Posts for category: blog
The little-known benefits of a fiber-rich diet
Fiber is essential for a healthy diet. It helps your digestive system move along smoothly, aiding in weight loss and helping you feel fuller longer. When you take a closer look at this unsung hero of the digestive system, you’ll find that there’s a lot more to fiber than just bowel movements.
Tips for a Fantastic, Fibrous Future:
Start small: If you’re not used to consuming foods with a higher fiber content, hitting the ground running might not be the best idea. Too much fiber too fast can lead to bloating, discomfort, and constipation. Start with replacing one snack a day with a fiber-packed option (a banana, apple, or brown rice are good choices to start). And, instead of going to a full fiber cereal in the morning, make it half your regular cereal and half your fiber-rich option. Here is a list of foods that deliver on fiber.
When you can, skip the supplements: Any fiber is better than no fiber, but if possible, it’s best to get your fiber from the food in your diet rather than fiber supplements. According to the Mayo Clinic, it's best to get fiber from food, because supplements don't provide the vitamins, minerals, and satisfaction eating food provides.
Serve with a side of water: Water is essential for fiber to work its best. Not enough water can lead to constipation. Keep things moving with the power couple of fiber and water.
Get ready to age backwards: Fiber can do some really impressive things: Fiber-rich foods like beans, vegetables, fruit, nuts, and whole grains come with a healthy dose of anti-aging and disease-fighting properties. According to research commissioned by the World Health Organization, “people who eat lots of high-fiber and whole grain foods have lower risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and other chronic diseases than people whose diets are low in fiber.”
Make long-term plans: It’s that simple: People who consume fiber live longer. A recent report found that people “who ate between 25 grams and 29 grams a day of fiber were less likely to die during any given time period than people who ate less fiber.”
If you are struggling with irregularity or other digestive health concerns, make an appointment with the experts at GI Associates by calling 715.847.2558 or filling out our online appointment request form today.
Make 2019 the year you do right by your digestive system
It’s a new year: Another chance to start fresh, to build better habits, and to make progress on your goals. There are the standard resolutions—lose weight, exercise more, and save more money that always top the list—but this year, why not start from within?
That’s right: We’re talking about your gut. Gut health isn’t something you think about often, especially if you don’t notice any symptoms, but a strong digestive tract is a vital part of a happy and healthy life. Here are some tips for making 2019 your best year of gut health yet.
Add more fiber: You’ve probably heard this one before, but it deserves repetition. Fiber is essential to your gut health. It helps with everything from weight loss to a longer life! Fruits, nuts, and legumes are all great sources of fiber, so you can easily get your recommended levels just by eating smart.
Try a probiotic: There’s a lot of confusion out there (do you need millions or billions?), but experts recommend getting healthy probiotics through your diet to regulate constipation and diarrhea. If you’re thinking of taking a supplement, check with your provider first, as some aren’t always regulated or FDA approved.
Give it a break: Alcohol can have disastrous consequences for your gut health thanks to the extra stress it puts on your digestive system. The less you indulge, the happier your insides will be.
Change your habits: Simple changes to your eating habits will do wonders for your digestion. Avoid eating on the go, take your time, drink plenty of water, and stop eating at least two hours before bedtime.
Exercise: Chances are, if it’s good for your overall health, it’s good for your gut health. Exercise helps stimulate digestion and reduce stress—two great things for good gut health. Even something as simple as walking can be beneficial. Take the step to start taking more steps in 2019.
At GI Associates, we support you in all your health goals. We wish you a happy and healthy New Year. If you’d like to learn more about keeping your digestive tract running smoothly, please don’t hesitate to make an appointment with us by calling 877-442-7762 or completing our online form.
What it's like to live with GERD and what you can do
For some, it’s impossible to not be aware of GERD, a condition in which stomach acids travel back up into the esophagus, causing pain, irritation, and damage.
This year, GERD Awareness Week is November 18th - 25th. You can learn more about activities and events you can be a part of by visiting this website.
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. While everyone will probably experience heartburn at some point during their lifetime, if you have GERD you will likely deal with it persistently. Everybody is different when it comes to symptoms, but common ones include:
- Sore throat
- Problems swallowing
- A sour or bitter taste in the mouth
GERD and the holidays
With the holidays approaching, minds have no doubt turned to food and all the feasting that takes place during this most wonderful time of the year. Unfortunately, 60% of Americans experience GERD at least once a year—and the most common time of year GERD develops is (you guessed it) the holidays.
The following is a list of foods you may want to avoid if you are prone to GERD:
- Fatty foods
- Spicy foods
- Acidic foods, like tomatoes and citrus
- Coffee or any caffeinated beverage
- Carbonated beverages
Basic lifestyle changes can help to manage or even avoid GERD altogether. Exercising regularly, quitting smoking, and losing excess weight are always a good idea.
Timing and quantity of meals makes a difference too. Try eating five or six little meals instead of three huge ones. Avoid eating 2-3 hours before going to bed or lying down. Keep upright and let your digestive system do its thing—and skip the post-feast nap. Your stomach and esophagus will thank you.
Unfortunately for some, GERD symptoms persist past the holidays despite medication and lifestyle changes. If this applies to you, surgical options may be considered. Ask your gastroenterologist about the best plan for you.
If you have suffered from reflux over an extended period of time, endoscopic evaluation of the lining of your esophagus may be recommended to evaluate for Barrett’s Esophagus, a precancerous condition which can develop into esophageal cancer. Careful monitoring and periodic evaluation help with early detection and prevention of this form of cancer.
If you think you may have GERD, don’t hesitate to contact us. We can help you get ahead of this problem so you can focus on the enjoyment of the holidays, not the pain of GERD. Schedule an appointment with a gastroenterologist at GI Associates by calling 877-442-7762 or using our online form.
Causes, diagnosis, and treatment of some of the most common swallowing disorders
Swallowing is like breathing; we barely think about it until something goes wrong. Swallowing disorders (also known as dysphagia) are more common that one might think.
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association explains it like this: “We all have problems swallowing sometimes. We may have trouble chewing a tough piece of meat. We may gag on food or have to swallow hard to get it down. And we have all had a drink “go down the wrong way,” making us cough and choke. A person with a swallowing disorder will have trouble like this all the time.”
There are three phases in the act of swallowing. A person can have problems with just one of these phases or all three. The three phases are the oral, pharyngeal, and esophageal phase. It’s nicely illustrated in this video.
Signs of a problem
If you have a swallowing disorder, you probably are aware of its problems, but you may not know that it’s specific to swallowing. Common signs include:
- Coughing during or right after eating or drinking
- “Wet” sounding voice during or after eating or drinking
- Needing extra time or effort to chew or swallow
- Food or liquid leaking from your mouth
- Having a hard time breathing after meals
- Weight loss
Causes and treatments of swallowing disorders
Swallowing disorders can be caused from simple dry mouth to more complex neurological issues. Acid reflux disease is the most common cause of dysphagia, but there are other esophageal disorders that can also cause swallowing problems. Your family physician or gastroenterologist may do tests to determine the cause of your dysphagia.
Treatments will be determined by what type of dysphagia you have. You will work with your doctor to develop the best solution. Techniques include strengthening and retraining your muscles, surgery, or medications.
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!
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.
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 working: If 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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 . . .
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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Healthy Lifestyle: Weight No surprise here. Even otherwise healthy people who are overweight are at a higher risk for colon cancer.
- 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.
- 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.