Health Tips from a Mother of Three

These Often-Ignored Symptoms Demand A Gastroenterologist's Attention

Gastroenterologists are doctors who specialize in diagnosing and treating diseases of the digestive system. People often delay going to the gastroenterologist until they are experiencing serious symptoms, such as persistent diarrhea or abdominal cramping. However, if you pay close attention to your body, you can often pick up on earlier signs that something is not quite right with your digestive tract. If you notice any of these often-ignored symptoms, then you'll want to make plans to see a GI specialist soon.

Frequent Burping

Everyone burps now and then. It's your body's way of releasing any gases that have built up in the stomach. But if you feel like you're always burping and you're struggling to hold it in, this could be a sign of a bigger issue. You could have GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, a condition in which the sphincter at the bottom of your esophagus does not close properly. Right now, it may only be causing you to belch, but it can lead to esophageal ulcers and an increased risk of esophageal cancer. A GI doctor can easily diagnose it and make sure you get treatment before symptoms become worse.

Trouble Swallowing

Frequent and persistent trouble swallowing is hard to ignore. But if you sometimes find yourself hesitating to swallow or struggling to get food down, you may just shrug it off. This could be a mistake. Trouble swallowing can be an indicator of GERD or another esophageal issue. It can also be a sign of a neurological condition, such as MS. A GI doctor is a good first doctor to see. They can rule out any esophageal explanations for your trouble swallowing and refer you to a neurologist for further testing if needed.

Pencil-Thin Stools

Do you look at your stools, wonder if they're unusually thin, shrug it off, and go on with your day? You're not alone. Pencil-thin stools are easy to ignore if you're not having any other bowel issues. But they could be an early indicator of colon cancer. There may be growth or polyp getting in the way and preventing the stool from being any wider. A GI specialist will likely recommend a colonoscopy to be sure.

Seeing a gastroenterologist isn't always fun, but if you have any of the symptoms above, it's a good idea to get checked out — just to be sure. The longer you wait for treatment, the harder most conditions are to treat.