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Gastroenterology Blog

4 Types of Hemorrhoids & How They are Treated

Posted by Gastroenterology Associates on Sat, Jun 29, 2019 @ 2:25 PM

types of hemorrhoidsYou may not like talking about them, but if you suffer from hemorrhoids, there is no escaping thinking about them.  The condition can be uncomfortable, embarrassing, and at times, downright painful.  The important thing to remember is that you are not alone.  As many as 1 in 20 Americans deal with hemorrhoids, and up to 50 percent of those over the age of 50 will encounter them.  Patients should also keep in mind that not all hemorrhoids are the same and that they may not always present with the same symptoms.  In fact, there are four distinct types of hemorrhoids, and determining which you have is key to finding safe, effective relief.

Signs & Symptoms of Internal Hemorrhoids

Internal hemorrhoids are located inside the rectum.  These types of hemorrhoids generally resolve on their own and due to their location, are often asymptomatic.  In instances when patients do experience discomfort from internal hemorrhoids, it is often because of their size.  Larger internal hemorrhoids may cause symptoms such as pain, itching, or burning.

Signs & Symptoms of External Hemorrhoids

External hemorrhoids are what most patients envision when they think of hemorrhoids.  These occur at the anus as either visible or palpable lumps.  Location is the only distinguishing factor between internal and external hemorrhoids, but it can make a significant difference.  While internal hemorrhoids may go completely unnoticed, external hemorrhoids often produce a number of uncomfortable symptoms until they are resolved.  Most commonly, patients report itching, burning, and pain during activity, while sitting, or during bowel movements.

Signs & Symptoms of Prolapsed Hemorrhoids

Prolapsed hemorrhoids are internal hemorrhoids that have grown to the point that the protrude from the anus.  These may be accompanied by classic hemorrhoid symptoms or have no symptoms at all. All internal hemorrhoids are classified on a scale of Grade 1 – 4:

  • Grade 1 – No prolapse
  • Grade 2 – Prolapse under pressure such as straining during a bowel movement but return on their own
  • Grade 3 – Prolapse that can be pushed back in by the patient
  • Grade 4 – Prolapse that is too painful to be pushed back in

Signs & Symptoms of Thrombosed Hemorrhoids

Thrombosed hemorrhoids are internal or external hemorrhoids in which a blood clot (thrombosis) has developed.  Symptoms that accompany a thrombosed hemorrhoid are often more severe than normal and can include intense itching, burning, pain, redness, and swelling.  The area around the hemorrhoid may also take on a bluish color.  Quick treatment of thrombosed hemorrhoids is necessary to prevent loss of blood supply and damage to the surrounding tissue.

Hemorrhoid Treatment in Baton Rouge

If you are suffering from any form of hemorrhoid, seek the medical attention of a gastroenterologist.  These specialists can offer treatment recommendations to help you find relief and perform the necessary procedures should your hemorrhoids become severe or unresponsive to other methods.  In Baton Rouge, our team of gastroenterologists is fully prepared to treat all manner of digestive diseases, including hemorrhoids.  Simply click below to request an appointment.

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Topics: Hemmorhoids

Is it Heartburn or Something Else [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted by Gastroenterology Associates on Fri, Jun 28, 2019 @ 1:07 PM

A feeling of burning or tightness in the chest can often leave sufferers with the immediate assumption that what they are feeling are classic signs of heartburn or acid reflux.  In most cases, this assumption is accurate.  However, these same symptoms are also associated with other, potentially serious conditions.  Therefore, they should never be ignored, and determining which, if any, are responsible for bothersome symptoms is important to maintaining health and finding relief.

Could the tightness, burning and general discomfort in your chest actually be an indicator of angina, esophagitis, or a peptic ulcer?  Could your body be trying to clue you in to the fact that there is a larger, underlying problem involved?  The sooner you get the answers to these questions, the sooner you can put your mind at ease and find an effective treatment protocol.  To begin, request an appointment with a gastroenterologist.  These physicians are specialists in all manner of digestive diseases and are skilled in their evaluation, diagnosis and treatment. 

To learn more about conditions that may be mistaken for heartburn, take a look at the informative infographic below.  Then, contact our office to request an appointment with one of our Baton Rouge gastroenterology physicians.

heartburn or something else infographic

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Topics: GERD, Acid Reflux

What is Esophageal Stricture and How is it Treated?

