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If you have something wrong with your digestive system, there is a good chance your doctor will refer you to a gastroenterologist. This type of doctor specializes in gastroenterology, which is the branch of medicine that focuses on disorders that affect the digestive system.
Common symptoms for digestive disorders include bloating, constipation, heartburn, nausea, and stomach pain. If you have any of these symptoms, a gastroenterologist may need to treat you for one of the following digestive disorders.
1. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
About 20 percent of the people in the United States have GERD. This digestive disorder occurs when the contents of the stomach go up into the esophagus. GERD is also referred to as acid indigestion, reflux, or heartburn. Those who are obese, pregnant, or smoke regularly are at a higher risk for GERD.
Certain medications, such as sedatives, calcium channel blockers, and tricyclic antidepressants, can make GERD symptoms worse. Treatment options include medications that either neutralize stomach acid or reduce acid production, and surgical procedures, such as the fundoplication or implanting the LINX device.
2. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Up to 15 percent of the world's population has IBS. In the United States, this digestive disorder affects up to 45 million people. Those with this digestive disorder are believed to have a more sensitive colon than others. Certain foods and stress can aggravate the symptoms of IBS. Risk factors that increase one's chances of getting IBS include being female, having a family history of the disease, and high anxiety.
There is no cure for IBS, however, the symptoms of the disease can be managed. Treatment options for symptom management include avoiding certain foods, drinking plenty of fluids, exercising on a regular basis, and taking probiotics. There are also prescription medications that help to relax the colon.
3. Celiac Disease
About 1 out of 100 people around the world have celiac disease. Considered an autoimmune disease, those who have this digestive disorder cannot properly digest a protein called gluten. Gluten is found in rye, wheat, durum, malt, and barley. When ingested, gluten damages the villi of the small intestine. These villi play an important role in the digestive system as they help to absorb nutrients.
Those who have other family members with celiac disease, have Type 1 diabetes, or who have another autoimmune condition, are at an increased risk for celiac disease. Treatment options include avoiding foods that contain gluten. People with celiac disease should also know that gluten isn't just found in food. Certain medications, supplements, lipstick products, some kinds of toothpaste, and communion wafers might also contain gluten.
To learn more, reach out to a local gastroenterology clinic.