Digestion is one of the most important bodily functions in every animal on the planet. Without your stomach, colon, pancreas, or liver in tip-top shape, it’s hard to eat, drink, and live how you like. That’s why maintaining a healthy digestive tract is of the utmost importance. But how do you know when to ask for expert help? Keep a lookout for these signs, and you’ll know when to make your appointment.
While our weight fluctuates from time to time, there may be a more sinister reason for why your pants aren’t zipping than a few too many slices of cheesecake. “If you experience sudden bloating that occurs for no obvious reason and is accompanied by symptoms like pain or blood in the stool, there may be something more complicated at play,” said Dr. Joseph R. Murphy, a gastroenterologist with University of Maryland – Community Medical Group. “It could be anything from a dairy digestion problem to gastroesophageal reflux disease or irritable bowel syndrome, which require a different treatment.”
Sudden Weight Loss
Conversely, if your clothes are starting to fit more loosely than normal, it could also be a sign of a serious GI problem. While shedding a few pounds with no effort may sound like a dream come true, leaving it unchecked could mean opening yourself up to the painful symptoms of a condition like Crohn’s disease or celiac disease further down the line.
“If drinking water is painful,” Dr. Murphy said. “That can be a sign of a GI problem.” It’s a good idea to get examined, especially if it means earlier detection of potentially serious problems like esophageal cancer. Make sure to note if you’re also experiencing coughing, hoarseness, hiccupping, or feeling full after only a few bites of food, as these are all signs that something potentially harmful at work in your GI tract.
Blood in Your Stool
Bright red or black stool can be a clear indication that there is a problem somewhere in your GI tract. While there are other potential causes for bloody stool, if it’s persistent or recurring, or you are experiencing other, aforementioned symptoms, you should be evaluated by a GI professional.
Everyone experiences gas, but it can be a warning sign when combined with other symptoms or if it’s especially foul-smelling.
Your 50th Birthday
Even if you have always had excellent GI health, the CDC recommends that regular screenings for colorectal cancer begin at age 50. Staying on top of these screenings can mean earlier detection, which means that, if needed, you can start treatment when programs work best.