The gastrointestinal (GI) system comprises of the GI tract with accessory organs. The GI tract is the long hollow tube which extends from the oral cavity, where food enters the body via esophagus to stomach, then from small intestine to the large intestine, thereafter to the rectum and finally to the anus where undigested food is expelled out. The accessory organs include the salivary glands, pancreas and liver. These organs secrete an important enzymes into the digestive tract. The gall bladder, which stores bile, is also considered a part of the GI system.
The function of the GI system is to process the nutrients and the energy from the food or fluids that you eat or drink. To do this, the GI system needs to break down or digest the food into their simplest forms. The main components of food are fats, proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and fiber. Food also contains varying amounts of water. The digestion starts once when we chew our food to break it down into smaller pieces then enzymes excreted from salivary glands begin to break the food down into the component parts. Swallowed food and fluids travel down the throat into the oesophagus and then into the stomach. Inside the stomach, the food and fluids are mixed with the strong acids that dissolve the solids, and digestive enzymes continue to break the food further down. Then the mixture passes into the small intestine where it is digested further by the juices from the pancreas, liver and small intestine. Thereafter the nutrients are in their accessible form and can travel through the walls of the intestine into the bloodstream, to be delivered throughout our body cells. The undigested food in the small intestine travels into the large intestine where some of the water is reabsorbed into the body and is then expelled from the body as stools.
Gastrointestinal problems include symptoms such as Constipation, Hemorrhoids, Diarrhea and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. It also includes Anal Fissures, Anal Fistulas, Perianal Infections, Diverticular Diseases, Nausea, Vomiting, Colitis, Cancer and Colon Polyps.
The first and foremost step when dealing with Gastrointestinal problems is to find out and treat any underlying disease(s), that may be causing the GI symptoms. The medication related symptoms could be taken care of by stopping the drug or switching to an alternative drug. Virus-related problems normally resolve themselves within a few days. These problems may be mild, self-limiting and temporary or may persist over the long term period and affect your health. These can be prevented or minimized by maintaining a healthy lifestyle.