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Why You Need To Add More Fiber To Your Diet

These days, the importance of consuming dietary fiber is fairly common knowledge. Most of us make an effort to add fiber to our diets, whether it be through a fiber-rich cereal or daily multi-vitamin. 

But, even if you’re taking strides to include fiber in your diet, you’re likely not getting enough! On average, Americans eat about 15 grams of fiber a day. That number should be between 25 and 35 grams, or more. And not just from supplements or vitamins, but from whole foods.

Fortunately, there are many ways to incorporate more fiber into your diet. Keep reading to learn about what fiber is, why it matters, and some high-fiber foods to add to your grocery list. 

What Is Fiber?

Dietary Fiber is a carbohydrate found in plants such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains. Unlike other nutrients such as proteins and fats, fiber cannot be digested by the body. It simply passes through the stomach, small intestine, and colon. 

There are two types of dietary fiber: soluble and insoluble. They are important for different reasons, and many foods contain both types. Soluble fibers can be dissolved in water, which helps regulate blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Insoluble fibers cannot be dissolved in water, which adds necessary bulk to stool, promoting regularity of the digestive tract. 

Why Is Fiber Important?

Beyond fiber’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels, balance cholesterol, and promote regularity, adequate fiber consumption has been linked to a reduction in the risk of heart disease, diabetes, certain types of cancer, and many gastrointestinal conditions such as colorectal ulcers, hiatal hernias, gastroesophageal reflux disease, diverticular disease, and hemorrhoids. Plus, by reducing the risk of constipation, fiber helps improve gut health. High fiber foods are also generally healthier and more filling than processed, low-fiber foods. 

Try These High Fiber Foods

High Fiber Fruits

  • 1 cup of Raspberries: 8 grams of fiber
  • 1 Pear: 5.5 grams of fiber
  • 1 Apple: 4.5 grams of fiber
  • 1 Banana: 3 grams of fiber
  • 1 Orange: 3 grams of fiber

High Fiber Vegetables

  • 1 cup of Green Peas: 9 grams of fiber
  • 1 cup of Broccoli: 5 grams of fiber 
  • 1 cup of Turnips: 5 grams of fiber
  • 1 cup of Brussel Sprouts: 4 grams of fiber
  • 1 Potato: 4 grams of fiber

High Fiber Grains

  • 1 cup of Spaghetti: 6 grams of fiber
  • 1 cup of Barley: 6 grams of fiber
  • 1 cup of Quinoa: 5 grams of fiber
  • 1 cup of Oatmeal: 5 grams of fiber
  • 1 cup of Brown Rice: 3.5 grams of fiber

High Fiber Legumes

  • 1 cup of Split Peas: 16 grams of fiber
  • 1 cup of Lentils: 15.5 grams of fiber
  • 1 cup of Black Beans: 15 grams of fiber
  • 1 cup of Baked Beans: 10 grams of fiber

High Fiber Nuts/Seeds

  • 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of Chia Seeds: 10 grams of fiber
  • 1 ounce of Flax Seeds: 8 grams of fiber
  • 1 ounce of Pumpkin Seeds: 5 grams of fiber
  • 1 ounce of Almonds: 4 grams of fiber
  • 1 ounce of Pistachios: 3 grams of fiber

If you are suffering from symptoms of a GI condition, the experienced team of medical professionals at Gastroenterology Health Partners is here for you using the most advanced treatment options available. We strive to provide the highest quality, most cost-effective GI care in the region. For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact Gastroenterology Health Partners today at a location near you. 

Stomach Pain After Eating? Here Are 7 Things It Could Be

A recent online survey conducted across 26 countries found that 1 in 10 people experience post-meal abdominal pain. Of the 54,000 people who were polled, 13% of women and 9% of men reported frequent gastrointestinal discomfort after eating a meal. Individuals reported bloating, a swollen stomach, feeling full quickly, constipation, and diarrhea. Interestingly, these individuals had twice the rates of anxiety and depression as people who reported no symptoms.

This study illuminates the connection between food and diet, gastrointestinal health, mental health, and chronic gastrointestinal conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome or ulcerative colitis. It suggests the importance of an individualized and multidisciplinary approach to treating digestive disorders. 

