Home > Digestive Disorders

Digestive Disorders in New Jersey

Angela Merlo, MD is an experienced Gastroenterologist utilizing the most advanced technology to address the wide array of digestive disorders for adults as well as children. This means better outcomes and better care for her patients. The Digestive Health & Nutrition Center has two convenient locations in Lawrenceville and Princeton, New Jersey where you can receive the exceptional care you deserve.

What are Functional Digestive Disorders?

Functional digestive disorders are the most prevalent of all digestive disorders accounting for a wide array of symptoms in people of all ages. When severe, they disrupt daily activities causing people to limit work, school and social interactions. In these conditions, the bowel or other digestive organs appear normal on an examination such as colonoscopy or upper endoscopy but their function is corrupt. Like a software clash when the computer hardware is intact.  The right diagnosis is crucial as functional disorders mimic the symptoms of structural digestive disorders. The causes of functional digestive orders are not well understood. They involve many factors, even genes and vary between the different disorders.   Symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Indigestion
  • Abdominal pain or burning
  • Chest pressure or burning
  • Excessive gas and bloating
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Irregular bowel habits
  • Audible intestinal noises
  • Leakage of bowel contents

Some things that may worsen symptoms:

  • Stress
  • Inadequate sleep
  • Travel and other disruptions in daily routine
  • Lack of exercise
  • Medications
  • Puberty
  • Pregnancy
  • Menopause

Dr. Angela Merlo does not think it enough to label a digestive disorder as functional and expect the patient to live with symptoms. Dr. Merlo is renowned for her success in finding treatable causes of symptoms. She employs an array of non-invasive and minimally invasive in office procedures such as breath hydrogen tests (LINK) to determine possible underlying causes of symptoms. She utilizes a natural approach of diet and nutrition to provide relief and put the patient back in control.


Constipation is difficulty in passing feces, hard stools, infrequent stools (less than three times weekly) or incomplete evacuation. Constipation is often caused by a lack of sufficient water and roughage, or fiber, in the diet or a disruption of a person’s normal dietary habits. Constipation can also be caused by medications and systemic disorders.  Affected individuals complain of hard stools, pellet shaped stools or painful evacuations. People may strain to produce a bowel movement which in turn can cause weakening of internal muscles, hemorrhoids and fissures.

Treating constipation involves many factors including increasing your dietary fiber intake, engaging in regular exercise and training your bowel to a regular schedule. Laxative are to be avoided as their chronic use can produce unwanted and irreversible effects on the colon.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Irritable bowel syndrome is one of the functional digestive disorders. IBS has a strict medical definition involving recurrent abdominal pain and altered bowel habits ranging from diarrhea to constipation. Either diarrhea or constipation may be predominant.  Or, bowel habits may be mix and alternating. Affected individuals experience periodic exacerbations. Symptoms may also include mucous in stool and urgency. Upper gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, indigestion, and excessive gas are common in patients with IBS. Systemic illnesses need to be excluded as many disorders produce similar symptoms. Warning signs that there may be other pathology are blood in stool, anemia, vitamin deficiencies, and weight loss as these are not associated with IBS.  The label IBS is commonly applied to other functional conditions and some people use the terms spastic colon or irritable colon as interchangeable with IBS.  Dr. Merlo does not think the label is important.  Dr. Merlo focuses on eliminating any systemic pathology and discerning the underlying triggers. She utilizes non-invasive and minimally invasive in office procedures to provide her patents with the most accurate diagnosis and best treatment. She incorporates a natural approach of diet and nutrition to provide patients with relief and put the patient back in control.

What are Structural Digestive Disorders?

Structural disorders are conditions in which the bowel or other digestive organs exhibits physical abnormalities on an examination such as colonoscopy and upper endoscopy. These physical abnormalities may include ulcers, growths, inflammation, strictures or narrowing that can impair function. In some cases, structural abnormalities require only short term systemic medication for remedy. Other disorders are chronic and require more long term medication use, others can be resolved with endoscopic intervention and still others require surgical intervention.  The most prevalent structural disorders are:

  • Barrett’s esophagus
  • Cancers
  • Crohn’s disease (LINK)
  • Diverticulosis and diverticulitis (LINK)
  • Hemorrhoids (LINK)
  • Infectious colitis
  • Ischemic colitis (from insufficient blood flow to the bowel)
  • Polyps of the colon and stomach
  • Radiation colitis (from radiation therapy)
  • Reflux esophagitis
  • Ulcerative Colitis (LINK)
  • Ulcers of the stomach and duodenum

Digestive Health & Nutrition Center treats the following digestive disorders:

If you live in or around Trenton or Princeton, New Jersey and are looking for a specialist in adult and pediatric gastroenterology to treat your digestive disorder, contact the Digestive Health & Nutrition Center in Lawrenceville today to set up an appointment.