GI diseases and illnesses are any ailments linked to the digestive system, including the throat, stomach, and intestines. Diagnoses may include acute, short-term illnesses – sometimes referred to as “stomach bugs.” They can give you unpleasant symptoms while they work their way through your system.

GI diseases may also include more chronic diagnoses, such as Crohn’s disease or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and may require long-term, specialty treatment.

There are several different types of GI illnesses, including viral gastroenteritis, food poisoning, and even constipation. On this page, you’ll learn more about some of the most common short-term GI illnesses we see at IMC Immediate Medical Care.

Did you know? The National Institutes of Health reports that between 60 and 70 million people are affected by digestive diseases each year.

Symptoms of gastrointestinal illnesses

Most GI ailment symptoms are easily recognizable. GI disorders generally begin with abdominal discomfort and nausea and then symptoms may differ depending on your specific ailment. GI disorders or infections may include:

Viral gastroenteritis (“stomach flu”)

Gastroenteritis, also known as infectious diarrhea, is inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract–the stomach and small intestine. Symptoms may include diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain. Fever, lack of energy and dehydration may also occur. This typically lasts less than two weeks. It is not related to influenza, though it has erroneously been called the “stomach flu.”

Gastroenteritis is usually caused by viruses. However, bacteria, parasites, and fungus can also cause gastroenteritis. In children, rotavirus is the most common cause of severe disease. In adults, norovirus and Campylobacter are common causes. Eating improperly prepared food, drinking contaminated water or close contact with a person who is infected can spread the disease. Treatment is generally the same with or without a definitive diagnosis, so testing to confirm is usually not needed.

Gastroenteritis symptoms may take several days to appear. Symptoms include:

  • Vomiting
  • Watery diarrhea
  • Cramping
  • A low fever
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle pPain

Food poisoning

Food poisoning is an illness which occurs when you’ve eaten food contaminated by an infectious organism, such as salmonella, listeria, or E. coli. Some 250 different bacteria, viruses, and parasites can cause food poisoning. Your symptoms usually pass in a few days or even in mere hours. But if your discomfort doesn’t go away, you may need to get checked and find out exactly what made you sick. Other symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Cramps


A common, usually temporary disorder, often the result of inactivity, eating or drinking a lot of dairy products, and/or not having enough fiber or water in your diet. Constipation may resolve itself within a few days. Symptoms include:

  • Trouble with bowel movements
  • Bloating

Morning sickness

Morning sickness is nausea and vomiting that occurs during pregnancy. And, despite its name, morning sickness can strike at any time of the day or night. Many pregnant women have morning sickness, especially during the first trimester. But some women have morning sickness throughout pregnancy. Symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Diagnosing gastrointestinal illnesses

Because there are a multitude of diagnoses that fall under GI illnesses, your IMC medical team may ask you about your symptoms and recent activities, among other things, to help them make their diagnosis.

Patients may be referred to a gastroenterologist for chronic disorders. Specialists may be able to help the patient determine how to adjust their lifestyle, diet, medications, or manage their ongoing symptoms. In cases where serious underlying disorders are suspected by your healthcare provider, immediate referral to the emergency department may be necessary.