Posts for category: GI Conditions
What are the types of bowel changes?
Sure, we know that this is a bit embarrassing to discuss, but the frequency and appearance of your bowel movements can tell your gastroenterologist a lot about the health of your intestinal system, and it can also provide helpful clues to find out why you might be dealing with issues. A gastroenterologist will look at both the color and consistency of a stool sample.
The Color of the Stool
A healthy stool ranges in color from tan to dark brown. If the stool is white, red, clay-colored, or black this gives us a clue that something is wrong. Black or red stools can be signs of a bleed within the intestinal tract while clay-colored or pale stools are often signs of liver or gallbladder problems.
The Consistency of the Stool
Whether the stool is dry, hard, watery, or contains mucus, these are also factors that can help us determine what might be going on in your GI tract. Dry, hard stools may be caused by a poor, low-fiber diet and lack of water, while mucus in the stool could be an indicator of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), an intestinal infection, ulcerative colitis, or bowel obstruction. Your gastroenterologist must run the appropriate tests to rule out certain problems.
The Frequency of Your Bowel Habits
While there is a range of how frequently someone does have a bowel movement (ranging from 3 times a day to 3 times a week), if you don’t have a bowel movement for more than three days it’s time to see a doctor. Conversely, if you’re dealing with diarrhea for more than a day (or you notice blood, mucus, or pus in the stool) you should also give your gastroenterologist a call.
Abdominal pain or persistent bowel changes should have you scheduling an appointment with your gastroenterologist just to be on the safe side. While some changes might be minor, it’s important to pinpoint possible intestinal problems right away before they get worse.
- Greasy and fatty foods
- Spicy foods
While we may not think about the liver very often, this organ plays a vital role in your digestive health and is responsible for some extremely important functions within the body. This digestive organ, which is also the largest organ within our body, is responsible for about 500 bodily functions designed to keep you healthy. The liver doesn’t just store important nutrients including iron but it also is responsible for detoxifying the body. Unfortunately, there are hundreds of diseases that can impact the health of the liver.
Types of Liver Disease
There are many diseases that can impact the health of the liver. These include:
- Infections such as hepatitis A, B and C
- Autoimmune disorders (e.g. autoimmune hepatitis; primary biliary cholangitis)
- Liver cancer
- Inherited diseases such as Wilson’s disease and hemochromatosis
- Other diseases and causes such as alcohol abuse or drugs (e.g. fatty liver disease)
Symptoms of Liver Disease
Unfortunately, many people with liver disease never even know that they have it. In fact, people may even have severe and permanent scarring (known as cirrhosis) and still never experience symptoms. With that said, there are certain signs and symptoms that may develop in those with liver disease. These signs include:
- Extreme fatigue and exhaustion
- Itchy skin
- Yellowing of the eyes and skin (e.g. jaundice)
- Pale stools
- Dark urine
- Swelling of the abdomen
- Confusion and brain fog
If you are experiencing these symptoms it’s important that you seek a gastroenterologist for further evaluation.
Treating Liver Disease
The type and severity of your liver disease will play a primary role in creating your treatment plan. One of the major areas that we will look at is your lifestyle. Lifestyle modifications can greatly improve certain types of liver disease. Lifestyle modifications include:
- Avoiding alcohol
- Quitting smoking
- Eating a healthy diet
- Getting moderate exercise 3-4 times a week
- Avoiding red meat, sugar and processed carbs
- Losing excess weight if obese or overweight
Making changes to your diet and lifestyle can minimize damage to the liver and also help those with liver diseases caused by medications or alcohol dependency. In more severe cases, a liver transplant may be necessary for those with advanced stages of cirrhosis. There are certain prescription medications that are prescribed to cure certain chronic forms of hepatitis; however, most cases of hepatitis A and B do not require treatment. Antiviral medications are used to treat hepatitis C.
If you are noticing warning signs or symptoms of liver disease, or if you have questions about keeping your liver healthy, a gastroenterologist can answer your questions and provide you with the care and treatment you need if you do have liver disease.