Posted by Gastroenterology Associates on Thu, May 23, 2019 @ 10:12 AM


esophageal strictureTightness in the throat is a familiar sensation for some.  It can be an uncomfortable, painful, and even frightening feeling.  Sometimes, the tightness is short-lived and may be attributed to anxiety or an allergic reaction.  However, persistent tightness that worsens over time may be the result of esophageal stricture.   Conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) may cause damage to the esophageal tissue over time, resulting in a buildup of scar tissue that makes swallowing progressively more difficult.

Even in the case of benign esophageal stricture, treatment should still be sought.  Not only will the tightness worsen over time, but the underlying issue that is leading to your throat tightness and pain should be addressed as well.  Here are some of the common tests used to diagnose esophageal stricture, as well as the most common and effective forms of treatment:

Diagnosing Esophageal Stricture

  • Barium Swallow – After swallowing barium, x-rays are taken to show the narrowing of the esophagus
  • Endoscopy – A thin scope with light and camera, known as an endoscope, is guided into the esophagus in order to visualize the narrowing.  This procedure is generally performed under a sedative and local anesthetic.

Treating Esophageal Stricture

  • Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) – These medications are typically used to treat the most common cause of esophageal stricture:  GERD.   By alleviating the symptoms of GERD, they are thereby able to reduce the pain, inflammation, and irritation in the throat.
  • Dilation – In this procedure, the esophagus is dilated through one of many possible methods, such as using a weighted dilator passed through the mouth and into the esophagus.  This treatment is typically performed either with sedation or a local anesthetic.  Depending on the severity of the stricture, it may need to be performed multiple times.
  • Surgery – In rare cases in which the stricture cannot be adequately dilated or strictures continue to return after repeated dilations, surgical treatment may be necessary.

Once treated, the prognosis of esophageal strictures is quite good.  While some may return and require subsequent treatment, most patients may resume their normal diet and routine.  In order to prevent the initial development of esophageal strictures, there are some precautionary measures that you can take. Use caution to avoid accidental ingestion of corrosive substances, and if you suffer from frequent or prolonged heartburn, see your doctor for a diagnosis and treatment of GERD.  If the appropriate steps are taken to prevent esophageal stricture or to treat it once it occurs, the condition should have minimal impact.

If you experience difficulty swallowing and inflammation or irritation of the throat, it may be time to speak with a specialist about the possibility of esophageal stricture.  At Gastroenterology Associates, we have several gastroenterology physicians who are qualified in the identification and treatment of the condition.  Simply click here to request an appointment, or call our office directly at (225) 927-1190.

6 Reasons Not to Ignore GERD

Topics: Esophagus, Endoscopic Procedures

Acid Reflux Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment Options

Posted by Gastroenterology Associates on Tue, May 14, 2019 @ 4:57 PM


reasons not to ignore gerdAcid reflux is a common problem that knows no limits of age, gender, or other demographics. Unlike general 'heartburn', acid reflux symptoms are not just caused by something you eat.

Acid Reflux Symptoms

In order to determine if you should be tested for the possibility of having acid reflux, consider the following potential symptoms:

•             Frequent heartburn - burning in the abdomen, chest, or throat

•             Bitter or sour acid taste backing up into your mouth, especially after eating

•             Hiccups that last more than a few minutes and occur frequently

•             Bloating

•             Narrowing of your esophagus that feels like food stuck in your throat (called dysphagia)

•             Chronic, dry cough and sore throat or hoarseness

There are other symptoms, as well, but these are the most common and should lead you to pursue diagnosis from a medical professional.

How Are Acid Reflux Symptoms Diagnosed?

Doctors can use several methods to determine if you do, in fact, suffer from acid reflux disease. In many cases, simply monitoring the pH level in your esophagus will tell your doctor if your symptoms are related to acid reflux. You may also be asked to have an esophagram (in which you swallow barium as a contrast for x-ray purposes) or, in some severe cases, have an endoscopy, in which a camera is inserted into your upper digestive tract to search for a problem. During this procedure, the medical professional may also choose to take a biopsy of the tissue.

What Causes Acid Reflux Symptoms?

The technical term for the most common cause of acid reflux is 'hiatal hernia'. Within your esophagus resides a ring of muscle (or valve) know as the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). Typically, once food passes beyond this point, the LES closes so that acid cannot move up from your stomach into your esophagus. However, when this isn't the case, you get 'heartburn'. A hiatal hernia is when the LES and the upper part of your stomach move out of place, above your diaphragm, causing heartburn in frequency, which is then diagnosed as acid reflux disease.

