Glossary of Terms

Abdomen: Area between the chest and the hips that contains the stomach, small intestine, large intestine, liver, gall bladder, pancreas, and spleen.

Achalasia: Failure of the lower esophageal sphincter, a valve that separates the stomach and the esophagus, to open.

Acute: Sudden onset of symptoms.

Aerophagia: Ingestion of air.

Ambulatory care: Health services provided in a doctor's office, or on an outpatient basis.

Ambulatory Endoscopy Center (AEC): Medical facility that performs endoscopy procedures.

Anal fissure: A cut in anal canal.

Anastomosis, intestinal: Reattachment of two portions of bowel together.

Antispasmodics: Drugs that inhibit smooth muscle contraction in the gastrointestinal tract.

Anus: The opening of the rectum.

Barium:  A metallic, chemical, chalky, liquid used to coat the inside of organs so that they will
show up on an x-ray.

Bile: Secretions of the liver that aid in digestion and absorption, and stimulate peristalsis.   

Biliary tract: Gall bladder and the bile ducts.

Biopsy: Tissue sample.

Borborygmi: Audible rumbling abdominal sounds due to gas gurgling with liquid as it passes through the intestines.

Bowel: The intestines.

Capsule Endoscopy: A procedure that lets your doctor examine the lining of the middle part of your gastrointestinal tract, which includes the three portions of the small intestine (duodenum, jejunum, ileum). Your doctor will use a pill sized video capsule called which has its own lens and light source and will view the images on a video monitor. You might hear your doctor or other medical staff refer to capsule endoscopy as small bowel endoscopy, capsule enteroscopy, or wireless endoscopy.

Celiac disease: An allergic reaction of the lining of the small intestine in response to the protein gliadin (a component of gluten). Gliadin is found in wheat, rye, barley, and oats. Celiac disease is also called celiac sprue, and gluten intolerance.

Chronic:  Symptoms occurring over a long period of time.

Clostridium difficile (C. difficile). A gram-positive anaerobic bacterium. C. difficile is recognized as the major causative agent of colitis (inflammation of the colon) and diarrhea that may occur following antibiotic intake.

Colectomy: Removal of part or the entire colon.

Colitis: Inflammation of the colon.

Colon: The large intestine.

Colonoscopy: Colonoscopy is a fiberoptic (endoscopic) procedure in which a thin, flexible, lighted viewing tube (a colonoscope) is threaded up through the rectum for the purpose of inspecting the entire colon and rectum and, if there is an abnormality, taking a tissue sample of it (biopsy) for examination under a microscope, or removing it.

Colostomy:  A surgically created opening of the colon to the abdominal wall, allowing the diversion of fecal waste.     

Congenital: Conditions existing at birth, but not through heredity.

Contrast radiology (GI): A test in which a contrast material (i.e., Barium) is used to coat the rectum, colon, and lower part of the small intestine so they show up on an x-ray.

Constipation: Reduced stool frequency, or hard stools, difficulty passing stools, or painful bowel movements.

Crohn's disease: A form of inflammatory bowel disease.

Dehydration:  An excessive loss of fluids in the body.

Diaphragm: The muscle wall between the chest and the abdomen.

Diarrhea: Passing frequent and loose stools that can be watery. Acute diarrhea goes away in a few weeks, and becomes chronic when it lasts longer than 4 weeks.

Dilatation: Expansion of an organ or vessel.

Distention: A swelling of the abdomen.             

Diverticulitis: Occurs when a diverticulum become infected or irritated.

Diverticula (diverticulosis): Small pouches in the colon.

Duodenum: The first part of the small intestine.

Dysphagia: The sensation of food sticking in the esophagus.

Endoscope:  A thin, flexible tube with a light and a lens on the end used to look into the esophagus, stomach, duodenum, small intestine, colon, or rectum.

Endoscopy: A procedure that uses an endoscope to diagnose or treat a condition. There are many types of endoscopy; examples include colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, gastroscopy, enteroscopy, and esophogogastroduodenoscopy (EGD).                          

Enteral nutrition: Food provided through a tube placed in the nose, stomach, or small intestine.

Enteritis: An irritation of the small intestine.

Enterocolitis: Inflammation of the intestines ganglion: A mass of nerve cells.

Enteroscopy: Examination of the inside of the small intestine using an endoscope.

Eosinophilic gastroenteritis: A rare disease characterized by food-related reactions, infiltration of certain white blood cells (eosinophils) in the GI tract, and an increase in the number of eosinophils in the blood.

Esophagitis: An irritation of the esophagus.

Esophagus: The organ that connects the mouth to the stomach.

Esophogealgastroduodenoscopy (EGD): Examination of the inside of the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum using an endoscope. (Also called Gastroscopy or Upper Endoscopy)

Familial: Tending to occur in more members of a family than expected by chance alone.

Fecalith: A hard mass of dried feces.

Feces: Waste eliminated from the bowels.

Fistula: An abnormal passage between two organs or between an organ and the outside of the body.

Food allergy: An immune system response by which the body creates antibodies as a reaction to certain food. Studies show that true food allergies are present in only 1-2% of adults.

Gastric: Related to the stomach.

Gastric Juices: Liquids produced in the stomach to help break down food and kill bacteria.

Gastritis: An inflammation of the stomach lining.

