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Find out if your heartburn could actually be due to gastroesophageal reflux disease.
What are the signs of GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease)? While most people can describe having occasional signs of heartburn or acid reflux, it’s not commonly a chronically occurring condition. You may notice it after eating particular foods or if you eat right before bedtime. But if you are dealing with these symptoms a couple of times a week or if they are affecting your quality of life then it may be more serious than heartburn.
What Is GERD?
Every time you swallow food your stomach produces acid to aid in digestion. In a healthy gastrointestinal system, a valve opens to allow food and liquid to pass from the esophagus to your stomach. In those with GERD, the valve may not close fully or may open too often, which can cause stomach acids to travel back up into the esophagus. If this happens regularly, the lining of the esophagus can become irritated and even damaged.
What Are The Symptoms Of GERD?
While everyone will probably experience heartburn at some point during their lifetime, if you have GERD you will likely deal with frequent or persistent heartburn. Everybody is different when it comes to their symptoms. Other frequent symptoms of GERD include:
- Sore throat
- Problems swallowing
- Chronic bad breath
- A sour or bitter taste in the mouth
When Should I See A Gastroenterologist?
It isn’t always easy to know when it’s time to visit the specialists at GI Associates. Of course, if you’ve been dealing with heartburn that occurs two or more times during the week, if your heartburn is getting worse, if you have trouble swallowing, or if heartburn wakes you up at night then it’s important that you get your symptoms evaluated. Any of these signs of GERD should be confirmed by your doctor.
How Is GERD Treated?
The goal of treatment is to reduce the symptoms and you’re your esophagus a chance to heal. You may need to make lifestyle changes such as changing what and when you eat, sleep positioning, and potentially weight loss if obesity is a factor.
Certain medications may also be prescribed to help you manage your symptoms and to help repair the damage done to the esophagus. Surgery is only recommended when all other treatment options have failed.
Are you dealing with nagging, gnawing heartburn that just doesn’t seem to go away? If so, then it’s time you turned to the experts at GI Associates.
Heartburn is a very common discomfort that most people will experience at some point. But what if it won’t go away? At what point does heartburn become a cause for concern?
How To Identify Heartburn
Heartburn has nothing to do with your heart. It’s a condition that occurs in the esophagus when a small amount of stomach acid escapes your stomach and sits in your lower esophagus. The acids create an uncomfortable burning sensation that, because of its location near the heart, has been given the name “heartburn.”
Mild heartburn can pop up on occasion for a variety of reasons, but sometimes it can hinder your regular daily activity. If it gets that intense, or it seems like it won’t go away or is consistent over many days, it is important to have it checked.
What Happens If You Have Frequent Heartburn?
The esophagus is prone to several conditions and disorders. Sometimes considered “frequent” heartburn, Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) occurs when the valve in the esophagus doesn’t work properly. GERD can also cause acid regurgitation when the acid from the stomach comes up through the esophagus and sometimes into the mouth.
A few potential concerns that can result from untreated GERD or frequent heartburn are Barrett’s Esophagus and potentially a type of cancer called adenocarcinoma. Barrett’s esophagus occurs when the esophageal lining changes, becoming more like the tissue that lines the intestines. Your doctor will test for Barrett’s esophagus with an upper endoscopy and may order additional tests as needed. This assessment is very important because undetected and untreated Barrett’s esophagus can lead to esophageal cancer.
Although rare, Adenocarcinoma is increasing in frequency, making it more important than ever to have heartburn symptoms checked out. Experts aren’t sure exactly what is causing the increase in adenocarcinoma cases, and the increase has been seen mostly in white males, with the average patient being 67 years of age.
How Can I Decrease My Heartburn?
Often, GERD symptoms occur because of diet or obesity. Eliminating carbonated beverages, caffeine, and fatty or spicy foods can help reduce the frequency of heartburn. Losing weight may also help. Some people may find relief with over-the-counter antacids, although they should not be considered a long-term solution. Anyone with persistent heartburn needs to have their condition diagnosed.