If you experience frequent gastrointestinal discomfort after eating food, seek medical help. A gastroenterologist can help diagnose the cause of your symptoms and build an effective treatment plan, based on your unique symptoms. In the meantime, follow along for common causes for stomach pain after eating:

7 Causes For Stomach Pain After Eating

1. Food Allergy or Intolerance. Many people experience food allergies and intolerances that result in persistent gastrointestinal symptoms, such as gas, bloating, cramping, and diarrhea. Common allergens include eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, shellfish, milk, soy, wheat, and more. If symptoms are minor, these conditions can go undiagnosed for years! 

2. IBS. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder that affects the large intestine (colon). IBS can cause bloating, abdominal cramping, diarrhea, constipation, gas, and other negative gastrointestinal symptoms. IBS is chronic and requires managing symptoms, often through dietary changes.

3. Gastritis. Gastritis is a broad term for inflammation/swelling of the stomach lining. It can be caused by infection, overuse of pain medications (NSAIDs), injuries, certain foods, and overuse of alcohol. Gastritis can result in abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and weakness. 

4. Celiac Disease. Celiac Disease is a chronic immune disease that is characterized by an inability to eat gluten. Eating foods with gluten damages the small intestine and immune system of people with Celiac. Symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea, weight loss, bloating, and mood changes. It is often genetic and can be diagnosed with a blood test. 

5. IBD. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) refers to conditions such as Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis, which are a result of inflammation of the intestinal tract. Believed to be a result of an abnormal immune response, these conditions can result in symptoms such as cramping, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, persistent diarrhea, fatigue, and blood in stool.

6. GERD.  If you experience pain after eating that is located higher than the stomach and more in your upper abdomen or throat, you may be suffering from acid reflux or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). Symptoms can also include heartburn, nausea, a burning sensation in the throat, or pain with swallowing.

7. You ate too much or ate something that is difficult to digest. Before diagnosing yourself with a food allergy or chronic disease, consider what you ate. Did you eat a very large portion of food? Did you eat acidic, spicy, or fried foods? Perhaps you ate something high in artificial sugar? These types of foods, especially in larger portions, are difficult to digest and can result in negative symptoms for anyone. 

For more information about diagnosing digestive conditions, reach out to Gastroenterology Health Partners (GHP) today. Our clinicians have a passion for seeking out and refining new treatments and advanced solutions for those suffering from disorders of the digestive system. Each of our physicians offers expert specialization, evaluating and treating the entire spectrum of digestive conditions. To learn more about the treatment options available to you, schedule an appointment at one of our locations throughout Louisville, Lexington, and Southern Indiana.

6 Fermented Foods For Better Gut Health

Did you know that eating fermented foods can enhance the diversity of the gut microbiome, which reduces inflammation and improves immune response?

If you did not know this, it’s okay. New research is only beginning to unlock the exciting connections between diet, gut microbiome, and body response. A research paper published by Stanford Medicine this July was one of the first formal efforts to delve into the powerful effects of fermented foods on gut health, in particular.

So What Exactly Is Fermentation?

Humans have been fermenting foods for thousands of years. Fermentation is a metabolic process that utilizes live microbes such as bacteria or yeast to create a chemical reaction. In the absence of oxygen, these microorganisms will break down carbohydrates such as sugars and starches into different compounds altogether. This is how simple yeast can turn barley malt into carbonated, alcoholic beer, or how grapes become wine. Fermentation is a natural, nutritious preservation process. You can easily ferment foods yourself, find them on many restaurant menus, or purchase them at a local grocery store!

Why Do Fermented Foods Help The Gut?

Millions of microbes live in your gut, intestines and colon. Known as the gut microbiota, this system of bacteria helps digest food as well as plays a role in your overall health, immune response, metabolism and even mental health. While each person’s unique gut composition is influenced by genetic makeup, your lifestyle can also impact the quality of your gut microbiome. Factors such as your daily levels of exercise and diet can greatly impact the diversity and functionality of gut microbiota.

The live microorganisms found in fermented foods are a source of probiotics, which have innumerable health benefits. These natural probiotics aid the immune system, and in doing so, boost the body’s response to pathogens. Plus, the enzymes and lactic acid created in the fermentation process helps better absorb nutrients such as Vitamin B and C. The full extent of the benefits of fermented foods are only beginning to be realized.

6 Fermented Foods For Better Gut Health

1. Plain Yogurt – Plain yogurt is low calorie, low sugar, and teaming with beneficial probiotics. Add fresh fruit, oatmeal, or granola to make the perfect gut-boosting breakfast.

