Our Gastroenterology Blog
By GI Associates
August 09, 2018
Category: blog

Is it worth it?

Anyone who suffers from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) knows that predicting and managing symptoms is anything by easy. But is changing your entire diet worth the hassle? We certainly think so!

In the past, we’ve posted a lot about foods to avoid and foods that are IBS-friendly.

And we get it: cutting out beloved favorites like dairy, sugar and fried food may seem like a case of the cure being worse than the disease. But this is not so. There are plenty of reasons to alter your diet for a more IBS-friendly life. Here are just a few of the benefits that come from a low FODMAP (these are types of carbohydrates that many people have trouble digesting) diet:

The reduction in symptoms that people find after switching to an IBS-friendly diet is well worth the modifications.

Increased confidence accompanies reduction of symptoms. After all, not being worried about where the bathrooms are frees up a lot of headspace to focus on better things.

You’ll be in a better mood because, let’s face it, the pain and annoyance of IBS is enough to get even the cheeriest people down.

Perhaps best of all, you may not have to sacrifice everything. While some people with IBS can’t stomach chocolate, others can. Some people can’t do dairy, others, it’s fine. It’s all about finding the right balance for your particular situation. 

There are plenty of IBS-friendly recipes out there, it may seem exciting or even overwhelming at first. But no worries, small changes add up. Make your diet modifications a little bit at a time and see positive results fast. Living with IBS can be a challenge, but there are plenty of resources for you to cut out the symptom-causing foods and still live a healthy, satisfied life.

Check out GI Associates' special grocery shopping list, developed specifically for those who have IBS!

Learn more about your options for treating nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
 
Did you know that nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is actually the most common type of chronic liver disorder in the US? In fact, as many asnon alcoholic fatty liver disease 80 to 100 million Americans have it. Have you or a loved one just been diagnosed with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease? If so, our Wausau, WI, gastroenterologists are here to tell you more about this condition and what our team of specialist can do to help.

What is non-alcoholic fatty liver disease?
 
As you may be able to guess from the name alone, this disorder refers to a condition of the liver that causes too much fat to be stored in the cells of the liver. While many liver disorders are associated with heavy drinking or alcoholism, this condition affects those who do not drink alcohol or who drink very little.
What causes non-alcoholic fatty liver disease?
 
Unfortunately, medical experts have not been able to pinpoint the exact reason why some people accumulate more fat on their livers than others; however, there are certain conditions and factors that have been linked to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease such as:

  • Obesity or being overweight
  • High blood sugar
  • High-fat levels within the blood
  • Insulin resistance

 There are also some conditions and factors that can increase your chances of developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease such as:

  • Hypothyroidism
  • High cholesterol
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Sleep apnea
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

What are the symptoms?
In most cases, people don’t experience symptoms of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Some people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease may notice:

  • Abdominal pain in the upper right region
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss or loss of appetite

How is this condition treated?
While there is no specific treatment for this condition, we may ask you to change your diet and current lifestyle.
If you are overweight or obese, this means helping you to lose that weight safely but effectively through creating a healthier diet and regular exercise plan.
In many cases, losing the excess weight will greatly improve the health of your liver. This may also include reducing or stopping how much alcohol you drink.
Periodic measurement of liver elasticity and liver function blood tests may be recommended to monitor the health of your liver over time.
 
Whether you have already been diagnosed with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease or you are experiencing symptoms, the team at GI Associates in Wausau, WI, are here to provide you with the support and care you need. You don’t have to handle these issues alone. Call us today.

By GI Associates
June 18, 2018
Category: blog

 

Procedure now recommended at 45

If you’ve seen the headlines lately, you’re probably aware that the American Cancer Society has updated its guidelines for colon cancer screenings. Whereas the organization previously recommended people at average risk begin screening at age 50, the new recommendation is that they start at age 45.

Why the change?

An increased number of younger individuals have been diagnosed with colorectal cancer in recent years. While we don’t yet know why this is, we do know that, as is the case with all cancers, “the sooner caught, the sooner fought.” Lowering the recommended age will increase the chance of detecting colorectal cancer sooner rather than later. 

Am I high risk?

Average risk patients should start getting screened at age 45. This is not the case for high risk patients, who should get screened earlier and per their doctor’s recommendation. 