Some common causes of heartburn include:
- Types of food/Diet
- Snacking near bedtime
- Regular use of blood pressure medications, particularly those used for blood pressure, certain muscle relaxers, or pain relief
- Frequently drinking carbonated beverages, coffee, tea, or alcohol
Avoiding these can help reduce your symptoms or frequency of heartburn. If you’re experiencing frequent or debilitating heartburn that has begun to affect your daily life, don’t mistake it as “normal.” Make an appointment with GI Associates today!
Who wants more BBQ? Can you think of anybody who doesn’t look forward to cooking out in the summer? How horrible when the enjoyment is interrupted with discomfort or gut pain?
Before missing out on some of the upcoming summer fun, there are some things you should know about ahead of time. Here’s what you need to know about bloating.
What Is Abdominal Bloating?
Not knowing what’s happening with your body can be disconcerting; humans are generally emotionally distressed with the “unknown” or when having to deal with something they can’t explain. So, if you’re feeling something uncomfortable or painful, you don’t have to wait.
One relatively common and often non-threatening situation we can experience is that of abdominal bloating.
Abdominal bloating can be both annoying and disruptive. People often feel down or lethargic when they’re bloated. The pressure in your abdomen and pain that comes with it can be enough to make you wonder if something is really wrong.
The causes of bloating can differ, but the effect is usually the same—excess gas in the digestive tract. Depending on how much air is trapped in your stomach and large or small intestine, you can experience a wide range of potentially embarrassing or uncomfortable symptoms. In addition to pain in the abdomen, symptoms can include increased belching and flatulence or even the visible swelling of the abdomen.
As uncomfortable as it may be, a single bout of pain and bloating is not typically a cause for alarm. However, it can be extremely painful, and some patients even find themselves in the emergency room. If the symptoms persist or recur frequently, it may be time to meet with a doctor. There are some serious conditions that can cause abdominal pain and bloating and the symptoms should not be ignored.
What Causes Bloating?
Knowing the potential causes of bloating, you may be able to narrow down exactly what’s happening and take steps to bring relief or even prevent it in the first place.
Here are some of the possible reasons you might be feeling bloated and gassy:
- Over-eating: As simple as it sounds, eating too much is one of the most common causes of abdominal bloating. Our stomachs are still relatively small; so when we eat huge volumes of food, space gets filled up. Digesting some foods can create intestinal gas and makes for a combo that can make you feel bloated.
- Eating too quickly: It’s important to be aware of how quickly you’re eating. When you scarf your food down, you are inevitably swallowing air along with the food; this air can get trapped in the stomach and build up, leading to bloating.
- Carbonated beverages: Drinking a lot of carbonated, fizzy drinks like soda can lead to bloating. The carbon dioxide in the beverage gets released in your digestive tract, and the excess gas can lead to bloating.
- FODMAP foods: This funny-sounded acronym stands for “Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides And Polyols,” a fancy way of referring to some foods that aren’t absorbed well by the small intestine. Foods like beans, broccoli, cauliflower, wheat, lentils, brussels sprouts, cabbage, garlic, onions, apples, and pears, while generally healthy and recommended, can cause bloating for some people - particularly those with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).
- Fatty foods: Foods heavy in fat can take longer to digest. A longer digestion time, especially in conjunction with other foods and beverages that promote bloating, can leave you feeling overly full and bloated for hours.
- Inactivity: In general, physical activity is beneficial for digestive health because it strengthens the abdominal wall and helps digested food move through your digestive tract. Too much inactivity can add to the body’s propensity to be bloated and gassy.
- Sugar alcohols: Sugar alcohols are found in sugar-free chewing gum and foods that utilize artificial sweeteners like sorbitol. Having too much in your diet can lead to bacteria in your large intestine producing excess gas.
- Constipation: This can further complicate things because some of the methods often used to treat constipation - eating high-fiber foods, for example - can inadvertently add to the feeling of being bloated. Often, the best solution is to increase your water intake and physical activity.
