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What Is a Gastroenterologist, and What Do They Do?

What Is a Gastroenterologist, and What Do They Do?

Your body is comprised of many different systems each carrying out specific functions. One such example is the digestive tract. Medical professionals known as gastroenterologists play a critical role in ensuring this system’s components function properly.

Gastroenterologist Overview

The simplest definition of a gastroenterologist is a physician who diagnoses and treats anything impacting the digestive tract, which is comprised of organs such as the:

  • Stomach.
  • Esophagus.
  • Large intestines (the colon).
  • Small intestines.
  • Pancreas.
  • Gall Bladder.
  • Liver.

But their job is far more complex. These doctors spend significant time studying how the digestive tract executes pertinent tasks and learning every nuance of how its features work.

Gastroenterologists do not merely identify illnesses and start therapeutic protocols. They strive to comprehend why a specific ailment has developed and how certain systemic processes might impact the disorder in question. Optimal gastrointestinal function hinges on the body’s ability to digest food, absorb nutrients, and eliminate waste products.

This level of expertise requires intense educational and professional training. Gastroenterologists are considered medical specialists. This means they are required to receive more schooling and practical instruction.

Medical doctors earn a medical doctor degree (M.D.) from an accredited medical school, which usually takes four years. Gastroenterology experts typically spend an extra five to six years obtaining the training necessary to practice this medical specialty.

After medical school, gastroenterologists have an internal medicine residency for three years. Once this requirement is met, they can apply for and partake in a gastroenterology fellowship. This training program lasts another two to three years.

During the fellowship, prospective gastroenterologists undergo intense instruction from experienced, often acclaimed physicians about:

  • Various common and overlooked gastrointestinal diseases.
  • Patient evaluation strategies.
  • Prescribing therapeutic protocols.
  • Suggesting illness-prevention methods.
  • Offering the most appropriate care both during office visits and in hospital.

Additionally, future specialists will receive instruction referencing the correct administration and the proper interpretation of various diagnostic techniques.

Specific Conditions Gastroenterologists Diagnose And Treat

Typically you will be referred to a gastroenterologist by your family physician for further evaluation for any of the following conditions:


Heartburn occurs when digestive acid spills out of the stomach and travels into your esophagus. Heartburn often causes you to experience a burning sensation in your chest or throat. In many instances, this problem is caused by a digestive issue and best treated by a gastrointestinal specialist.

Liver Problems

You probably know that your liver filters toxins from the bloodstream. This organ also plays a crucial role in the digestion and nutrient absorption process. Liver issues often have a significantly adverse impact on the digestive process.

Digestive Tract Tumors And Other Growths
Gastroenterologists often investigate abnormal growths appearing in the digestive system, such as tumors, cysts, and polyps. In certain instances, these masses are cancerous, and treatment focuses on eradicating the offending malignancy. Some growths are benign and can be treated using less aggressive methods.

Inflammatory Bowel Diseases

Amongst the more common ailments, a gastroenterologist will diagnose and offer a remedy for are inflammatory bowel diseases, which are sometimes abbreviated as IBD.

IBD is typically defined as either Crohn’s Disease or ulcerative colitis. Both of these disorders cause serious inflammation in the lining of organs like the colon and cause a host of unpleasant and sometimes potentially life-inhibiting physical manifestations.

Bleeding Along The Digestive Tract

Internal bleeding can be a life-threatening circumstance suggesting the presence of a significant illness or injury. Gastroenterologists often investigate the origin of such an occurrence, use clotting measures, and attempt to remedy the underlying cause.

Miscellaneous Problems

Gastroenterologists also identify and attempt to cure or ease the symptoms of many illnesses of the gall bladder and pancreas.

When Might You Need A Gastroenterologist?

Often, consultations with specialists like gastroenterologists occur following a physician’s referral, such as an internist or general practitioner. They may give a referral under these circumstances:

When New Symptoms Appear

Occasionally, you might experience relief from mild to moderate digestive symptoms after examination, diagnosis, and treatment from your family doctor. Over time, new symptoms might appear. Such events could signal a more serious underlying problem necessitating investigation by an experienced gastroenterologist.

Initial Treatment Is Not Effective

You might need to visit a gastroenterologist if initial treatment for a given problem does not work. This might suggest the presence of a more significant issue or the need for more aggressive remediation efforts.

The Management Of Chronic Conditions

Certain digestive issues like IBD (Irritable Bowel Disorder), are chronic, ongoing concerns that flare up and ebb over extended periods. In such cases, proper management often proves critical to effectively managing the condition and preventing painful and sometimes debilitating recurrences.

Digestive Tract Bleeding

In many occasions, digestive system bleeding indicates the presence of a major illness requiring immediate intervention.

Blood loss could prove dangerous, even fatal. It could suggest conditions like bleeding ulcers, advanced IBD, and in the most serious instances, cancer. Identifying the bleeding source, stopping it, and diagnosing the underlying cause is vital to proper and potentially life-saving treatment.

Important Screenings

A gastroenterologist might be called upon to perform relatively routine but important health screenings. The most commonly administered detection tests are colonoscopies. Colonoscopies help identify large intestine abnormalities such as polyps and tumors.

Finding A Gastroenterologist

Typically, finding a reputable and experienced gastroenterologist is not difficult and can be accomplished in several different ways.

The most direct approach is to inquire with your primary care provider. Your family physician or internist likely knows of or has worked with a good gastroenterologist.

You can also ask friends, extended family, neighbors, co-workers, and other associates for recommendations. There is a distinct possibility that one or more of them have consulted with a gastroenterologist.

Preparing For Your Appointment

You can get the most out of your initial and future consultations by properly preparing for your appointment. Preparatory steps include:

Make Plenty of Notes

You can assist your gastroenterologist by making plenty of notes about the specific physical conditions you were experiencing when these symptoms began, and if any activities worsen these occurrences. Such information gives the physician a better idea of where to begin their assessment.

Disclosing Your Complete Health History

Make sure you disclose your complete health history. Such information should include:

  • Any illnesses you have been formally diagnosed with.
  • Prescription and over-the-counter medications you use.
  • Your family history of serious illnesses like digestive cancers or IBD.
  • If you have experienced any recent major life stressors, such as financial hardships, divorce, the death of a loved one, physical injury, or job loss.

Your gastroenterologist should also receive copies of your medical records.

Contacting Us

If you have been diagnosed with a digestive disorder or your primary care physician believes you might have such an issue, we look forward to serving you.

Our practice began more than 15 years ago and has emerged as one of the leading gastroenterology practices in central Florida. We perform a host of diagnostic procedures using state-of-the-art equipment in a friendly, comfortable, and inviting atmosphere where patient care is always a top priority. Contact us today!

Did you know that you can schedule your appointment 24/7? Try our no-hassle online scheduler Here!