Gastrointestinal bleeding – causes, side effects and treatments at NaturalPedia.com

Tuesday, April 17, 2018 by

The gastrointestinal (GI) tract, also known as the digestive tract, is the collective term for a series of hollow organs that are connected to form a long, twisting tube from the mouth to the anus. The organs include the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and anus. These organs are primarily responsible for processing the food and liquids that we consume.

When the GI tract bleeds, it can come from any of these areas. Depending on the condition, the amount of bleeding can either be pronounced or microscopic. In essence, GI bleeding is not a disease but a symptom of one. Possible causes include hemorrhoids, peptic ulcers, tears or inflammation in the esophagus, diverticulosis and diverticulitis, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, colonic polyps, or cancer in the colon, stomach or esophagus.

To diagnose the cause of the bleeding, health professionals will use a procedure called an endoscopy, which inserts a flexible instrument through the mouth to probe the GI tract. A similar procedure called colonoscopy probes the large intestine.

Known risk factors and symptoms of gastrointestinal bleeding

GI bleeding is a symptom of a variety of diseases. These include:

  • Angiodysplasia — A condition characterized by abnormal or enlarged blood vessels in the GI tract, which tend to rupture and bleed.
  • Benign tumors and cancer — Certain types of cancer – like that in the esophagus, stomach, colon, or rectum – and some non-cancerous tumors weaken the GI tract, causing it to bleed.
  • Colitis — When a person has ulcerative colitis, he forms lesions in the large intestine. This complication can cause GI bleeding.
  • Colon polyps — A person can have more than one colon polyp at a time, and some can even become cancerous.
  • Diverticular disease — This causes GI bleeding when small pouches, or sacs, form and push through weak spots in the colon.
  • Esophageal varices — A typical complication of liver cirrhosis, the condition is characterized by the presence of abnormal, enlarged veins in the esophagus.
  • Esophagitis — The condition, caused by gastroesophageal reflux (GER), weakens the sphincter between the esophagus and the stomach, causing stomach acid to damage the esophagus and make it bleed.
  • Gastritis — The condition, which wears away the stomach lining and makes it bleed, is usually caused by:
    • The use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and other medicines
    • Infections
    • Crohn’s disease
    • Serious illnesses
    • Severe injuries
  • Hemorrhoids or anal fissures  Aside from itching and swelling, hemorrhoids can cause GI bleeding, especially in the anus. Anal fissures cause similar signs, as well as a tearing of the anus.
  • Mallory-Weiss tears — In cases of severe vomiting, these may lead to what is called as a Mallory-Weiss tear, or a laceration in the mucous membrane where the esophagus and the stomach meet.
  • Peptic ulcers — Bacteria such as Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) and the use of NSAIDs can lead peptic ulcers, which weaken the mucosa and cause GI bleeding.

The hallmark of GI bleeding is the presence of blood, whether in stools or in vomit. However, the signs of bleeding will vary depending on the location of the ulcer, tear, or disease.

If the bleeding is located in the upper digestive tract, the following symptoms may appear:

  • Bright red blood in vomit, or those that look like coffee grounds
  • Black or tarry stools, in some cases, with blood mixed in it

Bleeding in the lower digestive tract will manifest the following:

  • Black or tarry stool, in some cases, with dark blood mixed in it
  • Stool coated or mixed with bright red blood

Body systems affected by gastrointestinal bleeding

As the name implies, GI bleeding primarily affects the digestive system. However, it may be indicative of other conditions that may affect the whole body.

However, the presence of the following symptoms may indicate hypovolemia (the state of decreased blood volume), or in more severe instances, hemorrhagic shock:

  • Syncope  The medical term for fainting or passing out.
  • Hypotension — Also known as low blood pressure.
  • Pallor  The appearance of being sick.
  • Diaphoresis  The presence of abnormal sweating, usually the sign of disease.
  • Tachycardia — A disorder of the heart where the heart beats faster than the normal heart rate at rest.

Food items or nutrients that may prevent or relieve gastrointestinal bleeding

A rule of thumb for people who have a history of GI bleeding due to preexisting conditions is to avoid alcoholic drinks and smoking – since these will increase the acidity of the stomach and lead to ulcers. In addition, spicy and salty food may trigger gastric secretions and should be avoided as well.

If a person is currently experiencing or is prone to GI bleeding, the following food items are recommended to alleviate their condition.

  • Eating a high-fiber diet increases the bulk of the stools, and it prevents diverticulosis and hemorrhoids, which are major causes of GI bleeding.
  • Drinking water regularly will replace the fluids lost when bleeding and prevents dehydration and electrolyte imbalance.
  • Olive leaf extract and wild oregano oil could be used to treat GI bleeding, thanks to its antibiotic properties.
  • Probiotics could be added to olive leaf extracts to replace healthy bacteria and support gut health and immunity.
  • Aloe vera juice speeds up the healing process after GI bleeding and reduces inflammation in the affected area.

Treatment and management options for gastrointestinal bleeding

Severe cases of GI bleeding may need urgent medical attention, as these may cause the vital signs of a patient to fall sharply. From there, he will be most likely referred to a gastroenterologist for further treatment. Whether a GI bleeding may have a positive outcome relies heavily on the root cause of the bleeding.

Where to learn more

Summary

The gastrointestinal tract is the collective term for a series of hollow organs that are connected to form a long, twisting tube from the mouth to the anus. When it bleeds, depending on the condition, the amount can either be pronounced or microscopic.

To diagnose the cause of the bleeding, health professionals will use a procedure called an endoscopy, which inserts a flexible instrument through the mouth to probe the GI tract. A similar procedure called colonoscopy probes the large intestine.

The hallmark of GI bleeding is the presence of blood, whether in stools or in vomit. However, the signs of bleeding will vary depending on the location of the ulcer, tear, or disease.

Sources include:

NIDDK.NIH.gov 1

NIDDK.NIH.gov 2

NIDDK.NIH.gov 3

ConsumerHealthDigest.com

MedLinePlus.gov

MayoClinic.org

RareDiseases.org

MSDManuals.com

EasyAyurveda.com

eMedicineHealth.com



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