- Too much sodium: Water retention can be caused by too much salt. When you’re retaining water, you can feel a bloating sensation in your abdomen and potentially in your extremities.
- Lactose intolerance: A common food allergy, lactose intolerance, has symptoms that often include bloating, gas, diarrhea, and other digestive health issues.
- Celiac disease: Celiac disease has been on the rise in prevalence in recent years. This condition is defined by the inability to digest gluten, a type of protein found in many cereal grains.
- Fructose intolerance: The sugar found in fruits is occasionally difficult to digest for some people. Similar to other types of food intolerance, bloating is often accompanied by other gastrointestinal discomforts.
- Intestinal disorders: Some intestinal disorders, like IBS, SIBO Crohn’s disease, or ulcerative colitis, occur in the small and large intestine and often include bloating. In most cases, however, bloating will be just one of the numerous symptoms that point to an intestinal disorder.
- Smoking: In addition to the excess air you inevitably swallow while smoking, the toxins in cigarette smoke can irritate the lining of your stomach and actually add to the feeling of being bloated.
- Alcohol: Excessive alcohol can also cause bloating because of the negative impact it has on healthy gut bacteria.
- Malignancy--serious disorders
When Should I Talk to My Doctor About Stomach Bloating?
If your symptoms persist or are accompanied by other changes in your body, it may be time to talk to your doctor. For example, when chronic bloating is associated with sudden, unintentional weight loss, it can be a sign of a more serious digestive disorder.
Serious conditions related to stomach bloating can range from irritable bowel syndrome to more life-threatening conditions such as cancer. In cases like these, diagnosing the root cause of your bloating may require talking to a specialist, such as a gastroenterologist.
If you have been suffering from ongoing bloating that does not respond to dietary or lifestyle changes, take advantage of the convenience of a TeleMedicine appointment to start a discussion with your doctor instead of waiting. Your doctor will be able to suggest an alternate course of action or advise you to make a physical appointment for further discussion and examination.
GI Associates has introduced TeleHealth and can meet with you virtually in the comfort of your own home. If you would like to have the advice of a doctor to discover the best course of action moving forward, simply call our office at 877-442-7762.
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) - especially since working from home has given most of us quick access to a pantry full of comfort foods! But if you have GERD, mindless snacking can have painful consequences.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is when the stomach acids in your stomach leak back into the esophagus. It’s often called acid-reflux, although GERD is more severe or consistent than occasional acid reflux. Typically, if reflux happens multiple times a week or is severe at least once per week, you may be experiencing GERD.
While a few lifestyle changes can help keep symptoms manageable, deciding on what types of foods to eat can be tricky. Eating large meals, eating fatty foods, or drinking certain drinks like alcohol or coffee can all trigger reflux.
However, being prepared for when the hunger pangs hit by adding these reflux-busting snacks to your grocery list can help you guard against reflux and help free you to enjoy your meals a little more:
- Non-citrus fruits
- Crackers with any type of nut butter
- Raw vegetables with dip or hummus
- Baked chips
- 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
- Half a bagel
- Lowfat dairy, such as low-fat 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.
When to see a doctor
If your signs and symptoms get worse, if you’re struggling with nausea or difficulty swallowing, or if you otherwise suspect that you may have GERD, meeting with a Board-certified gastroenterologist at GI Associates can help you manage GERD symptoms and create a diet plan that works best for you.
For more information, call (877) 442-7762 or fill out our online form today.
More and more health care providers are using technology to expedite patient care appointments. You may not have considered TeleHealth, but it may be the perfect way to continue prioritizing your health even while practicing social distancing.
Why choose a virtual visit with your medical provider?
TeleHealth allows you to discuss symptoms, medical issues, medications and more with a medical provider in real-time.
TeleHealth has been available for longer than you might have thought- beginning with telephone visits. Further advancements in technology have allowed patient portals and communication via the internet to become the norm in patient information and communications. Now, video conferencing helps improve communication even further.
