The internal organ in which the major part of the digestion of food occurs, being (in humans and many mammals) a pear-shaped enlargement of the alimentary canal linking the oesophagus to the small intestine.
A gastroenterologist is a physician who has specialized training and experience in managing diseases of the gastrointestinal tract – the stomach, intestines, esophagus, liver, pancreas, colon and rectum. The training involves more than five years of additional education in internal medicine and gastroenterology following medical school. This includes training in endoscopy – the use of narrow, flexible lighted tubes with built-in video cameras used to see the inside of the GI tract.
The unique training and experience of gastroenterologists allows them to provide high-quality, comprehensive care for patients with GI conditions. Studies have shown that gastroenterologists perform higher quality colonoscopies and provide more comprehensive care for gastrointestinal conditions than other physicians. This translates to more accurate detection of polyps and cancer, fewer complications from procedures and less time in the hospital for patients treated by GI specialists.
Patients are usually referred to gastroenterologist by their primary care physician. Your physician may recommend you see a gastroenterologist if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms of GI disorders:
There are also specific conditions to watch out for. See your physician if you have signs or symptoms of these conditions:
Heartburn/GERD: If you have frequent heartburn for six months or longer and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) aren't helping, you may need treatment for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). See your physician.
Inflammatory bowel disease: Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a group of disorders, including Crohn's disease, that cause inflammation of the intestines. Symptoms include:
If you experience these symptoms, see your physician.
Irritable bowel syndrome: Although irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) does not cause permanent damage or lead to serious disease, it can be uncomfortable. Symptoms include:
If you experience these symptoms persistently, see your physician. IBS can often be managed with lifestyle changes.
Celiac disease: Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that makes your body unable to process gluten, which is found in wheat, rye and barley. Symptoms include:
If you think you may have celiac disease, see your physician. A blood test can help determine whether you have this condition.
A colonoscopy is a safe and effective method of inspecting the full length of the colon and rectum to screen for colon cancer. Using a small camera attached to a long, flexible tube called a colonoscope, physicians can see inside the colon, perform biopsies, remove colon polyps and diagnose colon and rectal conditions.