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How to Determine When Your Stomach Pains Mean You Need a Gastroenterologist?

How to Determine When Your Stomach Pains Mean You Need a Gastroenterologist?

If you’re experiencing stomach pain but are unsure whether it is serious enough to see a specialist, read here to learn how to differentiate between ordinary pain and stomach illnesses. It may be time to book an appointment with your specialist.

 

Most of us have experienced an upset stomach from an acute illness, this is most often something that one can self-medicate at home, or even with a visit to your GP if you feel your symptoms need medical assistance.

 

But what should you do if you have stomach pain that occurs frequently or lasts for long periods?

 

If the usual remedies don’t work and the discomfort persists long term, you might find you have an underlying condition that affects your gastrointestinal system. If you do decide to visit your GP as well, they will recommend seeing a gastroenterologist for specialist care.

 

There could be many reasons you should consult a gastroenterologist, also known as a digestion doctor, if you are experiencing discomfort and unusual symptoms.

 

It is a common misconception that a gastroenterologist is just a stomach doctor and deals exclusively with that area of the body, but in fact, these specialists help treat conditions for many different areas of your body.

 

A gastroenterologist can assist with symptoms ranging from the esophagus all the way down to the rectum.

 

This post will explore the various reasons one might need to make an appointment and get an expert opinion to get you feeling right as rain again.

 

 

What Is a Gastroenterologist?

 

 

Most of us don’t have an in-depth understanding of the specialization of a digestion doctor until we are in huge amounts of pain that does not subside the way that some acute illnesses usually would.

This is when we’re forced to seek specialized help from specialists such as a gastroenterologist. 

stomach pains - How to Determine When Your Stomach Pains Mean You Need a Gastroenterologist?

Where Can Stomach Pains Come From?

 

 

When we consider the gastrointestinal system, most people would naturally assume that this is limited to the stomach and intestines.

In reality, gastroenterology involves looking at the normal function and diseases of the entire gastrointestinal tract – including your esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon and rectum, pancreas, gallbladder, bile ducts, and liver.

Issues with any of these parts of the body could cause what appears to be stomach pain and may warrant a visit to a gastroenterologist to confirm a diagnosis and receive treatment.

 

 

Conditions Managed by Gastroenterologists

 

 

Some of the most common ailments that one would visit a gastroenterologists for include the following:

      • Cancer (Gastrointestinal, Liver, Pancreatic, Colorectal)
      • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
      • Celiac Disease
      • Inflammatory Bowel Disease
      • Gallbladder Disease
      • GERD (Heartburn, Acid Reflux)
      • Hemorrhoids (Swollen Veins in the Lowest Part of the Rectum and Anus)
      • Polyps (Abnormal Tissue Growths)
      • Ulcers (Painful Sores in the Stomach Lining)
      • Pancreatitis

Some of the above conditions can become much worse and potentially cause severe long-term complications if one does not get the required medical attention as soon as possible.

Below, we will look at some of the instances where your stomach pain is no longer something that can be cured by a home remedy, but rather requires an appointment with a gastroenterologist.

stomach conditions and when to see gastroenterologist - How to Determine When Your Stomach Pains Mean You Need a Gastroenterologist?

 

Types and Sources of Stomach Pain

 

 

Stomach pain can be a difficult pain to diagnose oneself, because often the pain is not actually located in what the average person calls the stomach area but is in fact more pinpointed to a specific region of the abdominal cavity.

Many vital organs make up this general area, such as the small and large intestines, appendix, kidneys, liver, and gallbladder.

The digestive tract is also found in this general area of the body, along with all the building blocks like muscles, bones, blood vessels, and other structures.

It is clear just from listing these various areas and components that there is a lot more going on in the abdomen than just the stomach, and this is what can make it difficult for you to differentiate between and locate the issue yourself.  

There are, of course, acute ailments that most of us have experienced in the past and at least have an idea of the familiar sensation – something like indigestion, bloating and gas, or constipation.

This pain is passing, doesn’t last for long periods of time, and does not occur repeatedly. These ailments typically present as generalised pain.

 

Stomach Pain That Requires a Gastroenterologist

 

 

Generalised pain is something you should be able to recognise as a separate sensation to abdominal pain, which is localised to a particular region.

