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Gastroenterology Blog

Answering Your Most Common Acid Reflux Questions

Posted by Gastroenterology Associates on Tue, Mar 26, 2019 @ 9:51 AM

acid reflux faq

Acid reflux and heartburn are common complaints that we have all experienced at one time or another.  Most understand that the burning sensation of reflux is a direct result of rising stomach acid.  However, there are many other questions to which the answers are not so clear.  Here are some of the most frequently asked questions regarding acid reflux, and the answers that patients should know:

 

What is the difference between heartburn and acid reflux disease?

Heartburn is very common and is experienced by most people from time to time. People who have acid reflux or heartburn more than twice a week are defined as having acid reflux disease, which is also known as gastroesophageal disease or GERD.

What causes acid reflux disease?

Acid reflux is caused by the sphincter at the bottom of the esophagus (the lower esophageal sphincter or LES) failing to close properly, or opening at the wrong time. This can happen because the LES is weaker than it should be. Acid reflux disease can also be caused by a hiatal hernia, in which part of the stomach moves so that it is above the diaphragm. Being overweight can increase the risk of hiatal hernia and GERD. Pregnancy also increases the risk.

How does diet affect acid reflux disease?

Acid reflux is often made worse by the following types of food.

•             Foods that are high in fat

•             Acidic foods like tomatoes and citrus fruits

•             Spicy foods

•             Peppermint (mint relaxes the LES)

•             Alcohol

•             Caffeine

•             Chocolate

To reduce acid reflux through diet, avoid the foods listed above, eat small, frequent meals, and do not eat within the three hours before you go to bed. Lying down after eating makes it easier for digestive juices to escape the stomach.

What medications can I use to treat acid reflux disease?

You can relieve the burning sensation caused by acid reflux by taking over-the-counter antacids, such as calcium carbonate tablets (Tums). Antacids neutralize the acid so it is less irritating to the esophagus. However, they are only a temporary solution.

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) reduce the amount of acid produced by your stomach. You can buy small dosages of some PPIs without a prescription. Your gastroenterologist can prescribe a higher dosage and may tell you to take the tablets on a regular basis.

How should I take PPIs to control acid reflux disease?

Proton pump inhibitors work most effectively when taken every day. The typical directions are to take one pill per day, around half an hour before eating breakfast. You should take your prescribed medication according to the instructions given by your gastroenterologist.

What are the side effects of medications for acid reflux?

Antacids usually contain either calcium or magnesium salts. Calcium can cause constipation and magnesium can cause diarrhea. Taking an antacid that contains both calcium and magnesium can help to prevent these side effects.

Most people who take PPIs do not have side effects. However, some people experience nausea, headaches, constipation or diarrhea. Talk to your doctor if you are worried about side effects of PPIs.

Can I take PPIs with other medications?

Avoid taking PPIs at the same time as antacids. Antacids can prevent medications from being absorbed properly. If you need to take both antacids and another medicine, try to space them out by a few hours.

If you are prescribed PPIs, you must tell your gastroenterologist if you are taking warfarin (a blood-thinning medication) or phenytroin (for epilepsy). PPIs can interfere with these medications.

What if PPIs don't work for me?

In most cases, PPIs effectively reduce acid reflux and allow the esophagus to heal. If PPIs are not effective for you, your gastroenterologist might prescribe prokinetics, which encourage your stomach to empty more quickly.  In severe cases, surgery may be required to strengthen the LES.

Gastroenterology Associates are extensively trained and experienced in the diagnosis of GERD or acid reflux disease.  Making an appointment is the first step to getting relief from acid reflux disease.  Contacting our office is simple and you can reach us through our online request or call us here.

6 Reasons Not to Ignore GERD

Disclaimer: All information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and should not replace the consultative advice and experienced feedback from your physician.    Always consult with your physicians on any of your questions and concerns.

