Our Gastroenterology Blog

Posts for: March, 2022

By NASHVILLE GASTROINTESTINAL SPECIALISTS
March 30, 2022
Tags: Perianal Abscess  
Perianal AbscessNoticing a painful lump or bump near the anus? We know this might be a rather embarrassing topic, and one you may wish to simply ignore; however, naturally, you may be worried or freaked out about this lump. This lump could be a perianal abscess, which causes a large, painful boil-like bump in this exact region. This bump is the result of a bacterial infection that often affects one or more glands around the anus. Fortunately, a gastroenterologist can easily diagnose and help you treat your perianal abscess.

What causes a perianal abscess?

Just like bacteria and debris that gets trapped under the skin results in a pimple, trapped bacteria in the glands around the anal canal can continue to build up until it develops a boil-like bump near the rectum. This is most common in male infants under one year old. A perianal abscess is not to be confused with a perirectal abscess, which is a deep pelvic infection that can be the result of inflammatory bowel disease.

How is a perianal abscess diagnosed?

It’s fairly easy for a gastroenterologist to diagnose a perianal abscess. All that’s needed is a simple physical examination of the area. Since the infection can spread, it’s important to seek treatment from a medical expert to prevent this from happening.
 
How is a perianal abscess treated?

In some cases, the abscess may be treated with simple home care such as Sitz baths and warm soaks a couple of times a day to help the abscess naturally drain on its own. If this happens further treatment may not be necessary; however, if the infection has spread, your gastroenterologist may prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection. If the abscess doesn’t drain on its own, your doctor can safely drain the abscess. Do not pop or try to drain the abscess yourself, as this could spread the infection. Since this problem can return, it’s important to keep the area clean to prevent future infections.

If you notice a large, painful lump around the rectum or anus, it’s natural to be concerned. Fortunately, a gastroenterologist is going to be the medical specialist you’ll want to turn to for answers and treatment.

By NASHVILLE GASTROINTESTINAL SPECIALISTS
March 30, 2022
Tags: Incontinence  
IncontinenceAre you having trouble making it to the bathroom in time? Do you notice issues such as leakage, particularly when passing gas? If so, these are signs of fecal or bowel incontinence. While this is an issue that may occur with older age, there are a variety of reasons why someone may deal with this problem. Here’s what you should know about incontinence and how a gastroenterologist will treat it.

What is fecal incontinence?

Whenever there is trouble controlling the bowels this is often known as fecal or anal incontinence. Fecal incontinence can appear as stool leakage when passing gas or during physical activity. You may feel as if you can’t control your bowel movement or you may feel like you’re not going to make it to the bathroom in time. You may even see stool in your underwear. In more severe instances, a person may experience a total loss of bowel control.

Why does fecal incontinence occur?

There are several reasons why someone might deal with this problem. Some of the most common reasons include:
  • Damage to the muscles of the anus (common after childbirth)
  • Previous anal surgeries
  • Nervous system injury or disorder
  • Severe constipation (more common in the elderly)
  • Diarrhea
  • Inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease
  • Stroke
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Rectal prolapse
Often, there is more than one cause for bowel incontinence. A gastroenterologist will be able to help you determine what is causing this issue.

How is fecal incontinence treated?

A lot will depend on the underlying cause. For example, finding ways to better manage your inflammatory bowel disease can greatly improve bowel incontinence. There are certain exercises and therapies that your doctor may recommend such as Kegel exercises or biofeedback if you are dealing with damaged or weakened anal muscles. Patients whose bowel incontinence is due to diarrhea or constipation may be given certain medications such as anti-diarrheal medications or laxatives to improve their bowels. For certain structural issues such as rectal prolapse, your gastroenterologist may recommend surgery to repair the damage.

Since bowel incontinence is a sign of an underlying health problem, it’s important that you turn to a gastroenterologist as soon as possible to find out what’s causing your incontinence, as well as the best way to treat it.

