The gastrointestinal canal (GI) runs from the mouth to the anus. The upper and lower gastrointestinal tracts are distinguished by their location. The upper digestive tract is the first portion of the small intestine, called the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum. There are several disorders of both the upper and lower digestive systems that must be classified as separate sections. This article will explore the upper and lower GI tracts and the diseases commonly associated with them.
Understanding the Gastro Anatomy
Upper GI (Gastro) Conditions
The upper GI tract contains the mouth, esophagus, stomach, and duodenum (the first section of the small intestine). When we ingest food or drink, it goes from our throat to our stomach via our esophagus.
The lower esophageal sphincter, located at the base of the esophagus, stops food and stomach acids and other digestive enzymes from returning to our esophagus. The food you eat starts to break down and becomes a liquid in your stomach.
The sphincter is a muscle that usually prevents food from flowing back up the esophagus. If it suddenly fails, though, acid reflux can result.
The food then goes from your stomach to the duodenum, where bile and digestive enzymes - produced by the gallbladder (with help from the liver and pancreas) - further break down liquid food. This is how your body absorbs nutrients.
Gas, bloating, stomach discomfort, and heartburn are all possible symptoms of a problem with the upper GI tract. These symptoms can be distressing, but they might also indicate a more serious underlying sickness.
Upper gastrointestinal tract diseases include:
- Barrett's esophagus
- Celiac disease
- Eosinophilic esophagitis
- Esophagitis and stricture of the esophagus
- Gas and bloating
- Gastritis, Gastroenteritis (stomach flu)
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- H. pylori bacterial infection
Lower GI (Gastro) Conditions
The lower GI tract's four components are the small intestine, large intestine (colon), rectum, and anus. The majority of the nutrients from our meals are absorbed in the small intestine. What remains in the small intestine is waste that is sent to the big intestine.
Water is absorbed as the waste products pass through our colon, and the particles grow solid – which gives feces its consistency. The stool enters the lower part of the colon from the rectum and anal canal. Then, it exits the body as a bowel movement.
Lower GI tract issues can cause many uncomfortable symptoms, including diarrhea, constipation, and hemorrhoids. If you're experiencing these problems, you should see a doctor, as they could indicate a more severe condition.
The lower GI tract conditions are:
- Anal fissure
- Abscess Fistula
- Colon polyps
- Crohn's disease
- Diverticulosis and diverticulitis
- Hemorrhoids (piles)
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Rectal bleeding
- Ulcerative colitis
What's the Impact of GI (Gastro) Issues
GI gastro symptoms can significantly affect your quality of life and mental well-being. GERD, for example, can seriously interfere with your life by preventing you from having a good night's sleep, causing drowsiness and inefficiency the next day. Heartburn and nausea are common symptoms that may severely disrupt your activities.
How are GI (Gastro) Issues Diagnosed/Treatments
Your doctor will perform diagnostic testing to determine whether you have a GI condition. An endoscopy or an upper GI series/barium swallow may be done for upper GI conditions. A colonoscopy, enteroscopy, or lower GI series/barium enema may be used for lower GI problems.
Changing your diet and lifestyle is usually the first step in treatment. You may also need medication or surgery to help improve your symptoms and quality of life.
GI Associates Can Help with Upper & Lower GI Issues
Our board-certified and fellowship-trained gastroenterologists at GI Associates have years of expertise in diagnosing and treating upper and lower GI ailments. We provide thorough diagnosis, treatment, and the best possible care set up an appointment today.