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Digestive diseases

Digestive diseases are disorders of the digestive tract, which is sometimes called the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

In digestion, food and drink are broken down into small parts (called nutrients) that the body can absorb and use as energy and building blocks for cells.

The digestive tract is made up of the esophagus (food tube), stomach, large and small intestines, liver, pancreas, and the gallbladder.


The first sign of problems in the digestive tract often includes one or more of the following symptoms:

A digestive disease is any health problem that occurs in the digestive tract. Conditions may range from mild to serious. Some common problems include cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, and lactose intolerance.

Other digestive diseases include:

Tests for digestive problems can include colonoscopy, upper GI endoscopy, capsule endoscopy, endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), and endoscopic ultrasound.

Many surgical procedures are performed on the digestive tract. These include procedures done using endoscopy, laparoscopy, and open surgery. Organ transplants can be performed on the liver, pancreas, and small intestine.

Many health care providers can help diagnose and treat digestive problems. A gastroenterologist is a physician specialist who has received extra training in the diagnosis and treatment of the digestive disorders. Other health care providers involved in the treatment of digestive diseases include:


Bkope ET, Kellerman RD. The digestive system. In: Bope ET, ed. Conn's Current Therapy 2016. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 8.

Mayer EA. Functional gastrointestinal disorders. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 137.

Review Date 10/27/2015

Updated by: Subodh K. Lal, MD, gastroenterologist with Gastrointestinal Specialists of Georgia, Austell, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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