Wondering why you're dealing with abdominal pain?
Everyone deals with a stomachache from time to time. Typically, it will go away on its own, and it’s nothing to worry about; however, certain symptoms may warrant having a gastroenterologist take a closer look. Here’s what you should know about abdominal pain.
What causes abdominal pain?
There is a laundry list of conditions, infections, and diseases that can cause sharp, aching, stabbing, or cramping pain in the abdomen. Some causes are minor and will go away on their own, while others will require urgent medical attention. Common causes include,
- Food poisoning
- Food allergies (different than a food intolerance)
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Gastroenteritis (referred to as a “stomach bug”)
For women, abdominal pain might not have anything to do with the digestive tract and may be due to menstruation, ovarian polyps or cysts, or other reproductive issues.
If your abdominal pain is minor and goes away in a couple of hours, it’s probably not something to worry about; however, severe abdominal pain is nothing to ignore. Severe abdominal pain, as well as worsening or persistent abdominal pain could be due to,
- Irritable bowel diseases (e.g., Crohn’s disease; ulcerative colitis)
- Stomach ulcers
- Gallstones or kidney stones
When should I see a gastroenterologist?
It’s a good idea to schedule an appointment with a gastroenterologist if you are experiencing,
- Constant abdominal pain that lasts days
- Pain that keeps coming back
- Other symptoms such as diarrhea or constipation that also doesn’t go away after a few days
- Changes in bowel movements or urinary/bladder function
- Unexpected and sudden weight loss
If you are dealing with severe abdominal pain or abdominal pain accompanied by nausea, vomiting, trouble breathing, pain in the chest, or bloody stools, you must seek immediate medical attention.
What is your gut trying to tell you? If you are dealing with persistent abdominal pain or stomach pains that concern you, then these are reasons to turn to a gastroenterologist.
Should you schedule an appointment with a gastroenterologist?
A gastroenterologist is a medical specialist who diagnoses and treats conditions and disorders that impact the gastrointestinal tract including the liver, gallbladder and intestines. If you are dealing with digestive problems, a GI doctor is probably going to be the best doctor to turn to. Here’s when you could benefit from seeing a gastroenterologist,
You’re Experiencing Persistent Heartburn
Dealing with heartburn two or more times a week? If so, your heartburn could actually be a sign of something more serious known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Untreated GERD can increase your risk for esophageal cancer so it’s important that you turn to a qualified GI doctor for the proper way to treat heartburn symptoms. If you are dealing with recurring heartburn, using over-the-counter medications regularly is not the answer. A gastroenterologist can help.
You’re Noticing Abnormal Bowel Issues
Whether you’re dealing with diarrhea, constipation or a mix of both, we all know that these issues can be uncomfortable and embarrassing; however, it’s important to recognize when these are issues that warrant seeing a gastroenterologist. If you’re experiencing constipation or diarrhea that lasts for more than a couple of days, or if you’re experiencing dehydration due to diarrhea, you should turn to a GI doctor.
You Experience Rectal Bleeding
Rectal bleeding may be caused by more minor issues such as a fissure or hemorrhoids but it may also be a sign of internal bleeding. The color of the blood can give you a clue as to where the bleed is coming from. For example, dark blood often comes from the upper GI tract and may be caused by inflammation, gastroenteritis or ulcers. If blood is bright red this typically comes from the lower digestive tract and may be caused by polyps, inflammatory bowel disease, hemorrhoids or rectal prolapse. If you notice frequent or heavy rectal bleeding, you should see a gastroenterologist right away.
You Turned 50 Years Old
Everyone, regardless of risk factors, should turn to a gastroenterologist for routine colonoscopies. A colonoscopy is the best way to detect early signs of colorectal cancer (a gastroenterologist can even remove polyps during this standard procedure). If you are at an increased risk for colorectal cancer, you should talk to your GI doctor about getting colonoscopies starting at 45 years old.
No one wants to deal with digestive difficulties. If you are dealing with any of the situations above, a gastroenterologist can help you make sense of what’s going on and provide you with the treatment you need to feel better.
If your heartburn keeps returning, it’s important to know what to do.
You are getting ready to sit down to dinner and realize it’s taco night. While this would make most people jump for joy, if you suffer from heartburn then the idea of eating anything spicy may preemptively make your chest hurt. You want to enjoy your favorite foods but you know you’re going to pay for it later. If this sounds like you, a gastroenterologist can provide some simple solutions for how to tackle your heartburn.
Treating Heartburn Yourself
Before turning to a gastroenterologist you may wish to try controlling heartburn on your own. There are some simple lifestyle approaches you can take to manage mild to moderate heartburn symptoms such as,
- Not eating 2-3 hours before bedtime
- Eating slowly and mindfully (to prevent overeating)
- Staying away from certain foods (e.g. chocolate, caffeine, tomatoes or spicy foods) that could aggravate your symptoms
- Losing excess weight, if needed
- Limiting alcohol
- Quitting smoking
- Waiting two hours after a meal before exercising
- Not wearing clothes that are restrictive or put pressure around the waist
Nothing Seems to Be Working. Now What?
If these habits don’t improve your heartburn, then it’s time you turned to a gastroenterologist to figure out what is going on and how to treat this problem. Often, a prescription medication like a proton pump inhibitor or a stomach acid reducer is better equipped to target your symptoms and reduce stomach irritation than over-the-counter remedies.
Plus, over-the-counter heartburn medications might be great for treating the occasional bout of heartburn, but shouldn't be used more than twice a week. If you find yourself dealing with heartburn two or more times a week, then this is also a sign to see a gastroenterologist.
Keeping a diary while making these simple lifestyle changes is a great way to determine what helps your symptoms and what makes them worse. If you do keep a heartburn diary be sure to bring it with you to your doctor's appointment so your gastroenterologist can gain as much insight into your heartburn issues as possible.
If you’re suffering from heartburn and can’t seem to manage your symptoms on your own then it’s time you turned to a gastroenterologist who can figure out whether you could have GERD. If left untreated, GERD could lead to more serious complications, so it’s important to get evaluated by a medical specialist.
What is a gallbladder attack?
A gallbladder attack is often what happens when there is a gallstone blockage in the duct of the gallbladder. Symptoms can last where from a few minutes to a few hours, but it’s important to seek immediate medical attention if you are dealing with severe abdominal pain. The attack may go away on its own without any complications, but it’s still important that you schedule an appointment with your gastroenterologist to make sure that your symptoms are due to a gallbladder attack and to rule out other potential health problems.
What are the signs and symptoms of a gallbladder attack?
Wondering if you could be dealing with a gallbladder attack? You could be if you are experiencing:
- A dull, sharp, or cramping pain in the upper right side or center of the abdomen
- Pain that radiates to the back or shoulder blades
- Yellowing of the skin and eyes (also known as jaundice)
As with most health problems, certain risk factors could increase your chances of developing gallstones. You may be more likely to experience gallstones during your lifetime if:
- You have a family history of gallstones or gallbladder problems
- You are obese or overweight
- You have a low-fiber, high-cholesterol diet
- You take certain medications such as birth control or hormone replacement therapy
- You have diabetes
- You are pregnant
- You are over 40 years old
- You have been diagnosed with liver disease
If the gallstone is passed on its own without problems then no treatment is necessary; however, sometimes medications or shockwaves are used to break up the gallstones. If you are dealing with recurring gallbladder pain, your gastroenterologist may recommend having your gallbladder removed.
If you are dealing with severe or sudden abdominal pain it’s important to seek immediate medical attention, as a gallbladder attack isn’t the only thing that can lead to sudden stomach pain. If you find yourself dealing with frequent gallbladder issues you may wish to speak with a gastroenterologist about whether to have the organ removed.
When is a colostomy needed?
A colostomy may be something that’s needed for only a short period while other individuals may require a colostomy bag for life. When the colon doesn’t work properly or the bowels need time to heal, a colostomy bag can ensure that stool passes through an opening in the colon and into the bag rather than through the anus. Conditions or health problems that may require a temporary colostomy include:
- Trauma or injury to the rectum, anus, or colon
- Bowel obstructions
- Crohn’s disease
- Ulcerative colitis
What is a colostomy?
A colostomy is a surgical procedure performed by a gastroenterologist or gastric surgeon in which they create an opening in the abdominal wall (known as a stoma) through which a colostomy bag can be connected. When stool passes through the colon it will no longer exit through the anus but instead through a colostomy bag.
Do I always have to wear my colostomy bag?
Today, clothes can very discreetly hide a colostomy bag so this shouldn’t be a problem and most people feel comfortable wearing their colostomy bag all the time for peace of mind; however, in some instances, you may be able to detect when you’re going to have a bowel movement, and you may decide to use your colostomy bags only during these times.
Can you reverse a colostomy?
If your colostomy was temporary, your gastroenterologist will discuss the reversal process with you. You will continue to come in for routine checkups and monitoring after your colostomy to determine the best time for a reversal. In most cases, it can take several years before a reversal surgery is performed and your health will be a determining factor in whether this surgery is right for you.
If you have questions about colostomy bags, how they work, or how to care for them, call your gastroenterologist today. They can provide you with the information you need to make living with a colostomy bag easier.
The Gut-Brain Connection
Most people don’t think about how their guts impact the rest of their health, so you may be surprised to discover that the gut and brain are interconnected. This means that your anxiety and depression could actually be signs of gut issues. After all, the gut is where the majority of serotonin is produced and 70% of our immune system is also in our guts. For our guts to function optimally, and for us to feel our best, it’s important that we are feeding the good bacteria in our guts and protecting the gut from bad bacteria.
Know the Signs of Gut Issues
While most of us will experience gut problems at some point, it’s also important to recognize recurring or persistent symptoms that might warrant seeing a gastroenterologist for care. Signs of gut problems include,
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stomach pains
- Loose stools
- Unexpected weight loss
Our food culture is based around a lot of fast, processed foods, so it’s not surprising that so many Americans are dealing with gut problems that could easily be remedied by simply improving their diet. Gut-healthy foods include,
- Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, miso, and kimchi provide the gut with prebiotics (which feed the probiotics or good bacteria in the gut)
- Olive oil
- Nuts and seeds
- Fresh vegetables
- Live yogurt and kefir
- Lean protein such as wild-caught salmon
- Low fructose fruits such as berries and citrus fruits
American diets are high in sugar and bad fats, so it’s no surprise that our guts are in distress. Some of the most common gut offenders include,
- Low-fiber diets
- High sugar diets
- Vegetable and seed oils
When it comes to concerns about your health, trust your gut! Don’t ignore recurring digestive issues. A gastroenterologist can help you figure out what’s going on and how to best address these issues.
Causes of Diarrhea
The most common cause of diarrhea is a viral infection that impacts the stomach. Some people call it “stomach flu” even though it’s not caused by influenza. Other causes of diarrhea include,
- Food allergies
- Alcohol use
- Intestinal diseases such as Crohn’s disease
- Bacterial infections
- Overactive thyroid
- Running (known as “runner’s diarrhea”)
If you are dealing with loose stools for more than four weeks, then you are dealing with chronic diarrhea. Often, this is caused by an intestinal disorder such as colitis, Crohn’s disease, or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). If you are dealing with chronic diarrhea you should see a gastroenterologist to find out what’s going on.
When to See a Doctor
Since diarrhea can also lead to dehydration it’s important that you seek medical attention if you are also experiencing symptoms of dehydration. You should also call your gastroenterologist right away if you experience,
- Blood or mucus in the stool
- Black stools
- Diarrhea that lasts more than two days
- A high fever (over 102 F) that last more than one day
- Severe abdominal pain
- Nausea and vomiting
A gastroenterologist will need to figure out what’s causing your diarrhea before providing you with treatment options. Mild diarrhea may be treated with over-the-counter options and making sure the patient stays hydrated. A gastroenterologist may need to perform stool sample testing or a colonoscopy to detect certain conditions such as intestinal disorders. Once a diagnosis has been made, your GI doctor can provide you with the proper lifestyle changes along with medications and other options.
While diarrhea is often not a cause for concern if you do find yourself feeling concerned it’s always best to play it safe and call your gastroenterologist to find out whether you could benefit from a proper medical evaluation.
What are colon polyps?
A polyp is typically a benign growth that develops in the lining of the rectum or colon. They can vary in size and are often found in the colon. Polyps are very common in adults, particularly older adults. In fact, an average 60-year-old who doesn’t have any risk factors still has a 25 percent chance of developing polyps. While some polyps can be cancerous, most are harmless.
What can increase my risk for colon polyps?
Older age is the most common risk factor for polyps. If there is a history of colon polyps or colon cancer in your family then you may also be more likely to develop polyps. Other risk factors include,
- Being obese or overweight
- Having diabetes
- Smoking or using tobacco products
- Having inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease; ulcerative colitis)
Most polyps do not cause any symptoms; however, if the polyp is large enough it could cause blood in the stool or rectal bleeding. Sometimes a sigmoidoscopy, which allows our GI doctor to look at the lower section of the colon, can detect the presence of a polyp. In this case, our doctor will then recommend a colonoscopy to have the polyp removed. While there are other screening tools available for detecting polyps, the most accurate tool is a colonoscopy.
How is a polyp removed?
If we find polyps during your colonoscopy we can easily remove them at the same time as your procedure. There are several ways in which your doctor can remove a polyp. The most common method is a wire loop biopsy or through a polyp resection (burning the polyp with an electrical current). Since the lining of the bowels is not sensitive, these methods will not cause discomfort. Sometimes a laboratory will examine the removed polyp to look for cancerous cells.
If you need to schedule a routine colonoscopy, or you have a family history of colon polyps and you’re concerned, call your gastroenterologist today to learn more about the preventive steps you can start taking today to protect your digestive health.
What causes a hiatal hernia?
Any kind of intense or increased pressure in this area of the abdomen can lead to a hiatal hernia. Pressure in this area of the digestive tract can occur as a result of,
- Heavy lifting or intense physical exertion
You could have a hiatal hernia and not even know it. Most people don’t even realize that they have one; however, others may deal with certain digestive issues such as,
- Regurgitation of food
- Stomach discomfort
Does a hiatal hernia require treatment?
If your hiatal hernia isn’t causing you any issues then you may never need to have it treated; however, if you are experiencing any of the symptoms above you’ll want to see your gastroenterologist for an evaluation. Simple lifestyle changes may be all you need to get your symptoms under control. These changes include,
- Maintaining a healthy weight (or losing weight if overweight or obese)
- Eating smaller portions
- Avoiding belts or tight pants that put pressure around the middle
- Avoiding acidic, spicy, fatty, greasy, and fried foods
- Avoiding carbonated beverages as well as caffeine and alcohol
- Not eating 3-4 hours before bedtime
- Quitting smoking
- Elevating your head while you sleep
- Not lying down immediately after eating
A gastroenterologist is the ideal medical specialist to turn to when heartburn, regurgitation, acid reflux, and other digestive issues plague you. If a hiatal hernia is a culprit, we can help you find effective solutions to manage your symptoms.
Do I have lactose intolerance?
Since many things can cause an upset stomach and GI distress, it can be difficult to know whether or not it’s dairy that’s truly the culprit. Of course, if you experience any of these symptoms about 30 minutes to 2 hours after consuming dairy products, then it’s time to speak with one of our doctors to find out if it could be lactose intolerance. Here are some of the symptoms you might experience after ingesting dairy products:
- Belly and stomach cramps
- Abdominal pain
If you suspect that you might be lactose intolerant, it’s a good idea to start tracking everything from whether you consumed milk or other dairy products beforehand and what symptoms you are experiencing to what medications or vitamins you are currently taking.
