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.
This is the perfect time to reevaluate what you’re doing for your own health.
The holiday season is upon us and this usually means spending time with family and friends over generous helpings of foods. Of course, not all those foods are the best for your health. As we come up to the New Year, many patients make a resolution to be healthier. From the office of our Wausau, WI, gastroenterologists, here are some tips to keep your GI tract healthy in the New Year.
Eat Healthier for a Healthier You
The holiday season is a time for delicious foods and yet a lot of the foods we love can also lead to heartburn, indigestion and constipation. It’s important to know what triggers these symptoms so that you can avoid these foods whenever possible. Aim to include fruits and vegetables, lean meats, low-fat dairy and whole grains into your diet while avoiding processed foods. Incorporate fiber into your diet and limit both caffeine and alcohol, which can cause digestive issues.
Manage Overeating and Bad Habits
We know how tempting it can be to reach for another helping of mashed potatoes or to grab another slice of pumpkin pie; however, if you find yourself feeling guilty about how much you’re eating this holiday season then here are some quick tips to allow you to enjoy delicious holiday foods without the guilt.
- Pace yourself and set your fork down between bites. By slowing down you can control just how much you eat and allow your body time to let you know that it’s done. You can still enjoy the foods you love, just in moderation.
- If you’re still hungry after a meal, drink a glass of water and wait 10-15 minute to see if the pangs go away.
- Stress can also wreak havoc on our ability to manage bad eating habits, so make sure to carve out some time in between carving that turkey to unwind and relax.
- Practice mindful eating, which means turning off distractions and focusing on eating. Eating while working or multitasking can lead to consuming hundreds of extra calories.
Decide to Lose that Weight
Getting fit is a resolution for many and adding regular physical activity to your week is important for a healthy digestive system. In fact, something as simple as a 30-minute walk each day can prevent bloating and constipation. Getting regular exercise can also reduce your risk for colon cancer. Those who are overweight or obese are at a greater risk for developing with diabetes, fatty liver disease and other GI problems.
Schedule a Colonoscopy
Okay, so perhaps this isn’t something you’ve put on your wish list this holiday season but a colonoscopy is the best way to detect polyps and colorectal cancer, and both men and women should start getting screened by the time they reach 50 years old. If you are turning 50 this year then it’s time to schedule a colonoscopy with our Wausau, WI, GI doctor.
If you want to start out the New Year with good digestive health then the team at GI Associates in Wausau, WI, can provide you with the advice and treatment you need to handle any issues you might be having. Call us today to schedule an appointment.
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.
Are you experiencing periodic pain, itching or have blood when you wipe after a bowel movement? If so, you could have hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids are a condition resulting from swelling and distention in the veins of the anus and rectum. Hemorrhoids are one of the most common causes of rectal bleeding, and the condition isn’t considered serious or life-threatening. In fact, some cases of hemorrhoid may clear up on their own within a few weeks. Of course, if you are noticing any blood in your stool it’s important that you contact your physician to evaluate the cause of your bleeding.
Hemorrhoids may be either internal or external. Internal hemorrhoids are inside the rectum. Often times the only symptom of internal hemorrhoids is bright red blood when wiping after a bowel movement. Itching and mild discomfort are also frequent. External hemorrhoids are usually more painful because they are found around the anus rather than inside the rectum. Besides pain, these hemorrhoids can also cause bleeding.
What causes hemorrhoids?
Straining during a bowel movement, standing or sitting for long periods of time, or having constipation or diarrhea can also bring on hemorrhoids.
Excess pressure placed on the rectum can increase your chances for hemorrhoids. This might be the case if you are overweight, or are pregnant.
Genetics can play in role in whether or not you develop hemorrhoids; therefore, if a family member deals with them then you are more likely to deal with them, too.
Can you prevent hemorrhoids?
There are certain habits you can adopt to reduce your chances of getting hemorrhoids. This includes:
- Getting enough fiber every day
- Drinking water
- Getting regular exercise
If you are prone to hemorrhoids, then talk to your doctor about ways to change your diet or lifestyle to reduce your risk.
How are hemorrhoids treated?
Most of the time you can alleviate your symptoms and treat hemorrhoids with simple at-home measures such as:
- Incorporating more fiber into your diet
- Using a short course of over-the-counter hemorrhoid cream (topical steroids)
- Soaking in warm water (sitz bath)
- Avoiding dry toilet paper
- Applying a cold compress to the area
- Taking over-the-counter pain relievers
Most people will see hemorrhoid symptoms disappear in about a week. If you are still experiencing symptoms after a week or if you are experiencing severe symptoms, then you need to contact your care provider to discuss options. For internal hemorrhoids, a team of GI Associates gastroenterologists offers the CHR O’Regan treatment system. Performed in the office, this minimally invasive procedure requires no prep and no sedation and patients return to work the same day.
Symptomatic external hemorrhoids may require surgery to remove the veins causing the symptoms. If you have been diagnosed or are suspicious of underlying internal hemorrhoids give GI Associates in Wausau, WI, a call. We would be happy to schedule an evaluation for you.
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.
Have you or someone you know been diagnosed with Colitis? If so, you may be trying to get answers about this inflammatory gastrointestinal condition, what causes it, its symptoms and how it's best treated. Our Wausau, WI, gastroenterologists have you covered. Here’s what you should know about this intestinal disorder:
What is Colitis?
This condition causes inflammation and sometimes ulcers within the colon and rectum. There are several different kinds of colitis such as infectious, ischemic, ulcerative, microscopic and medication-induced.
What are the symptoms of colitis?
The most common symptoms of colitis are chronic diarrhea and a persistent urge to have a bowel movement. It’s common for there to be blood in the stool when you have ulcerative colitis. Along with diarrhea, you may also experience weight loss, abdominal pain, fatigue, and fever.
Some patients even experience spasms of the rectum. If you’ve been noticing persistent or bloody diarrhea or abdominal pain, it’s a good idea to give your GI doctor in Wausau a call to schedule an evaluation.
What causes this intestinal disorder?
Research is still being done to discover the causes of ulcerative colitis; however, it is believed that family history does play a role in who develops this condition and who doesn’t. If a family member has had colitis there is a chance you could have it too. Of course, environmental factors may also be to blame, as higher rates of colitis have been found within urban settings.
How is colitis treated?
The treatment options that are best for you will depend on the cause of your colitis. Once we figure out what’s causing it we can recommend the proper treatment options. For example, if colitis is due to an infection, you may need a round of antibiotics.
If your colitis is due to an autoimmune disease, called ulcerative colitis, you may need any one of several kinds of medications. Common options include anti-inflammatory medications such as corticosteroids, immunomodulators and immunosuppressant’s (to reduce inflammation). We will discuss the best options for you.
GI Associates of Wausau, WI, is here to help you feel better. No matter if you are dealing with unexplained abdominal pain, persistent diarrhea, blood in the stool or other symptoms, it’s important that you have a team of GI specialists who can help. Call us today to schedule an appointment with us.
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 as 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:
- 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
- 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.
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.
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 illnesses 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:
- Abdominal pain and tenderness
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.
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