Treating Gastrointestinal Problems Related to Scleroderma
Systemic sclerosis can affect any part of the digestive system. As a result, you may experience problems such as heartburn, difficulty swallowing, early satiety (the feeling of being full after you've barely started eating), or intestinal complaints such as diarrhea, constipation, and gas. In cases where the intestines are damaged, your body may have difficulty absorbing nutrients from food. Although gastrointestinal problems are diverse, here are some scleroderma treatments that may help:
- Eat small, frequent meals.
- Raise the head of your bed with blocks, and stand or sit for at least an hour (preferably two or three) after eating to keep stomach contents from backing up into the esophagus.
- Avoid late-night meals, spicy or fatty foods, and alcohol and caffeine, which can aggravate gastrointestinal distress.
- Chew foods well and eat moist, soft foods. If you have difficulty swallowing, or if your body doesn't absorb nutrients properly, your doctor may prescribe a special diet.
- Ask your doctor about prescription medications for problems such as diarrhea, constipation, and heartburn. Some drugs called proton pump inhibitors are highly effective against heartburn. Oral antibiotics may stop bacterial overgrowth in the bowel that can be a cause of diarrhea in some people with systemic sclerosis.