According to the American Cancer Society, patients who are high risk include those with:

  • A history of colorectal cancer or certain types of polyps
  • Family members who have had colorectal cancer 
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease)
  • A confirmed or suspected hereditary colorectal cancer syndrome, such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or Lynch syndrome (hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer or HNPCC)
  • A history of getting radiation to the abdomen or pelvic area to treat a prior cancer

What about insurance?

Your insurance may or may not cover colorectal cancer screenings at age 45. It’s a good idea to contact your plan to review your coverage before scheduling.

Call GI Associates at 715-847-2558 or use our online form to schedule your appointment to discuss your screening options today.

By GI ASSOCIATES
May 21, 2018
Category: Gastroenterology
Tags: C. diff  

Find out more about this potentially serious gastrointestinal infection and its symptoms.

While most people will deal with bouts of gastroenteritis (colloquially referred to as the “stomach bug”), diarrhea, and even food-borne C. diffillnesses such as e. coli, there is another infectious strain that doesn’t get as much recognition but does infect close to half a million Americans each year. This infection is known as C. diff, and our Wausau, WI, gastroenterologists are here to tell you more about it.

What is C. diff?

C. diff, or Clostridium difficile, is a bacterial infection of the large intestine that can cause everything from mild diarrhea to more severe diarrhea and abdominal pain with dehydration.  Severe cases can be life-threatening.

What are the symptoms?

C. diff can cause a variety of symptoms that mimic that of other conditions. Common symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain and tenderness
  • Fever

If you are dealing with a mild case, you may experience diarrhea and other symptoms for anywhere from five to 10 days. Those with more severe cases may experience symptoms that last well over 10 days.

Since the most classic symptom of C. diff is diarrhea, it’s common for patients to become dehydrated. If you are experiencing diarrhea for more than two days, if there is blood in your stool or if your diarrhea is accompanied by a fever, you should call our Wausau GI doctors right away.

How do you contract C. diff?

Most cases of C.diff infection occur in people who have recently taken an antibiotic for an infection elsewhere in the body.  The antibiotic has killed most of the healthy bacteria in the colon.  This allows the C.diff to grow and cause the infection in the large intestine.  The C.diff can spread from one infectious person to another or through contaminated utensils or clothes.  C.diff is more likely to spread in places like hospitals where more patients are on antibiotics and can come in contact with the bacterium.

How is C. diff treated?

Even though there are certain antibiotics that can increase your chances of developing C. diff, if you do develop this infection the best way to treat it is with a round of antibiotics that kill the C.diff bacteria. Metronidazole (Flagyl) and oral Vancomycin are common antibiotics used for treating C. diff.

Sometimes the infection is resistant to treatment.  A longer course of these antibiotics or a different antibiotic may be required.  A small number of patients may require “Fecal Material Transplantation”.  This is a procedure in which healthy bacteria are placed in the colon to combat the C.diff infection.

The team at GI Associates is dedicated to providing comprehensive and gentle digestive treatment and care whenever you need it most. We have locations in Wausau, Stevens Point, Woodruff, Eagle River, Rhinelander, and Antigo, WI. Whether you are dealing with symptoms of C. diff or you are experiencing other issues, don’t hesitate to reach out to us right away to get your GI system back on track.

By GI Associates
May 01, 2018
Category: blog

5 signs it’s time to talk

We all get the occasional bout of heartburn once in a while, but when antacids aren’t enough and it’s happening more and more frequently, it might be time to talk to a doctor. These are some of the signs to watch out for when dealing with persistent heartburn, GERD, or acid reflux.  

You’re losing sleep: Nothing is more frustrating than not sleeping well—unless it’s not sleeping well due to acid reflux. If you’ve tried propping yourself up on pillows and these other suggestions, but still aren’t finding relief, it’s time to make an appointment with your doctor.

Chronic cough: It might not be allergies or a lingering cold; your chronic cough may be caused by acid reflux, even if you don’t feel as if you’re experiencing a lot of heartburn. This is something that should be addressed with your doctor.

Nausea and vomiting: If you or a loved one is experiencing nausea and vomiting—and especially if vomiting includes blood or black matter, contact your primary care provider  sooner rather than later. Learn more about the connection between nausea, vomiting, GERD, and acid reflex here.