When people experience frequent bouts of flatulence, abdominal bloating, cramps, and diarrhea, it's disconcerting and sometimes unpredictable. Your gastroenterologist may review your symptoms and do some in-office testing to determine if you have lactose intolerance. It's a common GI condition in which the body produces the lactase enzyme in insufficient amounts. Fortunately, the teens and adults who develop it can manage the symptoms and feel good.
The details on lactose intolerance
The digestive enzyme, lactase, is produced in the small intestine. When it encounters lactose, the carbohydrate in dairy products such as milk and ice cream, it breaks down the sugar into a highly usable form. If, however, lactase is insufficient, the milk sugars will cause those uncomfortable GI symptoms within a half an hour or so.
While cheese and yogurt also are dairy products, they go through a fermentation process which limits their lactose content. As such, people who are lactose intolerant can consume these dairy items comfortably, says Genetics Home Reference.
Besides happening in young adulthood, lactose intolerance seems to run in families, particularly if as infants, individuals appeared unable to digest breast milk or formula properly. Additionally, some research shows this gastrointestinal problem may occur after an abdominal injury, reports John Hopkins Medicine.
Diagnosing and managing lactose intolerance
Your gastroenterologist will review your symptoms, their severity and timing. Also, he or she may run a lactose intolerance test in which you consume a liquid with high levels of lactose. Through the course of two hours, the doctor measures your blood sugar levels. High readings indicate lactose intolerance.
In addition, a hydrogen breath test pinpoints lactose intolerance. For babies and young children, a stool acidity test uncovers this common GI disorder.
To manage lactose intolerance, your doctor will recommend some diet modifications, such as eliminating as much dairy as possible. Checking food labels for dairy content helps, as well as switching to almond or soy milk and taking supplements such as Lactaid which boost lactase levels in the gut.
See your gastroenterologist
Your GI doctor wants you to have healthy digestion and a varied diet. Be sure to see him or her right away if you experience symptoms of lactose intolerance so you can feel your very best.
If you are someone with Crohn’s disease, we don’t need to tell you how impactful this chronic condition can be. Frequent bowel movements, intense abdominal cramps, chronic fatigue, and disposition to a number of different bodily maladies are just some of the ways that this type of inflammatory bowel disease can complicate patients’ lives. Luckily, there are a few different precautions that those with Crohn’s can take to lessen the effects of this often-invasive disease.
What are the effects of Crohn’s?
Prior to exploring the ways that one can tamper the symptoms of Crohn’s, it’s important to establish just what exactly these unwanted effects are. Although the condition directly affects the bowels, the symptoms of Crohn’s disease can be felt throughout the body. Some examples include:
- Urgent and frequent bowel movements
- Watery stool
- Bleeding from the rectum
- Abdominal pain
- Mouth sores
- Skin and eye inflammation
Of course, these effects are not omnipresent nor always severe. Often, Crohn’s patients have long periods where they feel fine, only to eventually be faced with an intense flare-up of symptoms that leaves them feeling terrible and unable to work or go to school—this is where a gastroenterologist comes in.
What a gastroenterologist can do for you
If you are experiencing the debilitating effects of Crohn’s disease, you should schedule an appointment with your local gastroenterologist to find a treatment that’s well-suited to your issues. Possible medical approaches include:
- Medications: The right medicine can help control inflammation, and thus lighten the disease’s effects on your body.
- Bowel rest: Sometimes recommended by a doctor in cases when symptoms are severe, a bowel rest includes refraining from solid food for a few days. Don’t worry—a nutrient-containing liquid is provided in lieu of solid food so that patients do not feel hunger pain. This time of rest allows the intestines to heal and symptoms to dissipate
- Surgery: In the case of extreme symptoms, surgery becomes necessary. There are a variety of different surgeries available, and a consultation with your gastroenterologist can determine which one will benefit you.