Topics: Acid Reflux, Gastroenterologists

What to Expect After Your Baton Rouge Colonoscopy

Posted by Gastroenterology Associates on Mon, Mar 18, 2019 @ 1:27 PM

What_to_Expect_After_Your_Baton_Rouge_Colonoscopy.jpegA colonoscopy is a vital screening procedure for general health and wellness in all adults 50 years of age and older. This endoscopic procedure can detect polyps, tumors, inflammation or any other abnormalities that are asymptomatic or otherwise undetectable by other tests. And while your gastroenterologist has made sure you’re well-versed in the at-home preparation for the endoscopic screening, as well as the procedural steps of a colonoscopy, you may have some questions about what comes after.

To ease your mind, Baton Rouge gastroenterologists have answered common—but crucial—questions regarding what to expect after your colonoscopy:

How long do I have to stay on-site after my colonoscopy?

After the exam, it will normally take about an hour to recover from the sedative, during which you’ll remain on-site. Although we use sedation that wears off quickly, it can take up to 24 hours for the full effects of the sedative to wear off, so remember to take the day off work and avoid operating heavy machinery.

Is it safe to drive myself home after a colonoscopy?

Please arrange a ride home. Whether it’s taking an Uber or having a friend drive you to and from your appointment, it’s imperative that you don’t fight the effects of the sedative as they wear off.  We cannot do your procedure unless you have an arranged ride.

Do I have to stick to the pre-colonoscopy diet?

Unless you have had a polyp removed during your colonoscopy, or your doctor advises you about diet,  you should be able to resume your normal diet immediately following the procedure. You may experience bloating, mild cramping, or the sensation of having gas, but these should pass quickly.  

Are there any post-colonoscopy side effects I should watch for?

Bloating or a sensation of gas in the abdomen will pass once you are able to eliminate the air in the colon. In some cases, you may experience a trace amount of blood in your stool following your colonoscopy—if you have problem with hemorrhoids, etc. However, if you begin to experience severe abdominal pain, fever, chills, or if the rectal bleeding is prolonged or excessive, please contact your gastroenterologist immediately. These symptoms could indicate a complication that requires immediate attention.

For other questions or concerns regarding your upcoming colonoscopy, feel free to call the digestive health experts of Baton Rouge.

By scheduling your colonoscopy, you’ve taken another step on the journey to lifelong digestive health. With the largest association of board-certified gastroenterologists in Baton Rouge and surrounding regions, the facilities and services of Gastroenterology Associates are here to help you on every step of this vital journey.

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Topics: Colonoscopy

How Does Stress Impact Digestive Health

Posted by Gastroenterology Associates on Mon, Feb 18, 2019 @ 11:22 AM

stress and digestionIf you have ever experienced the feeling of a knot in your stomach or queasiness when undergoing a particularly upsetting or stressful time, you are already well aware that your mental state can have significant impact over your digestive health.  This is managing stress and anxiety are imperative to not only mental health, but gut health as well.

How are the Brain and Gut Connected?

Increasingly, researchers are learning how intrinsically connected the brain and digestive system are.  In fact, the gut houses its own network of neurons known as the enteric nervous system (ENS) or intrinsic nervous system.  This system is made up of roughly 500 million neurons, five times as many as the spinal cord, and regulates functions such as swallowing and the release of enzymes.  Typically, this system communicates with the central nervous system of the brain and spinal cord via the autonomic nervous system.  However, it is also capable of operating autonomously if necessary.

Effects of Stress on the Digestive System

When we find ourselves in a particularly stressful situation, the body goes into its “fight or flight” response and releases the hormone cortisol.  In the moments following, the digestive system may experience symptoms such as spasms of the esophagus, indigestion, nausea and diarrhea

For those suffering from chronic bouts of stress, the damage to the digestive system can be even greater.  It can lead to inflammation, cramping, and an imbalance of healthy gut bacteria.  It can also exacerbate existing digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), peptic ulcers, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Minimizing the Impact of Stress on Gut Health

The first step for anyone experiencing stress and related gastrointestinal difficulties should be to find ways to reduce their overall level of stress.  Among the most effective ways to accomplish this are exercising regularly, seeing a therapist, improving diet, and using calming techniques like meditation.  Of course, if stress-induced digestive troubles have become an ongoing issue, a gastroenterologist should be consulted as well.