Unexplained weight loss with your heartburn: As welcome as effortless weight loss is, it usually isn’t a sign of good health. If it’s accompanied by heartburn, your best bet is to see a doctor to make sure it isn’t a sign of something worse like esophageal cancer.

Over-the-counter medications aren’t workingIf you’ve taken antacids for more than two weeks and it’s not working, this is a warning from your body that something might be wrong. It may be more serious than acid reflux, such as GERD or even Barrett’s esophagus, which you can learn more about here.

Be sure to be vigilant when it comes to these symptoms and make an appointment right away if any of the above persist. Call us at 877-442-7736 or request an appointment online.

By GI Associates
March 20, 2018
Category: blog

 

Know your options 

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Getting screened is essential to the detection and prevention of colon cancer.

Choosing what’s best for you. 

Colonoscopy is the most common and effective colorectal cancer screening option because it is the only test that both detects and prevents colorectal cancer.

During a colonoscopy, your doctor examines the lining along the entire length of your large intestine. If your doctor sees abnormal growths of tissue called polyps, tiny instruments are inserted through the colonoscope to remove them. The tissue samples are sent to a pathologist to evaluate whether they are benign, precancerous or malignant. Screening colonoscopy is recommended every 10 years between 50 and 75 years of age. It may be more frequently based on your findings and risk factors.

Good for:

  • Patients with average to high risk of colon cancer
  • Preventing colon cancer

Stool DNA test

Another option you can discuss with your doctor is a stool DNA test such as Cologuard.

The stool DNA test looks for abnormal DNA associated with colon cancer or colon polyps and detects hidden blood in the stool, which can indicate the presence of cancer. If a stool DNA test is positive a colonoscopy is usually recommended.  The stool DNA test is recommended for average risk patients with no symptoms and is usually recommended every 3-5 years.

Good for:

  • Patients at average risk with no symptoms, conditions, personal or family history of colon cancer
  • Patients who cannot tolerate colonoscopy prep or procedure

Not recommended for:

  • Patients at higher risk with a personal history of colon polyps or cancer
  • Patients with underlying conditions and/or symptoms including:
    • inflammatory bowel conditions
    • diarrhea
    • blood in their urine or stool
    • bleeding hemorrhoids
    • rectal bleeding, or are menstruating.

If a stool DNA test is positive a colonoscopy is usually recommended to identify the source.  It is important to note that colonoscopy performed due to a positive stool DNA test is classified as a diagnostic service by most payers, so out of pocket costs may apply.

But wait, there’s more . . .

Other options include: Flexible sigmoidoscopy, double barium enema, and CT colonography. See our “Colon Cancer Screenings” blog to learn more about these.

The most important thing in the fight against colorectal cancer is screening. Early detection is crucial and potentially lifesaving. Fortunately, you have options. We encourage you to speak to your doctor about which screening is best for you.

If you have any concerns about coverage or payment for colon cancer screening services, our GI Associates Financial Counselor will work with you to help understand your benefits.  

Schedule your colon cancer screening today. Call 877-442-7736 or request an appointment online.

By GI Associates
March 07, 2018
Category: blog


                  




The choice is yours

When it comes to colon cancer, getting screened is an essential part in your wellness plan. The key is to do something and you have screening options.

It is recommended that colon cancer screening start at age 50 for men and women who are at an average risk with no symptoms.

If colorectal cancer runs in your family or you have certain underlying conditions, you may need to get tested before age 50. Talk to your doctor about what is best for you.


Know your options

Colonoscopy is the most common test to detect colon cancer. Other tests include stool DNA tests, flexible sigmoidoscopy, double barium enema, and CT colonography. Based on your personal health history, your doctor can recommend the right test for you.
 

1. Colonoscopy:  This is the only colorectal cancer screening option that both detects and prevents colorectal cancer. Prior to a procedure you complete a bowel preparation process that cleans out the colon to enable your doctor to see the lining of your rectum and colon. During a colonoscopy, your doctor gently inserts a colonoscope, which contains a tiny video camera at its tip, through the rectum into your large intestine.  Your doctor examines the lining along the entire length of your large intestine.

If your doctor sees abnormal growths of tissue called polyps, tiny instruments are inserted through the colonoscope to remove them. The tissue samples are sent to a pathologist to evaluate whether they are benign, precancerous or malignant. Screening colonoscopy is recommended every 10 years between 50 and 75 years of age. It may be more frequently based on your findings and risk factors. If you’d like to learn more about what to expect before a colonoscopy, check out our video.
 

2. Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT): FIT detects hidden blood in the stool, which can indicate the presence of cancer. When a FIT test is positive a colonoscopy is usually recommended.  FIT tests are recommended annually for average risk patients, age of 50 and over, with no symptoms.
 

3. Stool DNA Tests: The stool DNA test looks for abnormal DNA associated with colon cancer or colon polyps. The test also detects hidden blood in the stool, which can indicate the presence of cancer. If a stool DNA test is positive a colonoscopy is usually recommended.  The stool DNA test is recommended for average risk patients with no symptoms and is usually recommended every 3-5 years.

The stool DNA test is not recommended for higher risk patients with a personal history of colon polyps or cancer, or who have inflammatory bowel conditions, diarrhea, blood in their urine or stool, bleeding hemorrhoids, rectal bleeding, or are menstruating. It is important to note that colonoscopy performed due to a positive stool DNA test is often classified as a diagnostic service by most payers.
 

4. CT Colonography (also referred to as virtual colonoscopy): A small tube is placed in the rectum and air is pumped into the colon to inflate the bowel. A special computer program creates both 2-dimensional x-ray pictures and a 3-dimensional view of the inside of the colon and rectum, which lets the doctor look for polyps or cancer. If the test is positive a colonoscopy is usually recommended to remove the growths. Preparation is the same as a colonoscopy. This test may be recommended when completion of a colonoscopy is not possible. It is usually recommended every 5 years.
 

5. Flexible Sigmoidoscopy: Similar to colonoscopy, this test uses a thin flexible tube with a camera to examine the rectum and left side of the colon. Whereas colonoscopy examines the entire length of the colon, sigmoidoscopy is a partial exam. The preparation is the same as a colonoscopy. When considering colon cancer screening options, flexible sigmoidoscopy is not as complete as a colonoscopy and therefore is not widely recommended for screening purposes. It’s typically repeated every 5 years.
 

6. Double Barium Enema: This is also called a lower GI tract radiography, in which a barium solution and air are introduced into the colon and a series of x-rays are taken of the entire colon and rectum. Double Barium Enema is often performed in combination with a flexible sigmoidoscopy.  If the either of these test is positive a colonoscopy is usually recommended.
 

Early detection of colorectal cancer is crucial and potentially lifesaving. The most important step you can take is to get screened. GI Associates is proud to offer options to our patients so that together we can determine the best plan for you.

If you have any concerns about coverage or payment for colon cancer screening services, our GI Associates Financial Counselor will work with you to help understand your benefits.  

Schedule your colon cancer screening today. Call 877-442-7736 or request an appointment online.

By GI Associates
March 02, 2018
Category: blog
Tags: colon cancer  

8 ways to minimize your risk

 Colon Cancer Awareness Month is here. At GI Associates, we are passionate about the prevention and treatment of this potentially deadly disease. Below are eight ways you can minimize your risk of colon cancer:

  1. Don’t Smoke There’s nothing that is helped by smoking. You can reduce your risk for almost every kind of cancer when you quit. Find more reasons and help here.
  2. Drink in Moderation While some alcohol in moderation, like a glass of red wine with dinner, may have some health benefits.  Keep in mind it’s better for your colon—and the rest of you, if you drink only in moderation.
  3. Cut Back on Red Meat As with alcohol, a moderate amount of red meat (2-3 servings a week) is just fine. However, studies have shown that a high consumption of red meat can increase your risk of colon cancer by 28%. Save the steak for special occasions.
  4. Eat Vegetables, Fruits, and Whole Grains Naturally, cutting back on red meat and replacing it with, say, chicken strips will not do you nearly as much good as it will to replace unhealthy foods with the holy trinity of cancer-fighting foods: green veggies, antioxidant-rich fruit, and whole grains.
  5. Healthy Lifestyle: Exercise Exercise is good for you for many reasons, and one of them is that it reduces your risk of colon and other cancers. In fact, exercise helps fight colon cancer even in those who have the disease.
  6. Healthy Lifestyle: Weight No surprise here. Even otherwise healthy people who are overweight are at a higher risk for colon cancer.
  7. Get screened.  It’s not anyone’s favorite thing, but getting regular colonoscopies is the best way to prevent colon cancer. Learn more about them here.
  8. Know Your Family History If your primary relatives (mother, father, brother or sister or your children) is diagnosed with colon cancer, you are at higher risk. Ask around at your next family gathering to make sure you know your family history.