TeleHealth is well suited for situations that aren't life-threatening or where you need advisement more than hands-on care. Through a virtual visit, your provider will assess your symptoms, review your medication regimen, recommend testing and treatment options and more. Patients with conditions such as reflux, Crohn's disease, and IBS will benefit from TeleHealth appointments.
It is important to know that you always call 911 or go to an emergency room for a life-threatening condition like a heart attack or stroke, cuts or lacerations, or broken bones that require x-rays, splints, or casts.
GI Associates offers TeleHealth
GI Associates has introduced TeleHealth as a protective measure for our most vulnerable patients while we navigate COVID-19. TeleHealth doesn’t mean that you’ll never visit a doctor’s office again, but it does make care more accessible.
Call our office at 877-442-7762 to discuss whether a virtual appointment with GI Associates is right for you!
Could eliminating gluten help you live a pain-free, more comfortable life?
Gluten Sensitivity is the term used to describe individuals who cannot tolerate gluten and experience many of the same symptoms of Celiac patients but without the presence of antibodies and damage to the intestines.
There are many signs of gluten sensitivity that could be misunderstood or attributed to something else. Many of these do not appear related to digestion at all, and most occur within hours or days of consuming wheat or wheat products.
Common ailments from headaches, to rashes, to brain fog can all be signs of a gluten sensitivity. It can be hard to recognize patterns, especially since no two people experience symptoms quite the same way. If you have one or more of the common symptoms, you may want to consider gluten sensitivity as a potential cause.
Additionally, a gluten sensitivity can manifest itself in a combination of common or more rare symptoms, so if you are noticing these you should consider discussing the issue with your health care provider.
Common symptoms include:
- Bloating, gas or abdominal pain
- Joint pain
- Numbness in extremities
- Brain fog
- Diarrhea or constipation
Your provider will help you establish a clear connection between your symptoms and your consumption of gluten to make a diagnosis. He or she may ask you to keep a journal of what you eat and when you experience symptoms to help determine if gluten is the cause of your pain and discomfort.
If you think you may have a sensitivity to gluten, let the professionals at GI Associates help you get back to living a more pain-free and comfortable life. Call 877-442-7762 to make an appointment, or submit an appointment request with our online form.
Tips to keep holiday parties pain-free
RSVP yes to holiday parties, but don’t dance with digestive pain afterwards. You’ve made it through Halloween. Thanksgiving is in the rearview mirror. But there’s one month of treats left – and it’s a biggie. December is full of many wonderful (and decadent) traditions. This year, give your stomach the greatest gift: A season free of pain. Keep these things in mind when celebrating and attending gatherings with family and friends, so the only thing your stomach is full of is comfort and joy.
Find (or bring) foods with fiber: So many of the goodies popular this time of year simply lack fiber. Be mindful when filling your plate and choose fruits and vegetables to help compensate for what other treats are lacking. Not only are you making healthier, lower calorie selections, but not getting the proper amounts of fiber can cause pain and constipation. A deficit of fiber is even more painful for those with digestive disorders, such as diverticulitis. If you suffer from diverticulitis, think grains, fruits, and vegetables to make sure your mood remains merry.
Watch portion sizes: We’re not trying to be Scrooge-like, but managing portion sizes – while not always easy – is a great way to avoid pain, reflux, bloating, and other digestive issues. Sometimes it’s a good idea to eat a healthy meal before attending a holiday get-together so you’ll already be full and will be less tempted to go overboard on goodies.
Avoid rich foods: Holiday foods are often heavy on sugar and high on fat. Especially when combined, an excess of foods rich in fat and sugar creates greater stress on your gastrointestinal system triggering stomach aches, reflux, and more. Alcohol, while not a food, also contains sugar and is another trigger that causes reflux. While it may be hard to avoid these holiday favorites completely, enjoy rich foods cautiously, and in moderation.