In the Baton Rouge area, patients can request an appointment with any of the many qualified gastroenterologists at Gastroenterology Associates to address their digestive health concerns.

SCHEDULE AN APPOINTMENT

Topics: Gut Health

7 Healthy Digestion Tips Your Gut will Thank You For

Posted by Gastroenterology Associates on Fri, Feb 01, 2019 @ 9:29 AM

probioticsWe’ve all experienced digestive woes from time to time.  Stomach cramps, constipation, heartburn, and similar problems are all clues that something just isn’t quite right within the digestive system.  In some instances, the cause is an underlying condition or illness, but in others, such problems could simply be the result of not treating our bodies right.  If you find that you frequently experience such issues and believe that some lifestyle changes may be the key, here are seven that you should definitely try:

Eat More Fiber

There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble, and both are an important element in any healthy diet.  Each one plays a role in maintaining healthy stool and preventing complications such as constipation, hemorrhoids, and diverticulitis.  To ensure you are getting enough, include foods such as legumes, seeds, nuts, wheat bran, vegetables, and whole grains in your diet.

Include Probiotics in Your Diet

A healthy digestive system thrives on a balanced gut flora (community of bacteria).  While you certainly want to keep bad bacteria at bay, this also requires a strong presence of good bacteria.  Probiotics can help, as they contain the same good bacteria that is found naturally within the digestive tract.

Focus on Hydration

Hydration is an important aspect of all bodily functions, but as many as 75 percent of Americans are chronically dehydrated and don’t even realize.  The more water you drink, the smoother your digestive system runs and the easier it becomes to pass stools.

Stick to a Daily Schedule

The human body thrives on routine, including the digestive system.  By eating meals at the same time each day, the body knows what to expect and becomes more efficient at digesting food and moving waste out.

Get Your Body Moving

Exercise is another key to avoiding constipation and keeping the digestive system moving.  When you exercise, your muscles get stronger, including those that are critical to digestion.

Avoid Tobacco

Cigarettes can wreak havoc on nearly every part of the body, including the digestive system.  For smokers, the risk of developing nearly any digestive disease or complication is higher.  These can include Crohn’s, heartburn, peptic ulcers, and even liver disease.

Get a Handle on Stress

If you’ve ever found yourself in a particularly stressful situation, you have probably felt a familiar knot in your stomach.  The connection between brain and gut means that when your mind is experiencing turmoil, your digestion can be impacted.  In the short term, stress can leave you feeling nauseous and cause diarrhea or constipation.  In the long term, it can reduce blood flow and oxygen to the digestive system leading to inflammation and an imbalance of bacteria.

Some conditions and factors impacting digestion are beyond your control, but there are many other elements which can be influenced.  Keep these tips in mind throughout your day, and you are certain to experience positive results. 

If you are currently experiencing digestive difficulties, contact Gastroenterology Associates and request an appointment with any one of our skilled gastroenterology physicians.

SCHEDULE AN APPOINTMENT

Topics: Gut Health

Why am I constipated?: 5 Surprising Reasons

Posted by Gastroenterology Associates on Fri, Jan 25, 2019 @ 12:46 PM

Why am I Constipated?: 5 Surprising ReasonsFor some, a watch could be set by their bathroom habits.  With fairly reliable consistency, they know when a bowel movement can be expected each day.  For others, when and where the urge may strike is not so predictable.  Still, as long as you are having at least three bowel movements per week, there isn’t much to be concerned about.  When this number decreases, however, it’s time to take a look at some factors that may be contributing to constipation.  Here are five that you may not suspect:

 

Medications Causing Constipation

Not many people take the time to read the lengthy list of potential side effects associated with a medication, but constipation is commonly included.  There are many medications, both prescription and over-the-counter which may disrupt normal bowel movements.  Among the most notable are drugs used to treat depression, anxiety, heartburn, and blood pressure.  

