Almost everyone experiences the occasional upset stomach or bout of heartburn. Usually, these conditions are short-lived and nothing to be overly concerned about. But sometimes, they may be suggestive of a more sinister issue, and thus, they'll warrant a visit to the gastroenterologist. So what are some signs you need to see one of these medical professionals? Take a look.
Consistently Loose Stools
Your stool should be soft, but formed. If it is occasionally looser than this, then you don't have much reason to worry. This could just be due to dietary fluctuations or stress. On the other hand, if your stool is loose more often than it is formed, you need to see a gastroenterologist. This could be a sign of irritable bowel syndrome, an absorption disorder, or a host of other conditions. Problems with loose stools are usually associated with trouble in the colon, so your doctor may order tests like a colonoscopy or rectal exam.
If you are having heartburn more than once or twice per week, this is a red flag. You may be experiencing gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, a condition in which the muscle between your esophagus and stomach fails to close properly, thereby allowing your acidic stomach contents to travel into your esophagus. If left untreated, GERD can lead to esophageal ulcers and cancer, so definitely schedule an appointment with a doctor ASAP.
Pain After Eating
Abdominal pain after eating can be a sign of a problem with your gall bladder or pancreas. You may notice the pain especially after eating certain foods, such as those that are high in fat. Gall bladder and pancreas problems rarely go away on their own, and they can become much worse if left unaddressed, sometimes leading to the need for emergency surgery. It is better to get checked out now so that if surgery is needed, you can schedule it on your own terms and timeline.
If you have bloody stool, this is never a sign to ignore. If the blood is bright red, it is probably coming from the lower colon and may be due to anything from polyps to hemorrhoids. If it is darker red, it is coming from further up in the digestive tract — perhaps from an ulcer. All of these conditions require treatment, so do not delay seeking care. The answer may well be that you just have a sensitive hemorrhoid, but you never want to assume.
If you notice any of these symptoms, don't hesitate to contact a local gastroenterology doctor.