Gastroenterology looks at the diseases and disorders of the digestive system. Gastroenterologists are studying the physiology of the gastrointestinal organs including how food is moving through the stomach and intestine, how nutrients are being digested and absorbed, how the waste is removed and the normal function of the liver.
This field has recently been revolutionised with the introduction of the fibre-optic endoscope, a miniature video camera that enables the consultant to examine the digestive tract. Other new imaging techniques such as CT scans and ultrasound mean a more accurate diagnosis and earlier treatment is possible.
When you should see a Gastroenterologist?
If you are suffering from any gastrointestinal problem, your GP will be the first point of contact and will refer you to a specialist if needed. Some of the most common symptoms for gastrointestinal disorders are:
- Abdominal pain and bloating
- Change in bowel habits
- Excessive gas or belching
- Loss of appetite and weight
- Oesophageal pain
- Problems with swallowing
- Rectal bleeding
Among the most common disorders of the digestive system we can find the following:
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): suffering for more than 6 months of heartburn may require treatment from a specialist.
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): when the intestine is inflamed, manifesting through severe or chronic abdominal pain, diarrhoea, unexplained weight loss, rectal bleeding, joint pain, fever.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): this condition does not lead to permanent damage but it can be uncomfortable. Among the symptoms are: cramping, abdominal pain, severe bloating, diarrhoea or constipation.
Gastroenteritis: inflammation of the stomach, manifesting through vomiting and diarrhoea Coeliac disease: autoimmune disease that doesn’t let your body process gluten. Among the symptoms are: gas, diarrhoea, stomach pain, fatigue, weight loss, itchy rashes.