Ignoring the Urge for Bowel Movements

When the urge to go does strike, it may not always be at the most opportune time or place.  Holding it in every now and then is fine, but ignoring this urge frequently can lead to some intended consequences.  Habitually disregarding the need for a bowel movement can lead to loss of muscle sensation over time, diminishing the ability to identify when it is time to go and leading to less frequent bathroom visits.  Additionally, the longer stool remains in the colon, the more water it loses and the harder it becomes to pass.

Overuse of Laxatives and Constipation

When it’s time to use the restroom, nerve cells release chemicals into the colon signaling the urge to go.  However, when things haven’t been moving along as one would like, it isn’t an uncommon practice to reach for the laxatives.  These pills trigger this chemical release and get things going.  However, there is definitely too much of a good thing.  Overusing laxatives can eventually diminish their effectiveness and the body’s ability to release the stimulating chemicals.  This can lead to even greater problems with constipation, as well as make ordinary solutions (like laxatives) less reliable.

Exercise and Constipation

Exercise is an important component of a healthy lifestyle, and not getting enough of it can lead to some health concerns both serious and minor.  One potential complication of not getting enough physical activity is a reduction in the frequency of bowel movements.  Exercise stimulates bowel movements, and moves that focus specifically on the abdominals can be particularly helpful.  To ensure that you can take full advantage of the digestive benefits of exercise, be sure to adequately hydrate before, during, and after your workout.

Changes in Routine and Bowel Habits

Vacation / travel constipation is a very real phenomenon.  Your body is familiar with your normal routine, but when you travel, there can be many changes to the normal schedule.  You may spend long periods of time in a car or on a plane with limited bathroom access, and your sleep cycles can be completely different.  Coupled with the stress that may come with travel and being away from home, this can all add up to digestive difficulties.  Sidestep the problem by being mindful of the upcoming changes and combat them with probiotics, plenty of fluids, and frequent breaks when sitting for extended periods of time.

Constipation is not an uncommon problem, but it is a problem with many potential causes.  In many cases, the situation will resolve on its own.  However, if you suffer from frequent bouts of constipation or have been experiencing the symptoms of constipation for more than two weeks, it is time to see a doctor.  Start by scheduling an appointment with a Baton Rouge gastroenterologist to discuss your concerns and get your digestive health back on track.

Topics: Constipation

Gastroenteritis: Treating and Preventing a Common Stomach Bug

Posted by Gastroenterology Associates on Fri, Dec 28, 2018 @ 1:12 PM

stomach bug baton rougeStomach Flu. Stomach Bug. Stomach Virus.  All of these are common day names for gastroenteritis.  It certainly seems that Baton Rouge daycares, schools, workplaces, and other close-contact group environments have been seeing a lot of this going around over the past few weeks.

Gastroenteritis is an intestinal infection, typically having a sudden onset, with the most common symptoms being watery diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, body aches, and sometimes fever.  The illness is spread through contact with an infected person, by sharing towels, utensils, or other close contact situations, or by consuming contaminated food or water. 

Gastroenteritis From Viruses

Gastroenteritis can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites. The two most common viruses that cause gastroenteritis are:

  • Noroviruses. Norovirus is the most common cause of food-borne gastroenteritis worldwide.  It affects children and adults alike, as it is most often caused from consumption of contaminated food or water, but can also develop from coming into contact with others infected in the community (schools, daycares, colleges, offices) and touching infected surfaces.  An individual can get gastroenteritis numerous times in their lives from Norovirus, because there are many strains.  Most people with Norovirus begin to feel better in 1-3 days but remain contagious for approximately 3 days after symptoms subside.
  • Rotavirus. Children are typically the most affected by the Rotavirus bug, because they frequently put their unwashed hands to their mouths after touching a contaminated object.  Adults may have this virus without any symptoms and still be carriers of the virus.  Infants and young children are primarily affected and may develop severe symptoms.  The virus usually lies dormant for the first 1-2 days and symptoms can last from 3-8 days.  There is a vaccine for that protects against rotavirus but it doesn’t protect against all strains so a vaccinated individual may still get rotaviral gastroenteritis.

