There are many problems that can affect the upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
The upper GI tract includes the throat, esophagus, stomach, and the first part of the small intestine, called the duodenum. The food and drink you consume enters the throat, travels down the esophagus, and into the stomach, where stomach acid breaks down solids into liquids that your body can digest and absorb.
A muscle at the bottom of the esophagus – called the lower esophageal sphincter – opens to allow food passage into the stomach, then closes to prevent stomach acid from traveling back up the esophagus. After leaving your stomach, what you have consumed enters the small intestine, where bile and digestive enzymes break it down even further. Most of the nutrients from food you’ve consumed is absorbed in the small intestine.
Problems Affecting the Upper GI Tract
Problems can occur anywhere along the GI tract. Common disorders that may indicate a problem in the upper GI tract include:
- Abdominal pain
- Acid reflux
- Barrett’s esophagitis
- Food getting stuck in throat or chest
- Gas, bloating
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Hiatal hernia
- Intestinal bleeding
- Nausea, vomiting
- Sore throat
- Swallowing difficulty or pain
If the GI symptoms you are experiencing are chronic or severe, see your gastrointestinal physician for a proper diagnosis and treatment. Your treatment is more likely to be successful when a GI issue is identified early on.
Diagnosis and Treatment
If your physician suspects a problem in the upper GI tract, there are a number of diagnostic tests that may be performed. An upper endoscopy is a good way to visualize the interior of the throat, esophagus, stomach, and part of the small intestine.
Do you think you or a loved one may have an upper GI disorder? If so, contact the gastrointestinal specialists at the location nearest you to find out how we can help.