Gastroenterology: Functional And Structural Diseases

What Is Gastroenterology?

Gastroenterology is the study of the digestive system. It focuses on the function and diseases that target the gastrointestinal tract, like the stomach, liver, colon, etc. The doctor that specializes in gastroenterology is called a gastroenterologist. 

Some of the things that can upset your gastrointestinal tract, or GI, include: 

  • Pregnancy
  • Stress
  • Low fiber diet
  • Too much dairy
  • Not enough exercise
  • Smoking

Functional Diseases

Functional gastrointestinal diseases are the most common type. This means when the doctor examines you, everything appears normal. Your gastrointestinal tract just isn't moving the way it should be. 

There are many different functional diseases within gastroenterology. 

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Irritable Bowel Syndrome, also known as nervous stomach, is a condition that can make you need to relieve yourself either more or less often than usual. 

Some symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Stomach cramps
  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Heartburn

Celiac Disease

Celiac Disease is a sensitivity to gluten. When gluten is eaten, it will cause a reaction in the small intestine which prohibits your body from digesting food properly.

Some symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Bloating
  • Anemia
  • Stomach Pain


Aerophagia is a condition in which an individual would, voluntarily or involuntarily, swallow too much air too often. 

Some symptoms include:

  • Acid reflux
  • Gas
  • Stomach pain
  • Bloating

Structural Diseases

Structural gastrointestinal diseases occur when your doctor can tell upon examination that your GI tract is off balance. In some cases, a structural disease may require surgery to remove the problem. 

There are also many structural diseases within gastroenterology. 

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

There are two types of Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. 

Crohn's Disease occurs when your GI tract becomes inflamed. Ulcerative Colitis occurs when there are ulcers on the lining of the large intestine. 

These two diseases have similar symptoms:

  • Blood in stool
  • Stomach pain
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Reduced appetite

These two diseases are dangerous as they can increase the risk of colon cancer. Testing for colon cancer may become more frequent after being diagnosed with one of these diseases. 


Hemorrhoids can be internal or external. Hemorrhoids occur when you have swollen veins in your rectum or anus. 

It is unlikely you would feel internal hemorrhoids as they would be in the part of your anus that has very little pain-sensing nerves. 

Symptoms of internal hemorrhoids include:

  • Blood in stool 
  • Protruding hemorrhoid through the anus

External hemorrhoids can be found under the skin surrounding your anus. These will generally be painful. 

Symptoms of external hemorrhoids include:

  • Swelling
  • Itching
  • Bleeding

Prevention of Gastroenterology Diseases

Smoking is said to be a common factor when it comes to GI diseases. Quitting smoking is a good step to take to prevent these diseases. It is also said to be a good idea to eat foods that are rich in probiotics, which are "good" bacteria that fight off "bad" bacteria in your stomach. 

And like most things, keeping a good diet and exercise regime is good for your digestive system. 

For more information, contact a local gastroenterology center.