What you can do day-to-day to lessen symptoms
As a Crohn’s patient, there are a few different lifestyle modifications that you can apply to minimize flare-ups and make your day-to-day routine more comfortable. Some simple steps include
- Take medication as prescribed: At the risk of sounding too obvious, taking medicines according to a doctor’s recommendations is an essential step to managing symptoms. In the case of corticosteroids (steroids) this is especially important, for these medications are best used in the short-term and during flare-ups—improper use can render them ineffective
- Regularly exercise: Exercise helps Crohn’s patients in a few different ways such as helping the digestive tract work efficiently, raising energy levels, and fortifying the immune system. Consult with your gastroenterologist on how to develop a routine that will benefit you most
- Adopt proper dietary habits: Maintaining a diet that is full of nutrients can help minimize the effects that Crohn’s has on the digestive tract. Of course, not all patients’ dietary needs are the same, so make sure to meet with a dietician to find out which approach will work best for you.
Need relief? Give us a call!
Living with Crohn’s can be a struggle, but it can be made easier with professional help. Call us today to set up a consultation and get yourself on track to a better life!
Irritable bowel syndrome, also known as IBS, is a condition affecting the large intestine or colon. It is associated with a variety of symptoms, including abdominal discomfort and diarrhea. The exact cause of irritable bowel syndrome is not known and the condition tends to affect women more often than men. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, a gastroenterologist can determine if you truly have the condition and develop an appropriate treatment plan for your symptoms.
A variety of gastrointestinal symptoms is associated with irritable bowel syndrome. If you experience any of these symptoms regularly, consult a gastroenterologist who can make a proper diagnosis. A diagnosis of IBS is usually made by ruling out other gastrointestinal problems through blood tests, stool sample tests, x-rays, a colonoscopy or a sigmoidoscopy. Symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome include:
- abdominal pain or cramping
- mucus in stools
- recurring urgent need to have a bowel movement
Although the exact cause of irritable bowel syndrome is unknown, there are several treatment options for alleviating some of the discomfort associated with IBS. Dietary habits can have an impact on the frequency and severity of symptoms. Eating smaller meals during the day can ease digestion and lessen symptoms. Including more fiber during the day can also help with symptoms such as constipation. Eliminating foods, such as dairy, that aggravate the symptoms of IBS can also help alleviate some of the pain and discomfort.
Other strategies for treating irritable bowel syndrome include medications, probiotics and managing stress. Increased stress can aggravate IBS symptoms so keeping stress levels low can minimize symptoms. Additionally, probiotics and certain medications can also help improve digestion and alleviate some of the symptoms of IBS, such as gas or diarrhea. A gastroenterologist can help you determine which treatments options are best for your symptoms.
Irritable bowel syndrome can result in a lot of pain and discomfort. Fortunately, there are treatments that can provide relief. See a gastroenterologist for diagnosis and a treatment plan.
A polyp: you may have heard of this condition, but remain unsure on what exactly it is. Most commonly developed in the colon, polyps are small clumps of cells that grow inside various parts of the body. Although some polyps are benign, others can develop into cancer, making it crucial that you receive periodic colonoscopies from your gastroloenterologist. Read on to learn more about colon polyps, and if you are in need of a colonoscopy, make sure to call your local gastroenterologist to make an appointment!
What exactly are colon polyps?
As mentioned above, polyps are small clumps of cells that generally develop in the nasal passage, uterine lining, vocals cords, stomach lining, and most commonly in the colon lining. Projected to develop in fifty percent of the population over time, colon polyps come in two distinct categories:
- Hyperplastic Polyps: Definitively noncancerous, these benign cell clumps are small and grow near the end of the colon
- Adenomatous Polyps: This polyp variety affects more people than its counterpart, and carries the possibility of becoming cancerous, although this development usually takes years to occur.
Although colon polyps generally do not show any immediate symptoms, some warning signs certainly do spring up over time. These signs include:
- Rectal bleeding
- Abnormal stool color
- Shifts in bowel habits
- Abdominal pain
How can I stay healthy?
Given that polyps usually do not exhibit any symptoms until late into their development, the best course of defense against this potentially deadly condition is to receive regular colonoscopies once you reach the age of 50.
