Let’s look at the 6 most common Gastroenterology symptoms and what they could mean for your health. Have you ever wondered if that tummy ache could be more than just “something you ate?” Despite the prevalence of gastrointestinal conditions, many of them are largely underestimated and overlooked mainly because people have very little understanding of what they are and what causes them. According to the American College of Gastroenterology, most patients who are experience gastrointestinal discomforts know very little about their symptoms — including how and why they should be promptly and effectively managed.
Here’s a helpful guide to common gastroenterology symptoms. If any of these become persistent or start to affect your quality of life, it could be a sign of a gastrointestinal disorder – something that possibly requires medical intervention and a change in lifestyle habits. Your best course of action is to consult a gastroenterologist, who specializes in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of the full range of conditions that affect the entire digestive system.
Abdominal pain can range from an ache to debilitating cramps and has many potential causes, which include:
• Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)– Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
• Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
• Stomach cancer
• Trapped gas
If you experience the following along with abdominal pain, see your gastroenterologist immediately for proper diagnosis and prompt treatment, as these are signs of potentially fatal conditions.
(also called stomach flu) – acute inflammation or irritation of the stomach and intestines caused by a virus, bacterium, or parasite
• Loss of appetite
• Bloody stools
• Inability to keep food down for more than two days
• Signs of dehydration (including not urinating enough)
Inflammation of the appendix caused by blockage in the lining of the appendix or by viral, bacterial or parasitic infection
• Fever (low grade but may worsen as the condition progresses)
• Loss of appetite
• Nausea and vomiting
• Sudden and worsening pain on your navel or on the right side of your abdomen (especially when you cough, walk or make other movements)
Bloating also has many potential causes. Benign triggers can include medications and consumption of foods high in complex carbs. Serious triggers might be stomach, pancreatic and colon cancers or liver disease.
If you suffer from severe abdominal bloating for a prolonged period and it is accompanied by other symptoms like weight loss, bloody stools or constipation, consult with a gastroenterologist immediately to rule out serious digestive conditions.
Irregular and Loose Bowel Movements
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) defines constipation as having either hard, dry stools or having only fewer than three bowel movements every week. While constipation isn’t usually cause for concern, it is inconvenient and painful and may result in hemorrhoids or fissures. You can usually manage constipation with diet changes, proper hydration and exercise. Also avoid resisting the urge to pass stool.
If you are passing loose, watery stools (bowel movements) three or more times in one day, you may be experiencing the opposite of constipation—diarrhea. The condition can either be acute or chronic.
Diarrhea is considered acute if it lasts one to two days. It’s usually mild and resolves on its own. However, you should visit your gastroenterologist right away if:
• It lasts more than two days
• It is accompanied by high fever (above 102 degrees F), chills and/or vomiting
• You are passing watery stools six or more times in 24 hours
• You are passing bloody or purulent stools
These symptoms have various causes, many of which are serious conditions, such as food poisoning, parasitic infection, colon polyps and stomach cancer.
Chronic diarrhea lasting two to four weeks could signify a digestive disorder, such as IBD. You should visit a gastroenterologist to prevent potentially serious complications, such as colorectal cancer and megacolon (the rapid widening and swelling of the colon).
Heartburn refers to the burning sensation in your chest, which is often worse after you eat, in the evening, or when you lie down or bend over. Occasional heartburn is common and no cause for alarm. However, if it occurs two or more times a week, it is an indication of a chronic condition referred to as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
If left untreated, the acid from your stomach can erode your esophagus and lead to inflammation of the esophageal lining (esophagitis), which can cause bleeding, chronic scarring and ulcers. This will eventually interfere with your ability to swallow.
Digestive Healthcare Close to Home
At Ocean Family Gastroenterology, our board-certified gastroenterologists provide comprehensive, high-quality care. We offer several GI diagnostic procedures on-site so our patients can get quick confirmation of their diagnosis and prompt treatment.