Greasy foods are on the naughty list: Foods that are full of grease can really wreak havoc on your system and may cause diarrhea and gas. Choose better, healthier options such as leaner meats that are grilled or baked, and raw or steamed vegetables instead of the deep-fried alternatives.
Talk more, eat less: It really is the most wonderful time of the year to reconnect with friends and family. So enjoy the fun and the food, but focus more on people and less on your plate. Striking up more conversations with those around you will automatically prompt you to eat slower and give your stomach time to do its thing. Even better, you’ll have time to really catch up with those you love.
If you’re experiencing digestive discomfort, give yourself the greatest gift and let the expert team at GI Associates get you on the path to a better quality of life. For more information about a consultation, call 877-442-7762 or fill out our online appointment form today.
You hear a lot about Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) these days – and for good reason.
GERD affects up to 1 in 5 or more adults in the U.S.; not to mention a growing number of children.
While there’s increased recognition of the acronym “GERD,” there’s still a lot of confusion about the cause and effects of the disease. With that in mind, we thought it would be helpful to explain what GERD is, and the symptoms to watch for.
First: What exactly is GERD?
GERD occurs when stomach acid frequently flows back into the tube connecting your mouth and stomach– your esophagus. The medical term for this “backwash” is “acid reflux,” which can irritate the lining of your esophagus. Reflux becomes a disease when it causes frequent or severe symptoms or damage. Left untreated, it can lead to pain, chronic irritation of the lining leading to cellular changes, chronic cough, and other issues.
While GERD can affect nearly anyone at any age, certain conditions can increase your risk for GERD, including:
- Bulging of the top of the stomach up into the diaphragm (i.e., hiatal hernia)
- Delayed stomach emptying
What symptoms should you watch out for?
Chronic heartburn is most commonly associated with GERD. But many people don’t realize there are several other symptoms that shouldn’t be ignored. For example, some people may experience one or a combination of the following:
- Inflammation of the gums
- Hoarseness in the morning
- Bad breath
- Erosion of teeth enamel
If you have nighttime acid reflux associated with GERD, you might experience:
- Chronic coughing
- New or worsening asthma
- Disrupted sleep
Nighttime reflux is often associated with more aggressive symptoms of GERD. You can learn more about sleep and GERD here.
If you experience any of the GERD symptoms above, it’s important to talk with a gastroenterologist sooner rather than later. Often, GERD can be managed by lifestyle changes and medication. Call us at 877-442-7736 or request an appointment online.
What you need to know about swallowing disorders
Swallowing disorders are surprisingly common, though they rarely get the attention they deserve. Here we will explore the causes, diagnosis, and treatment of some of the most common swallowing disorders.
Johns Hopkins Medicine describes two kinds of swallowing disorders: Dysphagia, “the sensation of food or fluid being regurgitated or stuck in the chest; also any throat dyscoordination leading to coughing or choking during swallowing” and odynophagia, which they describe as “pain in throat or chest during swallowing.”
Symptoms of swallowing disorders
Since some swallowing disorders may be serious, it is important to get a proper diagnosis if you are experiencing the following symptoms. Gastroenterologists can quickly and accurately diagnose any swallowing disorder you may have. Symptoms of swallowing disorders include:
- Pain while swallowing
- Inability to swallow
- Feeling like food is getting stuck in your throat or chest or behind your breastbone
- Being hoarse
- Frequent heartburn
- Food or stomach acid back up into your throat
- Unexpectedly losing weight
- Coughing or gagging when swallowing
How we diagnose swallowing disorders
GI Associates providers may order any of the following diagnostic tests to determine the best course of treatment:
- Barium esophagram
- Esophageal manometry
- Wireless pH testing
- 24-hour pH impedance
Treatment for your swallowing disorder will be determined by what type you have. Your team at GI Associates will work together to develop the best solution for you.
Think you may have a swallowing disorder? Contact GI Associates for a consultation by calling 877-442-7762 or fill out our online appointment form today.