Our Gastroenterology Blog

Posts for category: blog

By GI Associates
November 12, 2018
Category: blog
Tags: GERD  

 

 

 

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:

  • Regurgitation
  • Heartburn
  • Nausea
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Problems swallowing
  • Belching
  • Hoarseness
  • 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
  • Alcohol 
  • Mint
  • Chocolate
  • Onions
  • 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.

By GI Associates
September 26, 2018
Category: blog

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 oralpharyngeal, 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. 

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.

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!

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 (877) 442-7762 or use our online form to schedule your appointment to discuss your screening options today.

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 877-442-7762 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
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 (877) 442-7762 or fill out our online form today.

By GI Associates
November 16, 2017
Category: blog
Tags: Holiday; GERD  

'Tis the season for smart eating


With the holidays approaching, you’ve no doubt thought about the wonders of the season: that first snowfall, the singing of children, and Mom’s green bean casserole. Or maybe Grandma’s famous stuffing, or Cousin Jim’s signature deep-fried turkey. The point is, it’s hard to think about the holiday season without thinking about the food and the fun that comes with it.

However, if you’re among the 60% of Americans who experience GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) at least once a year, the indulgences of the holidays might make the season particularly painful. Here are some tips for avoiding painful symptoms during the holidays.

Round Up the Usual Suspects


And dispose of them! We all know the primary culinary culprits for acid reflux and GERD, but a reminder is good now and then. Many of these appear frequently on holiday tables, so look out!

  • Fatty foods
  • Spicy foods
  • Acidic foods, like tomatoes and citrus
  • Mint
  • Chocolate
  • Onions
  • Coffee or any caffeinated beverage
  • Carbonated beverages

Eat More Meals with Less


Eating five or six little meals is a much better idea than eating three big meals for a number of reasons. You feel fuller more of the time, you tend to eat less, there is less pressure on your esophagus, and, you guessed it, GERD is reduced.

Take a Stand


Or at the very least, don’t lie down. Although it’s the tempting thing to do—especially after a big meal like Thanksgiving, taking a nap is terrible for GERD symptoms. Keep upright and let your digestive system do its thing—without having to work against gravity. Your stomach and esophagus will thank you.

Go Easy on the Drinks


Alcohol can trigger heartburn and GERD because it relaxes the muscles in your esophagus, making conditions optimal for acid to sneak up your esophagus and wreak havoc. Consider the consequences and then ask yourself if that cocktail is really worth it.

Quit Smoking


As if you needed another reason to quit! Among a whole list of other bad things, smoking, like alcohol, may actually cause your muscles in your esophagus to relax, which can cause stomach acid to rise up and cause pain.

Lose Weight


The holidays are usually when you can expect a few pounds to creep up on you, but be vigilant: taking steps to lose weight or at least not gain more weight will help relieve heartburn and GERD symptoms. Obesity is closely linked to not only heartburn but also many other serious health conditions, so take the holidays in stride and be ready to keep or achieve a healthy weight in 2018.

For more information on GERD and heartburn, plus tips on how to treat them, visit http://www.giassoc.org/heartburn.html