By NASHVILLE GASTROINTESTINAL SPECIALISTS
March 30, 2022
Lactose IntolerantIs your morning latte suddenly making your stomach do flips? Do you experience gastrointestinal upset whenever you enjoy a cheesy slice of pizza? Any gastroenterologist knows that this can be disheartening; fortunately, they can help provide the relief you need so that you can go back to enjoying the foods and drinks you love. But first, it’s important to know whether you should come in for an evaluation.

Do I have lactose intolerance?

Since many things can cause an upset stomach and GI distress, it can be difficult to know whether or not it’s dairy that’s truly the culprit. Of course, if you experience any of these symptoms about 30 minutes to 2 hours after consuming dairy products, then it’s time to speak with one of our doctors to find out if it could be lactose intolerance. Here are some of the symptoms you might experience after ingesting dairy products: 
  • Belly and stomach cramps
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Gas
  • Bloating
How is lactose intolerance diagnosed?

If you suspect that you might be lactose intolerant, it’s a good idea to start tracking everything from whether you consumed milk or other dairy products beforehand and what symptoms you are experiencing to what medications or vitamins you are currently taking.

Our gastroenterologists can determine whether or not you have lactose intolerance through these simple tests:

Lactose tolerance test: This is the most commonly used diagnostic test, which requires the patient to consume a liquid containing a high concentration of lactose. Once consumed, we will perform blood tests to see how glucose within the body reacts to lactose. If glucose levels stay the same rather than rising then your body isn’t able to digest lactose properly.

Hydrogen breath test: Another test in which you have to consume a lactose-filled drink, the hydrogen breath test uses your breath rather than your blood to check hydrogen levels. Bodies that don’t digest lactose properly will affect the colon, which in turn will produce hydrogen and other gases that go through the gastrointestinal system and out through your breath. By measuring the amount of hydrogen on your breath we can also determine whether you might be lactose intolerant.

Stool acidity test: This is most commonly used in infants and young children who may be lactose intolerant. If lactose isn’t digested properly it will create lactic acid within the stool, which can then be tested and detected.

How is lactose intolerance treated?

Avoiding lactose is often the simplest way to prevent symptom flare-ups. These days, there are a ton of lactose-free and dairy-free milk, cheeses, and ice creams, so you shouldn’t have to necessarily cut foods you love from your diet; however, there are over-the-counter supplements that you can take beforehand that can help you better digest dairy if you do decide to eat out or treat yourself to some ice cream.

If you are dealing with digestive issues that you think could be caused by dairy, then it’s a good idea to turn to a gastroenterologist who can perform the appropriate diagnostic testing to determine what’s causing your issues.

By NASHVILLE GASTROINTESTINAL SPECIALISTS
March 30, 2022
Tags: Hiatal Hernia  
Hiatal HerniaDo you deal with constant acid reflux? Is heartburn commonplace? Do you feel full quickly after eating? If so, these could all be signs of a condition known as a hiatal hernia. A hiatal hernia happens when part of the stomach pushes through the opening in the diaphragm (the hiatus), which connects to the stomach. While some people may never even know that they have a hiatal hernia, sometimes it can cause digestive issues for others. That’s when you should turn to a gastroenterologist for answers.

What causes a hiatal hernia?

Any kind of intense or increased pressure in this area of the abdomen can lead to a hiatal hernia. Pressure in this area of the digestive tract can occur as a result of,
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Coughing
  • Vomiting
  • Heavy lifting or intense physical exertion
  • Straining
What are the signs and symptoms of a hiatal hernia?

You could have a hiatal hernia and not even know it. Most people don’t even realize that they have one; however, others may deal with certain digestive issues such as,
  • Heartburn
  • Regurgitation of food
  • Bloating
  • Belching
  • Stomach discomfort
Sometimes symptoms of a hiatal hernia can be confused with gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. Your gastroenterologist will be able to determine which problem is causing your symptoms and provide you with the appropriate treatment options.

Does a hiatal hernia require treatment?