Our gastroenterologists can determine whether or not you have lactose intolerance through these simple tests:
Lactose tolerance test: This is the most commonly used diagnostic test, which requires the patient to consume a liquid containing a high concentration of lactose. Once consumed, we will perform blood tests to see how glucose within the body reacts to lactose. If glucose levels stay the same rather than rising then your body isn’t able to digest lactose properly.
Hydrogen breath test: Another test in which you have to consume a lactose-filled drink, the hydrogen breath test uses your breath rather than your blood to check hydrogen levels. Bodies that don’t digest lactose properly will affect the colon, which in turn will produce hydrogen and other gases that go through the gastrointestinal system and out through your breath. By measuring the amount of hydrogen on your breath we can also determine whether you might be lactose intolerant.
Stool acidity test: This is most commonly used in infants and young children who may be lactose intolerant. If lactose isn’t digested properly it will create lactic acid within the stool, which can then be tested and detected.
How is lactose intolerance treated?
Avoiding lactose is often the simplest way to prevent symptom flare-ups. These days, there are a ton of lactose-free and dairy-free milk, cheeses, and ice creams, so you shouldn’t have to necessarily cut foods you love from your diet; however, there are over-the-counter supplements that you can take beforehand that can help you better digest dairy if you do decide to eat out or treat yourself to some ice cream.
If you are dealing with digestive issues that you think could be caused by dairy, then it’s a good idea to turn to a gastroenterologist who can perform the appropriate diagnostic testing to determine what’s causing your issues.
What is fecal incontinence?
Whenever there is trouble controlling the bowels this is often known as fecal or anal incontinence. Fecal incontinence can appear as stool leakage when passing gas or during physical activity. You may feel as if you can’t control your bowel movement or you may feel like you’re not going to make it to the bathroom in time. You may even see stool in your underwear. In more severe instances, a person may experience a total loss of bowel control.
Why does fecal incontinence occur?
There are several reasons why someone might deal with this problem. Some of the most common reasons include:
- Damage to the muscles of the anus (common after childbirth)
- Previous anal surgeries
- Nervous system injury or disorder
- Severe constipation (more common in the elderly)
- Inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Rectal prolapse
How is fecal incontinence treated?
A lot will depend on the underlying cause. For example, finding ways to better manage your inflammatory bowel disease can greatly improve bowel incontinence. There are certain exercises and therapies that your doctor may recommend such as Kegel exercises or biofeedback if you are dealing with damaged or weakened anal muscles. Patients whose bowel incontinence is due to diarrhea or constipation may be given certain medications such as anti-diarrheal medications or laxatives to improve their bowels. For certain structural issues such as rectal prolapse, your gastroenterologist may recommend surgery to repair the damage.
Since bowel incontinence is a sign of an underlying health problem, it’s important that you turn to a gastroenterologist as soon as possible to find out what’s causing your incontinence, as well as the best way to treat it.
What causes a perianal abscess?
Just like bacteria and debris that gets trapped under the skin results in a pimple, trapped bacteria in the glands around the anal canal can continue to build up until it develops a boil-like bump near the rectum. This is most common in male infants under one year old. A perianal abscess is not to be confused with a perirectal abscess, which is a deep pelvic infection that can be the result of inflammatory bowel disease.
How is a perianal abscess diagnosed?
It’s fairly easy for a gastroenterologist to diagnose a perianal abscess. All that’s needed is a simple physical examination of the area. Since the infection can spread, it’s important to seek treatment from a medical expert to prevent this from happening.
In some cases, the abscess may be treated with simple home care such as Sitz baths and warm soaks a couple of times a day to help the abscess naturally drain on its own. If this happens further treatment may not be necessary; however, if the infection has spread, your gastroenterologist may prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection. If the abscess doesn’t drain on its own, your doctor can safely drain the abscess. Do not pop or try to drain the abscess yourself, as this could spread the infection. Since this problem can return, it’s important to keep the area clean to prevent future infections.
If you notice a large, painful lump around the rectum or anus, it’s natural to be concerned. Fortunately, a gastroenterologist is going to be the medical specialist you’ll want to turn to for answers and treatment.
What are the symptoms of infectious colitis?
People dealing with infectious colitis may experience,
- Frequent diarrhea throughout the day (usually occurring 3 or more times)
- Body aches
- Bloody or mucus-filled bowel movement
- Mild fever
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stomach cramping
- Abdominal pain
If you work in a daycare or nursing facility you may be more at risk for contracting infectious colitis. If you aren’t diligent about handwashing, particularly after using the bathroom, you could also be at risk. You can also become infected by simply consuming contaminated water or foods (common for travelers). Those with weakened immune systems are also more likely to develop infectious colitis.
How can I prevent infectious colitis?
Make sure that all utensils and cooking spaces are properly cleaned and disinfected. Cross-contamination can also occur when bacteria from raw meat and its juices come in contact with other foods (such as on cutting boards). Never eat raw meat and make sure to thoroughly cook meat. You should also wash your hands regularly and practice good hygiene.
How is infectious colitis treated?
To determine if you have infectious colitis, and to rule out other gastrointestinal problems, your gastroenterologist will most likely take a stool sample to look for the presence of bacteria or a parasite. A colonoscopy may also be necessary to look at the colon to detect inflammation or to spot other problems that might be going on. The medication that your gastroenterologist provides will depend on the cause of your infection. For example, a bacterial infection can be treated with antibiotics while a parasitic infection will need to be treated with an antiparasitic drug (which may include the use of an antibiotic or antifungal medication). Viral infections will often clear up on their own without treatment.
If you are experiencing severe or persistent diarrhea or other bowel changes, it’s important that you don’t ignore these symptoms. Turn to a gastroenterologist right away for a proper evaluation.
What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that can seriously damage someone's internal organs. Celiac disease occurs when someone's immune system is triggered by the ingestion of gluten, leading to an immune response in the small intestine. In this sense, celiac disease behaves much like an allergy to gluten, although with some serious damaging side effects.
Over time, the continuous response to gluten leads to damage in the small intestine lining. This can then prevent the small intestine from absorbing nutrients, also known as malabsorption.
Signs and Symptoms
Some people with celiac disease won't know until they've already experienced damage to their small intestine.
Celiac disease can have symptoms including:
The treatment for celiac disease is a major change in diet and lifestyle. A celiac-friendly diet consists of eating gluten-free foods to prevent the autoimmune trigger of celiac disease. These include eating everyday foods like:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Fish and seafood
- Beans and legumes
- Flax seeds
Whatever foods someone chooses to ingest, it's important to first research whether it is gluten-free, or less than 20 parts per million of gluten according to the FDA standard.
People with Celiac disease should avoid foods that include:
- Rye or wheat
- Gram flour
The bottom line is this: if it has gluten or if you're unsure whether a portion of food has gluten, avoid it! Luckily, there are many brands of foods that are gluten-free, and everyday foods can be delicious and still be part of a celiac-friendly diet.
Understanding the Purpose of a Stool Softener vs. all Laxatives
A laxative defines any medicine that facilitates a bowel movement which includes a broad range designed to treat varying levels of severity. A stool softener is a mild (OTC) over-the-counter laxative used to soften the stool for easier passage and less strain. Its use is recommended for temporary, less chronic constipation. Stool softeners work naturally with the body and are better tolerated with fewer side effects. Stronger laxatives such as stimulant laxatives are more appropriate for more severe symptoms. Unlike stool softeners which merely add moisture to the stool to allow for easier movement, stimulant laxatives treat more acute and chronic constipation by directly stimulating nerves in the large intestine. They work faster to bring relief yet can cause side effects such as dehydration, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal cramping.
Identify Your Symptoms First
It’s important to understand the symptoms and severity of your constipation before choosing a particular laxative. If you are suffering from symptoms such as abdominal bloating, rectal pain, and a frequency of fewer than three bowel movements per week, you may be a candidate for a stronger laxative. However, if you are experiencing temporary difficulty passing stool due to recent surgery, hemorrhoids, or other sensitivities, you may be better suited to taking stool softeners.
Your Diet and Doctor’s Advice
Before choosing a laxative, it is always important to practice some common measures before resorting to laxatives.
- Stay hydrated during the day
- Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and other fiber to promote a healthy colon.
- If an improvement in your diet is not relieving your symptoms, consult your physician.
- If you have been recommended to use a laxative, always follow the doctor’s instructions, or for over-the-counter medications, carefully read dosing directions.
- Whether taking stronger laxatives or milder ones such as stool softeners, either should not be taken long term unless approved by your physician.
Be Smart About How You Lose Weight
Being obese is also a risk factor for gallstones. So, if you are overweight or obese you must eat a healthy diet and incorporate exercise into your routine to help shed weight safely but effectively. We understand that it isn’t always easy to lose weight but talking to a doctor can provide you with effective ways to start.
Of course, while it’s true that losing excess weight can go a long way to keeping you healthy, it’s also equally important that you find ways to safely and gradually lose weight. Anyone who sheds weight rapidly either through a crash diet or surgery is more likely to deal with gallstones. The safest way to lose weight is to aim to lose about 1-2 pounds per week over several months.
Eat a Healthy Diet
We all know the role that diet plays in your health. So it should come as no surprise that the foods you eat could also impact your gallbladder. Following a plant-based diet that is high in fiber and healthy fats and lower in refined carbs and red meat is a great way to reduce your risk for gallstones.
Get Regular Exercise
Exercise, just like what you eat, is also just as important for your overall health. Did you know that simply by getting regular exercise several times a week for at least 150 minutes a week, you can reduce the chances of gallstones? Add this to the list of reasons why you might want to go on a long, brisk walk today or (finally) take that spin class.
If you do find yourself dealing with gallstones, a gastroenterologist is going to be the best specialist to turn to for immediate care and treatment options. If you are experiencing symptoms of gallstones, call your GI doctor today.
While there are ulcers that can develop in the veins, mouth, and even genitals, we’re going to talk about digestive ulcers or peptic ulcers. Peptic ulcers are open sores that develop in the lining of the small intestines, but can also develop in the stomach or esophagus.
- Gastric ulcers that occur within the lining of the stomach
- Esophageal ulcers that occur within the esophagus
- Duodenal ulcers that occur within the small intestines
Want to know whether your digestive issues could be due to an intestinal ulcer? The most common symptom of a GI ulcer is burning or gnawing pain in the stomach. Other symptoms include:
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Chest pain
- Feeling full easily
Ulcers often form when there is damage to the lining of the GI tract. This may result from taking certain medication such as NSAIDs or a bacterial infection (H. pylori). If you are someone who takes painkillers regularly this is something to discuss with your gastroenterologist.
In most cases, your gastroenterologist will prescribe medication that reduces how much acid the stomach produces, giving the stomach lining enough time to properly heal. Common medications include proton pump inhibitors and h2-receptor antagonists. If a bacterial infection is the culprit, then antibiotics will be prescribed to kill the infection.
Symptoms will vary depending on whether you are dealing with acute or chronic pancreatitis. If you are dealing with acute pancreatitis you are likely to experience,
- Upper abdominal pain that may radiate to the back
- Pain that gets worse after eating (especially when consuming a high-fat diet)
- Tenderness in the abdomen
- Swollen abdomen
- Increased or rapid heart rate
- Nausea and vomiting
There are many reasons people may develop pancreatitis. Certain risk factors include:
- Heavy alcohol use
- Abdominal injury
- Exposure to environmental toxins
- Undergoing abdominal surgery
- Family history of pancreatitis
- High cholesterol (particularly high triglycerides)
- High calcium levels (hypercalcemia)
How your gastroenterologist decides to treat your pancreatitis will depend on the severity and type of pancreatitis you are dealing with. Mild or acute forms of pancreatitis may be improved through simple dietary changes (a low-fat diet) or antibiotics and pain medications.
For severe or chronic cases of pancreatitis, patients may need to be hospitalized where they will need to undergo fasting until the inflammation goes away. Sometimes surgery is necessary to remove the gallbladder if gallstones are the cause of your inflammation. Surgery can also remove diseased regions of the pancreas.
Everyone’s different when it comes to how often they have a bowel movement. Some people go three times a day while others only go three times a week, and both are normal; however, if you are having less than three bowel movements a week then you are considered constipated. If stools are dry or hard to pass, these are also signs of constipation.
While laxatives are often the first thing people try when it comes to treating their constipation you may want to hold off on those for the time being and try these simple hacks:
- Make sure that you are staying hydrated (drinking enough water is key!)
- Get regular exercise
- Increase your fiber intake
If you’ve tried the lifestyle and dietary changes above and your bowels still aren’t moving, then you may be considering a laxative at this point. There are different types; however, it’s important to know which ones to use. Fiber supplements are often the easiest on the body (this includes products like Metamucil). Before purchasing laxatives, it’s a good idea to talk with your GI doctor about which one is right for you. Since people can become dependent on laxatives, you must speak with your gastroenterologist if you find yourself regularly dealing with constipation that can only be alleviated by using laxatives.
While there are many over-the-counter laxatives on the market that can help with occasional constipation, it’s also important to know when to see your gastroenterologist instead. You should consult with your doctor if,
- You haven’t had a bowel movement in more than three days
- You are using laxatives for a week but are still dealing with constipation
- Your constipation is accompanied by bloody stools, abdominal pain, or dizziness
- You are pregnant or breastfeeding
- You are unexpectedly and suddenly losing weight
What are the types of bowel changes?
Sure, we know that this is a bit embarrassing to discuss, but the frequency and appearance of your bowel movements can tell your gastroenterologist a lot about the health of your intestinal system, and it can also provide helpful clues to find out why you might be dealing with issues. A gastroenterologist will look at both the color and consistency of a stool sample.
The Color of the Stool
A healthy stool ranges in color from tan to dark brown. If the stool is white, red, clay-colored, or black this gives us a clue that something is wrong. Black or red stools can be signs of a bleed within the intestinal tract while clay-colored or pale stools are often signs of liver or gallbladder problems.
The Consistency of the Stool
Whether the stool is dry, hard, watery, or contains mucus, these are also factors that can help us determine what might be going on in your GI tract. Dry, hard stools may be caused by a poor, low-fiber diet and lack of water, while mucus in the stool could be an indicator of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), an intestinal infection, ulcerative colitis, or bowel obstruction. Your gastroenterologist must run the appropriate tests to rule out certain problems.
The Frequency of Your Bowel Habits
While there is a range of how frequently someone does have a bowel movement (ranging from 3 times a day to 3 times a week), if you don’t have a bowel movement for more than three days it’s time to see a doctor. Conversely, if you’re dealing with diarrhea for more than a day (or you notice blood, mucus, or pus in the stool) you should also give your gastroenterologist a call.
Abdominal pain or persistent bowel changes should have you scheduling an appointment with your gastroenterologist just to be on the safe side. While some changes might be minor, it’s important to pinpoint possible intestinal problems right away before they get worse.
Here are some ways in which ginger could help your gut.
It Could Aid in Digestion
Whether your stomach is upset upon waking or you just tried a more adventurous dish at a new restaurant, there are many reasons why your stomach might be feeling a little unhappy. Fortunately, ginger can be a helpful and natural remedy to ease that upset stomach.
How? Ginger is believed to speed up the movement of food through the GI tract, while also protecting the gut. It may also ease bloating, cramping, and gas. If you are dealing with an upset stomach, you may want to boil some fresh ginger or add a little ground ginger to some hot water.
It May Protect Against Heartburn
If you find yourself dealing with that gnawing, burning in your chest, ginger may also keep these problems at bay (or, at the very least, alleviate them). Ginger doesn’t just boost motility of the intestinal tract, it may also protect the gastric lining while reducing stomach acid from flowing back up the esophagus after meals.
It Stops Bloat
Most people will experience bloating at some point, particularly after eating. Whether from overheating or from food intolerance, bloating could be alleviated by drinking ginger tea or eating dried ginger. Indigestion is one of the top reasons for bloating, and ginger has the ability to reduce indigestion, which in turn can stop bloat from happening in the first place. People who are prone to bloating may want to add ground ginger to their morning cup of tea or water to prevent this problem from happening during the day.
