Stomach Distress: How To Know When You Need To Call Your Gastroenterologist

When it comes to stomach distress, it's easy to blame your symptoms on stress or eating something that didn't agree with you. However, while stress and certain foods do play a role in causing minor stomach discomfort, there are some symptoms you should never ignore. Knowing the difference between something that is minor and something that warrants a trip to the gastroenterologist, is important in keeping you healthy.

Frequency of symptoms

If you have occasional heartburn after going out for pizza or overindulging at the food buffet, you probably don't need to be concerned. Spicy and greasy foods are common triggers of digestive disturbances. The heartburn, bloating, and gas that accompanies the ingesting of these foods is typically short lived and may be easily relieved with over-the-counter stomach acid reducing medications.

Heartburn that occurs frequently, regardless of the type of food you consume, may be related to a more serious stomach issue and needs further evaluation. Frequent bouts of nausea, diarrhea, stomach pain, or vomiting always require a complete medical work up and should never be ignored.

Severity of symptoms

Another indicator of whether you need medical intervention or not is the severity of symptoms. Symptoms that send you to bed or make it difficult to do your usual daily activities need to be discussed with your gastroenterologist. You should also be concerned if you find yourself taking more medications to control your symptoms than in the past.

Minor stomach upsets are annoying but typically won't interfere with your day-to-day work and social activities. You may feel unwell, but you can still function. However, even minor discomforts that persist should be checked out, as certain conditions can begin with subtle symptoms that grow worse over time.

Symptoms that involve fever or bleeding

Blood in your stool should never be brushed off as possible hemorrhoids and left unaddressed. While hemorrhoids and anal fissures do cause bleeding, other serious causes need to be ruled out. Small amounts of intermittent rectal bleeding necessitates a call to your doctor, but any profuse rectal bleeding requires a trip to urgent care or the emergency room.

Vomiting bright red blood or vomitus that resembles coffee grounds needs immediate evaluation, as it can be caused by a bleeding ulcer or other serious abdominal condition. Any stomach symptoms accompanied by a fever also need attention. 

Everyone suffers from minor stomach distress at times. However, knowing what can be treated at home and what needs to be discussed with your doctor is important. Discussing abdominal symptoms with your gastroenterologist will help you find relief and may prevent serious conditions from growing worse.