If your hiatal hernia isn’t causing you any issues then you may never need to have it treated; however, if you are experiencing any of the symptoms above you’ll want to see your gastroenterologist for an evaluation. Simple lifestyle changes may be all you need to get your symptoms under control. These changes include,
  • Maintaining a healthy weight (or losing weight if overweight or obese)
  • Eating smaller portions
  • Avoiding belts or tight pants that put pressure around the middle
  • Avoiding acidic, spicy, fatty, greasy, and fried foods
  • Avoiding carbonated beverages as well as caffeine and alcohol
  • Not eating 3-4 hours before bedtime
  • Quitting smoking
  • Elevating your head while you sleep
  • Not lying down immediately after eating
Taking an over-the-counter antacid can also help manage mild or occasional heartburn symptoms but should not be used regularly for more than two weeks. If you find that your symptoms persist for several weeks, it’s time to see your gastroenterologist.

A gastroenterologist is the ideal medical specialist to turn to when heartburn, regurgitation, acid reflux, and other digestive issues plague you. If a hiatal hernia is a culprit, we can help you find effective solutions to manage your symptoms.

By NASHVILLE GASTROINTESTINAL SPECIALISTS
March 30, 2022
Category: Digestive Health
Tags: Polyps   Colon Polyps  
Colon and Rectal PolypsHas a gastroenterologist just found colon polyps during your routine colonoscopy? If so, you may be wondering what these masses are, why they occur, and if this could put you at an increased risk for colorectal cancer. We have the answers you are looking for.

What are colon polyps?

A polyp is typically a benign growth that develops in the lining of the rectum or colon. They can vary in size and are often found in the colon. Polyps are very common in adults, particularly older adults. In fact, an average 60-year-old who doesn’t have any risk factors still has a 25 percent chance of developing polyps. While some polyps can be cancerous, most are harmless.

What can increase my risk for colon polyps?

Older age is the most common risk factor for polyps. If there is a history of colon polyps or colon cancer in your family then you may also be more likely to develop polyps. Other risk factors include,
  • Being obese or overweight
  • Having diabetes
  • Smoking or using tobacco products
  • Having inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease; ulcerative colitis)
Do polyps cause symptoms?

Most polyps do not cause any symptoms; however, if the polyp is large enough it could cause blood in the stool or rectal bleeding. Sometimes a sigmoidoscopy, which allows our GI doctor to look at the lower section of the colon, can detect the presence of a polyp. In this case, our doctor will then recommend a colonoscopy to have the polyp removed. While there are other screening tools available for detecting polyps, the most accurate tool is a colonoscopy.

How is a polyp removed?

If we find polyps during your colonoscopy we can easily remove them at the same time as your procedure. There are several ways in which your doctor can remove a polyp. The most common method is a wire loop biopsy or through a polyp resection (burning the polyp with an electrical current). Since the lining of the bowels is not sensitive, these methods will not cause discomfort. Sometimes a laboratory will examine the removed polyp to look for cancerous cells.

If you need to schedule a routine colonoscopy, or you have a family history of colon polyps and you’re concerned, call your gastroenterologist today to learn more about the preventive steps you can start taking today to protect your digestive health.

By NASHVILLE GASTROINTESTINAL SPECIALISTS
March 30, 2022
Tags: Diarrhea  
DiarrheaDiarrhea might not be something you want to talk about; however, it happens to everyone. Whether it’s a stomach bug, something you ate, or a more serious and underlying digestive issue, it’s important to recognize when you should turn to a gastroenterologist for treatment.

Causes of Diarrhea

The most common cause of diarrhea is a viral infection that impacts the stomach. Some people call it “stomach flu” even though it’s not caused by influenza. Other causes of diarrhea include,
  • Food allergies
  • Alcohol use
  • Intestinal diseases such as Crohn’s disease
  • Bacterial infections
  • Diabetes
  • Overactive thyroid
  • Medications
  • Running (known as “runner’s diarrhea”)
Causes for Recurring Diarrhea

If you are dealing with loose stools for more than four weeks, then you are dealing with chronic diarrhea. Often, this is caused by an intestinal disorder such as colitis, Crohn’s disease, or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). If you are dealing with chronic diarrhea you should see a gastroenterologist to find out what’s going on.

