Common Gastro Symptoms : What to do & when to see a doctor?

Medically reviewed by Dr Nelson Lau MBBS FRACGP,
General Practitioner and Digital Health Specialist
Gastrointestinal (GI) distress encompasses various disruptive gastro symptoms spanning the route food travels beginning a person’s mouth through to the intestines. While many benign causes induce temporary symptoms readily resolved at home, certain scenarios warrant clinical evaluation to rule out emergent conditions or establish targeted treatment plans for long-lasting relief. This article looks at common gastro symptoms, typical benign triggers, some at-home measures, and red flags that require urgent medical attention. 
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Common Gastro Symptoms

Gastro symptoms include a variety of conditions affecting the digestive system. The most common symptoms are:
  1. Abdominal Pain — Muscle tension and menstrual cycles often provoke abdominal pain. Less frequent causes include trapped wind, constipation, intense exercise, anxiety, gastroenteritis, gastritis or peptic ulcers. 
  2. Bloating — Aerophagia (swallowing air) from eating quickly, drinking carbonated drinks, chewing gum, smoking and wearing loose dentures promotes bloating. Beans, lentils, Brussels sprouts and onions contain oligosaccharides – these cannot be adequately absorbed in the small intestine and then go on to ferment in the large intestine, eventually triggering gas. Temporary constipation stretching intestinal walls induces bloating as well. 
  3. Acid Reflux — Dietary triggers like rich sauces, alcohol and caffeine, pregnancy hormone shifts relaxing the lower esophageal sphincter, excess body weight putting mechanical pressure on the abdomen, and cigarettes affecting the effectiveness of the esophageal sphincter to close, resulting in reflux of bile that damages the mucosal lining. 
  4. Diarrhoea — Rushing digestion following heavy, fatty meals or triggered by select ingredients floods intestines with fluid, causing diarrhea. Anxiety also hastens intestinal motility. Bacterial, viral or parasitic infections, laxative overuse, IBS and IBD are also common causes of diarrheal disease. 
  5. Nausea and vomiting — Infections, migraines, motion disturbance, vertigo disturbances, chemical toxins, gallbladder inflammation, gastric ulcers, bowel obstructions and numerous medications are examples of common triggers of nausea and vomiting. 
  6. Constipation — Insufficient fiber and fluids, altered routines disrupting natural rhythm, low thyroid activity, certain medications, hormonal transitions of menstruation or menopause, as well as certain chronic illnesses can contribute to constipation. 
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Best natural home remedy for Gastro

Implementing these first-line comfort measures show proven benefits in dampening numerous GI issues: 

  • Oral hydration therapy replenishes fluid volume losses observed with nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea, stabilising electrolyte levels. Coconut water, diluted fruit juices and oral rehydration solutions enhance hydration efficiency. 
  • Eliminating potential trigger factors provides relief for some individuals. Common dietary Gastro symptom triggers include gas-producing foods, compounds exacerbating reflux like spice, alcohol or caffeine and items instigating diarrhoea such as excess fat, insoluble fiber or known intolerances. 
  • Stress moderation lowers stress hormone and neurotransmitter activity which directly stimulate GI hypersensitivity, accelerate gut motility and inhibit digestive secretions. Mindfulness, cognitive therapy, massage and exercise helps to counter stress. 
  • Over-the-counter antacids, anti-diarrhoeals and osmotic laxatives available without prescription helps with the symptoms of reflux, diarrhoea or constipation respectively when used properly at recommended dosages. 

Alert Signs Necessary for Urgent Clinical Evaluation

While home interventions help with many Gastro symptoms, watch for warning signs that will require a medical assessment by a doctor: 

  • Persistent symptoms not responding to standard home treatments beyond 3-5 days. Ongoing issues are signs of a potential underlying chronic condition that may require further assessment by your GP. 
  • Acute onset of severe pain, especially when progressively intensifying, representing potential bowel obstruction, perforation or peritonitis requiring emergency surgical evaluation. 
  • Blood in the vomit or stools, which may reflect bleeding ulcers, tumours or diverticula requiring endoscopic visualisation and treatment. 
  • Unintentional weight loss above 4.5kg (or 5% of body weight) over six months hinting at malnutrition secondary to malabsorption syndromes, pancreatic insufficiency or occult malignancies, all require a clinical workup. 
  • Rapid swallowing difficulties should prompt assessment for narrowing of the oesophagus due to strictures.  
  • Fevers higher than 38°C together with acute Gastro symptoms are concerning for infections that may require antibiotic treatment guided by laboratory cultures. 

Combining at-home relief strategies while keeping a watchful eye for high-risk scenarios for urgent medical follow-up is a sensible approach for managing gastrointestinal symptoms.

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Common Gastro Symptoms : What to do & when to see a doctor? Medically reviewed by Dr Nelson Lau MBBS FRACGP, General Practitioner and Digital...

Disclaimer

This content is created for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition. For emergencies please immediately contact 000.