Symptoms related to bowel disorders can be diverse. Still, patients generally experience abdominal pain often correlated with an altered bowel function (diarrhea or constipation), and in some cases, patients also report the presence of blood in the stool. Sometimes, disorders of the upper intestinal tract and thus nausea and vomiting are also present. All these symptoms represent a wake-up call that should not be underestimated and from which to start with appropriate investigations.
It is best to contact your healthcare provider if these symptoms are present.
Tests for Diagnosis
The most straightforward test is the blood sample, which allows us to detect any alteration of the blood count – an increase in white blood cells or a reduction in hemoglobin in the case of blood loss – or inflammation factors. Patients who show abdominal pain, diarrhea, and bloating could have celiac disease, and we can look for specific antibodies in the blood for this type of pathology.
The Breath test can also be performed, making it possible to evaluate different conditions; the Lactose Breath test, for example, allows us to diagnose lactose intolerance: The patient ingests a marked substance, and through breathing, we ascertain the absence of the enzymes that digest milk, lactases.
Ultrasound of the Intestinal Loops
Ultrasound is a simple and painless examination that uses a linear probe that doesn’t go too deep – thus, it is unsuitable for overweight and/or obese patients – but allows for an accurate depiction of the walls of the intestine. It evaluates any thickening of the intestinal wall due to inflammation or infection, pathological dilatations of the intestinal loops, and the presence of lymphadenopathy and/or abdominal fluid.
This examination allows for the study of the small intestine, particularly the last ileal loop and all the walls of the colon, evaluating its contents, such as gas or feces; patients suffering from abdominal pain often have colic due to the excessive presence of gas in the intestine, and thanks to this examination, it is possible to distinguish this functional type of pain from an organic pain due to pathology and a state of inflammation.
Thanks to the use of Doppler ultrasonography of the intestinal loops, it is also possible to assess the possible presence of diverticulosis and, above all, diverticulitis. Thus, it makes it possible to determine whether the walls of the intestine are more vascularized than usual, indicating inflammation.
Ultrasonography of the intestinal loops is also a useful complementary tool in the diagnosis of celiac disease: thickening or dilation of the intestinal loops, the presence of lymphadenopathy and/or effusion in the pelvic cavity, and increased peristalsis are all suggestive signs of celiac disease.
Lastly, if signs of appendicopathy/appendicitis arise, an ultrasound of the intestinal loops can be a valuable tool to visualize the appendix by studying whether it has increased in size, is vascularized, or is associated with enlarged lymph nodes and/or effusion.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Tips for Proper Nutrition
Irritable bowel syndrome comes with abdominal pain associated with altered bowel movements, diarrhea, or constipation. This disorder in predisposed individuals may be related to excessive gas production due to the die. Therefore, the diet has to be controlled, decreasing the consumption of sugars and carbohydrates, the so-called Fodmaps.
In the case of constipation, hydration is essential, and it is also vital to eat following the same schedule and engage in regular physical activity.
It is also good to ensure a diet rich in fiber, vegetables, whole grains, and yogurt with milk enzymes. Conversely, avoiding red wine, astringent fruits, dry foods, and complex foods that can slow intestinal transit and promote constipation is recommended.
In case of diarrhea, it is necessary to limit fiber consumption, drink plenty of water, and increase the consumption of astringent foods, including starches like potatoes, which thicken stools and improve this condition.