Gastroenteritis From Bacteria

Bacteria can also be the culprit of gastroenteritis and common causes are E. coli, shigella, and Salmonella.  These bacteria can enter into a person’s system from raw or contaminated foods, undercooked foods, improperly cleaned food preparation areas and utensils, and some seafood.  These bacteria can be spread by infected food handlers as well.

Gastroenteritis From Parasites

Parasites and protozoa, such as Giardia and cryptosporidium, can be causes of gastroenteritis as well. These bugs live in the intestines of infected animals and spread when unclean water is consumed.  Chemical toxins can also cause gastroenterological distress, possibly by seafood consumption or heavy metals in drinking water.

Who’s at Risk for Gastroenteritis?

Gastroenteritis can be very difficult to bear and does not discriminate on who, when, or where it shows up.  There are several groups of individuals who may be more susceptible to contracting gastroenteritis and to experiencing the extreme end of the symptoms.

  • Young children and infants:  This group is often in close group settings and if the virus or bacteria introduces into the group, it is extremely likely to spread among the individuals.  Because their immune systems aren’t fully developed, they can experience more severe symptoms and should see a doctor if they seem dehydrated, lethargic, in a lot of pain, has bloody diarrhea, and/or has a fever of 102.  Infants should be closely monitored and brought in immediately if they have a sunken fontanel, have been vomiting for several hours, have bloody stools, have a dry mouth or cry without tears (a sign of dehydration), or are unusually sleepy or unresponsive.

 

  • Older Adults/Elderly:   As we age, our immune systems tend to become less efficient, and thus, older adults are much more susceptible to the causes of gastroenteritis.  Older individuals that reside in nursing or retirement homes are particularly vulnerable to these “bugs” because they are in such close contact with other individuals who may be infected with or carrying the viruses.

 

  • Individuals with Weakened Immune Systems:  People who are undergoing chemotherapy, who are living with HIV/AIDS, or who have other medical issues are particularly at risk for contracting these viruses because their immune systems simply do not have the ability to effectively ward off the onset of symptoms.  The effects of gastroenteritis can be much more severe as well for these high-risk patients.

 

The real danger of gastroenteritis lies in dehydration of an individual.  The loss of fluids and electrolytes, salts, and minerals poses a problem if an individual cannot replenish their fluid levels.  Severe dehydration can result in the need for hospitalization and IV fluids to restore balance.

Treatment of Gastroenteritis

Self-treatment and care of one’s self is typical protocol for treatment of gastroenteritis, unless complications arise.  Rest, let your stomach settle by abstaining from food for a few hours, and try to drink clear fluids or eat ice chips in the earliest stage of gastroenteritis.  Once an individual is ready to try eating again, it’s best to stick to a bland, easy to digest diet, often referred to as a BRATs diets (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, Toast).  Other simple foods that help ease the transition back to eating are gelatin, crackers, chicken, and light soups or broths.  Avoiding dairy products, nicotine, caffeine, alcohol, high fat foods, or extremely salty foods are a general recommendation for people dealing with gastroenteritis.  Medications, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, can upset the stomach as well and should be avoided if possible. 

Children should be given oral rehydration solutions, such as Pedialyte, in order to help their systems re-regulate. The World Health Organization recommends an Oral Rehydrating Solution (ORS) of 1 quart water with 2 tbsp sugar and 0.5 tsp salt. Apple juice should be avoided, as it can worsen diarrhea. Infants with gastroenteritis should have their stomach “rest” after bouts of vomiting or diarrhea and they should be offered breast milk, if breastfed or formula with oral rehydrating solution or water mixed in.  Formula should be mixed as usual and not be diluted.

A simple stomach virus should resolve in 1-2 days.  If it persists, it could be an infection that needs to be treated.  If gastroenteritis has become a chronic problem, it will need further evaluation.

Preventing Gastroenteritis

Primary measures of prevention come from inhibiting the spread of the germs- hand washing, not sharing personal items (eating utensils, towels, etc), disinfecting hard surfaces, and avoiding contact with infected individuals.  Vaccinations for children in their first year of life for the rotavirus strain of gastroenteritis can help to reduce instances for this vulnerable and commonly affected group of young individuals.

