The digestive tract is a twisting tube about 30 feet long. It starts at the mouth and ends at the anus. In between are the esophagus, stomach and bowels (intestines). The liver and pancreas aid digestion by producing bile and pancreatic juices which travel to the intestines. The gallbladder stores bile until the body needs it for digestion.
The digestive system breaks down food and fluids into much smaller nutrients. In this complex process, blood carries the nutrients throughout the body to nourish cells and provide energy. The GI tract is divided into two main sections: the upper GI tract and the lower GI tract.
* Upper GI tract — mouth, pharynx, esophagus and stomach. The stomach leads to the small intestine. * Lower GI tract — intestines (bowel) and the anus. The bowel is made up of two sections:
* Small intestine — the duodenum, jejunum and ileum * Large intestine — the cecum (where the appendix is attached), colon and rectumIn addition, the liver, pancreas and gallbladder produce digestive juices to aid the digestion of food.
Medical College of Wisconsin physicians, along with physician assistants, nurses and other specialized team members, provide care for patients with a wide range of complex diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. These diseases include:
General GI disorders
Pancreatobiliary diseases — disorders of the pancreas, gall bladder and bile ducts Esophagus disease
Women's gastrointestinal health
General GI disordersThe following are general disorders of the gastrointestinal tract: * Undiagnosed abdominal pain
* Diarrhea — an increase in the frequency of bowel movements or looseness of stool. * Constipation — the difficult passage of stools (bowel movements) or the infrequent (less than three times a week) or incomplete passage of stools, usually caused by inadequate fiber in the diet or a disruption of regular activities or diet. * Gas (flatulence) — the production of excess stomach or intestinal gas may have many causes, such as an inappropriate diet or various diseases. * Heartburn — an uncomfortable feeling of burning and warmth occurring in waves rising up behind the breastbone toward the neck. It is usually due to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), the rise of stomach acid back up into the esophagus. * Fecal (stool) incontinence — the involuntary loss of stool (liquid or solid) sufficient enough to impair a person’s quality of life. Fecal incontinence has many causes and affects people of all ages. * Hemorrhoids — swollen blood vessels that line the anal opening caused by excess pressure, such as straining during a bowel movement, persistent diarrhea or pregnancy. * Internal hemorrhoids are normal structures that cushion the lower rectum. When internal hemorrhoids fall into the anus (as a result of straining), they can become irritated and bleed. * External hemorrhoids are veins that lie under the skin outside of the anus. These veins can burst and a blood clot can form, causing a painful condition (pile).
* Nausea/vomiting — nausea and vomiting are symptoms of many other disorders such as digestive disease (gallbladder disease, infections, inflammation of the stomach lining, ulcers, cancers, food poisoning or overeating), brain injury, motion sickness, pregnancy, stress and other factors. While vomiting is often harmless, it may be a sign of a more serious illness. * Motility disorders — motility refers to the contractions of the muscles in the digestive tract that enable food to progress from the mouth to the anus. People who suffer from heartburn, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, constipation or diarrhea may have a motility disorder. * Melena — stool stained black by blood pigment or dark blood products. Bloody stool may indicate an injury or disorder in the digestive tract. The blood, which may come from anywhere in the digestive tract, can be...
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