If you can feel, for example, that your kidneys are in pain (read here to see where they are located if you are unsure) you can then monitor it accordingly.

If it does not pass in a short amount of time but instead persists, or even worsens, it may indicate that it’s time to see your doctor.

Let’s have a look at some signs which may indicate it is necessary to seek specialised medical assistance.

 

1.    Intense Pain Accompanied by Bloody Diarrhea

 

Intense pain that comes on quickly can be a sign that you are suffering from a foodborne illness, having consumed contaminated food.

This could be a result of food poisoning, Salmonella, or E. Coli. These are generalized pains and are likely something you will have experienced before and will subside within hours.

If the pain is persistent and is accompanied by blood in diarrhoea, you could be experiencing something more serious, possibly ulcerative colitis or another inflammatory bowel disease.

stomach pain and vomiting gastroenterology - How to Determine When Your Stomach Pains Mean You Need a Gastroenterologist?

2. Sudden Pain Paired with Vomiting

 

As with the first sign, this could be as a result of contracting a foodborne illness which would then pass within several hours or days.

Alternatively, you could be experiencing acute gastroenteritis (‘stomach flu’). Gastroenteritis is caused by a bacteria, virus, or parasite and causes inflammation of the intestine lining.

Viral gastroenteritis is very common today and is another instance where home care will suffice, and the pain will not last past a few days.

As such, it’s not essential to see a gastroenterologist but if you are struggling to keep fluids down then a visit to the doctor is needed.

 

3. Intense Stomach Pain in Lower Abdomen

 

If your pain is located in the lower abdomen, this could be something that subsides after a bowel movement, indicating you may be suffering from IBS.

Irritable bowel syndrome can sometimes seem like it’s acute pain and passes quickly but keep track of how often this happens.

It is normal to have occasional constipation, however, if you are experiencing less than three bowel movements a week coupled with intense lower abdomen pain, the issue is more serious.

 

stomach pain in lower abdomin - How to Determine When Your Stomach Pains Mean You Need a Gastroenterologist?

4. Side or Lower Back Pain

 

Experiencing pain in your side or lower back could indicate kidney stones if this abdominal pain is also accompanied by discomfort and pain when urinating.

Kidney stones cause pain due to their sharp crystalline structure which irritates the urinary tract as it passes through.

Some people will find this pain almost unbearable and is uncommon in acute illnesses, making it easier to know that this is a serious instance in which a visit to your gastroenterologist is necessary.

 

 

In conclusion

 

 

It is very unlikely that you have never experienced any form of stomach pain in your life, but most of these cases will have been acute illnesses and short-lived symptoms.

These forms of stomach pain are quite mild and don’t require attention from a medical professional.

If the pain persists for long periods, intensifies over time, or is localized rather than generalised pain then you should aim to seek assistance from your doctor as soon as possible.

 

 

Learn More from the Experts

 

 

GiDoc Johannesburg is here to provide you with expert medical advice in the field of gastroenterology.

Book an appointment online or give us a call at 011 482-3010 to find out more.

 

 

 

DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ CAREFULLY

The information on this website is to provide general guidance. In no way does any of the information provided reflect definitive medical advice and self-diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a Gastroenterologist or medical doctor regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs including, but not limited to: abdominal pain, haemorrhoids or anal / rectal bleeding as it may a sign of a serious illness or condition. A thorough consultation and examination should ALWAYS be performed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to call a physician or call our office today and schedule a consultation.

How Your Digestive System Works

How Your Digestive System Works

GIDOCJHB is dedicated to providing high-quality health care and support for patients with digestive problems.

We are known to be patient-centred and are focused on privacy and value.

When you experience digestive discomfort, we provide relief in the form of advice and other treatment methods.

Dr Schneider has extensive training in diagnosing and treating conditions affecting the oesophagus, stomach, intestines, pancreas, liver, and gallbladder.

We aim to identify the source of symptoms and create a care plan tailored towards treating the problem area.

 

digestive system function - How Your Digestive System Works

What is the Digestive System?

Think of your body like an engine. The human body uses the process of digestion to break down food into a form that can be absorbed and used for fuel.

The organs of the digestive system are the mouth, oesophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver, gallbladder, small intestine, large intestine, and anus.

Understanding how these organs work together to digest food is key to understanding how digestion works.   

