Common digestive problems

Published on 17th January 2019


Gall stones

The gall bladder is a pear shaped organ found below the liver that is responsible for helping digest fats by producing bile a brown liquid that gives faeces their colour.

Although no one knows for sure, gallstones are thought to be caused by an imbalance in the chemical constituents of the bile inside the gallbladder. 

It's unclear what causes the chemical imbalance, but gallstones can form if there are unusually high levels of:

cholesterol inside the gallbladder (about 4 out of 5 gallstones are made of cholesterol)

a waste product called bilirubin inside the gallbladder (about 1 in 5 gallstones is made of bilirubin)

These chemical imbalances cause tiny crystals to develop in the bile.

The crystals can gradually grow (often taking many years) into solid stones that can be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a pebble. These can be very painful and cause severe abdominal pain. 

Sometimes only 1 stone will form, but there are often several at the same time.

Gall stones are more common if you are female, over weight, over 40 years old, also have a condition such as cirrhosis of the liver, chron’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome or taking ceftriaxone antiobiotics.

If a bile duct becomes blocked by the stones there can be serious health repercussions. It can lead to a build up of bile inside the gallbladder causing the gallbladder to become infected and inflamed.


Coeliac disease

Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases are where the body attacks itself because it misreads part of the body being foreign to it. Rheumatoid arthritis is a good example of this.

Coeliac disease is more common in people with Type 1 diabetes and autoimmune thyroid disease. If you have one autoimmune condition, there is an increased risk of having another one. Coeliac disease is caused by a reaction of the immune system to gluten – a protein found in rye, wheat and barley. 

When someone with coeliac disease eats gluten, their immune system reacts by damaging the lining of the small intestine.   The villi (which are small finger like projections in the small intestine which increase the surface area and increase the ability to absorb nutrients) become flat and nutrients can be difficult to absorb.  If untreated the villi can also become inflamed. In some cases they can even disappear resulting in ‘villous atrophy’.  When the intestine is damaged like this,  the body can’t absorb all the nutrients from the food properly – this is called ‘malabsoption’.



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