If you are suffering from symptoms of gastroenteritis in Baton Rouge, a gastroenterologist can help.  Contact Gastroenterology Associates, and request an appointment with any one of our many qualified physicians.

Why should I visit a gastroenterologist

  Disclaimer: All information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and should not replace the consultative advice and experienced feedback from your physician.    Always consult with your physicians on any of your questions and concerns.

Topics: Gastroenterologists, Common Stomach Problems

Peptic Ulcers: Types & Causes

Posted by Gastroenterology Associates on Wed, Dec 19, 2018 @ 3:51 PM

peptic ulcers baton rougePeptic ulcers are sores in the esophagus, stomach, or the first part of the small intestine. Since the lining of these areas exists to protect the underlying tissues from stomach, the symptoms of a peptic ulcer can be unpleasant, and the long-term implications can be serious if the condition is untreated.

Types of Peptic Ulcers 

Ulcers are classified based on their location. The three main types of ulcers are:

  • Esophageal ulcer - Occurs in the esophagus, the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach
  • Gastric ulcer - An ulcer in the stomach itself
  • Duodenal ulcer - Occurs in the duodenum, which is the first part of the small intestine

Causes of Peptic Ulcers

The digestive tract is normally protected by digestive chemicals like stomach acid by a layer of protective mucous. If the amount of mucous decreases, or the amount of acid increases, then an ulcer might occur.

There are a lot of myths about the causes of peptic ulcers. For example, many people believe that spicy foods or stress can cause peptic ulcers; this is a myth. The two most common causes of peptic ulcers are bacterial infection and medications. Infection by the microorganism H. pylori can cause ulcers. Another culprit is taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen sodium for an extended period of time. Less commonly, a gastrinoma, or a tumor of the acid-secreting cells in the stomach, can cause peptic ulcers.

There are a couple of lifestyle factors that can increase a person's risk of developing a peptic ulcer. Smoking and frequent alcohol consumption are both associated with a higher risk.

Symptoms of Peptic Ulcers

Pain is the single most common symptom of a peptic ulcer, and it's easy to see why. The ulcer itself, as a form of damage to the tissue, causes pain. It then comes into contact with acid from the stomach, which exacerbates the pain. More specifically, symptoms can include:

  • Burning pain in the stomach, that gets worse between meals, at night, or when the stomach is empty
  • Heartburn
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Bloating
  • Appetite changes
  • Weight loss

Antacids and certain foods may provide temporary relief, but the symptoms will keep coming back if there is a peptic ulcer. If you have persistent pain, concerning symptoms, or severe symptoms such as vomiting blood, you should make an appointment with your doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

Treatment of Peptic Ulcers

Untreated peptic ulcers can cause serious problems, including infection, a hole in the stomach, scar tissue that blocks the passage of food through the digestive system, and internal bleeding. Therefore, it's important for patients with peptic ulcers to get effective treatment as soon as they recognize that there is a problem.

Potential treatments for a peptic ulcer include:

  • Eliminating potential causes such as smoking, alcohol use, and NSAIDs
  • Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), a class of medications that lower acid production so that the ulcer can heal. Examples include Prilosec and Protonix.
  • Antibiotics may be used if the ulcer is caused by bacteria.
  • Endoscopy may be used to treat certain ulcers.
  • Surgery may be used in severe cases, such as when there is internal bleeding or a hole in the stomach

If you have symptoms of a peptic ulcer, it's important to get treatment and diagnosis, both to alleviate symptoms and to prevent the condition from worsening. To schedule a consultation today, please contact one of the doctors at Gastroenterology Associates at (225) 927-1190.

