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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.

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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. 

9 Signs of Celiac Disease

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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Esophageal Stricture: Explaining the Tightness in Your Throat

Posted by Gastroenterology Associates on Fri, Aug 31, 2018 @ 1:47 PM

esophageal strictureAn esophageal stricture is caused by damage to the esophagus that causes inflammation or swelling. When this occurs, the space in the esophagus becomes smaller, making it feel tighter and compromising function. Esophageal strictures cause symptoms such as hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, heartburn, regurgitation of food, feeling of tightness in the chest after a meal, and frequent burping or hiccupps.

While tightness in the throat can be a result of other conditions like strep throat, sinus infections, or allergic reactions, an esophageal stricture is usually caused by chemicals such as stomach acid burning the esophagus. GERD and acid reflux diseases are the most common culprit for esophageal strictures.

Diagnosis of Esophageal Stricture

The biggest risk involved with esophageal stricture is pulmonary aspiration. This can occur if food or liquid enters the lungs. There is also an increased risk of choking, while some experience a loss of appetite due to discomfort that can lead to malnutrition or dehydration.

There are a few different ways which a doctor can diagnose a case of esophageal stricture. Barium swallow tests are common, which involves swallowing a barium dye and taking x-ray images of the esophagus. This is typically a first step and preferred method as it is a non-invasive procedure.

Endoscopy is another option for diagnostic purposes.  This technique involves a camera entering through the throat to obtain images of the upper GI tract. There is also pH testing that can be performed, where a tube is entered through the mouth into the stomach to measure the amount of stomach acid that enters the esophagus.

Treatment of Esophageal Stricture

Once testing has determined the cause of stricture, your doctor will recommend a treatment plan. The solution often involves stents or dilations, which means the esophagus is opened or stretched to alleviate the tightness.  If GERD is the cause of the stricture, your doctor may recommend medication or changes in diet that will help to alleviate symptoms.

Although tightness in the throat may appear to be nothing, chronic cases should be investigated by a gastroenterologist. If you are exhibiting signs of esophageal stricture or are concerned with symptoms of GERD or acid reflux, it is important to seek out medical help. Gastroenterology Associates can help. Contact us today or visit our website for more information.

 6 Reasons Not to Ignore GERD

 

Topics: Esophagus

Steps to Keep Heartburn Under Control

Posted by Gastroenterology Associates on Mon, Jul 30, 2018 @ 2:48 PM

controlling heartburnHeartburn is very common and brings discomfort to millions.  The condition is the result of stomach acid backing up into the esophagus, and it can produce a burning sensation in the throat or chest.  Other common symptoms include sore throat, coughing, hoarseness, regurgitation, and difficulty swallowing.

If you suffer from frequent heartburn, it is important to draw connections between certain behaviors or foods that seem to trigger the condition.  Identifying these can be key to treating your case effectively. For most patients, successful heartburn relief includes some or all of the following:

Make Dietary Changes to Prevent Heartburn

Foods that are high in acid such as citrus, fruits, and tomato products are often contributors to heartburn, as are fatty foods and alcohol.  Sufferers may also find that eating large meals triggers their symptoms.  In this case, eating smaller meals throughout the day and taking care to not eat too quickly may help.

Know When Not to Eat for Heartburn

While heartburn can strike at any time, there are some specific times throughout the day when you may find the symptoms to be at their worst.  Eating just before exercise or periods of increased physical activity, for instance, can often prompt the familiar burning sensation.  Likewise, eating just before bedtime can make for a long and uncomfortable night.  Before hitting the gym or lying down, give your body a full two hours to fully digest your most recent meal.  You may also find it helpful to sleep in a slightly elevated position with pillows to support you.

Chew Sugar Free Gum after Meals

Gum increases salivary gland production which can help to neutralize the acids in your stomach and digestive tract.

Rule out Medications as the Heartburn Culprit

Several medications including anti-depressants, hormone therapy, antibiotics and many more can cause symptoms that may include heartburn. If you notice heartburn begins when you start using a certain medication, make sure that your healthcare provider is aware of your side effects.