A colonoscopy is a minor procedure in which a small, camera-equipped tool is inserted into the anus so that a doctor may examine the colon. If any polyps are discovered, the doctor can then remove them and send a sample to the lab for a biopsy. In the event that the sample tests positive for cancer, your doctor can discuss any further steps that need to be taken.
Concerned? Give us a call!
If you are in need of a colonoscopy, be sure to give your local gastroenterologist a call and receive the treatment that you need!
Though many people never know they have one due to lack of symptoms, a hiatal hernia can cause complications which can affect your daily life. Knowing the signs and symptoms of this condition can help you spot its presence, alert your gastroenterologist, and get the treatment you need.
What is a hiatal hernia?
Your chest and abdomen are separated by a large muscle called the diaphragm. The esophagus passes through a small opening in the diaphragm and brings food from the mouth, down the throat, and into the stomach. A hiatal hernia occurs when the stomach pushes through the hole and begins bulging out of the other side, into the chest. Though small hiatal hernias are often nothing to worry about and do not produce symptoms, larger hernias may cause potentially serious complications.
Do I have a hiatal hernia?
A small hernia often does not produce any symptoms at all. However, larger hernias can cause some issues that can affect your day-to-day life:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Chest or abdominal pain
- Regurgitation of foods (into the mouth)
- Acid reflux
- Vomiting blood or passing black stool
- Shortness of breath
If you think you have a hiatal hernia, you should see your doctor to ensure that you receive the care you need.
How does a gastroenterologist diagnose a hiatal hernia?
It is not uncommon for a gastroenterologist to find a hernia while investigating the cause of heartburn, abdominal pain, or other symptoms. Some diagnostic tools they may use include x-rays or upper endoscopy. They will also gather your medical, family, and lifestyle history to further investigate the cause of your symptoms.
Hiatal Hernia Treatments
If a person with a hernia does not experience any symptoms or complications, they may not need any treatment at all. However, if the patient begins experiencing discomfort, their doctor will probably suggest beginning treatment for their condition. Medications, such as antacids or medication to reduce the body’s acid production, can help with symptoms of a hernia. In more severe cases, a surgical procedure to repair a hernia or make the hole in the diaphragm smaller may become necessary.
Your gastroenterologist can help you find the best treatment plan for you. If you think you have a hernia or are experiencing uncomfortable symptoms such as recurrent acid reflux or heartburn, you should speak with your doctor.
Wondering if you have hemorrhoids? Hemorrhoids are very common, especially among people ages 45 to 75. Hemorrhoids are inflamed and swollen veins around the anus or in the lower rectum. One of the main causes of hemorrhoids is straining when you’re trying to have a bowel movement. Other contributing factors include heredity, diarrhea, chronic constipation, pregnancy, and aging. Here's how to tell if you have hemorrhoids.
1. A lump near the anus- Although many individuals have hemorrhoids, not all experience symptoms. External hemorrhoids are felt as swelling or a hard lump near the anal area. Internal hemorrhoids protrude with bowel movements; usually, they return to the inside by themselves.
2. Painless bleeding- Hemorrhoids can cause bleeding. If you have hemorrhoids, you may see blood in the toilet bowl or on the toilet paper. Rectal bleeding is also a symptom of diverticulitis, colitis, colon polyps, and colorectal cancer. If you experience rectal bleeding, you should see a doctor. An evaluation and proper diagnosis by a gastroenterologist is important any time bleeding from the rectum lasts for more than a few days.
3. Itching around the anus- Hemorrhoids can cause severe itching around the anus. Initial treatment of anal itching is directed toward relieving the soreness and burning. Your gastroenterologist may prescribe hydrocortisone cream, gel, foam, or ointment or rectal suppositories to treat itching.
4. Pain or discomfort- Pain is a common symptom of external hemorrhoids, especially during bowel movements or when sitting. Internal hemorrhoids are typically painless, even when they produce bleeding. When hemorrhoids are painful, it’s hard to think about anything else. Your gastroenterologist may prescribe pain medication, hydrocortisone cream or rectal suppositories to ease your pain.
