The digestive system is a complicated, but very effective, set of organs and glands. The process starts when food enters your mouth. Next, it moves to the esophagus, where it’s pushed down into the stomach. From there, it enters the small intestine. Here, digestive juices break it down further. Next, the food enters the large intestine and is then filtered through your liver. The waste is then stored in the large intestine and excreted as a stool.
Though the human digestive tract is a series of complicated organs, it can stop functioning as it should. When this happens, a person may have a gastrointestinal disorder of some kind. The good news is that you can always visit a gastroenterology centre near you for treatment.
What is Gastroenterology?
For over 200 years, Gastroenterology has been a major subspecialty within medicine. Gastroenterology, often referred to as Gastroenterology (GI), is the branch of medicine that deals with gastrointestinal (GI) disorders.
In a nutshell, Gastroenterology is the medical subspecialty that deals with the diagnosis and management of diseases involving the gastrointestinal tract, liver, gallbladder, and pancreas. This includes diseases of the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon, biliary tract, and liver (including the gallbladder and pancreas).
Who is a Gastroenterologist?
A gastroenterologist is a medical doctor who specializes in diseases of the intestines, stomach, and liver. You should see one if you have abdominal discomfort or changes to your bowel habits. They’re good at figuring out what is going on and making you better.
If you have these symptoms, it’s very likely you have a disease of the intestines, stomach, or liver. You could have an infection or inflammation, or you could have a rare but serious disease. If you’re not sure, and you want to rule out the more serious diseases, you need to see a gastroenterologist.
The main functions of gastroenterologists include;
- Performing endoscopy. This is a non-surgical procedure where a gastroenterologist inserts a small camera into the patient’s body to get a detailed view of the gastrointestinal tract. This can reveal the presence of certain intestinal diseases and digestive disorders.
- Diagnosing and treating conditions that have to do with the gastrointestinal tract.
- Managing patients’ care, which includes making sure the patient is comfortable.
Signs That You Should Schedule a Visit to a Gastroenterologist
When you feel intense abdominal pain, it’s easy to panic and assume you have appendicitis. But, when abdominal pain is not accompanied by other symptoms (like fever), it’s wise to visit your General Practitioner (GP) first to rule out any underlying medical issues. But, if you notice any of the symptoms below, contact a gastroenterologist instead.
A Lump in Your Throat
When you have a sore throat, you assume it’s a cold. Sometimes you have a sore throat accompanied by a cold, but sometimes you have a sore throat and not a lot of other symptoms. This is a sore throat that your doctor should check.
If you have trouble swallowing, you should be examined by your doctor. A sore throat can be caused by an inflamed digestive tract. This is different from what you might think of as GERD or acid reflux disease.
A lump in your throat could be a sign of something serious. It may be due to esophageal cancer. It could also be a symptom of an urgent problem like esophageal varices, a ruptured esophagus, or esophageal inflammation. You should keep notes describing the appearance of the problem and any other symptoms that go with it. The GI doctor will use all this information to make an accurate diagnosis.
Heartburn, sometimes called acid indigestion, is a burning pain in the center of your chest. It usually happens when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus. Heartburn is a common problem, especially in people who are middle-aged and older. If you experience frequent heartburns, ensure to consult a GI specialist
Blood in Your Stool
If you are seeing bright red blood in your stool, consider the following. First, a little bit of fresh red blood is normal and not something to get worked up about. If you have hemorrhoids, you might be passing fresh blood as the tissues inside your anus cast off after the skin around them heals.
Blood in your stool might also be a sign of a stomach ulcer. Stomach ulcers are caused by the stomach’s exposure to the digestive acid it produces, which eats away at the stomach lining. Another cause of blood in the stool is an inflamed bowel. Some inflammation is normal when the body is fighting off a bug, but if it becomes severe enough to cause bleeding, you should get medical attention.
Bloating can be caused by many things like alcohol, eating too much, constipation, or even a food allergy. Bloating is the feeling of having a full abdomen. It can be mild, or it can be severe and painful. If you can’t button pants that fit fine a few days ago, bloating could be the culprit.
A rapid gain in girth means that your stomach is bloating because it’s retaining gas. Painful bloating that happens without explanation and is accompanied by bloody stool or rectal bleeding is caused by a condition called diverticulitis, which we’ll discuss next. Regardless of the cause, ensure to schedule a visit to a Gastroenterologist whenever you have abnormal bloating.
You could be suffering from constipation if it’s difficult for you to pass stool in a timely manner. If you have ever experienced constipation, then you are already aware of how uncomfortable it can be. Constipation is not uncomfortable, but it can also be quite painful, and it can be quite damaging to your health in the long run.
Bloody stool is a sign that your digestive tract is bleeding, which is often a symptom of gastrointestinal (GI) cancer. The first sign of bloody stool is a black stool, which can be alarming, but it is sometimes a bleeding stomach ulcer. But, if you continue to have black or bloody stools, you might have colorectal cancer.
Consult your doctor if you notice black or red blood in your stool; and if you have rectal bleeding, do not assume it is hemorrhoids. See your doctor to rule out other GI or colorectal problems.
Many experts believe that identifying and treating early gastrointestinal problems can reduce the risk of developing stomach cancer, inflammatory bowel disease or other gastrointestinal disorders. Ensure to contact a Gastroenterologist whenever you experience any of the following signs.