Posts for category: blog
The sobering facts
Once upon a time, young people, women, and other segments of the population could rest easy knowing they were at very low risk for the brutal disease that is colon cancer. Unfortunately, that’s no longer the case. Colon cancer isn’t just for older males in poor health anymore. Young people, women, and otherwise healthy older men are all at a greater risk for colon cancer than ever before.
- Young Adults: The American Cancer Society recently changed colon cancer screening guidelines from testing beginning at age 50 to testing beginning at 45. This is a step in the right direction, but the rate of colon cancer among much younger adults is on the rise. According to this article, by 2030, colorectal cancer incidence rates will be up 90% in people between ages 20 and 34, and 28% for people between ages 35 and 49.
- African Americans: According to an article in U.S. News & World Report, “African-Americans are more likely to develop colorectal cancer at a younger age and to be at a more advanced stage when diagnosed.” There are a lot of socioeconomic factors at play here, including access to care, awareness, and lifestyle.
- Women: Colon cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death for American women. The perception used to be that men get colon cancer and women do not, however this notion is dangerously outdated. The truth is that 1 in 21 men will get colon cancer and 1 in 23 women will develop the disease. Early detection, as expected, is essential.
We encourage everyone, no matter who you are, to take colon cancer seriously and know that it could happen to you. Take this online assessment with your healthcare provider to determine your personal risk.
One Size Does Not Fit All
There are lots of options when it comes to colon cancer screenings—from at-home tests to colonoscopies—but which is the right one for you?
Colonoscopy: They require prep and sedation, but colonoscopies are the gold standard for colon cancer detection and prevention. The best part is that this test only has to be done once every ten years if your doctor doesn’t detect any concerns. This is also the only test for those with risk factors such as personal history of polyps, cancer, or family history of cancer.
At-home tests: Tried and true colon cancer screenings such as colonoscopies take time and require preparation. The makers of at-home tests know this and are offering solutions that screen for colon cancer at home with no sedation, less prep, and more comfort. So should this be everyone’s first step? Not necessarily: Like cutting your own bangs or doing your own electrical work, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. In studies, at-home tests have failed to detect more than 30% of pre-cancerous polyps. And as you may know, colon cancer rarely displays symptoms until it has advanced to the most life-threatening stage, so it’s usually recommended that you consider colonoscopy first, as it is the most effective way to prevent and detect colon cancer.
Flexible sigmoidoscopy: This is another option that requires less prep and no sedation. It can be uncomfortable but not painful. Where this test falls short is that it only covers about one-third of your colon, so, while more convenient, it’s not as thorough.
Double barium enema: Take an enema and then a few x-rays and you’re set with this procedure. It can be uncomfortable, however, and has a track record of missing larger polyps and cancerous ones.
CT colonography: Also known as “virtual colonoscopy,” it’s a bit of a misnomer. A CT scan is used to image the colon after air has been pumped into the bowel. It is effective in identifying medium to large polyps, but is ineffective in identifying small polyps. Additionally, it’s not covered by most insurance.
Talk with your GI provider to make sure you are getting the best screening possible for this deadly-but-preventable disease.
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.