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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Digestive Problems


Digestion is one of the most delicately balanced of all human and perhaps angelic functions.
– M.F.K. Fisher (1949)

Most of us can remember one stomach ache that occurred when we were very young. Perhaps we ate too much, or something we ate did not suit us, and our digestive system did what it felt was necessary at the time to alleviate our suffering. And our digestive system was right; it did alleviate our suffering, and we immediately felt better.

But what if your stomach ached all the time? If so, you would not be alone. If you add up all the digestive diseases that occur, between 60 and 70 million suffer from some form of digestive disorder. 45 million people each year visit a doctor because of digestive disorders, and 14 million are hospitalized. Over 6 million people a year undergo some form of diagnostic or therapeutic procedure for digestive disorders.

Those of us who are not bothered by our digestive system do not understand how debilitating digestive disorders can be to people’s lives.

“My whole life revolves around what I can and cannot eat” says Bill, a computer programmer. “My stomach hurts all the time. I have had dozens of tests, and no one can tell me what is wrong with me!”

“Other people can go out any time they want,” says Mary, a college student. “I can never plan anything. I never know when I will have to stay home because of my problem.”

Comments like this are often heard from sufferers of digestive disorders. The digestive system is a highly complex combination of organs that must work together, and the slightest disorder can have devastating effects on the lives of those who are afflicted.

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