By Barbara Bolen, Ph.D. |

It is always worrisome when your digestive system is giving you trouble. Strange symptoms can certainly be a sign that something is wrong. They may be a sign of a serious medical disorder or something as simple as eating the wrong foods. However, every new, strange and ongoing digestive symptom should be brought to the attention of your doctor in order to get a  proper diagnosis.

While you are waiting for your appointment, you can educate yourself as to some of the more common health problems that may be causing your symptoms.

  1. Heartburn

Heartburn is a burning sensation that rises in your chest and upper abdomen. At times, it is accompanied by a burning sensation in your throat and you may burp up stomach acid. Heartburn is a primary symptom of a condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). As chest discomfort may also signify heart disease, it is essential that you discuss any symptoms of pain in your upper abdomen with your doctor.

  1. Nausea and Vomiting

Nausea and vomiting are particularly unpleasant digestive symptoms, ones that we would all prefer to avoid. There was even a classic Seinfeld television episode, in which Jerry talked about his non-vomiting streak. Although vomiting is sometimes simply the way the body deals with unwanted infectious intruders, vomiting can also be a sign that a more serious problem exists within the body.

  1. Diarrhea

Are you experiencing loose, watery and frequent stools? There are many reasons why a person might be experiencing diarrhea. As you seek answers, it is essential to remember that a major health risk associated with diarrhea is dehydration. So be sure to drink plenty of fluids until you feel better.

  1. Constipation

Constipation involves infrequent bowel movements and stools that are hard, dry and difficult to pass. Often there is a feeling that you haven’t completely emptied your bowel (incomplete evacuation). Constipation does not always indicate a diagnosable health problem. For example, the cause could simply be a side effect of medication or a diet that is lacking in an adequate amount of dietary fiber.

That being said, if you have been experiencing constipation on a regular basis, be sure to talk to your doctor about it. Although there are a few more serious health conditions that can cause constipation, the most common causes are the following:

  1. Gas, Bloating and Flatulence

Although embarrassing, the passing of intestinal gas is usually just a normal part of digestion. If you feel that your symptoms of gas are excessive, discuss the issue with your doctor. In addition, you may find that your gas symptoms ease if you make changes to your diet:

  1. Abdominal Pain

Pain in your abdomen can be the result of a variety of medical disorders.

If the pain is sudden and acute, this could be the sign of a more serious health problem and you need to seek immediate medical attention (see, Severe Stomach Pain: When to Go to the ER). Pain that moves around and is eased by a bowel movement or passing gas may be coming from a more benign cause. In any case, ongoing abdominal pain warrants further investigation.

Here are some of the more common causes of abdominal pain:

  1. Pain During Bowel Movements

Pain during bowel movements is also a symptom with a wide variety of causes.

Don’t be too embarrassed to talk to your doctor about it. Based on where and when you are having your symptoms, your doctor will decide which diagnostic tests, if any, need to be run to get a proper diagnosis. While you are waiting to talk to your doctor, these articles may help you to get a better idea as to what might be behind your pain:

  1. Weird-Looking Stools

Like reading tea leaves, many of us look at our stools as a sign of health oras a sign of a serious problem. How do you know when your stool is telling you something? The following articles may help:

  1. Blood In Your Stool

If you see blood in or on your stool or on the toilet paper as you wipe, you must bring this to the attention to your doctor, but you need not panic. There are many digestive health problems, some severe, some relatively minor that can cause this symptom:


Minocha, A. & Adamec, C. (2011) The Encyclopedia of the Digestive System and Digestive Disorders (2nd Ed.) New York: Facts on File.


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