Your digestive system consists of your esophagus, stomach, colon, pancreas, and liver. Consequently, it's no wonder that symptoms of GI problems occur. But when they do show up in ways that you don't expect, you might not realize that a visit to the gastroenterologist is in order. If you experience any one of these symptoms, be sure to book that appointment:
1. You've got a lump in your throat
If you are having trouble swallowing food, get it checked - especially if the feeling gets more intense over time. In some cases, even water can become hard to swallow. And when pain with drinking water occurs it can be a sign of a serious GI problem. Your doctor will likely also want to know if your swallowing problems come with a side of coughing, hoarseness, hiccups, or feeling full after just a few bites of food. These could indicate esophageal cancer.
2. Your gas clears the room
While flatulence is normal - the average person passes almost 2 liters of gas each day - if it's paired with unpleasant side effects, this is a cause of concern. Be on the lookout for abdominal discomfort, change in bowel habits or unexplained weight loss. Unusually foul-smelling gas could be a signal that a parasite called giardia is infecting your intestines.
3. Your pants are suddenly too tight
If you're having a harder time zipping your jeans than you did a few days ago, it may be due to bloating - a common problem that can be a result of overeating or swallowing too much air. But if sudden bloating occurs for no obvious reason and is accompanied by symptoms like pain or blood in the stool, it is best to speak to a GI doctor. It could be due to a dairy digestion problem, or it could indicate gastroesophageal reflux disease, irritable bowel syndrome, gallstones, constipation or celiac disease.
4. Your pants are suddenly too loose
Unexplained weight loss can be a symptom of many health problems. Seeing your digestive system is a great place to start. The first things to exclude are cancers of the colon, pancreas, and stomach. Other reasons you might be dropping pounds could include conditions like celiac disease or Crohn's disease, which interfere with your body's ability to absorb nutrients.
5. Bleeding is never normal
With regard to the rectum, bleeding is never normal. Bright red bleeding you see on toilet paper may be from hemorrhoids - swollen blood vessels on your bottom that can itch or hurt. While hemorrhoids can be managed, if bleeding is ongoing or not linked to this, it is essential that you see a GI doctor.
6. You've stopped pumping iron in your blood
Iron helps red blood cells deliver oxygen to the body's tissues. When you're running low on your iron, your whole body will feel it. You may feel very tired, experience headaches, have yellowish skin, brittle nails, hair loss, and general overall weakness. Your iron levels can be checked with a simple blood test. Though if you turn out to be anemic, you may need to see your GI specialist. Iron deficiency caused by anemia can be due to chronic, unseen blood loss in the GI tract from things like colon cancer, stomach cancer, ulcers, inflammatory bowel disease or superficial blood vessels called angiodysplasia.