Why suffer? If you think you may have hemorrhoids, you should schedule an appointment with a gerontologist right away. The symptoms hemorrhoids cause are hard to ignore. Thankfully, there are many treatments that can provide relief.
Crohn's disease can cause chronic pain and inflammation in your gastrointestinal tract. Although the inflammatory bowel disease can't be cured, treatments and lifestyle changes can help you avoid flare-ups.
Inflammation can cause a range of problems
When your digestive tract is inflamed, you may experience multiple symptoms, in addition to abdominal pain. They include:
- Frequent diarrhea
- Ulcers in the digestive tract
- Weight loss
- Lack of appetite
- Lack of energy
- Rectal bleeding
- Blood in your stool
- Sores in your mouth
- Fistulas around your anus
If you have moderate to severe Crohn's disease, persistent vomiting and diarrhea, anemia, severe weight loss, abscesses and intestinal abscesses can occur. The disease can be life-threatening in some cases.
What causes Crohn's disease?
No one is sure what causes Crohn's disease, although immune system issues or genetics may make you more susceptible. You may be more likely to develop the disease if you are younger than 30, smoke, have a family history of Crohn's disease, or are white or of Ashkenazi Jewish descent.
How is Crohn's disease treated?
Reducing inflammation is the goal of Crohn's disease treatment. Your doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications and immune system suppressors that prevent your immune system from triggering an inflammatory response. Antibiotics may be recommended if you have an infection or a fistula. Because people who have Crohn's disease can experience diarrhea 10 or more times per day, anti-diarrheal medication can be helpful. Frequent diarrhea can deplete nutrients. Your doctor may recommend B12 shots or iron, vitamin D and calcium supplements to prevent malnutrition.
If your symptoms are severe, your doctor may recommend a feeding tube for a period of time to give your bowel plenty of time to rest and recover. Sometimes, Crohn's disease can damage your digestive tract. Surgery may be needed to remove the damaged portions or open up areas of the intestines that have narrowed.
Eating several small meals during the day and limiting low-fat, dairy and high-fiber foods may also help you manage your symptoms. Prompt treatment and dietary changes may reduce flare-ups and might even lead to a remission of your syndrome.
Although living with Crohn's disease can be challenging at times, medical treatments and lifestyle changes can help you avoid the most serious consequences.
Cancerous carcinoid tumors form in the lining of your gastrointestinal tract and can be caused by certain digestive conditions. The rare tumors are often treated with surgery and medications.
What are carcinoid tumors?
Carcinoid tumors develop when a mutation occurs in the neuroendocrine cells in your digestive system. The dual-purpose cells have both nerve and endocrine features and are capable of producing hormones. Over time, the cancerous cells gradually take over healthy cells and form a tumor. Carcinoid tumors tend to form in the colon, stomach, small intestine or rectum.
Who gets carcinoid tumors?
If anyone in your family has had multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 syndrome (MEN1) or neurofibromatosis type 1 syndrome (NF1), you may be at greater risk of developing a carcinoid tumor. Your risk also rises if you have Zollinger-Ellison syndrome, pernicious anemia or atrophic gastritis. Older people and women are more likely to develop carcinoid tumors.
What are the symptoms of carcinoid tumors?
There are often no symptoms when a carcinoid tumor is small. In fact, you may only learn that you have a tumor after undergoing a routine colonoscopy or another diagnostic test. Symptoms may occur if the tumor secretes hormones or grows larger. Symptoms depend on the location of the tumor, but may include:
- Pain in the abdomen
- Unexplained weight loss
- Rectal pain
- Stool color changes or blood in the stool
- Abdominal pain
How are carcinoid tumors treated?
Surgery is used to remove all or as much of the tumor as possible. Medications may also be helpful. Depending on your condition, your gastroenterologist may recommend interferon injections that enhance the immune system's ability to attack the tumor or medications that prevent the tumor from releasing hormones.
If your carcinoid tumor has spread to your liver, your gastroenterologist can offer several other treatment options, including cryoablation (freezing) or radiofrequency (heat) treatments to kill the cancer cells. Removing part of the liver during a surgical procedure may be helpful, as can closing off the hepatic artery that feeds the tumor.
