Gastrointestinal Motility and Physiology

Gastrointestinal (GI) motility refers to the movement of food from the mouth through the pharynx (throat), esophagus, stomach, small and large intestines and out of the body.

The GI system is responsible for digestion. The moment you even look at food, your body starts beginning this complicated process.

The gastrointestinal (GI) motility and physiology program at UC San Diego Health System is led by Ravinder Mittal, MD, an international leader in GI motility clinical care and research.

Motility specialists identify and address conditions related to the body’s movement of food through the gastrointestinal system. Our dedication to research in GI motility enables us to provide new leading-edge developments in diagnostic technologies and clinical therapies for these disorders.

Read more about the conditions we address below.


Esophageal Motility

The GI motility and physiology team works with people who experience difficulty swallowing (called dysphasia), angina-like pain (discomfort in the chest) and persistent heartburn. These symptoms are frequently experienced by people with esophageal motility disorders, such as:

  • Achalasia
  • Barrett’s esophagus
  • Esophageal diverticula
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Hiatal hernia
  • Nutcracker esophagus
  • Diffuse esophageal spasm

We work closely with UC San Diego Health System’s minimally invasive and robot-assisted surgery teams to treat disorders of the esophagus.

Gastric Motility

A new set of disorders presents itself at the stomach, causing nausea, vomiting, bloating, upper abdominal pain, distention and upset stomach. These symptoms are associated with gastric (stomach) motility disorders, such as:

  • Gastroparesis or delayed gastric emptying
  • Rapid gastric emptying
  • Idiopathic vomiting
  • Functional dyspepsia

Intestinal Motility

From the stomach, food passes to the small and large intestines. The small intestine can be a challenging area of the body to see for clear diagnosis. Smart capsule technology is changing the course of intestinal diagnoses, offering advanced measuring capability of the rate of muscle contractions through the small bowel and gut transit time. Disorders of this region include ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease – the primary forms of inflammatory bowel disease. Our team collaborates with the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center to diagnose and treat these conditions. 

Pelvic Floor Disorders

The GI motility team diagnoses, treats and researches pelvic floor disorders such as fecal incontinence, constipation and anal sphincter dysfunction. With careful examination, and collaboration with colorectal surgeons and the Women’s Pelvic Medicine Center, our specialists provide advanced comprehensive care. When indicated, we use biofeedback therapy in addition to medication and surgical treatments for these disorders.

Diagnostic Testing

We provide state-of-the art diagnostic tests to evaluate GI digestive system disorders relating to motility. These tests include:

  • Esophageal pH monitoring with Bravo System
  • High-resolution esophageal testing
  • High-resolution anal manometry
  • Hydrogen and methane breath testing
  • Testing for lactose intolerance and other intolerances
  • H. pylori testing
  • Gastric emptying
  • Colon transit study
  • 3D ultrasound imaging of anal sphincter

Read more about motility procedures.


The specialists in the GI motility and physiology program are involved in numerous research studies to improve the detection and treatment of motility disorders. Our research is focused in two areas:

  • Esophageal motility and pain
  • Pelvic floor disorders as they relate to fecal incontinence and constipation 

Scientific Articles in GI Motility

View titles and abstracts of scientific articles written by UC San Diego Health System GI motility specialists. Read more about our research and clinical trials.

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GI Motility Specialists


La Jolla
Thornton Hospital
9300 Campus Point Dr.
Special Procedures Unit
2nd Floor

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