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Seven signs it's time to see a Gastroenterologist

Woman with hands on stomach

If you’re experiencing any symptoms of a digestive health disorder, it may be time to book your appointment with a Gastroenterologist. Working alongside our nutrition services and JAG accredited endoscopy unit, our private gastroenterology service offers fast access to initial consultation, diagnosis and treatment. Dr Adrian Barnardo, one of our expert Consultant Gastroenterologists, explains.

1. Blood in your stool

“If you find blood in your stool (poo), whether it’s bright red or a darker tar colour, you should book an appointment with a Gastroenterologist. We will assess you, ask questions about your lifestyle, dietary habits and medical history before booking in an endoscopic procedure to rule out any serious conditions and prevent any further worry. These serious conditions, like colorectal cancer or inflammatory bowel disease, can all cause blood in your stool,” Dr Barnardo says.

“It’s so important to complete your bowel cancer screening if you’re sent any reminders. This can catch cancer early and improve chances of survival immensely.”

2. Persistent abdominal pain

“If you’re experiencing ongoing and unexplained abdominal pain, accompanied by other symptoms such as changes to your bowel habits or bloating, I’d recommend booking an appointment with us,” says Dr Barnardo. “Taking care of your gut health through pre and probiotics, and feeding your gut healthy nutrients is a good place to start easing some of these uncomfortable stomach issues.”

“Normally, minor causes of abdominal pain include constipation, diverticulitis, food allergies, lactose intolerances or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). If that’s the case, we can refer you to access nutritional support as a treatment option. Other causes can be appendicitis, bowel blockages, bowel cancer or gastroesophageal reflux.”

3. Chronic heartburn or acid reflux

Many people ask ‘What is heartburn?’. It can be misinterpreted to mean an issue with your heart. However, the actual cause of heartburn, or acid reflux, is a burning sensation in your chest caused by acid in your stomach leaking back into your oesophagus (gullet). If your symptoms don’t improve with over-the-counter medication, it could highlight an underlying condition such as Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease (GORD).

We offer fast access to diagnosis and treatment of GORD for self-pay and private medically insured patients, Benenden Health members and NHS referred patients.

4. Difficulty swallowing

If you have trouble swallowing certain types of food or liquid, or have difficulty swallowing at all, it could be a sign of various conditions, including oesophageal disorders. “Dysphagia is the medical term used for difficulty with swallowing. Although we don’t offer treatment or therapy for it, we can assess your symptoms, complete a swallow test and help to diagnose if your swallowing problem is in your mouth or throat (oropharyngeal dysphagia), or in the oesophagus (oesophageal dysphagia).

If you’re struggling with symptoms such as sore throat, pain when you swallow, heartburn, or other certain foods or drinks trigger these symptoms, it’s important to see one of our Gastroenterologists.” Our experts can refer you to a speech or swallowing therapist after assessment.

5. Unexplained weight loss

Losing weight unintentionally? Your gut could be struggling with an intolerance or gastrointestinal disease such as Crohn’s disease, coeliac disease, or IBS. It’s also important to be aware of any other causes of weight loss, such as mental health conditions or an overactive thyroid.

Trillions of gut bacteria line your intestines (this is called your gut microbiome) and encounter the food you eat. Your gut bacteria affects how different foods are digested and produces chemicals that help make you feel full. Therefore, they can cause your weight to fluctuate. As well as producing certain vitamins and communicating with your immune system, they can also affect how fat is stored in your body. Getting on top of your gut bacteria is essential to good health.

6. Persistent diarrhoea or constipation

An unhealthy gut, often caused by imbalances in your gut microbiome, can have many uncomfortable side effects including GI issues such as diarrhoea or constipation. These tummy troubles are very closely linked to IBS, so it’s probably time to see a Gastroenterologist.

“Diarrhoea is when your stools are loose and watery, and you may get cramps or need to go more often. Short-term (acute) diarrhoea lasts for one to two days, whereas long-term (chronic) diarrhoea lasts several weeks,” says Dr Barnardo. “Constipation is when you find it hard to poo or you go to the toilet less often than usual, and going fewer than three times in a week is classed as constipation. Consistent diarrhoea or constipation that lasts for several weeks or months may indicate digestive issues that can be addressed by us.”

7. Family history of digestive disorders

If you have a family history of gastrointestinal conditions such as colon cancer, Crohn's disease, or ulcerative colitis, it's advisable to schedule regular check-ups with a gastroenterologist for preventive care and early detection. Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis is often passed down in families and your risk of developing it is much higher if someone in your close family has it.

What will happen during your gastroenterology appointment?

“During your appointment, I will discuss the correct treatment for you and tell you whether you need to stop taking any medications before treatment commences. If you’re having any of the following endoscopy procedures, we’ll let you know if there’s anything you need to do to prepare:

Colonoscopy
Gastroscopy
Sigmoidoscopy

“Our Gastroenterology team and caring staff in our specialist Ambulatory Care Unit (ACU) will be on hand to answer any questions or concerns, and when you arrive for your appointment or gastroenterology treatment, you’ll be treated with care and discretion. After your visit with us, you’ll be given all the information and medication you need to return home, safely and in comfort. We’ll also tell you who to contact if you have further concerns.”

Book your initial gastroenterology appointment via our online booking tool today.

Published on 19 June 2024