Medical News Today: What to know about bowel disorders

There are several types of bowel disorder, including:

Irritable bowel syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) refers to a number of symptoms that affect the digestive system. These symptoms include:

  • intermittent abdominal discomfort or pain
  • diarrhea
  • constipation

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), IBS is a type of functional GI disorder that increases gut sensitivity and changes how the muscles in the bowels react to stimuli.

Increased gut sensitivity can cause stomach pain and bloating, while changes in intestinal contractions can lead to diarrhea or constipation.

Learn about how to cope with the symptoms of IBS here.

Inflammatory bowel disease

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is an umbrella term that describes several conditions that can cause inflammation in the digestive system.

Inflammation in the digestive tract causes severe abdominal pain, cramps, and diarrhea. It also impairs the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. If a person does not seek treatment for it, over time, IBD can lead to further complications, such as malnutrition and anemia.

The two types of IBD are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the GI tract but usually involves the small intestine. Ulcerative colitis affects the large intestine and rectum.

Celiac disease

Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition that damages the small intestine. Autoimmune conditions cause the immune system to attack the body.

In celiac disease, the body launches this attack when a person ingests gluten, which is a protein present in wheat, rye, and barley. Ingesting gluten triggers an immune response that attacks the villi in the small intestine.

The villi help transport nutrients from food into the bloodstream. Continual damage to the villi can lead to malnutrition, a variety of digestive symptoms, skin rashes, and many other nondigestive symptoms, including irritability and bone loss.

Over time, celiac disease can even start to affect organ systems outside of the GI tract, such as the reproductive and nervous systems.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the inflammation caused by celiac disease may increase the risk of small intestine or esophageal cancer.


Diverticulosis causes inflammation in the colon, which results in the formation of small sacs in the walls of the colon.

Although diverticulosis can cause symptoms similar to those of other bowel disorders, most people with diverticulosis do not experience symptoms.

However, people may notice blood in their stools if one of the sacs becomes inflamed and swollen. If one of these bursts, it can cause severe pain and may lead to sepsis.

People with diverticulosis may develop an infection or inflammation in one or more sacs, resulting in a condition called diverticulitis.

Intestinal obstruction

Intestinal obstructions occur when a blockage forms in the intestines, preventing the normal passage of stools.

Learn more about intestinal obstruction here.

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