It’s important not to ignore ongoing stomach problems. If abdominal pain and cramping, or other intestinal problems keep plaguing you, then it’s time to see a gastroenterologist to find out what’s going on. While natural remedies such as ginger can be helpful for minor and fleeting bouts of nausea and an upset stomach, they won’t be able to treat more serious stomach issues.
- Increased flatulence
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Profuse and sudden sweating
- Shortness of breath
- Jaw pain (this is more common in women)
- Intense pressure on your chest (some people liken it to “an elephant sitting on their chest”)
- Pain that radiates from the chest to the neck, back, arms, or shoulders
- Sudden decrease or increase in heart rate
- Food intolerance or allergy
- A very high-fiber diet
- Carbonated beverages
- Artificial sweeteners
- Food poisoning
While this progressive condition does affect the liver it is actually an autoimmune disorder. This means that the immune system is attacking the bile ducts. When the bile ducts are damaged or destroyed, this leads to inflammation and scarring (cirrhosis) of the liver.
As with most conditions, symptoms aren’t typically apparent during the earlier stages. As the condition progresses, a woman may start to notice symptoms. This is a slow disease, sometimes taking as long as 20 years for symptoms to appear.
- Skin darkening
- Dry mouth and eyes
- Abdominal pain
- Muscle and joint pain
- Weight loss
- High cholesterol
- Yellowing of the skin
- Swelling of the legs and feet
- Swelling of the abdomen
While PBC is not curable, your gastroenterologist can provide you treatment that can help slow the progression of the disease. One of the standard treatments is ursodeoxycholic acid, which helps the bile to flow from the liver to the intestines. Other medications are also prescribed to improve liver function.
- A burning or gnawing in your chest and throat that occurs after eating (particularly greasy, acidic, or spicy foods)
- Discomfort gets worse when lying down, especially after eating
- An acidic taste in the back of your throat
- Taking pain relievers regularly
- Being pregnant
- Eating larger meals or eating close to bedtime
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- Being overweight
- High stress
- Hiatal hernia
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
If heartburn becomes a regular occurrence it’s important to see a gastroenterologist, as this could be a sign of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which can lead to more serious complications if left untreated. Instead of using antacids, which aren’t meant to be used regularly or for long periods of time, your doctor will prescribe an acid blocker or a proton pump inhibitor (PPI).
You’re Experiencing Digestive Issues
This is a common reason why a colonoscopy is performed. It’s not always possible to figure out the cause of rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, or other intestinal issues unless a GI doctor takes a look inside. If your issues can’t be diagnosed with a simple physical examination, blood test, or stool sample, then a colonoscopy is probably the best way to find out what’s going on.
You Need to Be Screened for Colorectal Cancer
If you are 50 years old or older and are at average risk for colon cancer, then your gastroenterologist will often advise you to get a colonoscopy about every 10 years to screen for cancer. Those with an increased risk of developing colon cancer may need to get screened more regularly. Risk factors for colorectal cancer include,
- Family history of colon cancer
- Personal history of colon polyps
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- An unhealthy diet that is high in fat and processed foods
- Leading an inactive lifestyle
It’s necessary to remove polyps right away to reduce your chances of developing colon cancer. Colon polyps can be easily removed during a routine colonoscopy, but since it can increase your risk for colorectal cancer your gastroenterologist may recommend having a colonoscopy more regularly.
If you just turned 50 years old and it’s time to schedule your routine colonoscopy, or if you’re dealing with digestive issues, a gastroenterologist is the ideal medical specialist to turn to. Don’t wait to get the preventive care you need to protect against colorectal cancer.
Hepatitis is a condition that causes inflammation of the liver. A viral infection is typically to blame for most types of hepatitis; however, autoimmune problems or heavy alcohol use can also lead to hepatitis.
- Hepatitis A is acute
- Hepatitis B, C, and D are often persistent and chronic
- Hepatitis E is typically acute
Hepatitis is contracted in several ways including,
- Hepatitis A is transmitted through contaminated water or food
- Hepatitis B is often transmitted through bodily fluids including blood and semen
- Hepatitis C is transmitted through sexual contact, coming in contact with infected bodily fluids, or through IV drug use
- Hepatitis D is transmitted through contact with infected blood (typically occurs in conjunction with hepatitis B)
- Hepatitis E is transmitted through contaminated water
As many as half of people with hepatitis don’t even know that they have it. Some of the signs and symptoms include,
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Joint pain
- Dark urine
- Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
- Pale-colored stools
Again, the type of hepatitis you have will determine how to best treat it. Acute viral forms of hepatitis such as hepatitis A will go away on their own, so treatment options may be geared toward easing your symptoms and making sure that you get enough rest. Those with more chronic forms will need ongoing management and treatment from a gastroenterologist. Your GI doctor may prescribe antiviral medications to prevent or at least slow liver damage for those with chronic hepatitis such as hepatitis B. Some patients may even require surgery.
Constipation is defined as having fewer than three bowel movements a week. Chronic constipation occurs when symptoms continue for more than a few weeks. Some of the causes of chronic constipation include,
- Poor diet or a low-fiber diet
- Sedentary lifestyle (aka lack of physical activity)
- Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Multiple sclerosis
- Parkinson’s disease
- Bowel obstructions
- High levels of calcium in the bloodstream (hypercalcemia)
- Certain medications (e.g., diuretics; opioids; tricyclic antidepressants)
The first step you should take is to change your diet and lifestyle to see if that helps your bowel movements. If constipation does not improve then it’s time to see your doctor. Make sure to write down any other symptoms you may be experiencing along with constipation such as abdominal pain, fatigue, unexpected weight loss, or hair loss. We will go through the medications you’re taking and decide whether we should run blood tests to rule out certain health problems such as diabetes or thyroid function.
In some cases, a gastroenterologist may recommend a colonoscopy, which allows your doctor to be able to better examine the colon and large intestines to look for obstructions, bleeds, ulcers, inflammation, irritable bowel disease, or other possible causes of constipation.
Most patients can improve their constipation issues through simple dietary and lifestyle changes, or through over-the-counter products; however, if you still don’t get relief, our gastroenterologist may recommend a prescription-strength medication that can help with chronic constipation.
If chronic constipation is caused by an underlying health problem such as diabetes or hypothyroidism you must get the proper medication and treatment you need from your doctor. By getting these health problems under control we can also alleviate your gastrointestinal symptoms.
Some women with rectocele don’t even know that they have it until their OBGYN discovers it during a routine wellness exam; however, if the bulging tissue is rather large then symptoms may appear. Signs of rectocele include,
- Trouble with completing full bowel movements
- Needing to apply pressure to the vagina or the rectovaginal septum to complete a bowel movement
- Straining during a bowel movement
- Frequent urges to have a bowel movement throughout the day
- Rectal pain
If you aren’t experiencing any symptoms, then your gastroenterologist may not recommend treatment since your daily routine isn’t being impacted; however, if you are experiencing symptoms, the first course of action will be to improve bowel movements and to make them easier and less uncomfortable. Nonsurgical treatment options are usually enough to resolve any issues associated with a rectocele.
- Staying hydrated
- Eating a high-fiber diet
- Performing pelvic floor exercises
- Biofeedback to improve pelvic floor muscle function
- Using stool softeners
no longer contract to push food along. If you or someone you know has achalasia, a gastroenterologist can provide you with ways to manage your symptoms.
What are the symptoms and signs?
The most common signs of achalasia include,
- Difficulty swallowing
- Regurgitation of food
- Choking (often during regurgitation)
- Chest discomfort, particularly after eating
How is achalasia treated?
Achalasia requires treatment to prevent the condition from getting worse. As you might imagine, not being able to properly eat or drink anything can have detrimental effects on a person’s health and nutritional needs, as well as increase a person’s risk for aspirational pneumonia and lung infections (this is more common in seniors). Common treatment options include:
- Surgery: Traditional surgery, known as Heller myotomy, is the most common way to treat achalasia and it involves cutting the muscles of the valves that lie between the stomach and esophagus. Some patients may be candidates for laparoscopic surgery, which is a more minimally invasive technique.
- Balloon dilation: For patients who may not be able to undergo surgery, another way to treat achalasia is with balloon dilation, which is a non-surgical technique performed under moderate sedation where a balloon is placed into the esophagus and inflated to widen the area so food can easier go from the esophagus into the stomach.
- Botox: Botox may help to relax muscle spasms and to improve how food flows through the esophagus. Those patients who aren’t candidates for surgery or dilation may want to consider the benefits of Botox.
What are the signs and symptoms of a fistula?
The most common symptoms are pain, swelling, and redness around the anus. Of course, everything from a tear in the tissue to hemorrhoids can also cause similar symptoms, so it’s not always easy to spot the difference. This is why you should always consult a gastroenterologist for a proper diagnosis.
If you have a fistula, you may also notice these symptoms,
- Pain with bowel movements (and sometimes urination)
- Liquid draining from the anus
How is an anal fissure diagnosed?
Some anal fissures can be spotted through a simple rectal exam; however, this isn’t always the case. If so, your gastroenterologist may recommend imaging tests such as a CT scan or a colonoscopy. A colonoscopy is a diagnostic procedure that allows your doctor to examine the lining of the rectum and colon to spot bleeds, ulcers, and other problems.
How are fistulas treated?
The only way to treat a fistula is with surgery, which is typically performed in your gastroenterologist’s office. Several surgical strategies can be used, depending on whether you have a simple or more complicated fistula. Simple fistulas can be removed through excision, while complicated fistulas may require a tube to drain the fluid for several weeks. This is something that your doctor will talk with you about once you’ve come in for an evaluation.
Whether you are experiencing symptoms of a fistula or you are noticing changes in bowel habits that have you concerned, a gastroenterologist is an ideal doctor to turn to for answers. Call your gastroenterologist today to discuss your symptoms and find out if you should come into the office for care.
Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic bowel disease that causes flare-ups of inflammation and bleeding ulcers in the colon and rectum, which can affect your ability to digest food. Ulcerative colitis is one of the two main types of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD).
Are you dealing with unexplained and persistent stomach pains accompanied by diarrhea? This can be an early warning sign that UC. In the very beginning, you may notice minor symptom flare-ups that can easily be attributed to a variety of other problems. So, it isn’t always easy to spot the signs of UC right away.
- Joint pain
- Sores and rashes
While there is no cure for ulcerative colitis, your gastroenterologist can prescribe medications, therapies or surgery, and recommend lifestyle changes that can help with symptom remission and reduce the number and severity of flare-ups. Treatment plans for UC typically include,
- Anti-inflammatory drugs such as corticosteroids
- Immunosuppressants reduce inflammation by suppressing the immune system
- Biologics, which also act on the immune system
- Pain relievers
- Dietary changes (eliminating gluten and dairy; limiting fiber intake)
- Stress management techniques
- Supplementation (iron may be prescribed if you have anemia caused by UC)
- Anti-diarrheal medications
- Surgery to remove the colon and rectum (in more severe cases)
What are the signs of gallstones?
Some people have gallstones but don’t even know it; however, the most common symptoms associated with gallstones are indigestion, nausea, and vomiting. If you have a gallbladder attack, you may experience pain in the upper right or middle of your abdomen below the rib cage. This pain can last for several hours and may be severe.
What are some risk factors for gallstones?
While we still don’t know the exact cause of gallstones, certain risk factors can increase the likelihood of dealing with gallstones at some point during your lifetime. Apart from being a woman, here are some other risk factors,
- Being over age 40
- Being obese
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- Sedentary lifestyle
- A poor diet that is high in fat
- Being diabetic
- Being pregnant
- High cholesterol
- Family history of gallstones
While we can’t guarantee that you’ll never have gallstones again, making certain lifestyle changes have proven effective for reducing or getting rid of a gallbladder attack. Talk with your gastroenterologist about ways to improve your lifestyle (e.g. losing excess weight; eating a healthier diet; avoiding alcohol) to lower your risk for gallstones.
If you aren’t experiencing any symptoms, then you probably won’t require treatment; however, if you continue to have gallbladder attacks you may want to talk with your gastroenterologist about having your gallbladder removed. Your gallbladder can be removed without it affecting your health or quality of life.
If you would like to avoid surgery your gastroenterologist may recommend a certain medication that can help to break up these stones. This medication can also prevent new gallstones from forming. Sometimes this medication is used along with a soundwave procedure known as lithotripsy, which helps to breakdown gallstones so that they can pass more easily.
If you are experiencing symptoms of gallstones or signs of a dysfunctional gallbladder, you must have a gastroenterologist that you can turn to for immediate care. A gastroenterologist will easily be able to determine what’s causing your digestive issues and provide you with an effective solution.
The two main types of inflammatory bowel diseases are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Both diseases cause inflammation within the gastrointestinal tract. This chronic inflammation can also cause ulcers to develop within the intestinal lining. Crohn’s disease most often affects the small intestines while ulcerative colitis typically affects the lower part of the large intestines.
Some people have Crohn’s disease but don’t know it because they don’t experience symptoms right away. In fact, for years someone may deal with abdominal cramping or diarrhea without realizing that this could be a sign of an IBD. More serious symptoms of Crohn’s disease include,
- Stomach cramping and pain
- Bloody stools
- Sudden weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Diarrhea or bloody stools
- Widespread inflammation that may also result in fever, canker sores, and skin rashes
Those with ulcerative colitis may experience flare-ups of,
- Increased frequency of bowel movements
- Chronic diarrhea
- Rectal bleeding
- Bloody stools
- Abdominal pain
- Skin rashes
- Decreased appetite
You must see a qualified GI doctor if you suspect that you might have IBD. Your doctor will provide you with a comprehensive treatment plan that may include,
- Prescription anti-inflammatory medications such as steroids
- Lifestyle changes such as dietary modifications, exercise, and staying hydrated
- Supplementation and vitamins
- Surgery (may be necessary to remove part of the intestines, colon, or rectum for those with severe cases of Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis)
- Passing hard stools or straining during a bowel movement
- Persistent or recurring diarrhea
- Anal intercourse
- Crohn’s disease
You may be dealing with an anal fissure if you notice pain with a bowel movement. The pain can be quite sharp and intense, and you may even experience burning or pain for hours after. Other symptoms include anal itching and drops of blood when wiping (typically bright red blood). If you notice black or dark stools, this is a sign of internal bleeding and it’s important to see a gastroenterologist right away.
Most fissures will heal on their own with proper care. There are things you can do to help promote healing. These include,
- Staying hydrated and drinking lots of fluids
- Getting daily exercise
- Consuming a high-fiber diet
- Avoiding straining with a bowel moment
- Go to the bathroom when you need to (do not hold it in)
- Relax in a Sitz bath
- Use baby wipes rather than toilet paper (which may be too dry and rough) after a bowel movement
- Sometimes, stool softeners and fiber supplements can be helpful
What are the signs of a C. diff infection?
Again, it is possible to have this infection and not have symptoms; however, some people with C. diff experience:
- Stomach cramping or pain
- Weight loss
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
What are the risk factors for C. diff?
Certain factors can increase your risk for C. diff. While anyone can develop this infection it’s more common in those over 65 years old, those with weakened immune systems, patients with intestinal diseases (e.g. inflammatory bowel disease), and those who work in hospital settings. If you’ve had C. diff in the past, you’re also more likely to get it again.
How is C. diff contracted?
This infection can spread from person to person or from touching contaminated surfaces or objects. This is why it’s important to properly sanitize all surfaces both at home and at work. Also, practice good hygiene and wash clothes in hot water.
How is C. diff treated?
