over-the-counter drugs and have considerably higher rates of job absences and disabilities than those who do not possess these symptoms. IBS has been reported to be the second most significant cause of missing school and work; after the common cold.

Causes of functional gastrointestinal disorders:

Some FGDs are caused by environmental factors, such as stress and substance use (tobacco, alcohol, cigarettes, etc.) and can further be dramatically influenced by lifestyle factors and choices. There are also a number of factors over which you may have no influence, like:

  • Family inherited disease
  • Gut irritability
  • Irregular GI movement
  • Inadequate immune system response or functioning
  • Central nervous system dysfunctioning
  • Depression, anxiety, or stress

Common signs and symptoms of functional gastrointestinal disorders:

Medical sources suggest that physical symptoms might vary based on your specific disorder, these include:

  • Abdominal bloating and pain
  • Constipation
  • Recurrent burping
  • Indigestion and heartburn
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Vomiting

Also to note that there is a significant association between FGDs and mental health disorders. Anxiety, tension, and depression may all be compounded with other symptoms of FGDs, but they can surely aggravate the symptoms.

Pediatric gastrointestinal disorders and symptoms:

The symptoms mentioned above may occur in children as well. However, as per the American College of Gastroenterology, the most prevalent FGD symptom in children is functional abdominal pain. That is, the discomfort caused by an abnormal function of the GI system rather than a particular sickness. According to medical reports, many newborns may develop mixed FGDs in their first 6 months whereas 78 percent of infants up to 6-month-olds may develop some kind of FGDs. Some common signs include:

  • Gastric issues or bloating
  • Colic and discomfort
  • Vomiting

The study indicated that mixed FGDs might interfere in an infant’s ability towards weight gain and adequate breastfeeding.

Gastrointestinal Disorders

Diagnosis of functional gastrointestinal disorders:

Having a consultation with the doctor will assist you in identifying and sorting out your symptoms, reflecting on how they influence your lifestyle, and developing a tailored treatment plan for you. FGDs are more difficult to get diagnosed with, than other disorders. Even if you have relevant symptoms; getting medical tests done sadly may reveal nothing conclusive about your GI tract.

However, you do not need to worry, a meeting with your doctor to determine if you have FGD may take some time. Your doctor would like to:

  • Discuss in detail with you
  • Inquire about your symptoms, medical history, and family medical history
  • Conduct a physical examination

In addition, your doctor may inquire about your way of life. This will cover your eating habits, exercise routine, and sleeping patterns. Consider maintaining a diary or log wherein you record your symptoms as well as other details about your illness, particularly your food intake. Bring the diary to your visit since this can give vital data for your diagnosis.

Management of functional gastrointestinal disorders:

As per the recent medical research, practitioners do not have the particular insight of FGDs` requisite to treat them when actually, they can be managed all too well. The purpose of the treatment plan will be to lessen your symptoms and improve your quality of life.

Treatments differ from patient to patient. FGDs come in a variety of forms. You may react differently to therapies being offered to you than another individual as per your particular condition. Treatment methods include behavioral adjustments, mental health management, and pharmacological therapies.

You might tend to seek treatments from a group of specialists rather than a single doctor. Those who could be able to assist you in managing your disease include:

  • A general practitioner
  • A consultant
  • Nutritionist/Dietitian
  • Mental health practitioner (psychologist, psychiatrist, or counselor) for supplementary mental well-being.

Recommendations for lifestyle adjustments:

When treating functional gastrointestinal disorders, there are several components of your lifestyle to consider for adequate adjustments:

  • Sleeping pattern: A healthy day round routine and adequate sleep can help in reducing symptoms and improving quality of life
  • Exercise: Exercising for half an hour, three to five times a week can benefit your bowel movement, reduce stress and improve sleep quality
  • Diet: It is essential to consider how your diet influences your symptoms. Maintaining a gut healthy diet plan, visiting a nutritionist or a dietitian regularly, following a recommended diet, increasing fibers in diet, and having probiotics are all possible ways to alleviate symptoms
  • Alcohol: This can cause stomach reflux and indigestion so better to steer clear from it
  • Caffeine: This can disturb your sleep patterns and may induce diarrhea

Functional gastrointestinal disorders are quite common and have an impact on your daily life. They affect a significant portion of society with widespread conditions from IBS and diarrhea to constipation and vomiting.

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Doctors at Family Medicine Austin can diagnose your FGD based on your symptoms and other circumstances providing a patient-centric solution involving lifestyle adjustments, mental health management, and pharmacological therapies.

Book your appointment now or call us to get further assistance.

Family Medicine Austin

Written by Jeannette

I am Jeannette, the medical writing specialist here at Family Medicine Austin. I have over five years of experience working with a range of medical and healthcare across the U.S.