The digestive system is a wonderful system that works hard to provide your body with the things it needs to promote great health! Within this system, there are a number of things that occur from the time food enters your body through the time it leaves as waste, and there are many organs that assist in this process. However, sometimes changes in digestion can occur, and while many issues or irritations are temporary, others are more serious and require immediate attention from your GI doctor, or gastroenterologist. If you notice or experience any of the following 4 signs, it’s time to schedule an appointment. 

You Experience Prolonged Heartburn

Heartburn is a condition that seems like a bit of a misnomer, but has everything to do with where you really feel the ‘burn’. It’s a condition that affects over 60 million Americans each month. Heartburn is an irritation in the throat or esophagus that is caused by stomach acid. While many cases of heartburn are temporary and due to the consumption of foods that can relax the lower esophageal sphincter or increase stomach acid, others experience a prolonged case that can’t be managed with simple over the counter antacids and medications. When your heartburn extends for a long period of time, it is called gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. If you are suffering from GERD, your GI doctor will likely conduct a test or tests including a barium x-ray, endoscopy, ambulatory acid probe test, or an esophageal manometry to confirm the diagnosis. 

Prolonged heartburn, or GERD, is something that you don’t have to suffer through and something from which you can find relief. Don’t delay, as the constant acid leaking up into your esophagus can cause severe, lasting damage that could even lead to cancer. Schedule an appointment with us as quickly as possible to find the relief you deserve and need to live a pain-free life.

You Experience a Significant, Prolonged Change in Your Bowel Habits

“Boy, those dirty nachos really got me!” “I haven’t pooped in weeks!” “Things are having a hard time passing through. I guess I need to add a little more fiber to my diet.” You may have used one of these statements, or a similar variation, in the past to describe the different bowel movements occurring that seemed a little different than normal.  While these changes may not seem like a big deal, they could actually be the red flag that indicates something more serious is going on. Bowel movements can vary from person to person. However, if the regularity, consistency, color, and even control over your movements changes and is prolonged, it is time to consult with your GI doctor. There are many things that can cause a change in bowel habits, including many medical conditions that required attention and often medical assistance. These include celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, diverticulosis, IBS, cancers, nerve damage, and ulcerative colitis. Your GI doctor can help you identify the cause and put you back on the right track for your desired regularity and improved health. 

You Find Blood in Your Stool

There are not many things in life that are more frightening than finding blood in your poop. However, when you find it, it’s a sign that things could be significantly wrong. Blood in the stool means that there is an issue involving bleeding somewhere in your digestive tract. There are several conditions that could be causing you to see blood in your stool, including diverticular disease, colitis, polyps, hemorrhoids, or even cancer. Once you’ve consulted with your GI doctor, one of several tests may be conducted to determine the cause of the bleeding. These tests can include, but are not limited to an endoscopy, an enteroscopy, a colonoscopy, a nasogastric lavage, an EGD (esophagogastroduodenoscopy), a barium x-ray, or even an angiography. If the bleeding can’t be located, a doctor may conduct a laparotomy. 

While not all cases of finding blood in your stool indicate severe issues, it is never something to ignore or put off. Schedule a visit immediately so we can evaluate the issue and move you towards a solution!

You’ve Missed Your Scheduled Cancer Screening

We’re not sure if you noticed, but 2020 happened this past year (*sarcasm intended). With that, many people had their ‘elective’ procedures canceled or postponed due to COVID-19. If that’s you, or someone you know, then it’s time to reschedule, as cancer isn’t something that ‘postpones’ due to pandemics and other worldwide disruptors. When it comes to cancer and other diseases, the key to early detection is getting screened. The earlier that you are able to diagnose colorectal cancer, the easier it potentially becomes to treat. Screening can help find precancerous polyps so they can be removed before they become cancerous. The American Cancer Societyreports that over 4% of men and women will develop colorectal cancer during their lifetime. It is the 2nd leading cause of cancer deaths in men and women combined and it represents over 8% of all newly diagnosed cancers. In light of this information, it is recommended that screenings begin around the age of 50 unless one has a family history with colorectal cancer, in which case screenings should happen earlier and by the advice of a doctor. If you are at an age for screening or have missed your regularly scheduled screening, you should contact your GI doctor immediately and schedule an appointment

Lastly, you may have recently been diagnosed with a gastrointestinal condition by your primary care physician. If you have, you should highly consider a visit with your GI doctor. Look, we love our primary care physicians! They are amazing, extremely gifted, and do awesome work to keep you and your family on the track to great health. However, there are good reasons for consulting with a specialist when it comes to your gastrointestinal health. Specialists like GI doctors have an advanced knowledge of being able to identify and treat certain gastro illnesses in patients. If you are trying to work or manage your way through irritable bowel disease (IBD), hemorrhoids, acid reflux, or other gastrointestinal issues, your GI doctor can help you pinpoint your issue and provide a pathway to relief.