Gut Problems? Here Are the Signs and Symptoms of a GI Condition
By Jane Meggitt
If you are struggling with gut problems, you need answers as to the cause of your GI symptoms. Gastrointestinal conditions run the gamut from the easily treatable to life-threatening. If GI symptoms persist for more than a few days (or come and go), schedule an appointment with your doctor.
What Does GI Mean?
GI refers to the gastrointestinal tract. The GI tract consists of every organ through which food and liquids travel through the body, starting with the mouth and ending with the anus. Beyond the mouth, these organs include the:
- Throat (or pharynx)
- Small intestine
- Large intestine
Common GI symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain
- Blood in the stool
If there is blood in the stool or the vomitus, see your doctor at once.
Struggling With a GI Condition
GI conditions not only affect your health, but they also affect your quality of life and ability to earn a living. While it is possible to tolerate a GI condition in the short-term, without treatment symptoms may worsen. Your life likely revolves around your GI issues. If you experience any of the following, your GI conditions have become a struggle:
- Avoiding social or business meetings due to concern about a constant need to use the restroom
- Inability to dine at restaurants or in private homes because of GI issues
- Fatigue or depression.
The good news is that many common GI disorders are curable or manageable. You may control your symptoms rather than them controlling you.
Common GI Disorders
Gastrointestinal Reflux Disease (also called GERD) — When stomach acid flows frequently into the esophagus, this acid reflux can damage this tube’s lining. Mild GERD is generally manageable with over-the-counter medications, but serious cases require prescription drugs or surgery. While chest pain from heartburn is a frequent GERD symptom, it is also indicative of a heart attack. So, seek medical treatment immediately if you’re suffering chest pain.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease — IBD involves chronic inflammation of the GI tract due to immune system defects. Conditions such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease fall under the IBD umbrella.
- Abdominal cramping
- Blood in the feces
- Persistent diarrhea
- Weight loss
IBD may respond to medication. However, in serious cases, surgery is necessary to remove damaged sections of the intestinal tract.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome — IBS is among the most common issues affecting the large intestine. There is no cure for this chronic condition, but careful management including diet and lifestyle changes allows many patients to lead normal lives.
Peptic Ulcers — The bacterial infection Helicobacter pylori, or H. pylori, is a leading cause of peptic ulcers. Ulcers create holes in the stomach wall. Symptoms of peptic ulcers include burning stomach pain, burping and weight loss. Bleeding ulcers may reveal themselves with blood in the stool.
Unfortunately, some GI symptoms are indicative of GI system cancers. As with most cancers, early detection can mean a better prognosis. The following are among the most common GI cancers:
- Colorectal Cancer — Polyps are growths that form on the colon or rectum’s inner wall. Most are benign but some become malignant. Changes in bowel habits are a common sign of colon cancer. Follow your doctor’s recommendations for colon cancer screening to benefit from early detection.
- Esophageal Cancer — Symptoms of this type of cancer often do not appear until the disease is fairly advanced. Most patients first struggle with heartburn or difficulty swallowing.
- Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors — GIST are sarcomas which are cancers that form in the tissues. While GISTs may appear anywhere in the GI tract, they usually occur in the stomach or small intestine. GIST treatment includes surgical removal of the tumor and possibly chemotherapy.
- Stomach Cancer — Also known as gastric cancer, stomach cancer symptoms initially resemble those of other GI disorders, such as bloating, appetite loss, indigestion and abdominal pain. Treatment may include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, immunotherapy and targeted therapy using drugs to attack specific cancer cells.
Yosemite Pathology and Precision Pathology offers GI pathology services among our board range of specialties. We partner with GASTROQ™ the premier provider among GI pathology services. We provide a full spectrum of GI biopsy and cytology services. At Yosemite Pathology and Precision Pathology, we have been advancing anatomic pathology in the Western United States for over 70 years. For more information, contact us today.
Jane Meggitt’s writing has appeared in dozens of publications, including USA Today, Zack’s, Financial Advisor, nj.com, The Houston Chronicle and The Nest. She is a graduate of New York University.
National Cancer Institute – gastrointestinal tract
American Cancer Society – What Are Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors? (cancer.org)
Yale Medicine – Gastrointestinal Cancers: Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases – Eating, Diet, & Nutrition for Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Mayo Clinic – Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)