Health Topics

Digestive system

Digestive Diseases
National Library of Medicine
Gastrointestinal Diseases

When you eat, your body breaks food down to a form it can use to build and nourish cells and provide energy. This process is called digestion.

Your digestive system is a series of hollow organs joined in a long, twisting tube. It runs from your mouth to your anus and includes your esophagus, stomach, and small and large intestines. Your liver, gallbladder and pancreas are also involved. They produce juices to help digestion.

There are many types of digestive disorders. The symptoms vary widely depending on the problem. In general, you should see your doctor if you have

  • Blood in your stool
  • Changes in bowel habits
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Heartburn not relieved by antacids

NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases


Digestive System Diseases
Digestive System
When you eat, your body breaks food down to a form it can use to build and nourish cells and provide energy. This process is called digestion. Your digestive ...
Anatomy
National Library of Medicine

Anatomy is the science that studies the structure of the body. On this page, you'll find links to descriptions and pictures of the human body's parts and organ systems from head to toe.


Anatomy
Digestive System
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Anatomy is the science that studies the structure of the body. On this page, you'll find links to descriptions and pictures of the human body's parts and organ ...
Stomach Disorders
National Library of Medicine
Gastric Disorders
Gastritis
Gastroparesis
Stomach Ache

Your stomach is an organ between your esophagus and small intestine. It is where digestion of protein begins. The stomach has three tasks. It stores swallowed food. It mixes the food with stomach acids. Then it sends the mixture on to the small intestine.

Most people have a problem with their stomach at one time or another. Indigestion and heartburn are common problems. You can relieve some stomach problems with over-the-counter medicines and lifestyle changes, such as avoiding fatty foods or eating more slowly. Other problems like peptic ulcers or GERD require medical attention.

You should see a doctor if you have any of the following:

  • Blood when you have a bowel movement
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Heartburn not relieved by antacids
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Ongoing vomiting or diarrhea

NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases


Stomach Diseases
Digestive System
Your stomach is an organ between your esophagus and small intestine. It is where digestion of protein begins. The stomach has three tasks. It stores swallowed ...
Colonic Diseases
National Library of Medicine
Intestinal Diseases
Large intestine diseases

Your colon, also known as the large intestine, is part of your digestive system. It's a long, hollow tube at the end of your digestive tract where your body makes and stores stool. Many disorders affect the colon's ability to work properly. Some of these include

  • Colorectal cancer
  • Colonic polyps - extra tissue growing in the colon that can become cancerous
  • Ulcerative colitis - ulcers of the colon and rectum
  • Diverticulitis - inflammation or infection of pouches in the colon
  • Irritable bowel syndrome - an uncomfortable condition causing abdominal cramping and other symptoms

Treatment for colonic diseases varies greatly depending on the disease and its severity. Treatment may involve diet, medicines and in some cases, surgery.

NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases


Colonic Diseases
Digestive System
... as the large intestine, is part of your digestive system. It's a long, hollow tube at the end of your digestive tract where your body makes and stores stool. ...
Small Intestine Disorders
National Library of Medicine
Intestinal Diseases

Your small intestine is the longest part of your digestive system - about twenty feet long! It connects your stomach to your large intestine (or colon) and folds many times to fit inside your abdomen. Your small intestine does most of the digesting of the foods you eat. It has three areas called the duodenum, the ileum, and the jejunum.

Problems with the small intestine can include:

  • Bleeding
  • Celiac disease
  • Crohn's disease
  • Infections
  • Intestinal cancer
  • Intestinal obstruction
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Ulcers, such as peptic ulcer

Treatment of disorders of the small intestine depends on the cause.


Ileal Diseases
Jejunal Diseases
Duodenal Diseases
Digestive System
... small intestine is the longest part of your digestive system - about twenty feet long! It connects your stomach ...
Gastrointestinal Bleeding
National Library of Medicine
Bleeding, Gastrointestinal
GI Bleeding
Rectal Bleeding

Your digestive or gastrointestinal (GI) tract includes the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine or colon, rectum, and anus. Bleeding can come from any of these areas. The amount of bleeding can be so small that only a lab test can find it.

Signs of bleeding in the digestive tract depend where it is and how much bleeding there is.

Signs of bleeding in the upper digestive tract include

  • Bright red blood in vomit
  • Vomit that looks like coffee grounds
  • Black or tarry stool
  • Dark blood mixed with stool

Signs of bleeding in the lower digestive tract include

  • Black or tarry stool
  • Dark blood mixed with stool
  • Stool mixed or coated with bright red blood

GI bleeding is not a disease, but a symptom of a disease. There are many possible causes of GI bleeding, including hemorrhoids, peptic ulcers, tears or inflammation in the esophagus, diverticulosis and diverticulitis, ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, colonic polyps, or cancer in the colon, stomach or esophagus.

