The upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract comprises the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum, which is where the small intestine begins. Food follows this track on its way to be thoroughly digested, so that nutrients are processed and distributed through the body.
The process of digestion begins with chewing. Saliva is produced in the mouth automatically as food is chewed, and this begins the breakdown of food that is digestion. The food then travels down the esophagus to the stomach, which breaks down the food further until it is fully digested – moving from the upper GI tract to the lower GI tract.
Digestion is an intricate and delicate process. When it is interrupted, the interruption can cause discomfort to the digestive system and the whole body.
What Can Happen in the Upper GI Tract?
The following conditions are common to the upper GI tract:
Heartburn and Acid Reflux
Heartburn is a burning sensation in the chest that tends to happen after eating a large meal, when bending over, or when lying down after eating. It is caused when stomach acid flows back upward into the esophagus, causing acid reflux.
This tends to be an occasional problem, and it is not considered a health issue or disorder unless it develops further into GERD.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is characterized by heartburn and acid reflux that happens frequently. People who experience the condition less than twice a week have mild GERD, while those with moderate or severe GERD experience it twice a week or more. If GERD isn’t diagnosed by a doctor and properly treated, it can damage the esophagus and even develop into cancer.
A hereditary condition, celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that is triggered by the consumption of a protein called gluten. The overreactive response of the immune system to gluten damages the lining of the small intestine and negatively affects nutrient absorption.
The resulting symptoms when eating foods that contain gluten are diarrhea, bloating, fatigue, and anemia. However, celiac disease can cause more serious complications if left untreated and consumption of gluten continues.
Foods that naturally contain gluten include:
Note: Rice does not contain gluten.
Gastroenterologists in Central Pennsylvania
Here at Carlisle Digestive Disease Associates, our medical team specializes in the diagnosis and management of digestive disorders. If you’re experiencing any symptoms related to your digestion or abdominal pain, we can help.
The gastroenterologists on our team are all board-certified and fellowship-trained. Our clinic is located in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, right off I-81 from exit 45 in Greater Harrisburg.
If you would like to schedule an appointment with one of our board-certified physicians, contact us today by calling (717) 245-2228 or fill out our appointment request form online now. We look forward to being your healthcare partner!