Digestive Health

Welcome to the Digestive Health Center, your online resource for digestive and gastrointestinal information. You will find answers to your questions on common gastrointestinal symptoms, such as diarrhea, indigestion, constipation, and nausea and vomiting.

Learn about related conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome, anal and rectal problems, hiatal hernias and reflux, gastrointestinal infections, appendicitis and more.

Featured Topics

Digestive Health Basics

The digestive system processes food to be used for energy. Diet (e.g., fiber intake) and exercise play a role in digestive health. Bowel obstruction involves blocked or clogged intestines through which food cannot pass. Benign polyps or intestinal tumors are growths that can affect bowel function.

  • Digestive System
  • Benign Polyps
  • Bowel Obstruction
  • Eosinophilic Esophagitis
  • Fiber & Digestive Health
  • Gastrointestinal Bleeding
  • Nausea & Vomiting

Digestive Treatments

Surgeries such as colectomy, gastrectomy, or proctocolectomy are used to treat digestive conditions. Colostomy and ileostomy divert food after in the intestines after other procedures. Electrocoagulation is used to stop gastrointestinal bleeding. Enemas clear the bowels. Enteral and parenteral nutrition feed patients through tubes when they cannot eat.

  • Biofeedback & Digestive Disorders
  • Colectomy
  • Colostomy
  • Electrocoagulation
  • Enema
  • Enteral & Parenteral Nutrition
  • Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy
  • Food Diary

Digestive Imaging Tests

Imaging tests may be performed with external devices (e.g., MRI) or use body openings to insert imaging devices to view part of the digestive system (e.g., endoscopy, colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, proctoscopy and cystoscopy). Upper GI series or lower GI series (including barium enema) use barium to help physicians see how liquids and solids move through the digestive system.

  • CAT Scan & Digestive Disorders
  • Colonoscopy
  • Endoscopy
  • Lower GI Barium Tests
  • MRI & Digestive Disorders
  • Radionuclide Imaging & Digestive Disorders
  • Sigmoidoscopy
  • Ultrasound & Digestive Disorders
  • Upper GI Barium Tests

Digestive Lab Tests

Digestive laboratory tests involve diagnostic procedures performed on a sample of body tissue or fluid. Blood tests include electrolyte panels and enzyme tests. Fecal tests are performed on stool samples. Other diagnostic tools include breath tests and biopsy (examination of body tissue). A rapid urease test is conducted on biopsied tissue to identify bacterial infections.

  • Breath Tests
  • Digestive Blood Tests
  • Electrolyte Panel & Digestive Disorders
  • Enzyme Tests & Digestive Disorders
  • Fecal Tests

Learn more about Digestive Health

Inflammatory Bowel (Colitis)

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a group of disorders that involve inflammation and ulcers in the gastrointestinal tract. When occurring in the colon, the condition is called colitis. Antibiotic-induced colitis occurs when these medications causes an imbalance in the natural bacteria in the intestines. The two main forms of IBD are ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.

  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • Ulcerative Colitis
  • Crohn's Disease

Gastritis & Ulcer

Gastritis is any inflammation or irritation of the stomach lining. A peptic ulcer is an open sore in the lining of the esophagus, stomach or duodenum. The most common causes of both these conditions is infection with bacteria called Helicobacter pylori. Pain relievers in the drug class of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may also cause gastritis or peptic ulcers.

  • Gastritis
  • Peptic Ulcer
  • NSAIDs & Peptic Ulcer

Diverticulitis & Diverticulosis

Diverticular disease is the formation of small pouches (diverticula) in the colon. When these are not inflamed or irritated, the condition is called diverticulosis. If the diverticula become infected or irritated, diverticulitis develops. Meckel's diverticulum occurs when someone is born with a small sac in the ileum (the last section of the small intestine).

  • Diverticulitis
  • Diverticulosis

GERD & Heartburn

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) occurs when acid flows from the stomach into the esophagus. Its most common symptoms are heartburn and indigestion, but these may also be caused by other factors including hiatal hernia or esophagitis. Surgical treatments include hernia repair and fundoplication to prevent reflux.

  • Barrett's Esophagus
  • Esophagitis
  • Fundoplication
  • GERD & Cancer
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
  • Heartburn
  • Hiatal Hernia
  • Indigestion

IBS & Bowel Function

A bowel function disorder is any condition that affects proper bowel function. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) occurs when the intestinal nerves become overactive, leading to constipation and/or diarrhea. Other disorders include malabsorption syndromes, dumping syndrome and Hirschsprung’s disease.

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Fecal Incontinence
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Malabsorption

Anal & Rectal Disorders

Anal and rectal problems can take many forms. Anal fissures are small cracks or tears. Hemorrhoids are swollen veins. Levator syndrome involves pain or feelings of fullness while proctitis involves inflammation or irritation of the rectum. Specialized diagnostic tests, such as anoscopy or defecography may be used for diagnosis. Some problems may require medications or surgery.

  • Anal & Rectal Problems
  • Hemorrhoid Surgery
  • Hemorrhoids

Gastroenteritis & Food Illness

Gastroenteritis is any irritation or inflammation of stomach or intestinal linings. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps and abdominal pain. It is often caused by infection or foodborne illness. Foodborne illness, or food poisoning, can be caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites or toxins. Dysentery is a type of gastroenteritis of the colon.

  • Drinking Water Safety
  • Dysentery
  • Escherichia Coli Infection
  • Foodborne Illness
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Salmonella Infection

Liver, Pancreas & Biliary

Liver disease can include the buildup of fat (fatty liver), inflammation (hepatitis), viral infection (viral hepatitis and scarring and cell damage, or cirrhosis). The pancreas may be affected by inflammation (pancreatitis), while common biliary function problems include bile duct disorders, gallstones and gallbladder inflammation (cholecystitis).

  • Artificial Pancreas
  • Bile Duct Disorders
  • Cholecystitis
  • Cirrhosis
  • Fatty Liver
  • Gallbladder Surgery
  • Gallstones
  • Hepatitis (Viral)
  • Jaundice
  • Liver & Biliary Function
  • Liver Disease
  • Pancreas Function
  • Pancreas Transplant
  • Pancreatitis

Pediatric Digestive

Digestive conditions are often more common during childhood than adulthood. Encopresis is a type of fecal incontinence caused when children try to hold in their bowel movements. Cyclic vomiting syndrome involves severe, repeat attacks of nausea and vomiting. Intussusception is a rare disorder in infants that leads to bowel obstruction.

  • Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome
  • Encopresis
  • Gastroenteritis & Children
  • Intussusception
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Children
  • Reflux in Children
  • Rotavirus