The test used most often to look for the cause of GI bleeding is called endoscopy. It uses a flexible instrument inserted through the mouth or rectum to view the inside of the GI tract. A type of endoscopy called colonoscopy looks at the large intestine.

NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases


Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage
Digestive System
Symptoms
Your digestive or gastrointestinal (GI) tract includes the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine or colon, rectum, and anus. Bleeding can come ...
Bile Duct Diseases
National Library of Medicine
Biliary Cirrhosis
Biliary Tract Diseases
Cholangitis
Cholestasis

Your liver makes a digestive juice called bile. Your gallbladder stores it between meals. When you eat, your gallbladder pushes the bile into tubes called bile ducts. They carry the bile to your small intestine. The bile helps break down fat. It also helps the liver get rid of toxins and wastes.

Different diseases can block the bile ducts and cause a problem with the flow of bile:

  • Gallstones, which can increase pressure in the gallbladder and cause a gallbladder attack. The pain usually lasts from one to several hours.
  • Cancer
  • Infections
  • Birth defects, such as biliary atresia. It is the most common reason for liver transplants in children in the United States.
  • Inflammation, which can cause scarring. Over time, this can lead to liver failure.

NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases


Bile Duct Diseases
Digestive System
Your liver makes a digestive juice called bile. Your gallbladder stores it between meals. When you eat, your gallbladder pushes the bile into tubes called ...
Celiac Disease
National Library of Medicine
Gluten Intolerance
Gluten-Sensitive Enteropathy
Nontropical Sprue
Celiac sprue

Celiac disease is an immune disease in which people can't eat gluten because it will damage their small intestine. If you have celiac disease and eat foods with gluten, your immune system responds by damaging the small intestine. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. It may also be in other products like vitamins and supplements, hair and skin products, toothpastes, and lip balm.

Celiac disease affects each person differently. Symptoms may occur in the digestive system, or in other parts of the body. One person might have diarrhea and abdominal pain, while another person may be irritable or depressed. Irritability is one of the most common symptoms in children. Some people have no symptoms.

Celiac disease is genetic. Blood tests can help your doctor diagnose the disease. Your doctor may also need to examine a small piece of tissue from your small intestine. Treatment is a diet free of gluten.

NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases


Celiac Disease
Digestive System
Metabolic Problems
... of gluten. NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Gallbladder Diseases
National Library of Medicine
Biliary Tract Diseases
Cholecystectomy

Your gallbladder is a pear-shaped organ under your liver. It stores bile, a fluid made by your liver to digest fat. As your stomach and intestines digest food, your gallbladder releases bile through a tube called the common bile duct. The duct connects your gallbladder and liver to your small intestine.

Your gallbladder is most likely to give you trouble if something blocks the flow of bile through the bile ducts. That is usually a gallstone. Gallstones form when substances in bile harden. Rarely, you can also get cancer in your gallbladder.

Many gallbladder problems get better with removal of the gallbladder. Fortunately, you can live without a gallbladder. Bile has other ways of reaching your small intestine.


Gallbladder Diseases
Digestive System
Your gallbladder is a pear-shaped organ under your liver. It stores bile, a fluid made by your liver to digest fat. As your stomach and intestines digest ...
Indigestion
National Library of Medicine
Dyspepsia
Upset Stomach

Nearly everyone has had indigestion at one time. It's a feeling of discomfort or a burning feeling in your upper abdomen. You may have heartburn or belch and feel bloated. You may also feel nauseated, or even throw up.

You might get indigestion from eating too much or too fast, eating high-fat foods, or eating when you're stressed. Smoking, drinking too much alcohol, using some medicines, being tired, and having ongoing stress can also cause indigestion or make it worse. Sometimes the cause is a problem with the digestive tract, like an ulcer or GERD.

Avoiding foods and situations that seem to cause it may help. Because indigestion can be a sign of a more serious problem, see your health care provider if it lasts for more than two weeks or if you have severe pain or other symptoms. Your health care provider may use x-rays, lab tests, and an upper endoscopy to diagnose the cause. You may need medicines to treat the symptoms.

NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases


Dyspepsia
Digestive System
Symptoms
Nearly everyone has had indigestion at one time. It's a feeling of discomfort or a burning feeling in your upper abdomen. You may have heartburn or belch and ...