When tummy troubles are serious

Sixty to 70 million Americans contend with gastrointestinal diseases that interfere with their daily life, according to the American Gastroenterological Association. In fact, the association's recent survey showed that nearly 40% of Americans stopped routine activities for some period of time during the last year because of uncomfortable bowel symptoms: 19% stopped running, 17% didn't run errands and 16% had to cancel spending time with friends and family.

But often, the symptoms aren't reported to a doctor. In fact, one in three of those affected say they'd only discuss their bowel symptoms if their doctor brought it up first. That's backward -- and opens you up to the risk that a serious condition goes untreated.

Not all tummy troubles merit a trip to the doctor, and most can be soothed with fiber supplements, antacids, anti-gas products, enzyme tablets to help you digest dairy, probiotics, and sports drinks that replace fluids and electrolytes lost with diarrhea and vomiting. However, signs that you should go see your doctor or a gastroenterologist ASAP include unexplained weight loss, loss of appetite, abdominal pain that lasts more than a day or two, blood in your stool, difficulty swallowing or persistent diarrhea. Some possible causes of such symptoms include irritable bowel syndrome or irritable bowel disease, colitis, Crohn's disease, diverticulitis, and food allergies or intolerances.

Innovations in treatment range from upgrading your gut biome and use of monoclonal antibodies to experimental stem cell therapy. So, if you're having GI woes, work with your doctor to find a solution.

Health pioneer Michael Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer emeritus at the Cleveland Clinic and author of four No. 1 New York Times bestsellers. His next book is "The Great Age Reboot: Cracking the Longevity Code for a Younger Tomorrow." Do you have a topic Dr. Mike should cover in a future column? If so, please email [email protected].

King Features Syndicate