What are the Different Types of Intestinal Disease?

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

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.

Wheat contains gluten, which cannot be digested by people with celiac disease.
Wheat contains gluten, which cannot be digested by people with celiac disease.

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.

A diagram showing diverticulitis and other colon diseases.
A diagram showing diverticulitis and other colon diseases.

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.

Gastroenteritis, or the stomach flu, is an intestinal disease.
Gastroenteritis, or the stomach flu, is an intestinal disease.

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.

Certain intestinal diseases like GERD and diverticulitis, may require surgery if the case is severe enough.
Certain intestinal diseases like GERD and diverticulitis, may require surgery if the case is severe enough.

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.

Crohn's disease, polyps and diverticulosis are three examples of intestinal diseases.
Crohn's disease, polyps and diverticulosis are three examples of intestinal diseases.

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.

Gastroenteritis occurs when a bacteria, parasite or virus causes inflammation of the intestines.
Gastroenteritis occurs when a bacteria, parasite or virus causes inflammation of the intestines.
Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth is passionate about reading, writing, and research, and has a penchant for correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to contributing articles to wiseGEEK about art, literature, and music, Mary Elizabeth is a teacher, composer, and author. She has a B.A. from the University of Chicago’s writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont, and she has written books, study guides, and teacher materials on language and literature, as well as music composition content for Sibelius Software.

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