A gastroenterologist is a physician who specializes in diseases of the digestive system, also called the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Gastroenterologists have extensive training in the diagnosis and treatment of conditions that affect the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine (colon), and biliary system (e.g., liver, pancreas, gallbladder, bile ducts). Gastroenterology is a subspecialty of internal medicine.
Gastroenterologists have a thorough understanding of how food moves through the digestive tract (called motility) and the physical and chemical break down of food (digestion), including the absorption of nutrients and the removal of waste products. Gastroenterologists also focus on the digestive function of the liver.
Gastroenterologists usually care for patients in an office or hospital setting, including nursing homes and outpatient surgical centers. They often serve as consultants to other physicians and may work in the research field. Gastroenterologists specialize in the evaluation, diagnosis, management, and treatment of the following symptoms and conditions:
Abdominal pain and discomfort
Bleeding in the digestive tract
Cancer (e.g., colorectal cancer, stomach [gastric] cancer, pancreatic cancer, liver cancer)
Constipation and diarrhea
Diverticular disease and other diseases of the colon (e.g., polyps, irritable bowel syndrome [IBS], colitis, Crohn's disease)
Heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
Inflammation in the digestive tract (e.g., gastritis)
Liver disease (e.g., hepatitis, jaundice)
Malabsorption disorders (e.g., celiac disease, lactose intolerance)
Stomach upset, nausea, vomiting
Unexplained weight loss