A Gastroenterologist is a physician with dedicated training and unique experience in the management of diseases of the gastrointestinal tract and liver. Gastroenterology is the study of the normal function and diseases of the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon and rectum, pancreas, gallbladder, bile ducts and liver. It involves a detailed understanding of the normal action (physiology) of the gastrointestinal organs including the movement of material through the stomach and intestine (motility), the digestion and absorption of nutrients into the body, removal of waste from the system, and the function of the liver as a digestive organ. It includes common and important conditions such as colon polyps and cancer, hepatitis, gastroesophageal reflux (heartburn), peptic ulcer disease, colitis, gallbladder and biliary tract disease, nutritional problems, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and pancreatitis. In essence, all normal activity and disease of the digestive organs are part of the study of Gastroenterology.
Gastroenterologists have a thorough understanding of how food moves through the digestive tract (called motility) and the physical and chemical break down of food (digestion), including the absorption of nutrients and the removal of waste products. Gastroenterologists also focus on the digestive function of the liver.
A gastroenterologist must first complete a 4-year undergraduate college degree followed by another 4 years of medical school. At that time, the physician receives a medical degree, and could seek licensing . The next step to becoming a gastroenterologist is a 3-year residency in internal medicine. At that time a physician may elect to continue on to a specialty in gastroenterology.