Gastroenteritis: An infection or irritation of the stomach and intestines.

Gastroenterologist: A doctor who specializes in digestive diseases or disorders.

Gastroenterology: The field of medicine concerned with the function and disorders of the digestive system.

Gastrointestinal (GI) tract: The muscular tube from the mouth to the anus, also called the alimentary canal or digestive tract.

Gastroparesis: Nerve or muscle damage in the stomach leading to delayed gastric emptying.

Gastroscopy: Examination of the inside of the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum using an endoscope.

Gastrostomy (G-tube): A method of enteral feeding in which a tube is surgically or endoscopically introduced through the abdominal wall.

GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease): Also called acid reflux, a condition where the contents of the stomach regurgitates (or backs up) into the esophagus (food pipe), causing discomfort and sometimes esophageal injury.

Gluten intolerance: See Celiac disease.

Gut: Intestines.

H2-blockers: A class of medicines that reduce the amount of acid the stomach produces.

Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori): A bacterium that can damage stomach and duodenal tissue, causing ulcers and stomach cancer.

Hemorrhoids: Veins around or inside the anus or lower rectum that are swollen and inflamed.

Hepatic: Related to the liver.

Hiatal hernia: A small opening in the diaphragm that allows a part of the stomach to move up into the chest.

Ileostomy: A surgically created opening of the abdominal wall to the ileum, allowing the diversion of fecal waste.

Ileum: The lower third of the small intestine, adjoining the colon.

Inflammation: Redness, swelling, pain, and/or a feeling of heat in an area of the body. This is a protective reaction to injury, disease, or irritation of the tissues.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): A set of chronic diseases characterized by irritation and ulcers in the gastrointestinal tract. The most common disorders are ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.

Intestinal mucosa: The surface lining of the intestines where the cells absorb nutrients.

Intestinal pseudo-obstruction: Symptoms and signs of intestinal blockage, but no actual blockage.

Intestines: Also known as the bowels, or the long, tube-like organ in the human body that completes digestion or the breaking down of food. They consist of the small intestine and the large intestine.

Ischemic colitis: Colitis caused by decreased blood flow to the colon.

Jejunostomy (J-tube): A method of enteral feeding in which a tube is surgically placed in the small intestine.

Lactose: A sugar found commonly in milk and dairy products.

Lactose intolerance: The inability to digest or absorb lactose.

Large intestine: The long, tube-like organ that is connected to the small intestine at one end and the anus at the other. The large intestine has four parts: cecum, colon, rectum, and anal canal. Partly digested food moves through the cecum into the colon, where water and some nutrients and electrolytes are removed. The remaining material, solid waste called stool, moves through the colon, is stored in the rectum, and leaves the body through the anal canal and anus.

Laxative: A compound that increases fecal water content.

Manometry: A test that measures pressure or contractions in the gastrointestinal tract.

Motility: Movement of content within the gastrointestinal tract.

Peptic ulcer: A sore in the lining of the esophagus, stomach, or duodenum, usually caused by most commonly by the bacterium Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) or use of NSAID medications. An ulcer in the stomach is a gastric ulcer; an ulcer in the duodenum is a duodenal ulcer.

Polyp: A benign growth involving the lining of the GI tract (noncancerous tumors or neoplasms). They can occur in several locations in the gastrointestinal tract but are most common in the colon. They vary in size from less than a quarter of an inch to several inches in diameter. They look like small bumps growing form the lining of the bowel and protruding into the lumen (bowel cavity). They sometimes grow on a “stalk” and look like mushrooms. Many patients have several polyps scattered in different parts of the colon.

Proton pump inhibitor (PPI): The strongest class of drugs for inhibiting acid secretion in the stomach.

Radiation proctitis: Bleeding, mucous and bloody discharge, spasm of the rectal wall, urgency, and incontinence due radiation-induced damage to the rectum. Late symptoms result from scarring of the rectal and anal muscles with loss of some of the small blood vessels. The rectum becomes stiff and noncompliant (nonstretchable) and abnormal blood vessels may develop.

Rectum: The lower end of the large intestine, leading to the anus.

Resection, intestinal: The surgical removal of a diseased portion of the intestines.

Satiety: Feeling of fullness.

Sigmoid colon: The S-shaped section of the colon that connects to the rectum.

Sigmoidoscopy: Examination of the inside of the sigmoid colon and rectum using an endoscope -- a thin, lighted tube (sigmoidoscope). Samples of tissue or cells may be collected for examination under a microscope. Also called proctosigmoidoscopy.

Small intestine: The part of the digestive tract that is located between the stomach and the large intestine.

Sphincter: Ring of muscle that opens and closes and acts as a valve in various “check points” of the GI tract.

Stricture: Abnormal narrowing of a tubular part of the body.

Ulcerative colitis: A form of inflammatory bowel disease that causes ulcers and inflammation in the inner lining of the colon and rectum.

Upper endoscopy: Examination of the inside of the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum using an endoscope.

Upper GI series: X-rays of the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum.

Valsalva maneuver: Voluntary increasing pressure in the abdominal cavity with the diaphragm and abdominal muscles to bear down on the rectum to facilitate defecation.

Villi: Tiny finger-like projections on the surface of the small intestine that help absorb nutrients.

Visceral hypersensitivity: Enhanced perception, or over-responsiveness within the gut -- even to normal events.


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