What are gastrointestinal symptoms? What may contribute to them?
What are gastrointestinal symptoms?
Gastrointestinal symptoms involve any upset to your gastrointestinal tract—your esophagus, stomach, intestines, rectum, or anus, and other organs of the gastrointestinal system including the liver, gallbladder, and pancreas. They include nausea, vomiting, heartburn, mucositis, constipation, diarrhea, bloating, gas, and pain.
What are the signs or symptoms of gastrointestinal distress?
Common gastrointestinal symptoms:
- Inflammation (sometimes painful) of the mucous membranes in the esophagus, stomach or intestines
- Abdominal pain
- The urge to vomit
- An inability to have a bowel movement
- Either very firm or very soft/liquid bowel movements
- Intestinal gas
- Feelings of abdominal fullness or bloating
What may contribute to gastrointestinal symptoms?
Gastrointestinal symptoms may arise as side effects of some cancer treatments or of tumors causing pressure or damage to the gastrointestinal system—gastrointestinal tract, liver, pancreas, and gallbladder.
Gastrointestinal symptoms may also be symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression, or pain. If any of these is contributing to your gastrointestinal symptoms, managing these conditions will be important in reducing your gastrointestinal symptoms.
Many different conditions and situations can cause or trigger gastrointestinal symptoms.1Mayo Clinic staff. Nausea and vomiting. Mayo Clinic. April 8, 2022. Viewed May 9, 2022; Constipation. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Viewed May 9, 2022; Diarrhea. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Viewed May 9, 2022; High calcium levels (hypercalcemia). Canadian Cancer Society. Viewed May 27, 2022.
- Some chemotherapy and targeted immunotherapy regimens
- Aspirin › and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) ›
- Oral contraceptives
- Metformin ›
- General anesthesia
Other medical treatments
- Radiation therapy to the whole body, the abdomen, or the brain’s vomiting center
- Stomach, intestinal, or gallbladder surgery
- Brain tumor
- Pancreatic cancer
- Liver problems such as hepatitis or cancer
- Gallbladder problems
- Electrolyte imbalances such as low sodium or high calcium
- Blocked intestines
- Bacterial or viral infection
- Bleeding in the stomach or intestines
- Depression ›
- Severe pain ›
- Hormone imbalances
- Hypercalcemia (high levels of calcium in the blood, the most common oncologic emergency)
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Problems with intestinal function
- Metabolic conditions such as thyroid problems
- Lack of exercise
- Not enough liquids
- Not enough dietary fiber
- Ignoring the urge to have a bowel movement
- Spicy foods, alcohol, and coffee may be irritating to the gastrointestinal tract, including the esophagus2Baker S, Fairchild A. Radiation-induced esophagitis in lung cancer. Lung Cancer (Auckland). 2016 Oct 13;7:119-127.
- Noise may possibly trigger higher perception of gastroesophageal reflux disease symptoms
Therapies that we have reviewed that may cause short-term gastrointestinal symptoms as a side effect:
|1||Mayo Clinic staff. Nausea and vomiting. Mayo Clinic. April 8, 2022. Viewed May 9, 2022; Constipation. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Viewed May 9, 2022; Diarrhea. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Viewed May 9, 2022; High calcium levels (hypercalcemia). Canadian Cancer Society. Viewed May 27, 2022.|
|2||Baker S, Fairchild A. Radiation-induced esophagitis in lung cancer. Lung Cancer (Auckland). 2016 Oct 13;7:119-127.|