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      Are My Digestive Symptoms Serious?

      Digestive symptoms aren’t always the easiest or most comfortable issues to discuss, be that with friends or family or your own doctor.

      That doesn’t make them any less important, though. Gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms are common and can affect the body from one end to the other (aka where food goes in to where it comes out).

      These symptoms could be signs of benign or nonserious conditions that are easily treatable, or they might need further testing and follow-up. Read on to learn more about the most common digestive symptoms and what to do about them.

      Change in Bowel Habits

      How often should I be pooping? That’s a common question we hear from patients, and the answer differs from person to person. "Normal" bowel movements can range from three per day to three per week.

      Constipation and diarrhea shouldn’t last for more than two weeks. If your "regular" bowel movements are staying irregular, contact your doctor – especially if you develop bloody diarrhea or pale-colored stool that looks white or light in color.

      Rectal Bleeding

      Seeing blood on the toilet paper after wiping post-bowel movement can be common. Bleeding can occur if you’re going more than normal (diarrhea) or if the stool was hard or big (possibly caused by constipation).

      If you’re seeing blood on the toilet paper or in the stool for more than a few days, that’s worth a call to your doctor. Contact your health care team immediately if blood is accompanied by other symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, or confusion, or if you also have abdominal pain or the bleeding is heavy.

      Trouble Swallowing

      Difficulty swallowing is also known as dysphagia and occurs when food or drinks get stuck in the throat, come back up (regurgitate), or cause pain.

      We’ve all eaten or taken a drink too fast, coughed or choked, and said something "went down the wrong tube." These occasional swallowing disruptions are common, but chronic swallowing issues are treatable, manageable, and don’t have to disrupt your quality of life.

      In addition to food getting stuck, other symptoms include being hoarse, frequent heartburn, the feeling or taste of stomach acid in your mouth or throat, or gagging.

      Unexplained Weight Loss

      Weight loss that’s unexplained can be a symptom of many different conditions. In the GI world, we look for changes in your diet or appetite and any connections to other symptoms such as irregular bowel movements or pain.

      If you’re losing weight without actively trying, keep a log of any related symptoms and consult with your doctor.

      Abdominal Pain

      When we talk about abdominal pain, that’s any type of discomfort below the chest, to the left or right or top to bottom of the belly button. This is another symptom like unexplained weight loss that could be short-term or connected to a more serious issue.

      It’s again important to write down or remember when and how this pain is happening. Does it occur after eating or drinking, while sitting or standing, during sleep, with an activity such as stretching or running?

      Talk to your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms. Our GI doctors specialize in diagnosing and treating many different GI conditions. Call us today at 815-397-7340 or make an appointment online – a referral is often not needed.