Although most gastrointestinal symptoms aren't caused by cancer, it's important to see your gastroenterologist if you experience frequent heartburn, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, bloating or other symptoms.
Ulcerative colitis, a type of inflammatory bowel disease, causes painful open sores in your large intestine and rectum. The disease can affect both children and adults. Although there is currently no cure for ulcerative colitis, symptoms can be managed with medications and dietary changes in many cases.
What are the symptoms of ulcerative colitis?
Although symptoms of ulcerative colitis vary depending on the severity of the disease, diarrhea that contains blood or pus is a frequent problem. It may be difficult to get the bathroom in time, particularly if a bout of diarrhea strikes in the middle of the night. Other symptoms can include:
- Abdominal cramping and pain
- Joint pain
- Weight loss
- Canker sores
- Rectal pain
- Difficulty defecating
If you have severe ulcerative colitis, you may be more likely to develop one or more serious complications, such as severe dehydration or bleeding, a perforated colon, osteoporosis, megacolon, blood clots or colon cancer.
What are the risk factors for ulcerative colitis?
Ulcerative colitis symptoms usually appear between the ages of 15 and 35. You're more likely to develop ulcerative colitis if other people in your family have it. Your ancestry may also affect your risk. Caucasians and people of Ashkenazi Jewish descent get the disease more often than other ethnic groups.
How is ulcerative colitis treated?
Medications that relieve inflammation and suppress your immune system can be helpful if you have ulcerative colitis. Corticosteroids may also reduce inflammation and bring about a remission of symptoms. Because prolonged use of corticosteroids can cause high blood pressure, diabetes and osteoporosis, they're only recommended for short-term use. Anti-diarrheal medications can reduce the frequency of diarrhea, while iron supplements may prevent anemia caused by bleeding.
Approximately 25 to 40 percent of people who have ulcerative colitis will eventually need surgery to remove the colon, according to the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation. In some cases, your surgeon may be able to connect to your small intestine to your anus, which will allow you to defecate normally. If that's not possible, a bag attached to the abdomen will be used to collect stool.
Ulcerative colitis is a serious inflammatory bowel disease, but it's symptoms can often be managed with medication, dietary changes and stress relief techniques, allowing you to live a fairly normal life.
Many people develop hemorrhoids at some point, particularly between the ages of 45-65. Hemorrhoids are typically associated with pain, discomfort, itching and irritation around the anus. They can also result in pain and discomfort during bowel movements. As uncomfortable as hemorrhoids can be, there are treatments that can help. See a gastroenterologist if you suspect you might have hemorrhoids. If a gastroenterologist determines you do have hemorrhoids, an appropriate treatment can be prescribed to ease the pain and discomfort.
The exact cause of hemorrhoids is not necessarily known, but several factors or conditions do seem to increase the likelihood of development hemorrhoids. Factors associated with an increased risk for development hemorrhoids include:
- Family history of hemorrhoids
- Chronic constipation
- Sitting for extended periods
- Straining during bowel movements
Hemorrhoids often go away on their own, even without treatment. However, there are various options to ease the pain and discomfort of hemorrhoids. A gastroenterologist might recommend a variety of methods for easing the pain at home. These include taking over-the-counter pain relievers, and fiber supplements for softening stools. Other things that can help provide relief include soaking in a warm bath and applying a cold compress to the anus to reduce swelling.
In addition to at home remedies for alleviating the pain and discomfort of hemorrhoids, there are medical procedures a gastroenterologist can perform to reduce the size of the hemorrhoids. Two popular procedures for treating hemorrhoids include a rubber band ligation and injection therapy. These procedures can be performed if other treatments and remedies have not provided substantial relief.
When struggling with hemorrhoids, the itching, irritation, pain and discomfort can interfere with your quality of life. Fortunately, there are treatments that can provide relief and even reduce the size of the hemorrhoids. See a gastroenterologist for the treatment of your hemorrhoids.