Other common causes include:

•             Lying down too soon after eating

•             Eating large amounts of citrus, mint, garlicky, or spicy foods

•             Pregnancy

•             Obesity

•             Smoking

•             Taking certain types of medication (which increase acid production in the stomach)

•             Drinking alcohol, soda, tea, or coffee in large quantities

Avoiding & Treating Acid Reflux Symptoms

The first thing to do to avoid and reduce the occurrence of acid reflux, which can cause long-term issues like ulcers and even esophageal cancer, is to change your lifestyle. Some ways to help dispel the possibilities include:

•             Quitting smoking

•             Allowing at least 2-3 hours after eating before going to bed

•             Limiting spicy and acidic foods within your diet

•             Eating smaller, more frequent meals

•             Losing weight

Of course, it's also important to see your doctor about potential treatments. In severe cases, surgery may become an option, especially to repair a hiatal hernia that is a constant source of acid reflux symptoms and other pain. However, more commonly, antacids (such as Tums) purchased over the counter can combat infrequent symptoms in small quantities. You may also choose to use H2 blockers (such as Pepcid and Zantac) which decrease the production of acid.

If these aren't working, you should definitely consult with your doctor regarding prescription medications, such as Reglan, which can help to strengthen your LES, as well as cause your stomach to empty faster and therefore decrease the likelihood of acid backing up from your stomach into your esophagus.

The team of doctors at Gastroenterology Associates is extremely capable at detecting and diagnosing Acid Reflux Disease.  If you feel that you have symptoms of Acid Reflux, you should not ignore them and take action to reduce the impacts of the disease on your life and health.  Please contact our staff for an appointment today in our online appointment request.

6 Reasons Not to Ignore GERD

Topics: GERD, Acid Reflux, Gastroenterologists, Endoscopic Procedures

3 Types of Screenings Performed by Gastroenterologists

Posted by Gastroenterology Associates on Wed, Apr 24, 2019 @ 4:15 PM

GI proceduresWhen you are struggling with digestive difficulties or have reached an age when recommended screenings such as colonoscopies should begin, it’s time to include a gastroenterologist in your health care team. 

The training of a gastroenterologist is very specific and unique, including training in specialized gastrointestinal procedures.  This allows them to provide high quality, comprehensive care for patients with a wide variety of gastrointestinal ailments. In addition, gastroenterologists perform the majority of research centered around gastrointestinal endoscopic procedures, and studies have shown that gastroenterologists perform higher quality colonoscopy examinations and comprehensive consultative services when compared to other physicians. So, when you need any procedure such as the following three, a skilled gastroenterologist is the natural choice.

Colonoscopy from a Gastroenterologist

Colonoscopy is performed to examine the large intestine for disease, most commonly colorectal cancer. It is also used to evaluate symptoms such as rectal bleeding, weight loss, abdominal pain, anemia, constipation and diarrhea.  Everyone age 50 and older should be screened for colorectal cancer.

When performing a colonoscopy, the gastroenterologist uses a long, thin, flexible tube with a tiny video camera and a light on the end — called the colonoscope — to view the entire colon and rectum and check for polyps, inflammatory changes or cancer. If polyps are found, they can be removed with this procedure.

EDG (Upper Endoscopy) from a Gastroenterologist

EDG can be helpful in the evaluation or diagnosis of various problems that affect the upper gastrointestinal tract.  To perform an EDG, gastroenterologists use a long, thin, flexible tube with a tiny video camera and light on the end called an endoscope. By adjusting the controls on the endoscope, the gastroenterologist can safely guide the instrument to carefully examine the inside lining of the upper digestive system. In some cases, GIs can treat digestive conditions through the endoscope.

Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatogram (ERCP) from a Gastroenterologist

ERCP is a technique that combines the use of endoscopy and fluoroscopy to diagnose and treat certain problems of the biliary or pancreatic ductal systems. Through the endoscope, the physician can see the inside of the stomach and duodenum and inject radiographic contrast into the ducts in the biliary tree and pancreas, so they can be seen on X-rays.

ERCP is used primarily to diagnose and treat conditions of the bile ducts and main pancreatic duct, including gallstones, inflammatory strictures (scars), leaks (from trauma and surgery), and cancer.

While there are many additional procedures and diagnostic tests that gastroenterologists can perform, these three are particularly useful in the diagnosis and treatment of some of the most serious GI conditions.  To learn more about the services a gastroenterologist can provide and if  they may be useful for you, contact Gastroenterology Associates, and request an appointment with any one of our experienced physicians.

Why should I visit a gastroenterologist

 

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.

7 reasons for colon cancer screening

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