Antibiotics are the standard way to treat a C. diff infection; however, in more severe cases (when people are experiencing complications such as organ failure) surgery may be necessary to remove parts of the colon. Since this type of infection can come back, you must talk to your gastroenterologist about ways to prevent another infection in the future.
If you are dealing with chronic diarrhea, abdominal pain, or other digestive problems, you must see a gastroenterologist who can figure out what’s going on and provide you with the treatment you need to feel better quickly.
What causes chronic diarrhea?
There are a variety of disorders, diseases, and even everyday habits that could be leading to your chronic diarrhea, which is why it’s a good idea to see a gastroenterologist who specializes in diagnosing and treating conditions of the digestive tract. Information that we garner from your initial evaluation (e.g. a family history of irritable bowel syndrome) can help us determine which tests to run.
Along with a physical examination, a gastroenterologist may also perform a blood test and stool sample to look for infections or signs of inflammation. A stool sample may be able to tell us whether your chronic diarrhea is being caused by:
- Ulcerative colitis
- Crohn’s disease
- Gastrointestinal bleeding
- Bacterial, fungal, and parasitic infections
- Certain medications (e.g. antacids; laxatives)
- Gluten intolerance and Celiac disease
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- Certain chronic or preexisting conditions (e.g. diabetes; thyroid disorders)
- Immune dysfunction
- Hereditary disorders (e.g. cystic fibrosis)
- Past surgeries of the digestive tract
If nothing is revealed in these diagnostic tests, it is possible that your chronic diarrhea could be caused by irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). While there is no cure for IBS, there are simple lifestyle changes you can make, particularly to your diet, which can reduce symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, and bloating.
A gastroenterologist is going to be the specialist you need to get chronic diarrhea, severe bloating, and abdominal pain under control. We know how frustrating chronic diarrhea can be, but we can give you the answers and treatment you’re looking for.
- A dull, aching, or burning sensation in the center of your stomach that may feel worse when empty and may be alleviated by eating or drinking
- Feeling full easily
- Lack of appetite
- Acid reflux and heartburn
- Dark stools
How are stomach ulcers diagnosed?
Since the problem lies within the body, we will need to be able to conduct certain tests that will help our gastroenterologists examine the stomach to find out what’s going on. To do that, your GI doctor may recommend an endoscopy.
During an endoscopy, a thin tube is inserted into the mouth through the esophagus and into the stomach to examine the lining of the stomach to look for bleeds, ulcers, and other problems within the tissue that could be causing your symptoms.
How are stomach ulcers treated?
If your endoscopy comes back positive for stomach ulcers your gastroenterologist is most likely to prescribe antibiotics and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), a medication that blocks the stomach from producing acid (this gives the ulcers time to heal). Some patients experience almost immediate relief, but it’s important to continue taking your medication even once you start feeling better.
Your gastroenterologist may already recommend certain dietary changes that include removing foods that could exacerbate symptoms while incorporating healthy food choices such as broccoli, leafy greens, and olive oil, that could improve stomach ulcer symptoms.
Very rarely do stomach ulcers require surgery, but your gastroenterologist may recommend surgery for stomach ulcers that keep returning, don’t heal with non-surgical treatment, bleed, or cause other complications.
Persistent stomach pain and gastrointestinal distress should be properly evaluated by a gastroenterologist who specializes in diagnosing and treating infections and conditions that affect the digestive tract. If you are concerned that you might have a stomach ulcer contact your gastroenterologist today.
If you’re dealing with heartburn, one of the first things your gastroenterologist will examine is your diet. While certain foods can exacerbate heartburn and make it worse, certain foods can improve and ease acid reflux symptoms. Some of these foods include:
Foods that are high in fiber such as oatmeal aren’t just amazing for your digestive tract, they may also prevent heartburn from brewing in the first place. Plus, whole grain foods can help satiate your appetite for longer, which means that you are less likely to go for snacks and other foods that could cause a nasty bout of acid reflux. So, start your morning right with a hearty bowl of oatmeal. And perhaps you may even want to add a….
Just like vegetables, a banana is a low-acid and high alkaline fruit that is also great for the digestive tract. If you battle with heartburn, bananas can help prevent stomach acid production while also helping things run smoothly through the digestive system.
Whether you prefer ginger sprinkled into your morning smoothie, a soothing cup of ginger tea or fresh ginger grated into your water, this magical vegetable reduces inflammation and can aid in preventing and treating heartburn as well as calm an upset stomach and ease nausea.
Leafy Greens and Veggies
Fibrous vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, potatoes, and asparagus are alkaline, which helps to keep stomach acid in check. This is also because these delicious and nutritious foods are low in sugar and fat, which means they are friends to those with heartburn.
We all know that yogurt has amazing probiotic properties, providing your gut with the good bacteria it needs to stay healthy and strong. Good bacteria can also improve how your immune system functions, staving off germs and infections, while also coating and easing stomach acid.
Whether you have questions about your current heartburn-friendly diet or you’re having trouble getting your acid reflux under control, a gastroenterologist will be able to provide you with proper long-term medication and lifestyle changes that can help.
What Causes Abdominal Pain
All you have to do is perform a quick Google search and you’ll realize that there are tons of infections, disorders, diseases and even injuries that can lead to stomach pain and discomfort. Since it can be difficult to figure out what’s causing persistent or recurring abdominal pain, this is where a gastroenterologist can help shed some light. Common causes of abdominal pain include,
- Gastroenteritis (intestinal infection)
- Menstrual cramps
- Food allergies
- Food poisoning
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Crohn’s disease
- Ulcerative colitis
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Appendicitis (sudden, sharp pain on the right side; requires immediate medical attention)
Since certain conditions such as Celiac disease or colon polyps can only be properly diagnosed through specific testing (e.g. endoscopy; colonoscopy) it’s important that you seek proper medical attention if your abdominal pain lasts for days or keeps returning.
When should I see a doctor?
It’s important to recognize when abdominal pain requires immediate or professional treatment. You should seek emergency medical care if you are experiencing symptoms of appendicitis, or if your abdominal pain is accompanied by fever, vomiting, a lack of bowel movements, yellowing skin or dehydration. While not considered an emergency, you should still call our office if your stomach is tender to the touch or if you experience abdominal pain that lasts hours.
If you find yourself dealing with recurring or regular bouts of abdominal pain, a gastroenterologist can help you find answers you’re looking for.
If you’re not celiac, you don’t need to say goodbye to gluten forever
There are more and more health experts talking about the problems with gluten, so if you are an otherwise healthy individual who doesn’t have celiac but is curious about making the switch, then know that you don’t have to avoid gluten or that trace amounts aren’t going to hurt you. However, if you are concerned that you might have celiac or gluten intolerance you must see a doctor.
You can still enjoy some grains
Most people assume that once they go gluten-free that all grains are literally off the table! While you will need to avoid wheat (and derivatives of wheat such as semolina and farro), rye, barley, malt, and wheat starch you can still enjoy these delicious, gluten-free grains,
- Oats (make sure there is a gluten-free label on the packaging)
- Brown rice
If you are trying to go gluten-free because you think that it might help you lose weight, then you may want to consult a medical professional. A gluten-free diet simply helps those who are gluten intolerant and those with celiac avoid an ingredient that could harm or damage their gut. If you are simply trying a gluten-free diet to lose weight this may not be the best method. Talk to your doctor first.
It takes time to notice changes
If you have celiac disease then sticking with a gluten-free diet is a must, as even the smallest amount of gluten can cause serious damage to the gut. As your gut heals you will notice a marked improvement, which will continue for days, months, and even years. This can vary from person to person, with some people noticing a change within just a few days while it may take other individuals months or even years.
You must see a gastroenterologist if you are experiencing symptoms of celiac disease or gluten intolerance. Your doctor can provide you with a customized treatment plan to help you and your gut get the proper relief.
- Sudden, severe, and sharp abdominal pain (typically in the upper right side of the body)
- Pain that appears after eating and lasts several hours
- Light-colored stools
- Yellowing skin or eyes (jaundice)
Am I at risk for gallstones?
Many factors can increase your risk of developing gallstones such as:
- Family history of gallstones and gallbladder disease
- Being over 60 years old
- Being a woman
- Being overweight or obese
- Taking estrogen or hormone medications
- Eating a diet that is low in fiber and high in cholesterol or fat
- Being pregnant
It is possible to have gallstones and never experience symptoms. In this case, you probably won’t require treatment unless there is the possibility of a complication. Sometimes medications are prescribed that can help to break up the gallstones. It may be time to consider having surgery to remove your gallbladder if:
- You’re dealing with severe cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder)
- There is an infection
- The gallbladder doesn’t work or has stopped working
- The gallbladder is causing significant pain and other problems
- There is a tumor on the gallbladder
You may benefit from a colonoscopy if:
- You are a man or woman over the age of 50 (those over 50 years old are at an increased risk for colorectal cancer)
- You have a family history of colorectal cancer or colon polyps
- You have a personal history of cancer or colon polyps
- You’ve been diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease)
- You are experiencing symptoms of colorectal cancer such as blood in the stool and unexpected weight loss
- You are experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms such as rectal bleeding and abdominal pain (a colonoscopy can diagnose certain intestinal problems)
You will be placed under conscious sedation while undergoing a colonoscopy, so you will most likely not remember any part of your procedure. During the procedure, your gastroenterologist will carefully place a colonoscope, a thin tube with a camera at the end, into the rectum, and guide it into the large intestines (aka the colon). This procedure allows your doctor to be able to examine the lining of the intestines to look for polyps, bleeds, ulcers, or other issues you may be dealing with. If polyps are found, they can be removed during your colonoscopy.
While age, ethnicity, and gender can play a role in your colorectal cancer risk level, there are other factors as well; however, these factors can be altered by simply improving your lifestyle. These factors include:
- Smoking or using tobacco products
- Leading a sedentary lifestyle
- Eating a poor diet that is high in processed foods
- Heavy alcohol consumption
While people can develop celiac disease at any age, it’s often hereditary (meaning that if you have a family member with this condition then you are more likely to develop the celiac disease yourself). Since this disease can lead to serious health problems such as infertility, anemia, and type 1 diabetes, it’s important to see a doctor if you suspect that you might have celiac disease.
The most common symptoms of Celiac disease involve digestive problems and may include:
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Abdominal pain
- Increased gas
- Nausea and vomiting
- Foul-smelling or pale stools (more common in children)
- An itchy, widespread rash
- Ulcers of the mouth
- Joint pain
- Iron deficiency anemia
- Headaches or migraines
- Numbness or tingling of the hands and feet
Treating Celiac Disease
- Certain medications
- Lack of exercise
- Excessive amounts of dairy products, including cheese and milk
- Not going to the toilet frequently enough
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Abusing laxatives
- Changing your diet to include fiber
- Drinking plenty of water throughout the day to soften stool
- Staying as active as possible
- Switching routine medications (with your doctor's approval)
- Limited use of laxatives (enemas, glycerin suppositories, stimulant laxatives)
- Daily fiber supplements (psyllium or bran cereals) or stool softeners
- Greasy and fatty foods
- Spicy foods
If you are experiencing rectal pain or noticing specks of blood on your toilet paper you might be dealing with hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids, also referred to as piles, are swollen veins that form either inside or outside the rectum. While hemorrhoids are more common as a person gets older, this condition can happen to anyone. Here’s what you should know about this common rectal problem and how you can treat it.
What causes hemorrhoids?
If you have family members that deal with hemorrhoids, you may be more likely to get them too. Any kind of pressure that’s placed on the rectum and impacts the flow of blood can cause these veins to swell. Pressure may be caused by:
- Constipation and straining during bowel movements
- Heavy lifting or intense physical activity
- Being overweight or obese
- A poor diet that is low in fiber
- Leading a sedentary lifestyle
How are hemorrhoids diagnosed?
If you’ve never had hemorrhoids before you may want to see your gastroenterologist for a diagnosis, especially if you are experiencing persistent rectal bleeding. Your doctor will go through your medical history and ask questions about your symptoms before performing an exam. A simple rectal exam is usually all that’s needed to diagnose external hemorrhoids. In order to diagnose internal hemorrhoids, you may require further testing such as a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy.
How are hemorrhoids treated?
Sometimes hemorrhoids will go away on their own, so you won’t require special care or treatment. Home remedies include:
- Adding more fiber to your diet
- Avoiding straining during bowel movements
- Staying hydrated to aid in better digestion
- Taking a Sitz bath several times a day to ease any pain and discomfort
There are also over-the-counter medications that can alleviate symptoms including pain and itching. If your symptoms persist after using these medications you should talk with your doctor. If the hemorrhoid is large or isn’t responding to other treatment options then your GI doctor may recommend surgery. There are many minimally invasive surgical techniques that can be used to get rid of hemorrhoids.
If you notice rectal pain, bleeding or discomfort that leaves you concerned or worried about your health it’s important that you talk with your gastroenterologist to find out if you need further evaluation. While hemorrhoids may clear on their own, if you don’t experience relief a doctor will be able to help.
While we may not think about the liver very often, this organ plays a vital role in your digestive health and is responsible for some extremely important functions within the body. This digestive organ, which is also the largest organ within our body, is responsible for about 500 bodily functions designed to keep you healthy. The liver doesn’t just store important nutrients including iron but it also is responsible for detoxifying the body. Unfortunately, there are hundreds of diseases that can impact the health of the liver.
Types of Liver Disease
There are many diseases that can impact the health of the liver. These include:
- Infections such as hepatitis A, B and C
- Autoimmune disorders (e.g. autoimmune hepatitis; primary biliary cholangitis)
- Liver cancer
- Inherited diseases such as Wilson’s disease and hemochromatosis
- Other diseases and causes such as alcohol abuse or drugs (e.g. fatty liver disease)
Symptoms of Liver Disease
Unfortunately, many people with liver disease never even know that they have it. In fact, people may even have severe and permanent scarring (known as cirrhosis) and still never experience symptoms. With that said, there are certain signs and symptoms that may develop in those with liver disease. These signs include:
- Extreme fatigue and exhaustion
- Itchy skin
- Yellowing of the eyes and skin (e.g. jaundice)
- Pale stools
- Dark urine
- Swelling of the abdomen
- Confusion and brain fog
If you are experiencing these symptoms it’s important that you seek a gastroenterologist for further evaluation.
Treating Liver Disease
The type and severity of your liver disease will play a primary role in creating your treatment plan. One of the major areas that we will look at is your lifestyle. Lifestyle modifications can greatly improve certain types of liver disease. Lifestyle modifications include:
- Avoiding alcohol
- Quitting smoking
- Eating a healthy diet
- Getting moderate exercise 3-4 times a week
- Avoiding red meat, sugar and processed carbs
- Losing excess weight if obese or overweight
Making changes to your diet and lifestyle can minimize damage to the liver and also help those with liver diseases caused by medications or alcohol dependency. In more severe cases, a liver transplant may be necessary for those with advanced stages of cirrhosis. There are certain prescription medications that are prescribed to cure certain chronic forms of hepatitis; however, most cases of hepatitis A and B do not require treatment. Antiviral medications are used to treat hepatitis C.
If you are noticing warning signs or symptoms of liver disease, or if you have questions about keeping your liver healthy, a gastroenterologist can answer your questions and provide you with the care and treatment you need if you do have liver disease.