Why should I visit a gastroenterologist
 

Topics: Stomach Ulcers

What Causes Rectal Bleeding: Understanding Your Symptoms

Posted by Gastroenterology Associates on Wed, Nov 21, 2018 @ 1:59 PM

rectal bleedingBlood seen in the toilet or after wiping can be alarming.  Your mind may begin to race, wondering what is causing the bleeding and if it could be something serious.  Fortunately, the cause behind most cases of rectal bleeding is benign and easily treatable, so there is often no need to panic. Still, this is a symptom that should never be ignored and requires evaluation by a qualified physician to determine its source and treatment.  In the majority of patients, rectal bleeding will ultimately be attributed to one of the following three causes:

Bleeding Due to Anal Fissures

Anal fissures are tears in the lining of the anus. They can be caused by chronic diarrhea, straining during bowel movements, childbirth, and hardened stools. Symptoms of anal fissures include visible skin tears around the anus, pain during and after bowel movements, itching, irritation, and of course, rectal bleeding.  In rare cases, fissures can be an indicator of something more severe such as HIV or anal cancer.  If a physician suspects these conditions, further testing will be needed.

Bleeding Due to Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids are blood vessels that are swollen and create a lump in the lining of the anus or lower rectum. The lumps can be visible depending on their location and cause discomfort, irritation, swelling, and itchiness, as well as rectal bleeding. Nearly three-fourths of adults will experience hemorrhoids throughout their life.  These can typically be attributed to factors such as low-fiber diet, straining during bowel movements, being pregnant, or sitting on the toilet for too long.

Bleeding Due to Constipation

When stool has become hardened and not enough water is being absorbed in the digestive process, constipation is a likely result.  Constipation is typically defined by having fewer than three bowel movements over the course of a week.  This can cause rectal bleeding through straining as well as hardened stool tearing the lining of the rectum or anus during a bowel movement.   

While the above conditions are often isolated, like rectal bleeding, they too can be a symptom resulting from a separate condition.  The only way to definitively determine the source is to see a medical professional such as a gastroenterologist.  Often, simple treatment methods such as increasing fiber intake, changing diet, or using medicated ointments are enough to resolve the issue.  For others, more in-depth testing or treatment protocols may be needed.

If you are experiencing frequent rectal bleeding, it is imperative that you discuss the situation with your healthcare provider. They will likely recommend a visit with a specialist such as those at Gastroenterology Associates where your symptoms can be diagnosed, treated, and monitored by a licensed gastroenterologist. Call today or schedule an appointment.

SCHEDULE AN APPOINTMENT

Why am I Always Nauseous?

Posted by Gastroenterology Associates on Fri, Nov 16, 2018 @ 2:07 PM

chronic nauseaIt is completely normal to feel stomach upset and nausea from time to time.  However, when those feelings become chronic, they require further investigation to determine the underlying cause.

Mental Health Causing Nausea

Stress, fear, and anxiety can cause many stomach-related problems. Stress and depression can contribute to ulcers, anxiety can result in symptoms like nausea, vomiting, bloating, constipation and diarrhea, and insomnia can make a person feel generally weak, sick, or sensitive to aches and pains.  Mental health conditions such as eating disorders can also have an impact on the digestive system, causing decreased stomach size, anemia and vitamin deficiencies that can all lead the stomach to feel upset.

Nausea Caused by Food, Diet, and Lifestyle

Sometimes lifestyle is the direct cause for stomach pains. Consuming foods that are high in sugar or generally unhealthy can put a strain on the stomach. Habits like smoking, drinking alcohol, and use of prescription drugs can also exacerbate chronic nausea.

In some cases, a food intolerance may be involved. Conditions like Celiac disease, lactose intolerance, or other allergies may develop at any point in a person’s life and cause pains when triggering foods are consumed. In some cases, food poisoning may also play a role. Help prevent these problems by knowing and avoiding irritating foods, remaining hydrated, and limiting exposure to harmful bacteria through handwashing and diligent personal hygiene.

Disorders of the Digestive Tract that Can Cause Nausea

Chronic conditions of the stomach or digestive tract could also be the cause of lingering nausea. Some of these conditions include acid reflux disease, problems with the gall bladder, pancreatitis, gastroparesis, diabetes, cancers of the digestive system, and appendicitis. If you suspect that any of these may be the cause, the best option is to seek medical attention and have a doctor outline a treatment plan based on your condition.

