When your primary care physician sends you to see a gastroenterologist they’re essentially sending you to see a gut health doctor. These are doctors who specialize in things like abnormal bowel movements, rectal bleeding, frequent heartburn, abdominal pain, bloating, trouble swallowing, and colorectal cancer. As you can see, the gastrointestinal system isn’t limited to your stomach and intestines. Instead, it includes your esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon and rectum, pancreas, gallbladder, bile ducts, and liver. This is why there are several different ailments that these doctors can help you manage today.
Abnormal Bowel Movements
When you’re suffering from constipation (fewer than three bowel movements per week) you may have a blockage, neurological issues, muscular or hormonal malfunction, or simply be maintaining a poor diet. This is something your doctor can help treat. They can also help you if you’re suffering from diarrhea (a runny stool that persists for more than a few days). This may be caused by a virus, parasite/bacteria, lactose intolerance, a reaction to a medication, or it may be indicative of other digestive disorders, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
There are many reasons why you may have blood in your stool. Typically it’s indicative of bleeding in your digestive tract. This could be caused by an anal fissure, hemorrhoids, or cancer.
While you don’t need to be concerned about having heartburn occasionally, if it happens frequently you may be suffering from Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD: when acid reflux occurs frequently), Barrett’s Esophagus, or esophageal cancer. Your gastroenterologist will test you to determine a diagnosis. Once they know for sure what’s causing your problem they’ll be able to prescribe medication that’ll help alleviate your discomfort.
Abdominal Pain and Bloating
You probably don’t need to see a specialist if you only suffer from mild abdominal pain and bloating occasionally. However, if you find yourself suffering from these things more frequently or if it’s accompanied by nausea or painful bowel movements, you’ll want to see a gastroenterologist to have further testing done.
Esophageal Pain or Difficulty Swallowing (Dysphagia)
When you find that you frequently have difficulty swallowing or you can’t swallow at all you may need to have an upper endoscopy to determine the best course of treatment.
The Bottom Line
These are just a few of the many reasons why you may need to see a gut health doctor today. Fortunately, their specialization is there so you can start feeling better again soon.