Common problems in the digestive system include stomach pain, acid reflux, constipation, and diarrhea. If you are experiencing issues in your digestive system and need to consult with a specialist, you might be wondering if there’s a difference between a gastroenterologist or a gastrointestinal (GI) doctor. Are the two different, and whom do you consult for digestive problems? Read on to find out.
Gastrointestinal vs. Gastroenterology
To understand the difference, first familiarize yourself with the following terms.
The word gastrointestinal is associated with the digestive system, which breaks down the food we eat into nutrients. The digestive system is composed of the gastrointestinal tract, liver, pancreas, and gallbladder. Also called the GI tract or alimentary canal, the gastrointestinal tract comprises the following interconnected hollow organs:
- Small and large intestines
Meanwhile, gastroenterology refers to the medical specialty that focuses on the digestive system. This covers treating conditions related to any parts of the digestive system, which includes the GI tract.
A Gastroenterologist Is a GI Doctor
Provided the definitions, a gastroenterologist and a gastrointestinal doctor are the same thing. They both refer to specialists of the digestive system. A gastroenterologist’s formal education consists of the following:
- 3 years residency in internal medicine
- 2–3 years of fellowship in gastroenterology
After their fellowship, they become board-eligible to take the gastroenterology board certification test from the American Board of Internal Medicine. They become board-certified after successfully passing the test.
GI doctors, through a rigorous application process, can become fellows of prestigious societies, such as the American College of Gastroenterology and the American College of Physicians. Fellows of these organizations are authorized to use FACG or FACP, respectively, after their names.
When to Seek a GI Doctor
If you’re feeling pain in your digestive tract, it may be time to consult with a GI doctor or gastroenterologist. Some of the common conditions in the digestive system are as follows.
Diseases of the Esophagus
Difficulty in taking and swallowing tablets or capsules can irritate the esophagus. Some conditions that could develop in the esophagus include:
- Stricture or narrowed esophagus
- Achalasia, a rare condition that impedes food from passing the esophagus
Some medicines can cause ulcers (sores) along the lining of the esophagus. Examples are:
- Vitamin C
- Some specific types of antibiotics
Another common condition that affects the esophagus is gastroesophageal reflux, in which a weakened lower esophageal sphincter allows stomach acid to flow back to the esophagus and irritate it.
Sudden Weight Loss
If you’re not frequently exercising or actively dieting, sudden weight loss can be a sign of disease. Crohn’s disease, the inflammation of the digestive tract, and cancers in the digestive organs have weight loss as a symptom. Immediately seek medical help for any unexplained weight loss you may be experiencing.
Many factors can cause abdominal pain, such as indigestion and lactose intolerance. Usually, over-the-counter medicines or taking some rest will eventually make stomach pain go away. Certain medications may also impair the stomach lining. If the pain persists, consult with a gastrointestinal doctor to determine the problem and appropriate treatment plan.
Ulcers, perforation, bleeding, gastritis, or inflammation of the stomach lining are just some of the problems that may present as stomach pain. Consulting with a GI doctor is the best way to diagnose your concern and receive the proper care you need.
Disorders Concerning Bowel Movement
Constipation and diarrhea are common problems with bowel movement. While these may present alone and are often short-lived, persistent constipation or diarrhea may indicate a more serious gastrointestinal problem. For instance, Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can result in chronic diarrhea. On the other hand, constipation is a common symptom of IBS, intestinal obstruction, and colorectal cancer.
Bloody stools are another common bowel movement problem. This may be a sign of hemorrhoids, which are swollen veins in the rectum. For people in their forties or older, this may signify colorectal cancer.
GI Doctor in California
A GI doctor is also called a gastroenterologist. They specialize in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of diseases of the digestive system. If you experience any symptoms affecting your digestive tract, don’t hesitate to consult with a GI doctor for treatment before it escalates to a bigger problem.
Are you in need of a reliable and trustworthy GI doctor? Look no further than the largest gastroenterology group in California, inSite Digestive Health Care. We provide quality and personalized care for all our patients. Get in touch with us by setting up an appointment online or calling a clinic near you. We look forward to helping you!