Diseases of the Digestive System - Treatment and diagnosis of gastrointestinal disorders
Some medications used in treating gastrointestinal disorders, such as antacids and laxatives, can be purchased without prescription. Such medications should be taken only upon a physician's advice.
Treatment of gastrointestinal diseases may require low-residue diets—that is, a diet of foods that pass through the digestive tract very readily without a large amount of solid fecal residue. Included are low-fat meals, liquids, and finely crushed foods. Diagnostic tests may require overnight fasting, fat-free meals, or eating specific foods. Bland meals are vital in the treatment of peptic ulcers and should consist of unspiced soft foods and milk. Raw fruits and vegetables, salads, alcohol, and coffee do not belong in a bland diet. See under Ch. 27, Nutrition and Weight Control , for further information on special diets.
X-ray examinations play an important role in diagnosis of gastrointestinal disorders, such as ulcers, diverticula, foreign bodies, malignant lesions, obstruction, achalasia of the esophagus, and varices.
Plain film radiographs are used in initial studies in cases where intestinal obstruction or perforation is suspected. Metallic foreign bodies are easily demonstrated on plain X rays of the digestive tract.
By filling the digestive tract with barium sulfate , a substance opaque to X rays, a radiologist can locate areas of abnormality. Barium sulfate can be mixed as a thin liquid or paste and be swallowed by the patient during studies of the esophagus, stomach, and small intestines. The type of radiological examination that utilizes such a barium meal is known as a GI (gastrointestinal) series . The large bowel is examined with the barium mixture administered through the rectum like a standard enema, known as a barium enema . This procedure makes it possible to visualize the inner walls of the colon. For further information on diagnostic procedures, see Ch. 26, Physicians and Diagnostic Procedures .