Digestive Diseases Overview
The digestive tract physically and chemically alters food, allowing some of its constituents to enter the bloodstream for use by the body's cells. It also prepares the unused portion of the food for excretion, and harbors beneficial bacteria. It consists of the mouth, the salivary glands, esophagus, stomach, liver, pancreas, gallbladder, small intestine, and large intestine (colon).
Digestive diseases include minor annoyances, like occasional heartburn, serious diseases, such as Crohn's, and life-threatening conditions, like perforated ulcers. The study of the digestive tract and its disorders is called gastroenterology. The study of the liver, pancreas, and bile system is a sub-specialty called hepatology. Practitioners in these fields are called gastroenterologists and hepatologists.