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Biology LibreTexts

13. 41: Digestive System Diseases

What's worse than an upset stomach?

You've probably had an upset stomach. Most likely it was due to something you ate. But imagine bleeding from your stomach. That's a little different than your stomach just being upset. Stomach ulcers can be very serious.

Diseases of the Digestive System

Many diseases can affect the digestive system. Three of the most common diseases that affect the digestive system are food allergies, ulcers, and heartburn. Foodborne illnesses and food intolerance are also serious issues associated with the digestive system.

  • Food allergies occur when the immune system reacts to substances in food as though they were harmful “foreign invaders.” Foods that are most likely to cause allergies are pictured in Figure below, and include nuts, eggs, grains and milk. Symptoms of food allergies often include vomiting and diarrhea. Symptoms of food allergies include itching and swelling of the lips and mouth. More serious symptoms include trouble breathing. In some instances, a food allergy can trigger anaphylaxis, which is an extremely severe reaction. Emergency medical treatment is critical for this condition, which left untreated, can lead to death.

Common allergic foods: milk, shellfish, grains, egg, nuts

These foods are the most common causes of food allergies.

  • Ulcers are sores in the lining of the stomach or duodenum that are usually caused by bacterial infections. They may also be caused by the acidic environment of the stomach. Stomach acids may damage the lining of the stomach. Symptoms typically include abdominal pain and bleeding. 

     

  • Heartburn is a painful burning sensation in the chest caused by stomach acid backing up into the esophagus. The stomach acid may eventually cause serious damage to the esophagus unless the problem is corrected.

Summary

  • Digestive system diseases include food allergies, ulcers, and heartburn.

Review

  1. Describe two diseases of the digestive system.
  2. List three foods that cause common food allergies.