Gastroenterology is an area of medical specialization that involves the digestive organs. Gastroenterologists – or GI doctors – are physicians with education and training beyond internal medicine that diagnose and treat diseases and disorders of the digestive tract. These include gut cancers and cirrhosis, as well as inflammatory conditions and acquired deformities, such as irritable bowel syndrome, hernias, and hemorrhoids. Keep reading to find out more about gastroenterology and what gastroenterologists do.
What Organs Are a Part of the Digestive System?
Your digestive system is also known as your gastrointestinal system, or GI system for short. It begins with the salivary glands, structures within the mouth, and continues down the throat to the organs in the abdomen, like the stomach and intestines. It ends with the rectum and anus. Besides the stomach and intestines, the GI system includes the liver, pancreas, and gallbladder.
In total, the digestive system takes in and processes water to hydrate the body and extracts nutrients from food. Nutrients are essential for tissue regeneration and for the energy to move, think, and operate the body’s other major organ systems, such as the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. The digestive system also eliminates toxins and waste products of metabolism.
What Symptoms Should Be Evaluated by a Gastroenterologist?
Many people see gastroenterologists for preventive services, such as screening for colon cancer. However, your primary care physician may refer you to a GI doctor to investigate digestive symptoms which are persistent. Examples include:
- Rectal bleeding or bloody stools
- Weight loss or gain for unknown reasons
- Abdominal pain
- Problems with swallowing
You also may be referred to a GI specialist if your heredity puts you at risk for the development of certain cancers, Crohn’s disease, or other digestive system issues.
What Tests and Procedures Does Gastroenterology Involve?
A visit to a gastroenterology clinic involves a discussion of your symptoms, medical history, and medications you are currently taking. Your doctor may perform simple physical examinations like palpating the abdomen and examining the rectum with a gloved index finger.
However, gastroenterology can include far more sophisticated tests which yield detailed information useful in diagnosis and treatment plans. For instance, an upper endoscopy, or EGD, shows the physician the condition of the esophagus and allows for tissue removal (for biopsy) and for other interventions, such as dilation of narrow strictures. Another example is the well-known colonoscopy with which the gastroenterologist examines the large intestine and removes polyps, the precursors to colon cancer.
GI doctors perform many kinds of treatments. They prescribe medications to treat damaging acid reflux and stomach ulcers. They band hemorrhoids in the rectum and surgically repair hiatal hernias, remove gallstones, and unravel the mysteries of food intolerance. Gastroenterologists also partner with oncologists in treating cancer of the liver, pancreas, esophagus, colon, and rectum.
Gastroenterology Involves Patient Education
Digestive system problems can involve poor absorption and use of essential nutrients. As such, gastroenterology delves deeply into the research of food allergies and sensitivities, diet, vitamin supplementation, and more. Monitored weight loss through medications, diet, and bariatric surgeries also fall under the purview of gastroenterology.
Gastroenterology Specialists in Brooklyn and Westlake, Ohio
For the finest and most innovative gastroenterology care, see the specialists at North Shore Gastroenterology & Endoscopy Center. Our team of physicians is board-certified and delivers the most innovative diagnostic assessments and treatments available.
To learn more about how gastroenterology can optimize your health, call our office to arrange a consultation at (440) 808-1212. Additionally, request one by filling in our online form here. We hope to see you soon!