If you are experiencing difficulty swallowing this a known as dysphagia, a symptom that often indicates that there is a problem within the esophagus or throat. While dysphagia is more common in older adults and infants, this problem can happen to anyone. You may be dealing with dysphagia if you experience any of these symptoms:
- Trouble swallowing
- Feeling as if food is stuck in your throat
- Persistent choking or gagging whenever eating or drinking
- Regurgitation (when food travels back up into the throat)
- Heartburn or acid reflux (a burning sensation in the chest)
- Vocal changes (e.g. hoarseness)
- Pain with swallowing
- Sudden weight loss
Causes of Dysphagia
There are certain conditions that affect the muscles, nerves, throat, or esophagus that can make it more difficult to swallow foods and drinks. Common causes include:
- Esophageal spasms
- Nervous system disorders (e.g. multiple sclerosis; Parkinson’s disease)
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
Diagnosing and Treating Dysphagia
If you are having recurring or persistent painful or difficulty swallowing it’s important that you see a gastroenterologist to find out what’s going on. Your doctor will go through your medical history, asking specific questions surrounding the issues you are dealing with. From there, certain tests will be performed to diagnose dysphagia. These tests include:
- A barium or traditional X-ray
- pH monitoring (to measure the amount of acid in the stomach)
Along with providing a diagnosis, it’s important for your GI doctor to be able to pinpoint the root cause of your dysphagia. The cause will determine the type of treatments you receive. Common treatment options include:
- Altering your eating habits and avoiding certain foods
- An endoscopy to remove anything lodged in the throat
- Exercises to strengthen and improve the muscles of the throat and esophagus
- Medication to control heartburn, esophagitis, or GERD
- Surgery to remove blockages
The cause of your dysphagia will also determine the prognosis. For example, those whose dysphagia is caused by acid reflux, GERD, or esophageal infections may recover completely from their condition with medication. Of course, chronic dysphagia can also be properly managed through regular monitoring and care from a gastrointestinal specialist.
If you or someone you love is having difficulty swallowing a gastroenterologist can determine the cause of your symptoms quickly. Don’t ignore swallowing problems. Turn to a doctor as soon as possible to find out what’s going on.
Liver disease is more common than you might think. Unfortunately, many people don’t even know that they have liver disease until the disease has progressed into cirrhosis. For the most part liver problems go unnoticed because they don’t cause symptoms. Therefore, the goal of your gastroenterologist is to be able to provide patients with the necessary screening tools to be able to pinpoint problems such as liver disease early on when it’s manageable or even reversible.
What causes liver disease?
The liver is an incredibly important organ that is necessary for digesting food and removing toxins from the body. While some liver diseases are genetic, liver disease can also develop as a result of:
- Poor diet
- Heavy alcohol use
- Certain viral infections (e.g. hepatitis)
What is a FibroScan?
A FibroScan is a unique diagnostic tool that is designed specifically to detect the amount of scarring present in the liver through special ultrasound technology. A FibroScan is a quick, painless and non-invasive way to diagnose fatty liver and to measure the severity of scarring without needles or a biopsy.
Who should get a FibroScan?
If your gastroenterologist has diagnosed you with a chronic liver disease then a FibroScan may be recommended to assess the amount of fat deposits and scarring in the liver. Common types of chronic liver disease include:
- Hepatitis B & C
- Alcoholic liver disease and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH)
- Wilson’s disease and other genetic disorders
What does getting a FibroScan involve?
Before this scan you will want to avoid any food or drinks, besides water, for three hours prior to the procedure. This diagnostic test is completely non-invasive so you won’t require anesthesia or sedation. It only takes about five minutes to perform a FibroScan. During the procedure you will lie on your back where the technician will apply the ultrasound probe to the liver region. Results from the test are provided instantly.
What are my FibroScan results telling me?
A FibroScan uses a scoring system from F0-F4:
- F0-F1: little to no liver scarring
- F2: moderate liver scarring
- F3: severe scarring
- F4: Cirrhosis (advanced scarring)
If caught early enough, sometimes fibrosis (liver scarring) can be reversed through healthy lifestyle changes. Knowing your risk for liver disease can help prevent fibrosis in the long run. If you are concerned about your liver health your gastroenterologist can answer your questions and help you determine whether a FibroScan is right for you.
A gastroenterologist is a doctor that specializes in preventing, diagnosing and treating a variety of disorders, conditions and problems that affect the esophagus, gallbladder, intestines, liver, stomach, colon, and rectum. In essence, a gastroenterologist will be able to provide treatment and care for any problems affecting your gastrointestinal tract. Sometimes you may choose to seek out a gastroenterologist yourself or your family physician may refer you to one.
A gastroenterologist can treat a variety of conditions and diseases that affect your intestinal or digestive tract. Some of these conditions include:
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Celiac disease
- Heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Stomach ulcers
- Liver diseases
- Colon polyps
Here are some instances in which you may benefit from seeing a gastroenterologist for care.
While this is a common problem that is often the result of a minor issue such as hemorrhoids or an anal fissure, it could also be a sign of a more serious issue. If rectal bleeding is severe, if it lasts for more than 2 or 3 days or if it’s accompanied by abdominal pain or fever it’s time to get it checked out.
While the occasional bout of heartburn can happen to any of us, especially after enjoying a spicy meal, if you find yourself dealing with frequent heartburn several times a week then this could be a sign of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Since this condition can damage the lining of the esophagus, it’s important to see a GI doctor who can provide you with the proper medication and dietary changes to reduce heartburn symptoms.
Changes in bowel habits
If you are noticing chronic constipation that lasts for about one week or you experience diarrhea for more than a few days it’s important to see a gastroenterologist to determine the cause. Everything from a bacterial infection to food intolerances to digestive disorders such as Crohn’s disease could be the cause.
You just turned 50 years old
By the time you reach 50 years old you should also schedule your first routine colorectal cancer screening, also known as a colonoscopy. This is the most effective tool our intestinal doctors have for being able to detect colorectal cancer early. Those patients at an increased risk for colorectal cancer may want to start coming in for routine screenings by the age of 45.
While abdominal pain has many causes if you notice that you experience pain frequently, especially after meals, or if bowel issues or nausea accompany your pain then this may also warrant seeing a gastroenterologist for testing.
From colorectal cancer to bowel problems, a gastroenterologist can provide you with the treatment and care you need for a healthy digestive tract. If you are experiencing any of the issues above a GI doctor can help you.
March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month and at Advanced Gastroenterology Group, colon cancer screening and prevention is a large part of what we do. Without colon cancer screening, 1 out of every 20 people will go on to develop colon cancer. The good news is, most of these cancers can be prevented with screening. Screening is the process by which we look for cancers before symptoms start, making them easier to treat and cure. While some cancers, unfortunately, don’t have a good screening test and cannot be reliably detected early, screening in colon cancer has been very successful. In fact, colonoscopy, the most commonly used colon cancer screening test, can even PREVENT colon cancer. This is because most colon cancers start as a polyp, a small growth, which if left in place, can grow into cancer in the future. However, if found early during colonoscopy, a polyp can be easily removed, preventing cancer in the future. It is for this reason that colon cancer screening is recommended.
During this month, we will be posting information on colon cancer and screening in an effort to get more people tested. We will post a series of videos from the American Gastroenterological Association helping to stress the need to get screened. We hope that this information is helpful and results in more people getting screened for colon cancer. Please share this information with your friends. You can call our office for an appointment to discuss your screening options. We also encourage you to explore more about colon cancer screening on our web page (www.aggnj.net) and that of the American Gastroenterological Association (www.gastro.org).
Wiping and finding traces of blood can certainly be unnerving. While rectal bleeding can be caused by self-limiting problems that will go away on their own it’s also important to recognize when you may need to seek treatment from a qualified gastroenterologist.
Causes of Rectal Bleeding
You can usually tell where the bleeding is coming from based on the color of the blood. Bright red blood typically means that it’s originating in the rectum or colon, while darker blood may be a sign that there is bleeding in the stomach or elsewhere in the digestive tract.
The most common causes of rectal bleeding include:
- Fistula (an infected tunnel between the skin and anus)
- Fissures or tears
- Rectal prolapse (caused by weak rectal tissue)
- Colon polyps
- Vascular lesions of the GI tract
- Colon cancer
When to See a Doctor
While you probably won’t need to pick up the phone and call your GI doctor the minute you notice a little blood, it is important to understand when the condition does require an immediate checkup or even emergency care. Minor rectal bleeding is fairly common and will happen to most people at some point during their lifetime. Minor bleeding that goes away on its own may not require additional treatment or care, however, if not recently done, colonoscopy and/or endoscopy may need to be done to rule out a cancerous or precancerous cause of bleeding.
However, if you are dealing with persistent, severe or painful rectal bleeding this could be a sign of a more serious health problem that will require an evaluation by a gastrointestinal doctor. If you are dealing with rectal bleeding you should call your doctor if you:
- Notice bleeding that lasts up to 2-3 weeks
- Also experience a fever, fatigue or unexplained weight loss
- Have severe abdominal pain or your stomach is tender to the touch
- Notice changes in the shape, color or size of your stools for more than three weeks
- Also experience nausea and vomiting
- Are dealing with persistent bowel changes (e.g. constipation or diarrhea)
- Experience anal leakage
Vomiting blood, tar-like stools, bloody diarrhea, or severe abdominal pain all require emergency medical attention. In this case your gastroenterologist may advise you to go to the nearest emergency room.
If you are dealing with any rectal bleeding, make sure to call us (908-851-2770). Again, while many causes are benign, we will make sure that no further work-up needs to be done.
Most people who have hepatitis don’t even know that they have it. This is because it doesn’t often cause symptoms right away; however, untreated hepatitis can lead to serious health problems including liver scarring, cirrhosis of the liver, and cancer.
Hepatitis is a condition that causes inflammation of the liver. There are five types of hepatitis: A, B, C, D, and E. There are many causes of hepatitis and it’s important that you visit your gastroenterologist to understand your risks and to detect hepatitis early on before it causes serious and potentially permanent damage to the liver.
Hepatitis can be contracted by sharing items or having sex with an infected person. It’s also possible for mothers to pass hepatitis onto their babies during childbirth. Hepatitis can also be contracted through contaminated food or water.
Hepatitis A: this form of hepatitis is most often contracted by consuming contaminated water or food; however, hepatitis A can also be transmitted through unprotected sex with an infected person. This is considered a short-term infection.
Hepatitis B: hepatitis B can cause both acute and chronic infections and is often contracted when someone comes in contact with bodily fluid such as semen or blood from an infected person. This form of hepatitis can also be transmitted from mother to baby.
Hepatitis C: this type of hepatitis is contracted through blood; therefore, it’s more common to get this infection through the exchange of needles or injections. Like hepatitis B, this is usually a short-term infection but can cause chronic problems.
Hepatitis D: this is a less common form of hepatitis within the US, and only occurs in those who also have hepatitis B. Due to the fact that there are two forms of viral hepatitis present within the body, this can lead to serious and fast liver damage.
Hepatitis E: this short-term form of hepatitis is usually contracted through contaminated foods or tainted water.
Despite the fact that there are five different kinds of hepatitis, all of these types produce similar symptoms. It’s important to see your GI doctor right away if you are dealing with these warning signs of hepatitis:
- Joint pain
- Loss of appetite
- Pale or clay-colored stools
- Dark urine
- Jaundice (Causes yellowing of the eyes and skin)
- Severe itching
- Abdominal pain usually in the upper right side (where your liver is located)
With certain types of hepatitis these symptoms may appear but go away. Even if these symptoms disappear it’s still important to visit a gastroenterologist.
If you are dealing with a digestive disorder or injury you may end up dealing with a bleed within the gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms may or may not be apparent, depending on where the bleed is occurring within the digestive tract. Those with visible symptoms may notice rectal bleeding, black stools or they may vomit blood. Those with less visible symptoms may experience other problems such as dizziness, abdominal pain or trouble breathing. If you notice any changes in your bowels it’s important that you turn to a gastroenterologist.
Upper gastrointestinal bleeding is often caused by:
- Peptic ulcers: This is usually the most common cause of bleeding with the upper GI tract. Everything from a bacterial infection to certain medications can cause sores to develop within the lining of the stomach and small intestines.
- Tears in the esophagus: Esophageal tears can cause a significant amount of bleeding and most commonly occur in heavy drinkers but can also be the result of violent coughing or vomiting.
- Esophagitis: Esophagitis, or inflammation of the esophagus, is often caused by a condition known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This may cause vomiting that resembles coffee grounds.
Lower gastrointestinal bleeding often causes changes in bowel habits. The causes of lower GI bleeds include, :
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): IBD includes both ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, which cause inflammation and sometimes sores to develop within certain parts of the digestive tract. This often presents with bloody diarrhea or bright red blood in stools. Other symptoms include weight loss, abdominal pain and loss of appetite.
- Diverticulitis: When pouches in the digestive tract develop this is known as diverticulosis, which often doesn’t cause symptoms; however, if one or more pouches become infected this results in diverticulitis, which can produce a significant amount of blood in the stool.
- Colon polyps: This lump that forms on the large intestines won’t often cause symptoms; however, some people may notice abdominal pain, mucus in the stool, or blood. Rectal bleeding is usually the most common symptom associated with colon polyps.
If you experience any warning signs of bleeding within the gastrointestinal tract then it’s time to see a GI doctor as soon as possible. Symptoms such as vomiting blood or significant rectal bleeding should be treated immediately.
Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is a bacteria that lives in the stomach of over half the people in the world. While it can cause common diseases like gastritis and ulcers of both the stomach and beginning of the small intestine (the duodenum), it has also been known to be a risk factor for stomach cancer. A study being published in the January 30, 2020 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine examined the benefits of treating H. pylori infection in patients who had a 1st degree relative (parent, sibling, or child) with stomach cancer. The authors found that there was a 73% reduction in the risk of stomach cancer in those patients who were cured of the H. pylori infection. Though stomach cancer is a less common cause of cancer, patients with a family history of stomach cancer should be tested for H. pylori infection with subsequent treatment and confirmation of cure if positive. To find out more about H. pylori infection and how you can be tested, please call and make an appointment.
If you know someone with Crohn’s disease, or you have it yourself, you know about the dramatic effect it can have on your life. It is a type of inflammatory bowel disease or IBD which causes severe inflammation of your digestive tract.
In severe cases, it can be debilitating and life-threatening. The Centers for Disease Control, CDC, estimate that between 26 and 199 people per 100,000 suffer from Crohn's disease. Most people with Crohn's disease develop it when they are between the ages of 15 and 40, however, people of any age can develop the condition.
The fact is, Crohn’s disease is complicated, producing a variety of symptoms including severe intestinal and stomach pain. In addition to severe pain, Crohn’s disease often produces signs and symptoms like these:
- Ulcers in your intestines
- Chronic fever and fatigue
- Blood in your stool
- Reduced appetite and weight loss
- Abdominal cramping and diarrhea
Crohn’s disease also affects other areas of your body, producing additional signs and symptoms, including:
- Irritated eyes
- Mouth sores
- Skin inflammation
- Joint pain and inflammation
The exact cause of Crohn’s disease is unknown, but it may have a hereditary component, or be caused by an overactive immune system. The good news is, Crohn’s disease can be effectively managed by your gastroenterologist. Treatment for Crohn’s disease may include:
- Tests to check for anemia and other nutritional deficiencies
- Vitamin and nutrient supplementation
- Corticosteroid medications to reduce digestive system inflammation
- Immunosuppressive medications to reduce inflammation and symptoms
- Antibiotics to eliminate bacteria which may be causing an infection
Severe cases of Crohn’s disease may require surgery. Your gastroenterologist may discuss surgical treatment with you if it is recommended in your case.
The diagnosis and treatment of Crohn’s disease requires the services and knowledge of an expert, your gastroenterologist. To find out more about the causes, signs, symptoms, and treatment of Crohn’s disease and other gastrointestinal disorders, talk with your gastroenterologist today!
Persistent pain in your stomach or abdomen could be a signal of irritable bowel syndrome, which should be treated by a gastroenterologist.
Irritable bowel syndrome, also known as IBS, affects your large intestine and can be caused by poor functioning of your gastrointestinal nervous system as it relates to your GI function. The condition causes the walls of your intestines to not move as they should, which impairs the passage of food from your stomach through your intestines.
