The gastrointestinal tract or more commonly the GI Tract, is also known as the digestive tractalimentary canal (nourishment canal), or simply the “gut”. It is an organ system that consumes food (ingestion) and digests it (digestion) to absorb needed nutrients and energy, while also expelling waste (excretion). The GI tract is subdivided into two upper and lower anatomical tracts with the principal organs being the: mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon, and rectum.

Basic Anatomy

  • Upper GI Tract– food is partially processed.
  • Mouth/ Mucal Cavity
  • salivary glands
  • mucosa
  • tooth/teeth
  • tongue
  • Pharnyx Oesophagus/Esophagus (gullet)
  • Stomach/Cardia
  • antrum
  • pylorus
  • tooth/teeth
  • pyloric sphincter
  • Lower GI Tract – digestion of food is completed.
  • Small Intestine
  • duodenum
  • jejunum
  • ileum
  • Large Intestine
  • caecum
  • colon
  • rectum
  • anus

How Does the GI Tract Function?

In a nutshell, the gastrointestinal tract is an extremely complex system that performs a vital function. The stomach plays an important primary step. It is a sac-like organ where food has begun to be broken down by secreted enzymes. The food, now partially digested then travels through the small intestine. This is where digestion is completed. The colon is the final portion of the GI track and the last step in the process. The re-absorption of water takes place here.

Related Disorders

Unfortunately no matter how smoothly the process may often progress, the GI tract is still vulnerable to a variety of disorders, including irritable bowel syndrome. It is estimated that as many as 15.4 million patients suffer from this syndrome alone. Its symptoms include cramping and changes in the functions of the bowel. Another serious illness not to be ignored affects an estimated 3.4 million Americans. This disorder is called inflammatory bowel disease which includes Crohn’s Disease and diarrhea. Both inflame the digestive tract’s lining. Additional symptoms that may indicate other disorders are: ulcers, lesions, small bowel cancers or polyps, and gastroesophaegeal reflux disorder.

Common symptoms for which many people seek medical help include:

  • Painful abdominal cramping
  • Chronic unexplained bleeding of the rectum
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of Weight
  • Nausea
  • Chronic constipation

Often these symptoms are related to ineffective diets, yeast or parasites, absence of necessary bacteria, certain food allergies, imbalances in the nervous system, or even trouble dealing with situations that are stressful. If left untreated, these symptoms can develop into serious functional problems that affect the GI tract which are identified as:

  • Malabsorption Syndrome – inability to absorb necessary nutrients into the body from the entire gastrointestinal system.
  • Leaky Gut Syndrome – inability of the gastrointestinal system to screen waste that should not enter the system.

Peptic ulcers and colitis can also arise as even more serious complications.

Peptic ulcers and colitis can also arise as even more serious complications.


Gastroenterologists are physicians that diagnose and treat diseases of the digestive tract. These doctors are the link between life threatening conditions such as colorectal cancer that plague the digestive tract and a complete recovery. A common solution for patients who are diagnosed with a GI disorder is using miniaturized diagnostic technology. TheUpper and Lower GI Radiographic Series is currently the most common method used for detection and diagnosis and is an endoscopicand x-ray imaging system. Unfortunately, due to the present lack of dependable methods, the pathology in this area is often under diagnosed. Regardless, according to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, 17% and 28% of total procedures done to examine the small intestine were completed using this method. It has also been estimated that there have been over 1 million procedures completed in just one year. This suggests that a majority of patients consider the possibility of relief from the symptoms of disorders worth the gamble. Additional tests include acupuncture, liver toxification profiling, and gut permeability exams which can help determine the underlying cause of an upper or lower gastrointestinal or GI disorder. Please consult a gastrointestinal specialist for further information.