Gastroenterologists are doctors who diagnose and treat conditions of the digestive tract. It is therefore fairly obvious that if you are dealing with stomach or abdominal pain, this is the kind of doctor you should see. However, stomach pain is not the only symptom that brings people in to see a gastrointestinal (GI) doctor. Here are some other symptoms which, if noticed, should prompt you to see a GI specialist.
You have a burning sensation in your chest or throat
Do you ever feel like your chest or throat is burning? It may feel as though someone poured hot liquid down your throat, or like there is an abrasion deep down. These sensations are usually due to heartburn. While the occasional bout can be fairly normal, suffering from heartburn on a regular basis often means you have a more serious issue, such as a weak esophageal sphincter. This is not something you should ignore, since in the long term, heartburn can lead to esophageal damage and even esophageal cancer. A GI doctor can send a camera down your throat to see what's amiss. They may then prescribe medications to increase muscle tone in your sphincter, or other medications to increase the pH of your stomach.
You're often bloated
Being bloated all of the time is not normal, whether or not the bloating is accompanied by pain. Bloating can be caused by irritation to the large intestine, which could be caused by an autoimmune condition, food allergies, or even colon cancer. You should see a GI doctor, who may collaborate with a dietitian to put you on an elimination diet. This can rule out food sensitivities as the cause of your bloating. Also, expect to have a colonoscopy performed in this case.
Your bowel movements are irregular
Irregular bowel movements can mean many things. Here are a few such complaints that warrant a visit to the GI doctor.
- Constipation: struggling to "go" or only going on occasion
- Diarrhea: consistently or often having loose, runny stool
- Discolored stools: stool that is white, gray, very pale, or black
- Thin stools: stools that are pencil-thin
These issues can be caused by anything from colon cancer to a food allergy. A GI doctor can conduct a series of tests to figure out what's amiss.
Stomach pain is definitely not the only reason to see a GI doctor. Make an appointment if you struggle with any or all of the symptoms above.