Manage Your Weight to Prevent Heartburn

Individuals who are overweight are at a higher risk of experiencing acid reflux.  In many cases, weight loss can make a significant positive impact in a patient’s symptoms.

Gastroenterology Associates can help diagnose and treat chronic heartburn. If you are exhibiting symptoms and want help keeping them under control, contact us today to schedule an appointment.

6 Reasons Not to Ignore GERD

Topics: Acid Reflux

Celiac Vs. Crohn’s: Differences and Similarities

Posted by Gastroenterology Associates on Fri, Jun 22, 2018 @ 12:59 PM

celiac vs crohn'sWe all experience stomach pains from time to time and normally pay little mind to it. It could have been caused by something you ate, how much you ate, a night of drinking, nervousness, or countless other reasons. However, if you feel like you have a persisting problem that leaves you running to the bathroom or experiencing painful stomach cramps day after day, you may have a chronic condition like Crohn’s or Celiac disease.

These conditions are very similar in nature and it is possible for one individual to have both conditions; however, there are also some key differences which distinguish the two.

What is Celiac Disease?

Celiac is an autoimmune disorder in which the body does not properly digest a protein called gluten that is found in grains like barley, wheat, and rye.  Instead of processing it normally, the body recognizes gluten as something foreign and triggers the immune system to attack the small intestine. 

A strict gluten-free diet is the best treatment for celiac disease. This means eliminating foods made from or processed with gluten, including bread, corn, rice, soy, beans, flax, oats, pasta, flour, cereals, and processed lunch meats.

What is Crohn’s Disease?

Crohn’s disease, on the other hand, is an inflammatory bowel condition. There is no known cause for Crohn’s other than potential links to genetics and family history.  By causing inflammation in the lining of the digestive tract, Crohn’s leads to complications that are not typical symptoms of celiac disease.  These complications are typically how doctors can distinguish between the diseases before any real diagnostic tests are run.

In addition to the digestive tract, Crohn’s often causes inflammation in the eyes and joints as well. Sufferers may also notice bloody stool, as the disease normally causes the most inflammation in the lower half of the digestive tract.

There are, of course, dietary restrictions which can help manage Crohn’s disease. Many patients cannot eat dairy products such as milk, cheese, yogurt, and butter and find it helpful to eat foods that are high in fiber like broccoli, spinach, apples, and other fruits and veggies. Some people with Crohn’s opt for a gluten free diet as well, but there is currently no research that supports the necessity of a gluten free diet for those afflicted with Crohn’s disease.  Treatments for Crohn’s includes medication and sometimes surgery for severe cases where other options have failed.

Have a Doctor Distinguish Between Celiac or Crohn’s 

If you feel that you are suffering from either condition, don’t guess.  Instead, schedule a visit with your general practitioner. They will often refer you to a specialist such as those at Gastroenterology Associates for a definitive diagnosis and development of an appropriate course of treatment. You may also schedule an appointment with a gastroenterologist yourself by contacting our Baton Rouge office.

Crohn's Disease Gastroenterology Associates Baton Rouge

Topics: Crohn's Disease, Celiac Disease

Managing 4 Common Triggers of IBS

Posted by Gastroenterology Associates on Tue, May 22, 2018 @ 3:35 PM

ibs triggersIBS, or irritable bowel syndrome, is among the most common gastrointestinal disorders, affecting as much as 15 percent of the world’s population.  It is chronic in nature, and flare-ups can leave sufferers wondering if they will ever be free of the bloating, constipation, and cramping that often accompany the condition.  However, there are steps that patients can take to manage their symptoms and prevent flare-ups.  Perhaps the most important of these is identifying the triggers that aggravate IBS in the first place.  And, while such triggers can differ for everyone, there are a few that are commonly observed across a large percentage of patients.

