The Gut Needs Attention Too

Abdominal and digestive problems are part of life. Sometimes, people will eat something that directly affects the gut. If the signs are becoming frequent, a trip to the doctor may make sense. Tens of millions of Americans are affected by digestive diseases, with many unaware of what’s going on in the gut. Although few cases are fatal, not performing a gut check can prove costly.

Center for Family Medicine Do You Need A Gut Check When To See Your Doctor For Gastrointestinal Health

Understanding gastrointestinal health

The digestive system is a complex network of organs and bacteria. The organs include the stomach, colon, intestine, liver, and pancreas. Part of the digestive system contains trillions of bacteria located mainly in the intestines and stomach. Known as the gut microbiome, this bacteria is both good and bad, communicating with the body for optimal health. The bacteria, along with the organs, must maintain a healthy balance. A gut check looks into the health of bacteria and rules out any diseases. This gut check becomes especially crucial if any of the following signs or symptoms show up.

Frequent heartburn

Eating spicy foods may bring up the occasional heartburn. If the heartburn seems frequent and uncontrollable, there could be a deeper issue. Gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD is a common sign of a gut issue. With GERD, a weak lower esophageal sphincter allows stomach acid and food to flow back into the esophagus. If heartburn and other symptoms persist, get a gut check immediately.

Let’s talk about poop

A healthy bowel movement is often a sign of a healthy gut. Doctors consider at least 3 bowel movements per week as healthy. Abnormal bowel movements, for example, constant constipation, could mean nutritional, hormonal, or muscular malfunction. Persistent diarrhea could be a sign of harmful bacteria, an underlying disease, or a virus. In both cases, a general practitioner or GI doctor can help get to the root of the issue. If there is blood in the stool, especially appearing as a black stool, seek medical help immediately. There could be a severe issue in the digestive system.

Watch your weight

Gut issues can have a direct impact on weight. Bloating, which is a swollen, stuffy feeling after eating, could be a sign of a digestive imbalance. There are many causes of bloating, including diet and menstruation. However, if the bloating is constant and unexplained, get some medical advice. Unexplained weight loss should also be a cause for concern. Look for other symptoms like excess gas or abdominal pain. In both cases, the doctor may test for issues like celiac disease or Crohn’s disease.

Aging and gastrointestinal health

At a certain age, seeing a doctor for gastrointestinal health becomes a matter of necessity. Persons over 50 should have routine checks and screenings for cancer and other digestive issues. These checks include a colonoscopy, which can find and address any problems that can impact overall gastrointestinal health.

The real gut check? Taking gut health seriously

Gastrointestinal health is a critical part of overall health and wellness. Research links several diseases like diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s to poor gut health. Pay close attention to gut health with a proper diet and exercise. More importantly, if one or more of these issues appear out of the blue, seek help immediately. A general doctor can perform an initial analysis. In some cases, the patient will be referred to a gastroenterologist who can give a more detailed assessment.