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Digestive Diseases Glossary of Terms

These are common terms and their definitions associated with the gastrointestinal system and digestive problems or diseases:

Amylase: Enzyme produced in the pancreas and salivary glands that helps in the digestion of starches from the diet. Blood amylase levels may be increased in patients who have pancreatitis or salivary problems like Sjogren’s disease.

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The BRAT Diet

The BRAT diet (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, Toast) was once a staple of most pediatricians' recommendations for children with an upset stomach. The idea was that it gave the gut a chance to rest and reduced the amount of stool produced. Now experts say the BRAT diet may not be the best option for children. Because BRAT diet foods are low in fiber, protein, and fat, the diet lacks enough nutrition to help a child's gastrointestinal tract recover. The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends that...

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Amyloidosis: A group of diseases that results from the abnormal deposition of a protein called amyloid in tissues and organs.

Bezoar: A clump of food or hair in the digestive tract. Bezoars can cause obstructions in the stomach that keep food from passing into the small intestine.

Celiac disease: A disease resulting from the abnormal reaction by the body's immune system to gluten, a protein found in grains such as wheat, rye, and barley and other foods. In people who have celiac disease, the immune system causes damage to the small intestine and prevents the proper absorption of nutrients from food. Symptoms include diarrhea, anemia, and weight loss.

Duodenum: The first part of the small intestine.

Elastase: An enzyme found in fluids produced by the pancreas. It aids in the digestion of several proteins, including elastin, an elastic substance in the lungs and other organs that is part of their structural framework. Normally, elastase is inhibited by a substance called alpha-1 antitrypsin.

Electrogastrography (EGG): A diagnostic test that measures electrical activity in the stomach using electrodes placed on the skin.

Endoscopy: A procedure that uses a flexible, lighted tube to look inside the body. The instrument is introduced into the body through a natural opening like the mouth or anus.

Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS): A procedure that combines endoscopy and ultrasound and allows a doctor to obtain images and information about the digestive tract and the surrounding tissue and organs.

Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP): Procedure in which a tube is placed down the patient's throat, into the stomach, then into the small intestine. Dye is injected and the ducts of the gallbladder, liver and pancreas can be seen on X-ray. The procedure may be performed to diagnose and treat problems in the liver, gallbladder, bile ducts, and pancreas, including gallstones, inflammatory strictures (scars), leaks (from trauma and surgery), and cancer.

Gastrin: A hormone that causes the stomach to produce acid, too much of which can cause stomach and duodenal ulcers.

Gastrinoma: Tumor that develops in the pancreas or duodenum of patients with Zollinger-Ellison syndrome. Gastrinomas secrete the hormone gastrin.

Gastroesophageal reflux: A condition in which stomach acid and contents back up into the esophagus, producing symptoms of heartburn or regurgitation.

Gastroparesis: Paralysis of the stomach. It is a disease in which the stomach cannot empty itself of food in a normal fashion. This can happen in diabetes.

H2 blockers: A group of digestive disease drugs that relieve acid reflux and pain by suppressing the production of stomach acid.

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