Digestive Health

Gut feeling: When should you see a gastroenterologist?

Book Now with a Gastroenterologist
A young woman sitting at her kitchen table eating a piece of toast with jam and reading a book.


Don't ignore your gut health! Learn when to see a GI doctor and get the expert advice you need for optimal digestive wellness so you can feel your best. 


By Scott Estabrook, MD, Section Chief and Medical Director, Gastroenterology, Nuvance Health


Dealing with gastrointestinal problems such as heartburn or constipation? It might be time to speak with a gastroenterologist. Learn about what a gastroenterologist does and what types of digestive health issues they treat so you can get back to feeling your best. 


Learn more about gastroenterology services at Nuvance Health Digestive Health Institute.


Gastroenterologists and their role


A gastroenterologist is a doctor who focuses on diagnosing and treating diseases and conditions related to the digestive system. They are highly skilled and experienced in dealing with a broad range of gastrointestinal (GI) issues, including disorders of the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon, liver, pancreas and gallbladder.


When it comes to digestive health concerns, a gastroenterologist plays a critical role in providing specialized care. They possess in-depth knowledge of the digestive system and can assist in diagnosing and managing various gastrointestinal conditions such as acid reflux, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and liver diseases.


Related Content: Upset stomach or IBD? Recognize the symptoms and find relief


A key reason to get care from a gastroenterologist is their expertise in conducting diagnostic procedures. Gastroenterologists can use advanced technologies and tools that allow them to accurately diagnose and evaluate your GI issues. They can perform procedures like upper endoscopy, colonoscopy and imaging tests to assess the health of your digestive system and identify any abnormalities.


Gastroenterologists collaborate closely with other doctors and healthcare professionals to provide comprehensive care. They work in tandem with nutritionists, surgeons and other specialists to formulate personalized treatment plans tailored to your needs. This multi-disciplinary approach ensures that patients receive the most effective and suitable care for their digestive health concerns.


Common reasons for seeing a gastroenterologist


If you are dealing with digestive problems, it is essential to know when to seek medical attention from a gastroenterologist or GI doctor. Digestive health problems can make you uncomfortable and affect your diet. Here are a few common symptoms that may indicate the need for a GI evaluation:


  • Identifying signs of digestive problems. While occasional digestive issues are common, you should not ignore persistent symptoms. If you are experiencing recurring abdominal pain, it could indicate an underlying gastrointestinal condition that requires medical attention. It is crucial to consult a GI doctor if you notice any changes in your bowel movements, such as persistent diarrhea, constipation or blood in your stool.

Related Content: Blood in stool? Keep cool, know these 5-colon cancer signs 


  • When should you be worried about persistent abdominal pain? Abdominal pain can occur due to various reasons but if it persists for a prolonged period or becomes severe, it is recommended to consult a GI doctor. Conditions like gastritis, ulcers, gallstones or pancreatitis can cause persistent abdominal pain that needs prompt medical attention.


  • Understanding the importance of unexplained weight loss: If you are experiencing unexplained weight loss without any changes in your diet or exercise routine, it could be a cause for concern. Unintentional weight loss can be associated with various gastrointestinal disorders, such as celiac disease, Crohn's disease or even certain types of cancer. Consulting a GI doctor can help identify the underlying cause and provide appropriate treatment.


Related Content: What are the symptoms of colorectal cancer?


If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or have concerns about your digestive health, it is important to schedule an appointment with a GI doctor. They can perform a thorough evaluation, diagnose any potential conditions and provide you with a personalized treatment plan to address your specific health concerns.


When to book an appointment with a gastroenterologist


If you're dealing with chronic heartburn or acid reflux, it might be time to seek professional advice from a gastroenterologist. These conditions, if left untreated, can cause damage to the esophagus and lead to more severe health concerns. A gastroenterologist can help diagnose the underlying cause of your symptoms and develop a treatment plan tailored to your needs.


Book Now with a gastroenterologist


Another important aspect of digestive health is understanding the connection between digestive issues and bowel irregularities. If you're experiencing persistent changes in your bowel movements, such as diarrhea, constipation or alternating between the two, it could be a sign of an underlying gastrointestinal condition. A gastroenterologist can evaluate your symptoms, perform necessary tests and provide appropriate treatment options.


Related Content: Colorectal cancer risk factors explained


Timely colon cancer screenings are vital for early detection and prevention. Colon cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths, but it is highly treatable when caught early. If you're over the age of 45 or have a family history of colon cancer, it's important to schedule regular screenings with a gastroenterologist. They can perform colonoscopies and other tests to detect any abnormalities.


Learn more about colorectal cancer screenings, prevention and risk.


Bottom line: When it comes to your gut health, it is crucial to seek specialized care from a gastroenterologist. They possess the knowledge, skills and resources to diagnose, treat and manage a broad range of digestive disorders. By consulting a gastroenterologist, you can gain valuable insights into your condition and receive the best possible care to improve your digestive health so you can get back to feeling your best.