Irritable bowel syndrome has several signs and symptoms. According to the Mayo Clinic, you may experience:
- Moderate to severe abdominal pain and cramping
- Frequent or chronic gas and bloating
- Frequent or chronic diarrhea or constipation
- Mucus occurring frequently in your stools
When you have irritable bowel syndrome, you can lessen your symptoms by practicing a few simple tips like these:
- Limiting or avoiding spicy foods, fats, nightshade vegetables, beans, fruits, milk, carbonated drinks, alcohol, and chocolate
- Limiting or avoiding high-gluten content foods and foods with a high sugar content
- Managing your stress with exercise, meditation, and yoga
Irritable bowel syndrome is best treated by your gastroenterologist. Professional treatments for IBS include:
- Prescription-strength anti-diarrheal medications
- Prescription-strength medications to reduce intestinal spasms
- Antibiotics to treat any underlying infection or bacterial imbalance
- Medications to relax the colon, including Alosetron
- Medications to increase fluid secretion like Lubiprostone
- Dietary and lifestyle counseling
Irritable bowel syndrome can be effectively treated by your gastroenterologist. Professional treatment for IBS can help you live a life free of annoying and painful symptoms. To find out more about the causes and treatment of irritable bowel syndrome, talk with your gastroenterologist today!
Lactose intolerance is the body's inability to properly digest lactose, a type of sugar that is present in milk, cheese, and other dairy-based items. This is due to a deficiency in lactase, a digestive enzyme present in the small intestine. Some people are affected with lactose intolerance from birth, while others develop the condition later in life. This acquired intolerance may be due to the quality and quantity of the enzyme breaking down, or it may be a secondary response to another digestive problem such as Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, or celiac disease. Lactose intolerance varies in intensity, but it can cause bloating, gas, stomach cramps, and diarrhea within two hours of eating or drinking dairy products. A common digestive issue, it has been estimated that 65 percent of the world's population has some form of lactose intolerance.
Testing for lactose intolerance often starts with the patient ingesting dairy products in a clinical setting so the physician can observe the results. Determining if the intolerance is due to enzyme deficiency or an underlying condition, as mentioned above, is also essential. One of the most reliable tests involves measuring the level of hydrogen in a person's breath after drinking a lactose solution. Hydrogen is a byproduct of the bacteria in the digestive system if lactose cannot be processed efficiently.
Blood tests are another way that doctors can determine lactose intolerance. Over a period of hours and several draws, the sugar in the blood—glucose—will rise slowly in patients who are lactose intolerant. The easiest and most accurate test for infants is a stool acidity test; those whose bodies cannot process lactose will have a low pH level in their stools due to the presence of acid.
People who are diagnosed with lactose intolerance often find that avoiding foods with dairy products is the easiest way to manage their condition. Lactase replacement medication is also available over-the-counter; these supplements can be taken just before consuming a meal with dairy products to temporarily colonize the digestive system with lactase enzymes.
There are many reasons why your gastroenterologist may recommend getting an endoscopy. An endoscopy is a simple diagnostic procedure that allows our doctor to be able to examine the lining and walls of the entire GI tract, from the esophagus and stomach to the intestines and the rectum. Our gastroenterologist focuses on diagnosing and treating conditions that affect the stomach, intestines, and colon. Through a simple endoscopy we can diagnose a wide range of health problems and even treat some of them, too.
What is an endoscopy?
An endoscopy uses a thin, flexible tube known as an endoscope that is inserted either into the throat or rectum and guided through the body to check the lining of the intestinal tract. An endoscope has a camera at the end of it, which allows our gastrointestinal doctor to be able view the lining and look for lesions, bleeds, and other problems.
A common type of endoscopy is a colonoscopy, which allows us to be able to examine the colon and rectum to detect colon polyps and other signs of colorectal cancer in patients over 50 years old (as well as patients at a higher risk for colorectal cancer).
What can an endoscopy find?
Our gastroenterologist and his team will use an endoscope to look for both benign and precancerous polyps that often develop within the colon and rectum. We will examine the lining of the intestinal tract to look for other growths and cancerous tumors. An upper endoscopy can also be used to detect certain digestive problems.
Your gastroenterologist may recommend that you get an endoscopy if you are dealing with:
- Unexplained abdominal pain
- Persistent bowel changes (diarrhea; constipation)
- Chronic heartburn or chest pain
- Signs of an intestinal bleed or blockage
- Blood in the stool
- A family history of colon cancer
- A personal history of colon polyps
Even if everything is fine, both men and women should get routine colonoscopies by the time they turn 50 years old. Those at an increased risk for colon cancer will want to talk with their gastroenterologist about getting screened sooner. A colonoscopy is the most effective tool that we have at our disposal for the early detection of colorectal cancer. If colon polyps are detected during a routine colonoscopy we can also remove them immediately.
If you’ve been told that you need an endoscopy or if you are experiencing any of the symptoms above it’s important that you don’t put off treatment. Call a gastroenterologist today to schedule a comprehensive consultation.
Ulcerative colitis is a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes inflammation and ulcers within the lining of the colon (aka: the large intestines) and the rectum. Symptoms are usually subtle at first but get progressively worse. Common symptoms of ulcerative colitis include:
- Bloody diarrhea
- Abdominal pain
- Rectal bleeding and pain
- Unexpected weight loss
- The inability to defecate
While symptoms are usually mild or moderate, some patients deal with severe and debilitating symptoms. With UC, it is possible to have flare-ups with bouts of remission. If you are noticing regular chances to your bowels or any of the symptoms above it’s important that you turn to a gastroenterologist for a proper evaluation. Untreated ulcerative colitis can cause issues and potentially serious complications.
If your gastroenterologist has diagnosed you with ulcerative colitis you may be wondering what your treatment options are. The treatment plan that your doctor creates for you will depend on the type and severity of your symptoms. Your doctor can help you manage your symptoms effectively to make living with this chronic digestive problem easier.
Treatment for ulcerative colitis usually includes a combination of lifestyle changes and prescription medications. Lifestyle modifications that can help ease and reduce symptoms include:
- Regular exercise
- Staying hydrated
- Proper sleep and rest
- Avoiding fatty, greasy foods and opting for easier-to-digest foods
- Avoiding over-the-counter antidiarrheal medications (as regular use can lead to complications)
- Finding ways to effectively manage stress
- Turning to a counselor, therapist or support group
- Avoiding smoking, alcohol, caffeine, and other foods and drinks that could trigger symptoms
There are several medications that may be used to treat ulcerative colitis symptoms. Common ulcerative colitis medications include:
5-ASA: this is the most commonly used medication for treating UC
Corticosteroids: often used for moderate to severe cases of US
Immunomodulator medications: used to reduce inflammation
Biologics: used to reduce inflammation by targeting a specific protein produced by the immune system
The only way to get rid of ulcerative colitis is surgery to remove the colon; however, surgery usually isn’t recommended unless medications and other nonsurgical treatment options cannot properly control ulcers and inflammation. If there is a bleed or tear within the colon this may also warrant surgery.
Are you experiencing symptoms of ulcerative colitis? Want to discuss your treatment options with a doctor who understands what you’re going through? If you said “yes” then it’s time to turn to a gastroenterologist for the specialized care you need.
One common gastrointestinal problem that affects adults as they age is diverticulosis. This is when pouches develop within the lining of the colon, or large intestines. These pouches are known as diverticula, and usually people won’t experience any symptoms; however, when these pouches become inflamed or infected this leads to diverticulitis, a painful condition that can lead to vomiting, bloating, bowel changes, fever, blood in the stool and abdominal pain. If you are experiencing symptoms of diverticulitis it’s important to see your gastroenterologist for an evaluation as soon as possible.
Causes of Diverticulitis
While the cause of diverticulitis isn’t clear there are certain factors that could increase your chances of developing this GI problem. People who don’t eat enough fiber are more likely to deal with constipation, which can put pressure on the bowels and eventually lead to the development of diverticula within the intestines. Other factors that could increase your chances for diverticulitis include:
- Being overweight or obese
- Leading a sedentary lifestyle
- Having more disease-producing bacteria within the colon
- Taking steroids or NSAID pain relievers (e.g. ibuprofen)
Seeing a Gastroenterologist
When you come into the office for an evaluation your GI doctor will ask you questions about the symptoms you are experiencing, your current health, lifestyle and diet. From there, your doctor will determine which type of testing to perform. Tests to diagnose diverticulitis include:
- Barium enema
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy
Leading a healthy lifestyle can go a long way to reducing your risk for developing diverticulitis. This condition can often be treated with simple lifestyle adjustments (particularly changes to a patient’s diet) such as:
- Increasing fiber intake
- Taking fiber supplements
- Changing certain medications
- Taking probiotics
A liquid diet and rest are usually the best ways to ease diverticulitis symptoms. If there is a bleed within the intestines you may need to be hospitalized. Only in severe cases is surgery needed to remove the diseased pouches. With the proper care, diverticulosis symptoms may go away within in a few days. While increasing fiber intake won’t heal the diverticula that are present it can prevent new pouches from developing.
Wondering if your digestive issues may be due to diverticulitis? If you have unexplained or recurring stomach issues it’s time to turn to your gastroenterologist for a proper diagnosis.
We would like to welcome Dr. Arun Mathew to our practice!
Whenever you eat spicy foods do you know that you’ll be suffering for it shortly after? Do you find that heartburn keeps you up at night or makes it impossible to enjoy a lot of your favorite foods? Do you suffer from heartburn symptoms more often than not? If so then you may be dealing with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a digestive disorder in which food and stomach acid travel back into the esophagus. Over time the stomach’s acidity can wear away at the lining of the esophagus and cause irritation.
Someone with GERD will not only experience heartburn on a regular basis but also may have difficulty or pain when swallowing. Since the acid continues to travel back through the esophagus this can lead to persistent or recurring sore throats, as well as a dry cough or changes in your voice (e.g. hoarseness). You may even feel some of your food (as well as the stomach acid) travel back up through your throat.
If you find yourself taking a heartburn medication more than twice a week or if your symptoms are severe then this is the perfect time to turn to a GI doctor who can find a better way to manage your symptoms. If over-the-counter remedies aren’t cutting it then a gastroenterologist will prescribe a stronger medication. Some medications work by reducing acid production while other medications prevent acid production altogether to give the esophagus time to heal.
While most people find that their GERD symptoms can be properly controlled with over-the-counter or prescription medications, there are some people who still don’t find the relief they want or those who don’t want to use medications for the rest of their lives. If this is the case, there are also certain surgical procedures that can be recommended to help improve how the lower esophageal sphincter functions to prevent food and stomach acid from flowing back into the esophagus.
Of course, there are some simple lifestyle modifications that can also help. Besides maintaining a healthy weight, it’s important to avoid certain foods that can trigger your symptoms (e.g. caffeine; alcohol; chocolate). When you do eat try to eat smaller meals and avoid eating right before bedtime. If you are a smoker, you will want to strongly consider quitting.
If you have questions about GERD and managing your heartburn symptoms then it’s time you turned to a gastroenterologist who can diagnose you with this digestive disease and then create a tailored treatment plan to help make mealtimes less painful.
A colonoscopy can be a great diagnostic tool for figuring out certain intestinal issues.
As a medical news report or general doctor may have already told you, a colonoscopy is a great preventive procedure that everyone will have to go through at some point during their lifetime. As we get older, our risk of developing colorectal cancer increases. As a result, it’s a good time to schedule your first colonoscopy with your gastroenterologist around the time you turn 50 years old. This goes for both men and women.
What is a colonoscopy?
This diagnostic procedure is the best way to fully examine and inspect the colon to check for polyps or cancer symptoms. A colonoscopy uses a small tube with a camera attached to the end that can run the full length of the colon so that your GI doctor can easily determine the cause of your gastrointestinal symptoms.
Who should be getting one?
If you come in complaining of abdominal pain or you notice blood in your stool, then a colonoscopy may be the best way to check for polyps, irritable bowel syndrome or other intestinal problems. Of course, even if someone isn’t experiencing symptoms, colonoscopies are still performed by your gastroenterologist.
This minimally invasive procedure is actually the best way to screen for colorectal cancer, and should be something that everyone gets once they reach their 50’s. You may also need to get a colonoscopy sooner if you have certain risk factors that increase your chances of colorectal cancer including:
A personal history with colorectal cancer or polyps
A family history of colorectal cancer or polyps
You are a smoker
You are a heavy drinker
You lead a sedentary lifestyle
You have a diet heavy in red meats and fatty foods
You are obese
You are African American
What should I expect when I get a colonoscopy?
We will provide you with a preparation (either a liquid or pill) to take one day prior to your procedure to help empty your bowels before the procedure. When you come in for a colonoscopy we will have you lie on your side. Next, we will insert an IV into the arm to provide you with sedation that will help you feel more relaxed. Sedation can sometimes make people drowsy or fall asleep during their colonoscopy.
Next, the scope is inserted into the rectum and slowly passed through the intestines. Some air will also be directed through the scope to help us see the intestinal tract better and look for any polyps, bleeding, etc. If we do find a suspicious growth, we can also perform a biopsy. Polyps can also be removed during your procedure.
Don’t put off a colonoscopy. This procedure is easy, there is no recovery period and it could just end up saving your life. Call our office today if you are experiencing any of the symptoms above or if you’ve just recently turned 50 and need to schedule your first colonoscopy with your gastroenterologist.
Being constipated means your bowel movements happen less often than normal. Everyone goes through it at some point. Fortunately, there are many treatments that can provide relief. Treatment for constipation usually begins with diet and lifestyle changes meant to increase the speed at which stool moves through your digestive tract. If those changes don't help, your gastroenterologist may recommend other treatment options.
1. Poor diet- A common cause of constipation is a diet high in refined sugar (desserts and other sweets), and animal fats (dairy products, eggs, meats, but low in fiber (fruits, vegetables, whole grains), especially insoluble fiber, which helps move stool through the colon and promote bowel movements. Studies show that high dietary fiber intake results in larger stools and more frequent bowel movements.
2. IBS- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is one of the most common causes of constipation. IBS is an intestinal disorder that affects the large intestine. Signs and symptoms include abdominal pain, cramping, gas, bloating, constipation or diarrhea, or both. IBS treatments include diet and lifestyle changes and medications.
3. Bowel habits- You can start a cycle of constipation by suppressing the urge to defecate. After a period of time, you may stop feeling the urge. This can lead to progressive constipation. Research shows that ignoring the urge to defecate may slow down the transit through the digestive tract.
4. Pregnancy- Pregnancy is also a common cause of constipation. Constipation affects 50 percent of women at some point during their pregnancy. Constipation in pregnant women is thought to occur due to an increase in the hormone progesterone, which relaxes the digestive tract. This means that food passes through the digestive tract more slowly.
5. Medications- Many medications can cause constipation. These include antacids that contain calcium or aluminum, pain medications, tranquilizers, antispasmodic drugs, antidepressant drugs, anticonvulsants, and calcium channel blockers for high blood pressure and heart conditions.
6. Laxative Abuse- Laxatives are substances that loosen stools and increase bowel movements. They are used to treat constipation. The long-term use of laxative drugs can cause constipation. People who take frequent doses of laxative drugs become dependent upon them and may require higher doses until, finally, the intestinal muscles become weak and fail to work properly.
The severity of constipation varies from person to person. Most individuals only experience constipation for a few days. For some people, constipation goes on for longer and makes life miserable. If you're suffering from constipation, you should make an appointment with a gastroenterologist.
If you ever chewed gum as a kid then you probably remember an adult telling you not to swallow that gum or else it would get stuck in your intestines. Is this actually true or just an Old Wives Tale? What happens if you do swallow your gum? Could it cause you intestinal distress or other complications now or down the road?