 

Why Is Digestion Important?

The digestive system carries out three important purposes: mixing food, moving food through the digestive tract (peristalsis) and using chemicals to break down food into smaller molecules.

In other words, when we eat everyday foods such as vegetables, bread, and meat, they are not in a form that the body can use as nutrients.

Our food and drink must be changed into smaller molecules of nutrients before they can be absorbed into the blood and carried to cells throughout the body for us to focus and live more healthy.

Digestion is the process by which food and drink are broken down into their smallest parts so that the body can use them to give you energy and to repair and grow your body.

 

Schedule An Appointment With Dr Schneider

 

How Does my Digestive Process Work?

digestive system health - How Your Digestive System Works

Each part of your digestive system helps to move food and liquid through your GI tract, break food and liquid into smaller parts, or both.

Digestion begins in the mouth, where food and liquids are taken in.

It ends in the small intestine. Some people assume that it ends in the anus but it is the anus from where the digested food is removed.

The Mouth

Your digestive process begins as you chew food in your mouth. To help you absorb different foods, your saliva helps break down what you’re eating and turn it into chemicals called enzymes.

The Esophagus

Once you’ve swallowed your food it needs to travel down the oesophagus to reach the stomach (which is the pipe that connects your mouth to your stomach.)

This means that food can only travel in a single direction regardless of your body position, so you could even stand on your head while eating and food will continue to move through your oesophagus to your stomach (although this is not recommended).

The Stomach

After food enters your stomach, the stomach muscles mix the food and liquid with digestive juices. The stomach slowly empties its contents, called chyme, into your small intestine.

The Small Intestine

Most nutrients are absorbed in the small intestine, where food is broken down even more by enzymes released from the pancreas and bile from the liver.

Anything left in the small intestine moves into the large intestine, which is also known as the colon.

The Large Intestine (colon)

The bulk of what enters the colon is excess liquid waste matter. It is here that much of the water is re-absorbed, which changes the waste into a soft, solid form known as a stool (faeces).

The colon separates the waste into small segments and pushes them into the lower colon. The lower colon stores this stool until it is moved to the rectum for elimination as faeces.

The Rectum

This is a chamber about 8 inches in length that receive the stool from the colon and holds it until you poop.

It has sensors that send a message to the brain, which then decides whether to release the sphincter muscles, contract the rectum, and expel the faeces.

 

healthy digestive system - How Your Digestive System Works

How to Protect the Digestive System

Your digestive system is uniquely designed to ensure that the food you eat is converted into nutrients that you can then use for energy, growth, and cell repair – in other words, for the essentials you need to live.

Here are a few tips that will help protect your digestive system and help you live a more healthy life:

Be Mindful of Your Diet – eating a good amount of fats, proteins, fibre and vegetables help to move your food through your intestines.

Learn More About the Food You Eat – read the ingredients before you buy food and become better informed about your nutrition.

For example, there are two types of fibre – soluble and insoluble. Both have an important role to play in digestion.

Drink Enough Water – Water helps dissolve fats and soluble fibre and helps food pass through your intestines.

Exercise Frequently – Keeping active is good for your health, and particularly for your digestion

Try to Not Stress Much – stress and anxiety are very damaging to your digestive system. Too much stress can also lead to serious digestive disorders.

 

Frequently Asked Questions About the Digestive System

 

How long does it take for food to travel through my system?

The majority of the trip can take up to 36 hours

Is eating lots of fibre that important?

Yes. Fibre is a component of all plant-based foods, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables and it benefits your digestion and reduces your risk of chronic disease.

How much bowel movements should I have a day to be considered healthy?

The frequency of bowel movements varies from person to person and can be anywhere from three a week to three a day.

Most people will find that they have a regular bowel pattern that works for them.

The digestive system is responsible for breaking down the food. True or False?

True. The digestive system is responsible for getting food into and out of the body.

    DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ CAREFULLY

    The information on this website is to provide general guidance. In no way does any of the information provided reflect definitive medical advice and self-diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a Gastroenterologist or medical doctor regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs including, but not limited to: abdominal pain, haemorrhoids or anal / rectal bleeding as it may a sign of a serious illness or condition. A thorough consultation and examination should ALWAYS be performed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to call a physician or call our office today and schedule a consultation.