A healthy gastrointestinal system is vital for overall health.
If your digestive tract is not healthy, several risk factors can lead to a more serious problems in the future.
When do you know it’s time to see a gastroenterologist?
If you’ve been feeling digestive discomfort or other symptoms, maybe your gut might be trying to tell you something.
Gastroenterologists diagnose, manage, and treat all diseases of the digestive tract, which includes the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum, anus, pancreas, gallbladder, and liver.
It’s important to understand the signs and symptoms that come along with stomach issues so you’ll be able to take action before it leads to something more serious.
What Does a GI Doctor Do?
A gastroenterologist is a specialist internist (a doctor trained in internal medicine) and is experts in diagnosing and treating conditions and diseases of the GI tract in both men and women.
A gastroenterologist may perform several procedures to diagnose GI diseases. However, these procedures are not surgical.
One of the major procedures performed by a gastroenterologist is endoscopy. It involves the use of narrow flexible tubes with a built-in video camera that can be inserted into the intestinal tract.
These non-surgical GI procedures may be performed to diagnose a gastrointestinal disease in both men and women:
- Gastroscopies (to detect oesophageal, gastric, and small intestinal disease)
- Sigmoidoscopies (to evaluate blood loss/bowel pain)
- Capsule endoscopies (to examine the small intestine)
- Liver biopsies (to assess liver inflammation and fibrosis)
- Endoscopic ultrasounds (to examine the gastrointestinal tract)
- Colonoscopies (to detect colon cancer/colon polyps)
What Makes a Gastroenterologist Different?
The thorough training (both academic and practical) that Gastroenterologists complete provides them with the ability to provide high quality, comprehensive care for patients with a wide variety of gastrointestinal conditions.
Private practice Gastroenterologists are considered experts in their field of an advanced understanding of the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon and rectum, pancreas, gallbladder, bile ducts, and liver.
Eight Signs You Should See A GI Doctor
1. If You Are Experiencing Regular Diarrhea and Constipation
Having diarrhea can feel like a constant urge to defecate, or having a mostly liquid stool. On the other hand, constipation feels like you are struggling to defecate, or very little comes out.
You might only go once or twice a week and feel like you are straining and that it’s difficult to pass a stool.
If you have diarrhea lasting more than four days, it’s recommended to seek professional help from a gastroenterologist.
2. Unexplained Weight Change
An unexpected change in weight, either weight loss or weight gain should be a red flag that something is not right.
Of course, if you are regularly eating unhealthy you can pick up weight, and if you are working out regularly you could lose weight, so you know your body best to make this kind of determination.
Fluctuations are normal, but an unintentional change of close to 10% over a 3-6 month period is a cause for concern.
Some diseases prevent the GI tract from properly absorbing food. This prevents us from putting on weight and can lead to vitamin deficiency.
3. You Are Over 45
Once you reach the 50-year mark, it’s highly recommended that you should see a gastroenterologist for a colorectal cancer screening, and younger if you have a family history of cancer.
A colonoscopy is widely known to actually prevent colon cancer before it starts, if caught at an early stage.
A gastroenterologist uses a colonoscopy to check for polyps and painlessly removes them, so they do not have the chance to turn cancerous.
Jaundice is a condition in which the skin and eyes develop a yellowish/orange colour due to the excess of a chemical called bilirubin.
Depending on the amount of bilirubin in the cells, the person might have a barely noticeable coloration in the eyes only. People with severe cases can have skin with a yellow tint.
Some cases can be treated with medication but others may require surgery.
5. Bloody Stool
If you notice blood in your stool, it’s usually a sign of something serious and you should schedule an appointment with a gastroenterologist immediately so they can perform a diagnosis and recommend appropriate treatment options. While it may turn out to be nothing, it could be a sign of cancer or ulcerative colitis.
6. Regular Heartburn
If you suffer from heartburn or acid reflux to the point that it’s interrupting your daily activities such as being able to work or sleep, a gastroenterologist can help.
Medications may help you relieve symptoms in the short term, but you should find out what the real problem is as it might be signs of a bigger problem that might need treatment.
7. Bloated Belly
If your clothes are suddenly feeling too tight or you wake up for several days in a row and you feel and look bloated, this is usually a sign of a stomach issue that needs to be looked at.
The cause could be nothing alarming or it could be something else that requires treatment.
8. You’ve Been Diagnosed with a Digestive Condition
If your family physician doctor has diagnosed you with a complex digestive disorder, such as Crohn’s disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Pancreatitis, GERD (gastroesophageal reflux), or Celiac disease, it’s important to consult with a gastroenterologist who will then advise you on a specialised treatment plan to relieve symptoms and work towards a path to cure your disease, if one is available.
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.