When to See a Doctor

Since diarrhea can also lead to dehydration it’s important that you seek medical attention if you are also experiencing symptoms of dehydration. You should also call your gastroenterologist right away if you experience,
  • Blood or mucus in the stool
  • Black stools
  • Diarrhea that lasts more than two days
  • A high fever (over 102 F) that last more than one day
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
Treating Diarrhea

A gastroenterologist will need to figure out what’s causing your diarrhea before providing you with treatment options. Mild diarrhea may be treated with over-the-counter options and making sure the patient stays hydrated. A gastroenterologist may need to perform stool sample testing or a colonoscopy to detect certain conditions such as intestinal disorders. Once a diagnosis has been made, your GI doctor can provide you with the proper lifestyle changes along with medications and other options.

While diarrhea is often not a cause for concern if you do find yourself feeling concerned it’s always best to play it safe and call your gastroenterologist to find out whether you could benefit from a proper medical evaluation.

By NASHVILLE GASTROINTESTINAL SPECIALISTS
March 30, 2022
Category: Digestive Health
Tags: Gut Health  
Gut HealthThere is more than meets the eye when it comes to our gut, and we are learning new things about it all the time. While a gastroenterologist can certainly help you treat problems impacting your gut, it’s also important for people to understand their gut, how it works, and ways to keep it healthy. Here are some useful facts that everyone should know about gut health.

The Gut-Brain Connection

Most people don’t think about how their guts impact the rest of their health, so you may be surprised to discover that the gut and brain are interconnected. This means that your anxiety and depression could actually be signs of gut issues. After all, the gut is where the majority of serotonin is produced and 70% of our immune system is also in our guts. For our guts to function optimally, and for us to feel our best, it’s important that we are feeding the good bacteria in our guts and protecting the gut from bad bacteria.

Know the Signs of Gut Issues

While most of us will experience gut problems at some point, it’s also important to recognize recurring or persistent symptoms that might warrant seeing a gastroenterologist for care. Signs of gut problems include,
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Bloating
  • Stomach pains
  • Loose stools
  • Constipation
  • Unexpected weight loss
Consume More Gut-Healthy Foods

Our food culture is based around a lot of fast, processed foods, so it’s not surprising that so many Americans are dealing with gut problems that could easily be remedied by simply improving their diet. Gut-healthy foods include,
  • Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, miso, and kimchi provide the gut with prebiotics (which feed the probiotics or good bacteria in the gut)
  • Olive oil
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Fresh vegetables
  • Avocados
  • Live yogurt and kefir
  • Garlic
  • Lean protein such as wild-caught salmon
  • Low fructose fruits such as berries and citrus fruits
Say No to Common Gut Offenders

American diets are high in sugar and bad fats, so it’s no surprise that our guts are in distress. Some of the most common gut offenders include,
  • Low-fiber diets
  • High sugar diets
  • Vegetable and seed oils
  • Alcohol
  • Antibiotics
  • Medications
If you have to take antibiotics, talk with your gastroenterologist about probiotics and other types of supplements and steps you can take to protect the gut and help repopulate the gut bacteria after taking these medications.

When it comes to concerns about your health, trust your gut! Don’t ignore recurring digestive issues. A gastroenterologist can help you figure out what’s going on and how to best address these issues.

By NASHVILLE GASTROINTESTINAL SPECIALISTS
March 30, 2022
Category: Gastroenterology
Tags: Colostomy Bags  
Colostomy BagsWhen there is an injury or health problem that impacts the digestive tract and you’re unable to pass stool on your own you may need a colostomy bag. If you or someone you love needs a colostomy bag, it’s natural to have questions about how they will work, as well as care instructions. A gastroenterologist can answer any and all questions, and alleviate concerns around getting a colostomy.

