According to a new survey, 74 percent of Americans are living with digestive symptoms like diarrhea, gas, bloating and abdominal pain. But what many people may not know is that these symptoms could indicate a more serious condition.
“Over half of them never discussed it with their doctor,” said Dr. Rashini Raj, a gastroenterologist at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, on behalf of AbbVie Pharmaceuticals, who commissioned the survey. “And that’s probably the most alarming part for me, because as you know, sometimes this can be a sign of a more serious underlying condition: celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, EPI or exocrine pancreatic insufficiency -- so these are symptoms you shouldn’t ignore, and unfortunately a lot of people don’t feel comfortable talking about them.”
EPI is a condition where the pancreas does not function properly, failing to produce the enzymes needed for digestion. It’s often associated with other underlying health issues like chronic pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer or diabetes.
“It’s a condition where people experience a lot of GI distress; abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, both frequency and urgency to go to the bathroom, and it can be tough to diagnose,” Raj told FoxNews.com.
Because they are lacking the proper enzymes to break down the food they eat, patients with EPI are not able to absorb vital nutrients.
“You’re not absorbing the nutrients your body needs, so that leads to the diarrhea, and it’s often what we call steatorrhea; diarrhea where the stools are kind of oily, they’re floating,” said Raj. “These are some of the symptoms that could be pointing toward a more serious issue.”
Raj noted that because many patients are embarrassed to discuss digestive issues with their doctor, they often go undiagnosed, which can lead to further complications. But, she added, websites like IdentifyEPI.com have helpful resources with printouts that patients can bring to their doctors to address their symptoms and start getting treatment.
“Part of it will involve changes in the diet, or adjusting the diet in some ways, but also giving back these enzymes that you’re missing if you have EPI … with medications,” said Raj. “You’ll take them every time you have a meal to help digest.”
For more information check out IdentifyEPI.com.