Well, the good news is that most people, at some point during their lifetime, will swallow gum and never experience any issues. Even though the body really can’t digest chewing gum it doesn’t mean that it will get stuck inside the body or will cause gastrointestinal issues. Even if our bodies cannot digest something they can still move the gum along through the body. While the body can easily digest other ingredients found in gum (e.g. sweeteners), the foundation or gum resin won’t be able to be digested properly. But don’t worry; this undigested portion of chewing gum should pass through your body without issue and leave through a normal bowel movement.
However, it is possible that gum may cause a blockage within the digestive system. How? While this is very rare, it is possible that if you swallow a rather large piece of gum (or if you swallow multiple pieces over a short span of time) that this could lead to a blockage. This may be more likely to occur in children, especially children that are too young to understand that gum should be chewed and not swallowed. Make sure that your child isn’t given gum until they fully understand the purpose of chewing gum.
Of course, if you notice some bloating or abdominal discomfort after chewing gum then you could point your finger at this seemingly innocent treat. This is because you might be swallowing excess air while chewing gum, which can lead to some pain and discomfort. If you notice this issue then you may want to limit how often you chew gum or opt for sucking on a mint instead.
If you have questions about your gastrointestinal health or if you start to experience symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea or nausea that doesn’t go away, then it’s important that you have a gastroenterologist on your side who can help.
Acute pancreatitis strikes suddenly, causing severe pain and vomiting. More than 300,000 people are admitted to U.S. hospitals every year due to acute pancreatitis, according to The National Pancreas Foundation.
What causes acute pancreatitis?
If you have gallstones, you may be at increased risk of developing acute pancreatitis. The condition can occur when stones get stuck in the common bile duct and prevent pancreatic fluids from flowing freely. Stones can also force bile to flow back into the pancreas, which may damage it.
You may also develop acute pancreatitis if your calcium or triglyceride levels are very high, or you have an autoimmune disorder, infection, an overactive parathyroid gland, cystic fibrosis or regularly take certain medications. High alcohol consumption can cause pancreatitis, particularly if you've been a heavy drinker for years. In some cases, the cause of acute pancreatitis can't be determined.
What are the symptoms of acute pancreatitis?
Pain from acute pancreatitis is felt in the upper part of the abdomen, although it can extend to your back. The pain may be mild at first, but may become severe and constant and may worsen after you eat or drink alcohol. Other symptoms include fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and a rapid pulse. Prompt treatment is essential if you experience any of these symptoms. The condition can cause bleeding, infections and may even damage your kidneys, lungs and heart if the attack is severe. Although most people recover from acute pancreatitis, the condition can be life-threatening.
How is acute pancreatitis treated?
If your condition is caused by gallstones, you'll need surgery to remove the stones. In some cases, surgery may also be needed to keep your bile ducts open. If you're admitted to the hospital, you'll be given fluids to prevent dehydration caused by vomiting and diarrhea and may receive medication for nausea and pain. Foods and beverages are usually stopped for one to two days after you're admitted to the hospital.
Changing your medications, avoiding alcohol and addressing the causes of high triglyceride or calcium levels may help prevent further bouts of acute pancreatitis. If you have numerous attacks of acute pancreatitis or continue to drink alcohol, the condition can become chronic.
Although it's not always possible to prevent acute pancreatitis, you can reduce your risk by exercising regularly, following a healthy diet and avoiding heavy consumption of alcohol.
Dealing With Hepatitis B
Have you been diagnosed with Hepatitis B? Hepatitis B is an infection of the liver that is caused by the hepatitis B virus. The virus is passed from person to person through semen, blood, or other body fluids. There is no cure for acute hepatitis B. There are many things patients can do to improve their health and protect their liver. The following tips will help you get started on the path toward improved health and well-being.
1. See your healthcare provider regularly. Schedule regular visits with your doctor to stay on top of your health and the health of your liver. People with Hepatitis B can live full lives by taking good care of themselves and getting regular checkups. Getting checkups is an important part of staying healthy.
2. Avoid drinking alcoholic beverages. Avoid drinking alcohol if you have Hepatitis B. Most people know that the liver acts as a filter and can be damaged by drinking too much alcohol. Studies show that alcohol increases HBV replication, promotes damage to the liver and increases the likelihood of developing cirrhosis.
3. Talk to your doctor before taking OTC drugs. Check with your doctor about any OTC drugs or non-hepatitis B prescription medications before taking them to make sure they're safe for your liver. Talk to your doctor before taking any vitamins, supplements, or herbal remedies because they could interfere with your prescribed medications or even damage your liver.
4. Avoid breathing in fumes to protect your liver. Avoid inhaling fumes from paint, household cleaning products, glue, nail polish removers, and other potentially toxic chemicals that could damage your liver. Make certain you have good ventilation, cover your skin, use a mask, and wash off any chemicals you get on your skin with water and soap as soon as possible.
5. Eat a healthy diet to protect your liver. Eat a balanced, healthy diet of fruits, whole grains, lean meats, fish, and vegetables. Try to avoid saturated and trans fats. Cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower and broccoli have been shown to help protect the liver against environmental chemicals.
6. Talk to your doctor about medication. Your doctor may recommend antiviral medications to treat Hepatitis B. Antiviral drugs can help fight the virus and slow its ability to damage your liver. Antiviral drugs approved for treatment of chronic hepatitis B include lamivudine, adefovir, telbivudine, entecavir, and tenofovir. These drugs are taken by mouth. Talk to your healthcare provider about which medication might be right for you.
7. In severe cases, a hospital stay is needed. In some cases, an acute hepatitis B infection can be very severe. For acute Hepatitis B, medical professionals usually recommend rest, fluids, adequate nutrition, and close medical monitoring. Severe symptoms may require hospital treatment. A very small number of patients with acute hepatitis B infection will develop liver failure. They will require a liver transplant to prevent death.
8. Talk to your doctor if you are pregnant. Hepatitis B virus can be transmitted to your baby during birth. There are, however, treatments (including the hepatitis B vaccine) that can be given to your baby soon after delivery to help prevent transmission. Letting your OB, Gastroenterologist, and Pediatrician know, allows them to take the proper steps to ensure the best possible outcome for your baby.
If you think you might have hepatitis B, don't worry, help is available. Search for a gasterontologist in your area and schedule a consultation. Hepatitis B treatment has improved the lives of many people. And it will do the same for you!
A hiatal hernia is when the stomach bulges through an opening in the diaphragm. Some people don’t even now that they have a hiatal hernia because it doesn’t always produce symptoms; however, some people find out that they have a hiatal hernia once they are dealing with persistent heartburn and indigestion. These symptoms are more likely to occur because a hernia makes it easier for the acids within the stomach to travel back up through the esophagus, which results in heartburn.
In most cases, self-care treatments and medications are enough to alleviate the symptoms associated with a hiatal hernia; however, if the hernia is large then the patient may require surgery. If you are dealing with persistent or severe indigestion and heartburn there are many reasons why this may be happening. While it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a hiatal hernia it’s a good idea to see a gastroenterologist to find out what may be causing your acid reflux.
How to Treat a Hiatal Hernia
Before treating a hiatal hernia your gastroenterologist will need to diagnose your condition first. There are several tests that can determine whether you may have a hernia. These tests include a barium swallow, an endoscopy and a pH test. Once your GI doctor has determined that you have a hiatal hernia the next step is to create a treatment plan to manage your symptoms.
Again, there are a lot of people with hiatal hernias that don’t even know it because they aren’t experiencing symptoms. If your hernia isn’t causing you problems then treatment is rarely necessary. If you are dealing with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) as a result of your hiatal hernia then there are some lifestyle modifications you can make to reduce your symptoms. These changes include:
- Eating smaller meals
- Losing excess weight if you are overweight
- Avoiding citrus, acidic, and spicy foods
- Limiting fried, fatty goods
- Limiting caffeine and alcohol
- Quitting smoking
- Eating about 3-4 hours before bed or lying down
- Elevating your head six inches above the rest of your body while sleeping
- Avoiding tight clothes, which can put too much pressure on your stomach
You may even choose to take an over-the-counter antacid after eating to reduce stomach acid. Of course, these over-the-counter medications shouldn’t be taken for more than two weeks. You gastroenterologist can also prescribe a stronger antacid that you will be able to take whenever you need it to neutralize stomach acid or to block acid altogether.
Hiatal Hernia Surgery
Surgery for a hiatal hernia is not often necessary; however, if you’ve been dealing with severe reflux that isn’t alleviated with lifestyle changes or medications then surgery may be the only option. If blood flow to the part of the stomach that is sticking through the esophagus is cut off, then surgery will also be required.
If you are dealing with persistent acid reflux and indigestion it’s important to talk with your gastroenterologist to find out if a hiatal hernia could be to blame.
While an embarrassing condition, hemorrhoids are rather common and will happen to the majority of us at some point during our lifetime. This condition occurs when the veins around the rectum or anus swell. Even though this problem is harmless it can be painful. There are many reasons why someone may deal with hemorrhoids. Those who lead a sedentary lifestyle are more likely to develop hemorrhoids. Those who are obese or deal with constipation regularly, as well as pregnant women are also prone to hemorrhoids.
Hemorrhoids can either develop inside the rectum (internal) or around the anus (external). You may be dealing with hemorrhoids if you experience:
- Bright red blood during bowel movements
- Anal itching and soreness
- Pain and swelling around the anus
- A tender lump around the anus
Sometimes hemorrhoids will go away on their own; however, it’s important to know when to see a gastroenterologist for treatment. After all, some of these symptoms could also be caused by other conditions. If you are dealing with rectal bleeding or pain it’s a good idea to see a GI doctor who will be able to perform the proper tests to confirm whether you have hemorrhoids and to rule out any other intestinal problems.
One way to prevent hemorrhoids is to prevent straining during bowel movements and constipation. In order to do this you must staying hydrated and eat a healthy, high-fiber diet. Staying active and losing excess weight can also improve gut health. If you sit for the majority of the day it’s important to get up and move around to take pressure off the veins of the anus.
In terms of treatment, the goal is to reduce pain, inflammation and irritation so the area can properly heal. This involves eating a high-fiber diet. You can also use an over-the-counter hemorrhoid cream, which can numb the area and reduce discomfort. Soaking for 10-15 minutes in a sitz bath can also ease symptoms. With the proper treatment and care hemorrhoids will often go away in about a week. If you don’t experience relief, or if your symptoms are severe then it’s time to see a gastroenterologist.
In some cases, surgery is necessary in order to treat complications (e.g. blood clots) of hemorrhoids or to properly address bleeding, painful, or persistent hemorrhoids. A gastroenterologist can perform these simple outpatient procedures right in their office.
If you are experiencing symptoms of hemorrhoids and not experiencing relief from over-the-counter medications and at-home care then it’s time to see a GI doctor for treatment.
The pancreas is an organ that we don’t often give much thought to and yet it’s quite important. After all, it is responsible for releasing digestive enzymes into the small intestines to help with digestion. It is also instrumental in releasing both insulin and glucagon into the blood, which influences metabolism and determines how effectively the body turns food into energy; however, certain lifestyle choices and health problems could lead to an attack of pancreatitis.
What is pancreatitis?
This condition is rather rare and occurs when the pancreas is inflamed. In most cases, this condition is acute and can be treated; however, sometimes it can become chronic. Damage to the pancreas will occur if the digestive enzymes are activated before the reach the intestines, causing the enzymes to destroy the pancreas.
What are the symptoms of pancreatitis?
Acute pancreatitis often causes upper abdominal pain that may get worse after eating and may radiate to your back. Your abdomen may be tender to the touch and you may feel nausea. Sometimes these symptoms are accompanied by a fever and rapid pulse.
Those who have chronic pancreatitis will notice the same abdominal pain that’s present in acute cases, as well as oily stools (known as steatorrhea) and unintended weight loss. If you are dealing with any kind of persistent abdominal pain it’s important to schedule an appointment with your gastroenterologist. If the pain is severe or makes it difficult to stand up straight, you need immediate medical attention.
Of course, there are many conditions and injuries that can lead to upper abdominal pain, so it’s important that you consult your doctor as soon as possible. If it is pancreatitis, this will often require hospitalization, so this requires immediate medical attention.
What causes pancreatitis?
There are certain conditions and habits that can increase your likelihood for developing pancreatitis including:
- Cystic fibrosis
- High calcium levels (usually occurs in those with hyperparathyroidism)
- High triglyceride levels
- Abdominal surgery
- Pancreatic cancer
Sometimes the cause of pancreatitis is unknown. However, it is possible for this condition to lead to more serious complications such as an infection, diabetes or kidney failure if it isn’t properly treated.
How is pancreatitis treated?
As we mentioned above, most people with pancreatitis will need to be hospitalized. During hospitalization, the treatment plan will include:
- Fasting for a couple of days (this will help your pancreas recover)
- Pain medications
- IV fluids
Once we have addressed your condition, we will then try to find the root cause. Based on the cause we may recommend additional treatment or surgeries including:
- Surgery to remove obstructions of the bile duct
- Pancreas surgery to drain fluid and remove diseased tissue
- Gallbladder removal (if gallstones caused your pancreatitis)
- Quitting alcohol or finding an alcohol treatment program
If you are dealing with unexplained abdominal pain or other digestive problems it’s important that you turn to a gastroenterologist who can figure out what’s going on. Call to schedule an appointment today.
When people experience frequent bouts of flatulence, abdominal bloating, cramps, and diarrhea, it's disconcerting and sometimes unpredictable. Your gastroenterologist may review your symptoms and do some in-office testing to determine if you have lactose intolerance. It's a common GI condition in which the body produces the lactase enzyme in insufficient amounts. Fortunately, the teens and adults who develop it can manage the symptoms and feel good.
The details on lactose intolerance
The digestive enzyme, lactase, is produced in the small intestine. When it encounters lactose, the carbohydrate in dairy products such as milk and ice cream, it breaks down the sugar into a highly usable form. If, however, lactase is insufficient, the milk sugars will cause those uncomfortable GI symptoms within a half an hour or so.
While cheese and yogurt also are dairy products, they go through a fermentation process which limits their lactose content. As such, people who are lactose intolerant can consume these dairy items comfortably, says Genetics Home Reference.
Besides happening in young adulthood, lactose intolerance seems to run in families, particularly if as infants, individuals appeared unable to digest breast milk or formula properly. Additionally, some research shows this gastrointestinal problem may occur after an abdominal injury, reports John Hopkins Medicine.
Diagnosing and managing lactose intolerance
Your gastroenterologist will review your symptoms, their severity and timing. Also, he or she may run a lactose intolerance test in which you consume a liquid with high levels of lactose. Through the course of two hours, the doctor measures your blood sugar levels. High readings indicate lactose intolerance.
In addition, a hydrogen breath test pinpoints lactose intolerance. For babies and young children, a stool acidity test uncovers this common GI disorder.
To manage lactose intolerance, your doctor will recommend some diet modifications, such as eliminating as much dairy as possible. Checking food labels for dairy content helps, as well as switching to almond or soy milk and taking supplements such as Lactaid which boost lactase levels in the gut.
See your gastroenterologist
Your GI doctor wants you to have healthy digestion and a varied diet. Be sure to see him or her right away if you experience symptoms of lactose intolerance so you can feel your very best.
If you are someone with Crohn’s disease, we don’t need to tell you how impactful this chronic condition can be. Frequent bowel movements, intense abdominal cramps, chronic fatigue, and disposition to a number of different bodily maladies are just some of the ways that this type of inflammatory bowel disease can complicate patients’ lives. Luckily, there are a few different precautions that those with Crohn’s can take to lessen the effects of this often-invasive disease.
What are the effects of Crohn’s?