When is a colostomy needed?

A colostomy may be something that’s needed for only a short period while other individuals may require a colostomy bag for life. When the colon doesn’t work properly or the bowels need time to heal, a colostomy bag can ensure that stool passes through an opening in the colon and into the bag rather than through the anus. Conditions or health problems that may require a temporary colostomy include:
  • Trauma or injury to the rectum, anus, or colon
  • Diverticulitis
  • Bowel obstructions
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Ulcerative colitis
A permanent colostomy may be necessary for advanced stages of colorectal cancer or untreatable fecal incontinence, or when part of the rectum or anus needs to be removed (often due to disease).

What is a colostomy?

A colostomy is a surgical procedure performed by a gastroenterologist or gastric surgeon in which they create an opening in the abdominal wall (known as a stoma) through which a colostomy bag can be connected. When stool passes through the colon it will no longer exit through the anus but instead through a colostomy bag.

Do I always have to wear my colostomy bag?

Today, clothes can very discreetly hide a colostomy bag so this shouldn’t be a problem and most people feel comfortable wearing their colostomy bag all the time for peace of mind; however, in some instances, you may be able to detect when you’re going to have a bowel movement, and you may decide to use your colostomy bags only during these times.

Can you reverse a colostomy?

If your colostomy was temporary, your gastroenterologist will discuss the reversal process with you. You will continue to come in for routine checkups and monitoring after your colostomy to determine the best time for a reversal. In most cases, it can take several years before a reversal surgery is performed and your health will be a determining factor in whether this surgery is right for you.

If you have questions about colostomy bags, how they work, or how to care for them, call your gastroenterologist today. They can provide you with the information you need to make living with a colostomy bag easier.

By NASHVILLE GASTROINTESTINAL SPECIALISTS
March 30, 2022
Gallbladder AttackYour gallbladder is a small organ on the upper right side of your abdomen that’s responsible for storing and releasing bile to aid in digestion. As with any organ or system in the body, problems can occur. When bile and minerals develop into deposits or gallstones in the gallbladder, this can lead to very severe and sudden pain. Recognizing the signs of a gallbladder attack can mean getting the quicker care you need from a gastroenterologist.

What is a gallbladder attack?

A gallbladder attack is often what happens when there is a gallstone blockage in the duct of the gallbladder. Symptoms can last where from a few minutes to a few hours, but it’s important to seek immediate medical attention if you are dealing with severe abdominal pain. The attack may go away on its own without any complications, but it’s still important that you schedule an appointment with your gastroenterologist to make sure that your symptoms are due to a gallbladder attack and to rule out other potential health problems.

What are the signs and symptoms of a gallbladder attack?

Wondering if you could be dealing with a gallbladder attack? You could be if you are experiencing:
  • A dull, sharp, or cramping pain in the upper right side or center of the abdomen
  • Pain that radiates to the back or shoulder blades
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes (also known as jaundice)
Are there risk factors for gallstones?

As with most health problems, certain risk factors could increase your chances of developing gallstones. You may be more likely to experience gallstones during your lifetime if:
  • You have a family history of gallstones or gallbladder problems
  • You are obese or overweight
  • You have a low-fiber, high-cholesterol diet
  • You take certain medications such as birth control or hormone replacement therapy
  • You have diabetes
  • You are pregnant
  • You are over 40 years old
  • You have been diagnosed with liver disease
How is a gallbladder attack treated?

If the gallstone is passed on its own without problems then no treatment is necessary; however, sometimes medications or shockwaves are used to break up the gallstones. If you are dealing with recurring gallbladder pain, your gastroenterologist may recommend having your gallbladder removed.

If you are dealing with severe or sudden abdominal pain it’s important to seek immediate medical attention, as a gallbladder attack isn’t the only thing that can lead to sudden stomach pain. If you find yourself dealing with frequent gallbladder issues you may wish to speak with a gastroenterologist about whether to have the organ removed.