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The intestines, also called the bowels, are part of the alimentary canal. They extend from the stomach to the anus and include two sections: the small intestine and the large intestine, or colon. Intestinal disorders is one category of thing that can go wrong with the intestines. This group includes bowel twist, endometriosis, polyps, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Intestinal disease is a distinct category that includes celiac disease, colorectal cancer, Crohn’s disease, diverticulosis and diverticulitis, gastroenteritis, and ulcerative colitis.
Celiac disease—which is also referred to as celiac or nontropical sprue or Gluten-sensitive enteropathy—is a genetic intestinal disease that creates a problem with the body’s handling of gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Ingestion of gluten results in the body’s immune system responding in a way that damages the small intestine. The symptoms vary from none to abdominal pain and diarrhea, but the treatment—maintaining a gluten-free diet—requires only ingenuity, care, and willpower.
The intestinal disease colorectal cancer ranks number four in the list of the most common cancers for both men and women. It is more likely to occur in people who have either polyps, which can become cancerous; a high fat diet; family or personal history of colorectal cancer; or either Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. Screening, often involving colonoscopy, is recommended for people, once they turn 50. Symptoms do not necessarily appear immediately, but blood in the stool, changes in bowel habits, and discomfort can occur.
Crohn’s disease, which is also known as regional enteritis or regional ileitis, can manifest as an inflammatory bowel disease, but it is not necessarily an intestinal disease: it can also cause inflammation anywhere in the digestive system. It is often, however, found in the ileum. It is most often found in young adults, and may cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, weight loss, and other symptoms. It sometimes goes into remission, during which time, the person will be symptom-free.
Diverticulosis and diverticulitis are related intestinal diseases. In some people, diverticula, or small pouches, develop in the large intestine, called diverticulosis. People who have it mostly do not have symptoms, and it is often treated only with mild pain relievers and a high-fiber diet. Diverticulitis comes about when the diverticula become infected. This is a much more serious condition in which the infection must be treated.
The intestinal disease gastroenteritis, sometimes called the stomach flu, is actually a name that describes several different occurrences, in which some agent—whether bacteria, parasites, or a virus—cause an inflammation of the intestines. Viral gastroenteritis is the second highest-ranking illness in the United States. Hand washing is the best way to prevent its spread.
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