Sugar as an IBS Trigger

Unsurprisingly, what we consume can take a major toll on the digestive system.  For IBS sufferers in particular, certain dietary choices can wreak havoc, and various forms of sugar are often the worst culprits.  These include:

  • Fermentable sugar, or fructans, found in many wheat products including breads and pasta
  • Sugars from alcohol
  • Artificial sweeteners containing sugar alcohols such as sorbitol

Stress-Related IBS Symptoms

The gut has a stronger connection to mental health than many realize.  Conditions such as stress and anxiety have a high level of comorbidity with IBS, meaning the two appear together frequently.  Furthermore, drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are commonly used, not just in the treatment of depression and anxiety, but in the treatment of IBS as well.  For many patients, gaining greater control over mental health also equates to improvement of IBS.

Impact of Sleep on IBS

Sleep is restorative and necessary for many key areas of health.  Research has highlighted a connection between poor sleep and worsening of IBS symptoms, suggesting that the appropriate quantity and quality of sleep can make a significant, positive impact on the condition.  For many, relatively simple changes to sleep habits and spaces can make a drastic difference.

Vitamin D and IBS

Vitamin D plays a crucial role in keeping the gut healthy and promoting proper function of the immune system.  Often, IBS patients are found to also be suffering from a Vitamin D deficiency.  In these cases, taking a Vitamin D supplement can result in improvement of IBS symptoms such as bloating, cramping, and diarrhea. 

If you are one of the many Americans suffering from embarrassing and painful IBS symptoms, understand that there is help available.  By identifying and addressing your triggers appropriately, as well as working with a skilled gastroenterology physician, you can minimize the disease’s impact on your life and routine.  Contact Gastroenterology Associates today, and request your appointment to learn more about your condition and available treatment options.

ibs causes

5 Quick Facts About Diverticulitis

Posted by Gastroenterology Associates on Fri, Apr 27, 2018 @ 3:39 PM

5 quick facts - diverticulitisThere are many changes that can occur within the digestive tract, particularly with age.  One such change, which is increasingly common in patients over 40, is the development of small pouches within the digestive system’s lining, most often in the lower portion of the large intestine commonly referred to as the sigmoid colon.  These bulging pouches are known as diverticula and their presence is a condition called diverticulosis or diverticular disease.  In many cases, they cause no problematic symptoms.  However, there are instances in which diverticulosis may progress into a condition known as diverticulitis.

What is Diverticulitis?

Diverticulitis occurs when diverticula tear and become infected, inflamed, or both.

What are the Symptoms of Diverticulitis?

The most common symptom associated with diverticulitis is pain and tenderness in the lower left abdomen.  This pain could be sudden and severe or mild and progressing in intensity over a course of several days.  Additional symptoms of diverticulitis can include:

  • Fever
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation (diarrhea is less common)

What are the Complications of Diverticulitis?

Most patients with diverticulitis will not experience complications.  However, about 25 percent could experience one or more of the following:

  • Abscess in the colon wall
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Fistula, or abnormal tissue connection, between the bladder and colon
  • Intestinal blockage from scarring
  • Peritonitis, or abscess of the abdominal cavity which occurs when a perforation of diverticula allow contents of the intestine to seep out. Peritonitis is an emergency medical situation and could be fatal without prompt surgical intervention.

Who is Most Likely to Suffer from Diverticulitis?

Diverticulitis is more likely to occur with age and is most often seen in those over 40 years old.  Additional risk factors for developing the condition include:

  • Being overweight
  • Eating a diet that is low in fiber and high in animal fats
  • Smoking
  • Taking medications such prescription or over-the-counter pain killers
  • Sedentary lifestyle

How is Diverticulitis Treated?

Most cases of diverticulitis respond well to antibiotics.  Additionally, a physician may recommend a temporary liquid diet as the colon heals.  However, patients who have complications associated with diverticulitis may require additional interventions.  These could include draining of an abscess or surgery in the most severe cases.

If you are suffering from the symptoms of diverticulitis, do not delay seeking treatment.  With the appropriate course of antibiotics and dietary changes, it is likely that your case will resolve without complication.  Contact Gastroenterology Associates and request an appointment with one of our board-certified gastroenterologists today.

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Topics: Diverticulitis

Gallstone Risk Factors & Symptoms Explained

Posted by Gastroenterology Associates on Fri, Apr 13, 2018 @ 11:17 AM

gallstonesThe gallbladder is a small organ found on the abdomen’s right side, beneath the liver.  Its primary purpose is store bile that is released after eating as an aid in fat digestion.  However, the gallbladder can occasionally do more harm than good when it fails to function properly.

