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.
While people can develop celiac disease at any age, it’s often hereditary (meaning that if you have a family member with this condition then you are more likely to develop the celiac disease yourself). Since this disease can lead to serious health problems such as infertility, anemia, and type 1 diabetes, it’s important to see a doctor if you suspect that you might have celiac disease.
The most common symptoms of Celiac disease involve digestive problems and may include:
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Abdominal pain
- Increased gas
- Nausea and vomiting
- Foul-smelling or pale stools (more common in children)
- An itchy, widespread rash
- Ulcers of the mouth
- Joint pain
- Iron deficiency anemia
- Headaches or migraines
- Numbness or tingling of the hands and feet
Treating Celiac Disease
If you are experiencing rectal pain or noticing specks of blood on your toilet paper you might be dealing with hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids, also referred to as piles, are swollen veins that form either inside or outside the rectum. While hemorrhoids are more common as a person gets older, this condition can happen to anyone. Here’s what you should know about this common rectal problem and how you can treat it.
What causes hemorrhoids?
If you have family members that deal with hemorrhoids, you may be more likely to get them too. Any kind of pressure that’s placed on the rectum and impacts the flow of blood can cause these veins to swell. Pressure may be caused by:
- Constipation and straining during bowel movements
- Heavy lifting or intense physical activity
- Being overweight or obese
- A poor diet that is low in fiber
- Leading a sedentary lifestyle
How are hemorrhoids diagnosed?
If you’ve never had hemorrhoids before you may want to see your gastroenterologist for a diagnosis, especially if you are experiencing persistent rectal bleeding. Your doctor will go through your medical history and ask questions about your symptoms before performing an exam. A simple rectal exam is usually all that’s needed to diagnose external hemorrhoids. In order to diagnose internal hemorrhoids, you may require further testing such as a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy.
How are hemorrhoids treated?
Sometimes hemorrhoids will go away on their own, so you won’t require special care or treatment. Home remedies include:
- Adding more fiber to your diet
- Avoiding straining during bowel movements
- Staying hydrated to aid in better digestion
- Taking a Sitz bath several times a day to ease any pain and discomfort
There are also over-the-counter medications that can alleviate symptoms including pain and itching. If your symptoms persist after using these medications you should talk with your doctor. If the hemorrhoid is large or isn’t responding to other treatment options then your GI doctor may recommend surgery. There are many minimally invasive surgical techniques that can be used to get rid of hemorrhoids.
If you notice rectal pain, bleeding or discomfort that leaves you concerned or worried about your health it’s important that you talk with your gastroenterologist to find out if you need further evaluation. While hemorrhoids may clear on their own, if you don’t experience relief a doctor will be able to help.
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!