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The Importance of Gut Health and When to See a Gastroenterologist


Your gastrointestinal (GI) tract, also called the gut or digestive system, helps your body digest and absorb nutrients from food. It also helps you excrete waste.

The GI system includes your upper GI tract - your esophagus, stomach, intestines and colon – and your lower GI tract – your rectum and anus. Other organs—including the liver, pancreas and gallbladder—also assist your GI organs.

What Is Gut Health?

Gut health is a general term often used to describe how healthy a person’s microbiome within their GI tract is and how many, or few, digestive issues they may have. A person with good gut health would have few digestive issues and a healthy microbiome, while someone with poor gut health may have GI issues and consistent complications caused by poor digestion of food.

Your microbiome is made up of hundreds of species of microbes (mostly bacteria) that live primarily in your large intestine. While many people often think of bacteria as foes rather than friends, these “good” bacteria play a big role in keeping us healthy.

The bacteria in your gut aid digestion and even help your body synthesize vitamins. While there is emerging research that connects gut health to overall health, there are no confirmed methods of treating disease through gut health. It’s important to see a gastroenterologist, which is a doctor who specializes in digestive disorders, if you are experiencing digestive issues to diagnose, manage and treat any underlying GI issues.

Common Digestive Disorders

Digestive disorders are common and vary in both severity and treatment options. While signs and symptoms are not always the same between disorders, most people will experience some kind of gastrointestinal distress or discomfort; whether it’s heartburn, gas or bloating, nausea or vomiting, or abdominal pain.
Here are some of the more common digestive disorders:

  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Ulcerative colitis (UC)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Celiac disease
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Gallstones
  • Diverticulitis
  • Peptic ulcer disease

Signs and Symptoms of Gut Problems

Gastroenterologist Doctor Consulting Woman In Clinic

Your microbiome can be affected by a wide range of factors, some that are within your control and others that aren’t.

Stress, lack of physical activity, eating too many processed foods, drinking alcohol, smoking and not getting enough sleep can all negatively impact your gut health. Factors outside of your control include your age, environment and the microbes you acquired in infancy and early childhood.

Here are some signs of poor gut health:

  • Digestive symptoms like gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, heartburn and upset stomach
  • Fatigue or insomnia
  • Anxiety/moodiness/irritability
  • Skin issues (such as rashes or breakouts)
  • Frequent colds or other infectious illnesses
  • Autoimmune conditions
  • Food intolerances
  • Sugar cravings (this can indicate an overgrowth of certain bacteria)

While it might be possible to improve gut health through lifestyle and diet changes, some conditions require advanced medical treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms of gut distress, it’s important to see a gastroenterologist.

What Is Gastroenterology?

Gastroenterology is the branch of medicine that deals with the gastrointestinal system and the organs that help it function. Gastroenterologists are medical doctors specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of conditions affecting the gut, from GERD to ulcerative colitis.

Gastroenterologists have undergone additional medical training in their specialty. They are certified to perform certain tests and exams beyond that of a general physician, such as endoscopies, which is a non-surgical procedure that examines the digestive tract.

Advanced Gastroenterology Services at Crystal Run Healthcare

Gastroenterology consultation

Crystal Run’s outstanding team of gastroenterologists specialize in treating the full range of gastrointestinal conditions, from common digestive disorders to colon cancer and Barrett’s esophagus.

If you’re suffering from symptoms of digestive disorders, such as heartburn, constipation, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain or rectal bleeding, our team can help.

Our academically trained doctors use the most advanced technology and medical therapies to diagnose and treat your symptoms.

We take a patient-centered approach to care, coordinating treatment with your primary care provider to ensure you get the most comprehensive care possible. Visit ourgastroenterology page to learn more about our team and schedule an appointment.