What are Gallstones?

Gallstones are hardened deposits of digestive fluid that occur in the gallbladder or the bile duct.  The size of these deposits can range from as small as a single grain of rice to as large as a golf ball.  Some patients only experience one, while others may have several. 

Symptoms of Gallstones

Many gallstones cause no symptoms whatsoever.  However, those that block the bile duct can lead to a number of painful and bothersome symptoms associated with the resulting inflammation, a condition also known as cholecystitis.  These symptoms include:

  • Pain and tenderness located in the upper right abdomen (Pain may also be felt in the upper right back and shoulder.)
  • Discomfort or pain after eating
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fever

Risk Factors for Developing Gallstones

Some patients are more likely to develop gallstones than others based on the presence of certain risk factors.  These include:

  • Family history of gallstones
  • Being overweight
  • Eating a diet that is high in fat or cholesterol or low in fiber
  • Experiencing rapid weight loss
  • Being pregnant
  • Being over 60 years old
  • Being female
  • Being of Mexican or Native American descent

Treatment for Gallstones

Some cases of gallstones, particularly those which are asymptomatic, may be initially treated with medications and changes in diet.  However, most patients who are experiencing symptoms from the condition will require gallbladder removal.  This procedure is safe and effective, and any side effects that patients may experience regarding digestive changes are generally mild and temporary. 

If you are experiencing the symptoms of gallstones, contact Gastroenterology Associates, and request an appointment with one of our Baton Rouge gastroenterologists.  Our physicians can confirm your diagnosis and discuss the most effective treatment options available to bring relief. 

Why should I visit a gastroenterologist

Topics: Gallbladder

Will I Regain Weight After the Gastric Balloon?

Posted by Gastroenterology Associates on Mon, Apr 09, 2018 @ 12:00 AM

Close up of a woman standing on the scales in hospitalIf you’ve decided to give the gastric balloon a try for weight loss, you have likely been on a long journey to lose weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle.  Exercise programs, diet fads, and medication – you may feel as though you have tried them all.  With each attempt, regardless of how much success you have found, it has always been temporary, and the weight has always come back.  It is only natural as you consider the pros and cons of this weight loss procedure that you have your fair share of skepticism.  How can you know that this time will be different? 

To answer this question, it is important to first understand what constitutes realistic expectations of weight loss from the gastric balloon. 

How Much Weight Will I Lose with the Gastric Balloon?

Because the gastric balloon is designed specifically for those with a lower body mass index than other surgical alternatives, patients will not lose the same large amounts of weight.  A gastric bypass patient can lose over 100 pounds, and candidates for the gastric balloon will typically lose 20 – 40 pounds (or 10 – 20% of their body weight) over the six months the balloon in place.

How Can I Maintain Weight Loss from the Gastric Balloon?

In addition to the total amount of weight lost, the gastric balloon differs from alternative procedures in a number of other ways.  Perhaps most significant is the fact that the balloon does not make any permanent change to anatomy.  The balloon is placed inside the stomach and then removed after a six-month period.  This temporary placement of the balloon does not equate to temporary weight loss. 

One of the most important components of a successful gastric balloon procedure is medical guidance and support to help patients make permanent lifestyle changes.  The six month timeframe should not only be a time of weight loss, it should also be a time of education.  With comprehensive coaching by experts in both dietary and exercise programs, patients are able to learn healthy habits while simultaneously dropping pounds.  By the time the balloon is removed, the majority of patients have made turned the lessons they learned into lasting habits, enabling them to easily maintain the weight they have lost.

While it is certainly understandable to have concerns about regaining weight, if you are committed to the complete program, including coaching, you can count on both achieving and maintaining desirable results. 

For those in Baton Rouge or the surrounding areas, the O.N.E. Weigh program offers the gastric balloon procedure performed by skilled gastroenterologists.  To learn more about the program and if you may be a candidate, contact us by clicking below.  

LEARN MORE ABOUT GASTRIC BALLOON

Topics: Gastric Balloon