Prior to exploring the ways that one can tamper the symptoms of Crohn’s, it’s important to establish just what exactly these unwanted effects are. Although the condition directly affects the bowels, the symptoms of Crohn’s disease can be felt throughout the body. Some examples include:
- Urgent and frequent bowel movements
- Watery stool
- Bleeding from the rectum
- Abdominal pain
- Mouth sores
- Skin and eye inflammation
Of course, these effects are not omnipresent nor always severe. Often, Crohn’s patients have long periods where they feel fine, only to eventually be faced with an intense flare-up of symptoms that leaves them feeling terrible and unable to work or go to school—this is where a gastroenterologist comes in.
What a gastroenterologist can do for you
If you are experiencing the debilitating effects of Crohn’s disease, you should schedule an appointment with your local gastroenterologist to find a treatment that’s well-suited to your issues. Possible medical approaches include:
- Medications: The right medicine can help control inflammation, and thus lighten the disease’s effects on your body.
- Bowel rest: Sometimes recommended by a doctor in cases when symptoms are severe, a bowel rest includes refraining from solid food for a few days. Don’t worry—a nutrient-containing liquid is provided in lieu of solid food so that patients do not feel hunger pain. This time of rest allows the intestines to heal and symptoms to dissipate
- Surgery: In the case of extreme symptoms, surgery becomes necessary. There are a variety of different surgeries available, and a consultation with your gastroenterologist can determine which one will benefit you.
What you can do day-to-day to lessen symptoms
As a Crohn’s patient, there are a few different lifestyle modifications that you can apply to minimize flare-ups and make your day-to-day routine more comfortable. Some simple steps include
- Take medication as prescribed: At the risk of sounding too obvious, taking medicines according to a doctor’s recommendations is an essential step to managing symptoms. In the case of corticosteroids (steroids) this is especially important, for these medications are best used in the short-term and during flare-ups—improper use can render them ineffective
- Regularly exercise: Exercise helps Crohn’s patients in a few different ways such as helping the digestive tract work efficiently, raising energy levels, and fortifying the immune system. Consult with your gastroenterologist on how to develop a routine that will benefit you most
- Adopt proper dietary habits: Maintaining a diet that is full of nutrients can help minimize the effects that Crohn’s has on the digestive tract. Of course, not all patients’ dietary needs are the same, so make sure to meet with a dietician to find out which approach will work best for you.
Need relief? Give us a call!
Living with Crohn’s can be a struggle, but it can be made easier with professional help. Call us today to set up a consultation and get yourself on track to a better life!
7 Tips for Dealing With Indigestion
Suffering from indigestion? Most people have indigestion at some point in their lives. Indigestion, also called dyspepsia, is defined as a persistent or recurrent pain or discomfort in the upper abdomen. The symptoms of indigestion can include abdominal pain, gas, belching, nausea, vomiting, or burning in the upper abdomen or stomach. Here are 7 tips for dealing with indigestion.
1. Keep a food diary. The best way to treat indigestion is to prevent it by avoiding the foods that seem to cause indigestion. Keep a food diary to work out what drinks and foods are triggers for you. Writing down what you ate and the time you ate it can help you deduce what it is that’s causing your symptoms. When possible limit these triggers - common ones include chocolate, caffeine, and spicy food.
2. Eat less. Overeating and late-night meals are the top two triggers that affect many people with indigestion. Eating five small meals per day can help. Breaking down your daily food intake into five small meals makes lighter work for your digestive system. It’s also a good idea not to eat right before bed.
3. Eat slowly. It’s not just what you eat that can cause indigestion; it’s also how quickly you eat. Sit down when you eat your meals. Take your time, chew thoroughly, and give yourself at least 20 minutes before you carry on with your day. Try to avoid lying down too soon after eating.
4. Limit caffeine. If you drink too much caffeine, you may develop indigestion as a side effect. Cut back on your daily fix to see if that helps reduce your symptoms. Caffeine affects your central nervous system and increases stomach acid production. According to Michigan State University, people who drink too much caffeine can develop abdominal pain, heartburn, diarrhea, belching, nausea, and vomiting.
5. Exercise. Exercise can help promote healthy digestion. A recent study shows that exercise can help reduce many digestive problems. In one study, scientists found a link between lack of exercise, obesity, abdominal pain, and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. Regular cardiovascular exercise like walking and cycling also helps strengthen abdominal muscles. Don't exercise with a full stomach. Do it before a meal or at least one hour after you eat.
6. Beware of air. Swallowing too much air while eating can cause indigestion. You can help avoid that by chewing with your mouth closed and talking less while eating. You may need to avoid sucking on hard candy or chewing gum, which can lower the amount of air you swallow. If heartburn or acid reflux makes you swallow more frequently, antacids may help.
7. See your doctor. If your indigestion lasts longer than 2 weeks, you should see a gasterontologist. Treatment for indigestion depends on the cause and may include lifestyle changes, medications, and psychological therapies. If stress is causing your symptoms, your doctor may recommend ways to help you reduce your stress, such as relaxation exercises, meditation, or counseling.
Indigestion can significantly diminish your quality of life. Stand up to indigestion and start enjoying life again. Find a board certified gastroenterologist near you and schedule a consultation. Treatment for indigestion will ease your pain and help you get back to a happy and healthy life!
One of the most effective screening methods for detecting the earliest signs of colorectal cancer is through a colonoscopy. A colonoscopy allows a gastroenterologist to be able to examine the lining of the rectum and colon (lower intestines) to look for precancerous polyps and other warning signs. These precancerous polyps can also be removed during a colonoscopy before they have the chance to develop into cancer. This is why colon cancer screenings are so important.
Who should get regular colon cancer screenings?
Men and women who are between the ages of 45 and 75 should see their gastroenterologist for regular colon cancer screenings. While there are other methods for screening for colon cancer (e.g. stool test; flexible sigmoidoscopy) a colonoscopy is the most effective and accurate screening tool available.
If a patient has never had polyps or other precancerous warning signs they may not need to get further colorectal cancer screenings after age 75. Patients with risk factors may require additional routine screenings after the age of 75.
Of course sometimes it’s necessary to get a colon cancer screening before 45 years old. You may benefit from getting tested earlier if:
- You or an immediate family member has a history of colorectal polyps or colon cancer
- You’ve been diagnosed with an inflammatory bowel disease (e.g. Crohn’s disease; ulcerative colitis)
- You lead an inactive, sedentary lifestyle
- You have a poor diet that is high in fat and low in fiber
- You’ve been diagnosed with diabetes
- You are obese
- You are a heavy alcohol consumer
- You are a smoker
- You’ve undergone radiation therapy to treat cancer
If you have any risk factors it’s important that you talk with your gastroenterologist to find out when you should start getting regular screenings and which screening is right for you based on your health coverage.
What should I expect from a colorectal cancer screening?
As we mentioned, the most common screening tool for colon cancer is a colonoscopy. During this procedure we will insert a thin flexible tube (called an endoscope) into the rectum and gently guide it through the large intestines. At the end of this endoscope is a camera. This camera will allow your GI doctor to look for polyps and other problem. If polyps are found they can be removed during your colonoscopy. If nothing is found during your diagnostic testing, a colonoscopy can take as little as 30 minutes. The patient will be under the effects of conscious sedation throughout the procedure.
Do you have questions about getting a colonoscopy? Is it time to schedule your first routine colon cancer screening? If so, then call your intestinal doctor today.
Diverticulitis is a condition in which small pouches or sacs called diverticula form in the large intestine, or colon, and become inflamed. When the sacs are inflamed, they can bulge outward and cause abdominal pain and discomfort. In addition to abdominal pain, several other symptoms can be associated with diverticulitis. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms associated with this condition, see a gastroenterologist for a diagnosis and possible treatment options.
Symptoms & Causes
The exact cause of diverticulitis is unclear. However, there seems to be a link between a diet too low in fiber and the development of diverticulitis. When fiber is lacking in the diet, the colon works harder to move stools through the intestinal tract. It is possible that the pressure from the increased effort to move the stool can lead to the formation of diverticula along the interior of the color or large intestine. Maintaining a diet with sufficient fiber intake can potentially help prevent diverticulitis.
Various symptoms can be associated with diverticulitis. Abdominal pain is a common symptom and tends to be felt primarily on the left side. Other symptoms associated with diverticulitis include:
- abdominal pain
A variety of options are available for treating diverticulitis. For less severe cases, a combination of antibiotics, pain relievers and a liquid diet can be sufficient to resolve the diverticulitis. More serious cases of diverticulitis in which patients cannot drink liquids can require a hospital stay. While in the hospital, all nutrition will be obtained intravenously. Avoiding eating and drinking by mouth gives the bowel time to rest and recover and can help clear up the diverticulitis. If the condition is still severe, surgery might be required.
Diverticulitis can result in a lot of pain and discomfort. Fortunately, there are treatments that can provide relief. See a gastroenterologist for diagnosis and a treatment plan.
Irritable bowel syndrome, also known as IBS, is a condition affecting the large intestine or colon. It is associated with a variety of symptoms, including abdominal discomfort and diarrhea. The exact cause of irritable bowel syndrome is not known and the condition tends to affect women more often than men. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, a gastroenterologist can determine if you truly have the condition and develop an appropriate treatment plan for your symptoms.
A variety of gastrointestinal symptoms is associated with irritable bowel syndrome. If you experience any of these symptoms regularly, consult a gastroenterologist who can make a proper diagnosis. A diagnosis of IBS is usually made by ruling out other gastrointestinal problems through blood tests, stool sample tests, x-rays, a colonoscopy or a sigmoidoscopy. Symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome include:
- abdominal pain or cramping
- mucus in stools
- recurring urgent need to have a bowel movement
Although the exact cause of irritable bowel syndrome is unknown, there are several treatment options for alleviating some of the discomfort associated with IBS. Dietary habits can have an impact on the frequency and severity of symptoms. Eating smaller meals during the day can ease digestion and lessen symptoms. Including more fiber during the day can also help with symptoms such as constipation. Eliminating foods, such as dairy, that aggravate the symptoms of IBS can also help alleviate some of the pain and discomfort.
Other strategies for treating irritable bowel syndrome include medications, probiotics and managing stress. Increased stress can aggravate IBS symptoms so keeping stress levels low can minimize symptoms. Additionally, probiotics and certain medications can also help improve digestion and alleviate some of the symptoms of IBS, such as gas or diarrhea. A gastroenterologist can help you determine which treatments options are best for your symptoms.
Irritable bowel syndrome can result in a lot of pain and discomfort. Fortunately, there are treatments that can provide relief. See a gastroenterologist for diagnosis and a treatment plan.
A polyp: you may have heard of this condition, but remain unsure on what exactly it is. Most commonly developed in the colon, polyps are small clumps of cells that grow inside various parts of the body. Although some polyps are benign, others can develop into cancer, making it crucial that you receive periodic colonoscopies from your gastroloenterologist. Read on to learn more about colon polyps, and if you are in need of a colonoscopy, make sure to call your local gastroenterologist to make an appointment!
What exactly are colon polyps?
As mentioned above, polyps are small clumps of cells that generally develop in the nasal passage, uterine lining, vocals cords, stomach lining, and most commonly in the colon lining. Projected to develop in fifty percent of the population over time, colon polyps come in two distinct categories:
- Hyperplastic Polyps: Definitively noncancerous, these benign cell clumps are small and grow near the end of the colon
- Adenomatous Polyps: This polyp variety affects more people than its counterpart, and carries the possibility of becoming cancerous, although this development usually takes years to occur.
Although colon polyps generally do not show any immediate symptoms, some warning signs certainly do spring up over time. These signs include:
- Rectal bleeding
- Abnormal stool color
- Shifts in bowel habits
- Abdominal pain
How can I stay healthy?
Given that polyps usually do not exhibit any symptoms until late into their development, the best course of defense against this potentially deadly condition is to receive regular colonoscopies once you reach the age of 50.
A colonoscopy is a minor procedure in which a small, camera-equipped tool is inserted into the anus so that a doctor may examine the colon. If any polyps are discovered, the doctor can then remove them and send a sample to the lab for a biopsy. In the event that the sample tests positive for cancer, your doctor can discuss any further steps that need to be taken.
Concerned? Give us a call!
If you are in need of a colonoscopy, be sure to give your local gastroenterologist a call and receive the treatment that you need!
What is a Flexible Sigmoidoscopy?
A flexible sigmoidoscopy is a critical diagnostic tool to evaluate the health of your large intestine, or colon. An ultra-thin, flexible tube called a sigmoidoscope is inserted in the rectum and guided up through the intestine.
The tube contains a tiny camera at the end which provides the doctor with a view of your sigmoid colon, which is the last two feet of the large intestine. The sigmoidoscope also allows the doctor to take samples of tissue for later biopsy. Tissue biopsy is the definitive way to determine whether there are precancerous or cancerous changes in your tissue cells.
The sigmoidoscopy procedure is often combined with a colonoscopy because the sigmoidoscope doesn’t show the entire colon, only the lower portion. Sigmoidoscopy may be recommended over colonoscopy because it often doesn’t require anesthesia and is a faster procedure than colonoscopy.
A flexible sigmoidoscopy can be used to determine the cause of intestinal problems like abdominal pain and bowel issues like diarrhea and constipation. It is also used to look for abnormal growths or polyps. It is also a vital tool to screen for colon and rectal cancer.
Flexible sigmoidoscopy may be recommended if you are over 50 years old to help detect colon and rectal cancer in the early stages, when it is the most treatable. Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. Each year, about 150,000 new cases are diagnosed in this country, and 50,000 people will die of the disease.
The flexible sigmoidoscopy procedure is a safe, effective way to determine the health of your sigmoid colon. It is a vital tool in maintaining your good health. If you are having abdominal issues, or you are at least 50 years old, a flexible sigmoidoscopy can help you. Your doctor can tell you more about flexible sigmoidoscopy and other procedures to help you feel better.
If you’ve been dealing with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and you have either been ignoring your symptoms or haven’t been able to get them under control then you could end up dealing with Barrett’s esophagus, a serious complication of GERD that causes the lining of the esophagus to mimic the lining of the intestines.
There are no unique symptoms associated with Barrett’s esophagus, as many of the symptoms are the same as they are for GERD; however, a reason that patients shouldn’t ignore symptoms of GERD is that Barrett’s esophagus can increase the likelihood of developing an extremely serious and life-threatening cancer of the esophagus.
Symptoms to be on the look out for include:
- A burning sensation in the back of the throat
- Persistent cough
Even though Barrett’s esophagus is not a common complication of acid reflux, if someone experiences persistent acid reflux this can alter the cells within the esophagus over time to resemble the cells found in the lining of the intestines.
You may be screened with Barrett’s esophagus if you have some of these risk factors:
- Over 50 years old
- Hiatal hernia
- Chronic GERD
- Obesity or being overweight
A gastroenterologist will guide a small flexible tube, known as an endoscope, into the throat and down into the esophagus. This is performed under light sedation. At the end of the endoscope is a camera that allows a gastroenterology doctor to take a biopsy of the lining of the esophagus.
The biopsy sample will be tested for cancer or any precancerous cells. If Barrett’s esophagus is detected in the sample, further endoscopies may be required in the future to detect early warning signs of cancer.
Treating Barrett’s Esophagus
While this condition cannot be reversed there are ways to at least slow down or even prevent the condition from getting worse by getting your acid reflux under control. This can be done through a variety of lifestyle changes (e.g. quitting smoking; changing diet; losing weight) and either over-the-counter or prescription medications (e.g. H2 blockers; proton pump inhibitors).
If you are dealing with acid reflux a few times a week then it’s time to turn to a gastroenterologist for more information. By getting your GERD under control as soon as possible you could prevent complications such as Barrett’s esophagus. Call your gastroenterologist today.
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