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Gastroenterology: Understanding Your Digestive System

Team AckoJul 3, 2023

Your digestive system is responsible for digestion, which allows you to obtain nutrients from food and eliminate waste from your body. Your body has a highly efficient mechanism known as the digestive tract that helps break down and use the food you consume. Gastroenterology can be understood as the study of treatment procedures that help in the management of digestive system-related conditions. A Gastroenterologist is a healthcare expert who specialises in detecting and treating digestive disorders. In this article, we will discuss more about Gastroenterology, its importance in managing the digestive system.




What is Gastroenterology?

Gastroenterology includes the study of the functionality and ailments of Gastrointestinal organs such as the oesophagus, stomach, small intestine, pancreas, colon, rectum, liver, bile duct, and gallbladder. The Gastrointestinal system is made up of hollow organs that store and transport nutrients throughout the body. The liver, gallbladder, and pancreas are also called Gastrointestinal organs since these organs store and produce digestive enzymes and juices and help with proper digestion.

The different components of the gastrointestinal system work together to help the body process and use key nutrients from the food that you consume. If you have any Gastrointestinal illnesses, your capacity to process food and eliminate waste may be hampered, affecting your overall health and wellness.

Importance of the digestive system

The digestive system is an intricate and important part of the human body. It starts with the mouth and ends with the rectum. 

Digestion is necessary because your body needs nutrients from the food you consume and the water you drink in order to remain healthy and thrive. Carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, fats, minerals, and water constitute nutrients together. The digestive system digests the food and absorbs nutrients from it, which in turn is used for energy, development, and cell repair.

Digestion issues can be more than just unpleasant sensations. Minor issues that are left ignored might develop into more troubling chronic disorders.

What are the most common Gastrointestinal disorders?

There are both temporary and chronic diseases and disorders that impact the Gastrointestinal System. Some of the common disorders may include the following.

  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): It is a disorder in which acid-containing components from your stomach frequently flow back up into your oesophagus.

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): It is a disorder in which your colon muscle contracts more frequently or less frequently than usual. People who have IBS complain about excessive gastritis, stomach pain, and cramps.

  • Lactose intolerance: It occurs when a person is unable to digest lactose, a sugar predominantly found in milk and dairy products.

  • Diverticulosis and diverticulitis: Diverticulosis is a disorder that causes tiny pouches or pockets to form in the wall or lining of any part of the digestive tract. These pockets form when the digestive tract's inner layer pushes the weak places in the outer layer. Diverticulitis is an inflammation of the diverticula, which are tiny pockets that can form on the inside of the colon.

  • Cancer: Gastrointestinal (GI) cancers are tumours that affect the tissues and organs of the digestive system. 

  • Crohn's disease: Crohn's disease causes intestinal irritation.

  • Celiac disease: It is an autoimmune disease. It causes damage to the small intestine. Gluten, a protein present in wheat, barley, and rye, causes harm to people with celiac disease.

  • Ulcers: Ulcers are wounds that form on the lining of the oesophagus, stomach, or small intestine. The most prevalent causes of ulcers are Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection and prolonged use of anti-inflammatory medicines.

  • Gastroenteritis (stomach flu): Gastroenteritis is an illness caused by a virus called rotavirus. It affects the stomach and upper part of the small intestine and causes diarrhoea and vomiting.

Warning signs of Digestive Disorder

If you continue to experience the following symptoms, it indicates that you have an emergency medical issue. These warning signs may include the following.

Gastroenterology treatment options

Depending on the type of disease, different treatments and procedures are available. Some of these procedures are mentioned below.

  • Endoscopy: It is a process that involves inserting a long, narrow tube with a camera on its tip into the mouth to inspect the digestive tract. This procedure is used to identify conditions like ulcers, inflammation, and tumours. The tube will be gradually inserted into your mouth, throat, and oesophagus. It will then be introduced into the stomach, where the camera will show images of any infections in the area.

  • Colonoscopy: This procedure is used to examine the colon for cancer and colon polyps. 

  • Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP): This procedure examines and treats liver, pancreas, and bile duct problems using endoscopy and X-rays. 

  • Biopsy: A biopsy is a technique in which a gastroenterologist examines a tiny tissue sample from the digestive tract under a microscope. This procedure is used to detect gastric ulcers, hepatitis, endometriosis, cancer, and other conditions.

  • Medications: Some digestive tract conditions do not require surgery or endoscopic procedures and can be addressed with medications. Proton pump inhibitors, antacids, laxatives, and anti-diarrheal medicines are among the medications used to treat Gastrointestinal issues.

  • Gastrointestinal Surgery: Surgery is used to treat conditions such as tumours, gastroesophageal reflux disease, gallbladder disease, colorectal cancer, and even weight loss. The most common surgeries may include laparoscopic, open, and bariatric (for weight loss and health benefits) surgeries.

How to maintain a healthy digestive system

Following are some techniques to keep your digestive system healthy.

  • Eat a nutritious diet: Consume a balanced diet. 

  • Drink plenty of water: Water facilitates the passage of food through your digestive system. Constipation can often be triggered by a lack of water in your body (dehydration).

  • Include fibre and probiotics in your diet: Fibre helps with digestion. Make sure to include both soluble and insoluble fibre in your diet. Probiotics contain beneficial bacteria that support your gut fight off harmful bacteria. They also produce beneficial chemicals that nourish the gut.

  • Exercise regularly: Physical exercise and gravitation both help in the passage of food through your digestive tract. Taking a leisurely walk after eating a meal may help your digestive system metabolise the food more easily.

  • Chew your food properly: Chewing helps the food ensure that your body has enough saliva for digestion. Chewing your food thoroughly also helps your digestive system absorb the nutrients from the food.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some FAQs related to Gastroenterology.


What are the symptoms of Gastrointestinal problems?

The common symptoms of Gastrointestinal problems may include bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, heartburn, incontinence, nausea and vomiting, pain in the abdomen, and bleeding.

How can I reduce my Gastrointestinal problems?

By following certain tips, you can reduce your Gastrointestinal issues.

  • Eat a balanced diet

  • Drink plenty of water

  • Include fibre and probiotics in your diet

  • Exercise regularly

  • Chew your food properly

  • Limit alcohol consumption and quit smoking

  • Manage your stress level

What foods to avoid if you have gastrointestinal problems?

Dairy products, spicy foods, caffeinated soda, fried foods, and alcohol are some foods to be avoided if you have Gastrointestinal issues.


Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. Please consult a doctor before making any health-related decisions.


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