Conditions that cause problems with our ability to perceive motion and balance can also cause nausea. Swelling or infection of the inner ear can cause our balance to be off creating disorientation. We can also experience vertigo or motion sickness that trigger nausea. 

Many women also discover that one of the earliest signs of pregnancy is nausea. “Morning sickness” is a symptom many women experience for the first 12-14 weeks of pregnancy. The direct cause is unclear, but it is suspected to be a relation to lack of vitamin B6 and hormonal imbalances.  Many women also feel stomach pains that are also associated with their menstrual cycle.

If your stomach pain has become an ongoing issue that is interfering with your quality of life, you may have a serious condition. If the severity or frequency of your nausea becomes too much to bear, you should seek medical attention. Contact a gastroenterologist, like those of Gastroenterology Associates and schedule an appointment. 

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Eating Disorders and GI Problems: Understanding the Connections

Posted by Gastroenterology Associates on Thu, Sep 27, 2018 @ 10:42 AM

eating disordersAn eating disorder is a medical condition in which an individual practices eating habits that are harmful to their physical and mental health. Among the most commonly diagnosed types are binge eating disorder, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and pica.  Each condition is characterized by its own, unique set of behaviors and symptoms.  However, they are all connected in their ability to cause serious consequences in a patient’s health, including dangerous complications for the digestive system.

How Anorexia Affects the Digestive System

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder in which a patient severely limits the amount of food they consume out of fear of being or becoming overweight.  Symptoms of anorexia include a rapid and continuous loss of weight, dryness of skin and nails, muscle weakness, fainting or dizziness, and thinning hair among others.  Over time, the lack of essential nutrients normally obtained through food can lead to malnutrition and digestive complications.

Because an individual with anorexia is eating at an extremely restricted level, the muscles throughout the digestive system can begin to weaken and atrophy.  In turn, a condition called gastroparesis develops in which the process of emptying the stomach becomes significantly slower or even stops altogether.  As a result, patients may begin to experience GI symptoms such as bloating, abdominal pain and pressure, constipation, and vomiting. 

How Binging and Purging Behaviors Affect the Digestive System

Binging and purging are phases of bulimia nervosa, an eating disorder in which an individual participates in cyclical eating habits of overeating followed by purging through self-induced vomiting or the use of laxatives.

In those who purge through vomiting, complications can include tearing within in the esophagus and muscle weakness in the esophagus and sphincter.  This can lead to problems such as trouble swallowing and chronic acid reflux.  Over time, the stomach acids which cause reflux can also lead to erosion of the mucous membranes of the esophagus, eventually resulting in a condition called Barrett’s esophagus.  Patients with Barrett’s are also at an increased risk of developing esophageal cancer.

In cases where a patient relies on laxatives as a way to purge, complications can include dehydration, kidney failure and overstimulation of the bowel to the point of complete shutdown.  As a result, patients may need extreme medical intervention, including dialysis, complete or partial colon resection, or use of a colostomy bag.

What is Pica, and How Does it Affect the GI Tract?

Pica is an eating disorder with which many are unfamiliar.  It is a condition hallmarked by the compulsive need a person experiences to eat foreign substances that are not meant for human consumption. Cases of pica have reported consumption of materials including dirt, paint, glass, cloth, and household cleaning products.

How pica affects the body and GI tract depends on what is being consumed. Indigestable objects can cause blockages; sharp objects can lead to cuts or tears within the digestive tract, and other items may introduce toxic substances, parasites, or bacteria into the body. 

Successfully treating any eating disorder includes a team of specialists, including general practitioners, psychiatrists, and gastroenterologists.  Together, these physicians can assess the current state of a patient’s health, as well as develop a thorough treatment plan to help overcome the eating disorder and any physical complications that it may have produced.  If you or a loved one is suffering from an eating disorder, do not delay medical attention.  Contact your physician today, and schedule an appointment with Gastroenterology Associates to evaluate the current state of your gastrointestinal health.

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