The most common and obvious signs of poor digestion and absorption include gas, bloating, heartburn, indigestion, cramping, constipation, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. While these signs and symptoms may be very obvious to many people they are often ignored for long periods of time until they become severe. If you experience any of the above symptoms it is important to pursue appropriate diagnosis and treatment because they are warning signs for further complications in the future.

Abdominal Pain

The location and nature of abdominal pain can be helpful in diagnosing the problem in the digestive tract. Pain in the lower right abdominal quadrant associated with fever is likely an appendicitis. Severe flank pain that radiates to the back often involves the gall bladder. Pain and burning feeling radiating to the chest often involves the stomach and esophageal sphincter.

Unfortunately, diagnosing solely based on the location and nature of abdominal pain is not accurate enough to rely on in many cases the pain receptors and nerves in the digestive tract are not very geographically accurate. There are over a dozen legitimate causes of abdominal pain in the lower left quadrant. The most likely culprit is diverticulosis but it is important to do a full investigation and not just rely on the most likely cause.

Upper Digestive Tract

The upper digestive tract includes the oral cavity, esophagus, and stomach. Problems in the upper digestive tract usually manifest immediately upon consumption of food in the oral cavity and upper esophagus to within 60 minutes in the lower esophagus and stomach. Severe problems in this area can cause black coffee ground-like components to the stool.

Mid Digestive Tract

The mid digestive tract includes the pyloric sphincter, the upper portion of the small intestine (duodenum), the middle portion of the small intestine (jejunum), the pancreas, gall bladder, liver, and ducts that connect to the duodenum. This is the part of the digestive system most associated with absorption. Problems in the mid digestive tract usually manifest between one and two hours after food consumption. They tend to produce digestive symptoms that get better more than two hours after eating. Severe problems in the mid digestive tract can cause deep and dark red blood in the stool.

Lower Digestive Tract

The lower digestive tract includes the lower portion of the small intestine (ileum), the appendix, the ascending colon, transverse colon, descending colon, sigmoid colon, and anus. Severe problems in the lower digestive tract can cause bright red blood in the digestive tract.

Bowel Movements

The characteristics and qualities of your bowel movements are one of the most important indicators for the health of the digestive system. Constipation, diarrhea, pain, straining, urgency, and leakage are all signs of digestive system dysfunction. Blood, undigested food, mucus, and fat in the stool also indicate problems with digestion and absorption.