One of the very few “good things” colon cancer has going for it is that it’s preventable. We encourage you to make an appointment to learn more about how to stay free of colon cancer your whole life long.

 

 

By GI ASSOCIATES
February 21, 2018
Category: Gastroenterology
Tags: Ulcerative Colitis  

Find out more about this inflammatory bowel disease and what a diagnosis might mean for you.

Have you or a loved one just been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis? Approximately 907,000 Americans have ulcerative colitis, a type of ulcerative colitisinflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes inflammation and ulcers within the lining of the colon (large intestines) and rectum. Our Wausau, WI, gastroenterologists are here to answer all of your most common questions regarding this intestinal condition.

What are the symptoms of ulcerative colitis?

Symptoms will vary from person to person, but many people with this condition experience mild to moderate symptoms during flare-ups; however, some people with experience severe inflammation and other symptoms. Common symptoms of ulcerative colitis include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Rectal bleeding and/or pain
  • Changes in bowel movement frequency
  • Fatigue
  • Unexpected or sudden weight loss

Keep in mind that if you haven’t been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and you are experiencing some of these symptoms that it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have this type of IBD. In fact, many gastrointestinal issues have similar symptoms, which is why it’s important to visit one of our Wausau GI specialists for a proper diagnosis.

Is ulcerative colitis the same as Crohn’s disease?

While both of these conditions are considered an inflammatory bowel disease and some symptoms may be the same, there are some differences. Ulcerative colitis causes inflammation in the lining of the colon and rectum while Crohn’s disease can produce inflammation anywhere in the digestive tract from the mouth to the rectum.  Crohn’s disease may include symptoms such as mouth sores and anal fissures that do not typically occur for people with ulcerative colitis.

How is ulcerative colitis treated?

There are different medications that can effectively manage your ulcerative colitis symptoms. The two most common medications are prescription-strength anti-inflammatories and immunosuppressants. Depending on the symptoms you experience, you may also take over-the-counter pain relievers, anti-diarrheal medications, or even certain supplements.

The only way to get rid of ulcerative colitis is by removing the colon and rectum. This surgical procedure should only be considered if inflammation or ulcers are severe and cannot be controlled through medication.

GI Associates is ready to provide you with the comprehensive gastrointestinal care you need. We have offices in Wausau, Stevens Point, Woodruff, Eagle River, Rhinelander, and Antigo, WI, to serve you better. Regardless of whether you are looking for ulcerative colitis treatment or you are dealing with symptoms, call one of our offices today for an appointment.

By GI Associates
January 05, 2018
Category: blog
Tags: GERD; Snacks  

When your stomach is growling so loudly that the person across the room can hear it, it’s tempting to grab a handful of chips or a cookie (or three). But if you have GERD, mindless snacking can have painful consequences. Be prepared for when the hunger pangs hit by adding these reflux-busting snacks to your grocery list.

  • Non-citrus fruits
  • Crackers with any type of nut butter
  • Raw vegetables with dip or hummus
  • Baked chips
  • Edamame
  • Pretzels
  • Nuts
  • Half an avocado and some corn chips
  • Baked chicken strips (or any small quantity of lean meat, besides red meat)
  • Oatmeal or high-fiber cereal
  • A baked potato, sweet potato, or yam
  • Any type of grain
  • Rice cakes
  • Granola bars
  • Salad
  • Half a bagel
  • Lowfat dairy, such as lowfat cottage cheese with vegetables or crackers or fruit
  • A hard-boiled egg
  • A veggie or fruit (non-citrus) smoothie  

Moderation is key

Even when you choose healthy snacks, too much of a good thing is, well, not good at all – especially when you have GERD. Limit your nibbles to small serving sizes, which will keep both your hunger and reflux under control. Experts recommend that you eat three small meals and two snacks daily.

Plan ahead and keep reflux-friendly foods within easy reach for when the hunger pangs hit. Board-certified gastroenterologists at GI Associates can help you manage GERD symptoms and create a diet plan that works best for you. For more information, call 715.847.2558 or fill out our online form today.





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