Are my digestive issues a sign of something worse?

Whether you've been suffering recently from new digestive issues or old symptoms have flared up, tummy troubles should never be taken lightly. To help you discover the potential cause behind the symptoms and if they point to a more serious underlying medical condition, here are some common reasons your digestive system may be giving you grief.

Are my digestive issues a sign of something worse?

Digestive problems can be frustrating to deal with and can bring your daily routine to a grinding halt. In fact, the uncertainty of knowing "what's next" may actually prevent you from leaving the house if it means being far from a bathroom.

  • Issues such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, acid reflux and other symptoms can be difficult to manage, especially if you don't know what's causing them.

Although these types of stomach upset are often caused by digestive disorders or food sensitivities, sometimes these symptoms are the result of something else entirely. Here are some common health problems that may cause digestive distress and discomfort for certain people.


Anxiety has a whole host of symptoms, ranging from psychological to physiological. Often, anxiety only manifests after it has reached levels the body can't tolerate: it can trigger headaches, muscle pain, decreased blood flow and other uncomfortable symptoms. What's more, too much stress means your stomach can also suffer.

  • Your digestive tract is sensitive to any changes in your body. Increases in anxiety alter levels of hormones in your blood chemistry that, in turn, stimulate your nervous system to overreact. The result? Tummy troubles.
  • Stress-busters such as meditation and yoga can be very helpful for people who suffer from anxiety. And it goes without saying that when you manage your stress, you help to soothe your stomach.


Most people think of smoking as something that adversely affects your mouth, throat and lungs, but it can also be hard on your stomach.

  • When you inhale smoke, you may swallow air, which contributes to gas and bloating. Moreover, the chemicals in smoke may irritate the mucous membranes in your mouth and esophagus, which are connected to your stomach.

Couple these issues with the increased risk of developing cancer plus other unpleasant side effects of smoking, such as bad breath and premature aging of the skin, and you have enough incentive to quit the habit for good.


Ulcers are painful sores in the lining of the stomach that result when acid in the digestive tract eats away at the lining. They can be very uncomfortable and create a lot of stomach problems.

  • Symptoms of ulcers include black stool, painful bowel movements, nausea and difficulty digesting a variety of foods. The pain may be worse between meals and at night.

Fortunately, certain types of ulcers can be healed but you'll need to cut out problematic foods and take other precautions to send them away.

  • Always consult a qualified healthcare provider to treat an ulcer, especially if the symptoms become severe.

Heart attack

Heartburn or chest pain may be signs of a heart attack.

  • It's often difficult to tell whether the pain is related to digestion or to heart issues. However, if indigestion is accompanied by pressure or tightening in the chest, it could be a sign of a heart attack.
  • Shortness of breath and pain in either arm are also symptoms of heart problems that should be checked immediately.

If you believe it may be a heart attack, contact emergency services immediately! Even if it turns out to be digestion-related and not your heart, it's always good to err on the side of caution.

When your digestive system sends you signs

Your digestive system plays an important role in the healthy functioning of your body: it absorbs nutrients that help build bones, muscles and tissue. Your digestive system also eliminates toxins and wastes that could do your system harm. That's why when you're having trouble digesting food, it's a sign that something else could be upsetting your body besides a digestive condition and should be investigated.

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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