The Year of COVID-19 was one fraught with devastating consequences from the coronavirus that swept through the United States and world. However, there were also unintended, more peripheral consequences that came as a result of the sheer attention given to this pandemic. There was such a huge focus placed on COVID-19 (and rightfully so!) that many simply neglected other areas of health in their lives despite noticing signs of concern, including those conditions affecting the digestive system. So, as we start the new year off on a fresh note, we thought it would be great to remind you of some of the reasons you should see a GI doctor immediately. While some are more obvious - like finding blood in your stool or missing scheduled cancer screening by several months, others may not be as obvious. In either case, the following symptoms and signs necessitate a quickly scheduled visit to your GI doctor. 

You’ve Developed New Food Sensitivities and Intolerances 

As we get older, it isn’t uncommon to experience more food sensitivities. However, if you’ve abruptly developed these sensitivities, intolerances, or allergies to certain foods regardless of your age, it could be an indicator of a more serious issue called Celiac disease. If you have Celiac disease, you aren’t alone, as over 3 million Americans suffer through this disease. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease where people have a very difficult time digesting gluten as it causes damage to their small intestine. People who have Celiac disease ultimately have it for their entire life. Unfortunately, statistics show that 4 in 5 Americans with Celiac disease are not diagnosed and are needlessly suffering. This means that through a change in diet, 80% of people with Celiac disease can manage their symptoms and promote intestinal healing. If you are suffering through Celiac disease, a consultation is worth your time to see if you can mitigate some of the symptoms. In addition, you should consult your GI doctor regarding Celiac disease when you have diarrhea or digestive issues that last over two weeks. Celiac disease also tends to be genetic, so if it runs in your family, you should go ahead and schedule an appointment to get tested. 

You Notice a Significant Change in Bowel Habits

While some changes in bowel habits 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 on the right treatment plan. 

Your Heartburn Has Overextended Its Stay 

Has your heartburn overstayed its welcome? Has the constant burn and suffering lasted too long? If so, it’s time to contact your GI doctor. Heartburn is an irritation in the throat that comes from the lower esophageal sphincter allowing stomach acid back up and into the esophagus. It is called heartburn because the burning sensation seems to come from the area around your heart even though it is not a cardiovascular issue. Heartburn that takes residence for an extended period of time is called gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. GERD can be diagnosed by your GI doctor using any one of the following tests: a barium x-ray, endoscopy, ambulatory acid probe test, or an esophageal manometry. 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 Have a Difficult Time Swallowing

The term for someone who is having a difficult time swallowing is dysphagia. Dysphagia affects 20% of people over the age of 50 and up to 15 million adults in the United States. Dysphagia is a frightening feeling that is normally the cause of either muscle or nerve damage. When the swallowing mechanisms aren’t working properly, the food can sometimes enter the trachea instead of the esophagus (aspiration). While this happens periodically for most humans, those that persistently experience this can develop more severe complications that require medical assistance. If you are suffering through dysphagia, there are treatment options available for you that your GI doctor can prescribe. This is not a condition to mess around with or put off. Contact us immediately to schedule an appointment to get the treatment you need. 

You Have Prolonged Abdominal Pain or Bloating

We’ve all had that feeling before, where our stomachs are full and making all kinds of crazy noises while containing a completely abnormal amount of gas. And let’s be honest - we are all just hoping that the gas just passes right along so we can experience some much needed relief! Abdominal discomfort or bloating on their own don’t necessarily indicate a dire problem, but when coupled with severe pain, high fevers, blood in the stool, diarrhea, or vomiting, you should see a GI doctor. Some of the most common causes of prolonged abdominal pain and bloating include one’s diet, high stress levels, medications, and certain conditions, like Crohn's Disease, IBS and Ulcerative Colitis. In many cases, making lifestyle changes can help put you on the right track when it comes to decreasing your pain and bloating. However, in more severe cases, other treatments and plans are available. If you are suffering through any of these symptoms or feel you may have an issue that lifestyle changes can’t help, it’s time to contact your GI doctor.  

Overall, when it comes to your health, it is incredibly important to be aware of your body so you can notice any changes that may indicate serious or potentially serious conditions. If and when you notice these abnormalities and are concerned, please contact us to set up a visit where we can help diagnose the issue and put you on a path towards improved health.