2. Kombucha – Kombucha is a popular fermented tea beverage. It is carbonated, with a bitter, fruity taste. A single bottle can have as little as 50 calories and millions of good bacteria. Keep in mind that there are many different brands on the market including options without added sugar.

3. Tempeh – Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans, pressed together. Similar to tofu, it is a great meat substitute to be cooked, fried, or baked. It is also a source of antioxidants, probiotics, and is high in protein.

4. Kefir – Kefir is a tangy, yogurt-like beverage made of fermented kefir grains. It is proven to reduce inflammation, strengthen bones, and even reduce symptoms of lactose-intolerance in some people.

5. Kimchi – Kimchi is a Korean dish made of fermented cabbage or similar vegetables like radishes. It can be eaten alone or used as a topping on sandwiches, salads, pasta, etc. You can find it in most grocery stores. Studies have found that it may improve insulin resistance and lower cholesterol.

6. Sauerkraut – Another form of fermented cabbage, sauerkraut is plentiful in fiber, Vitamin C, and antioxidants. It’s also low calorie, and can be put on/in just about anything.

Within recent years, the gastrointestinal microbiome has become an increasingly popular area of scientific study due to its close link to human health and wellbeing. Not only does a person’s gut microbiome help with the digestion of food, but it also plays an important role in supporting the body’s immune system. Future research will no doubt provide additional insight about ways we can improve and support our body’s gut health.

For more information about improving your gut health or other digestive conditions, reach out to Gastroenterology Health Partners (GHP) today. Our clinicians have a passion for seeking out and refining new treatments and advanced solutions for those suffering from disorders of the digestive system. Each of our physicians offers expert specialization, evaluating and treating the entire spectrum of digestive conditions. To learn more about the treatment options available to you, schedule an appointment at one of our locations throughout Louisville, Lexington, and Southern Indiana.

Getting Ready For A Colonoscopy Prep When You Tend To Be Constipated

Preparing for your colonoscopy is important because it enables your physician to visibly access all areas of your colon to provide the best screening possible. A successful prep – one where your colon is thoroughly cleansed in advanced – makes it easier for your gastroenterologist to do their job thoroughly and accurately. When patients do not have a successful colonoscopy preparation, and stool is still visible in the colon, it makes it much harder for your doctor to do a thorough evaluation.

If you’re a person that tends to struggle regularly with constipation, the colonoscopy prep may be a bigger concern. You may wonder if the prep will actually work and feel an added worry about how this relates to the actual procedure. Fortunately, there are some additional things you can do a week or so in advance to make the entire process easier and more successful.

People who are often constipated frequently have a longer, tortuous colon which may be more challenging to completely empty out. In these cases, your doctor may provide some additional guidance regarding your prep.  Follow along for some helpful suggestions for preparing for your colonoscopy if you tend to be constipated.

8 Things To Know If You Are Preparing For A Colonoscopy And Are Often Constipated

1. You should tell your doctor in advance that you struggle with constipation. People who tend to be constipated may have to think about their colonoscopy prep further in advance than those who are not. Make sure to let your doctor know in advance if constipation is something that you struggle with frequently. Depending on your symptoms and medical history, your doctor may advise additional things like Dulcolax to help make sure your colonoscopy prep is a success.

2. Ask your doctor about medications, vitamins and supplements you normally take. You may be advised to adjust your normal routine in some way depending on your situation.

3. Cut out high fiber foods several days before your procedure. This includes things like raw fruits and vegetables, canned and fresh corn, whole grains like oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, popcorn, and wheat bread, all kinds of nuts, and seeds (including sunflower, sesame, and poppy). Focus instead of non-fibrous foods like soups (without vegetables), eggs, yogurt, white bread and puddings.

4. Your doctor may advise you to begin the clear liquid diet for your prep a day early (two days in advance). This involves avoiding solid foods and consuming clear liquids that are NOT red, blue, or purple in color. This includes things like gelatin, clear broth, sports drinks with electrolytes, black coffee, fruit juice like apple or white grape, and popsicles.

5. It can be helpful to drink lots of extra water the week leading up to your procedure to make sure you are very well hydrated. Not only is hydration a key part of addressing constipation, but it also may help to make your overall prep experience easier. Keep in mind that if you tend to drink caffeinated beverages like coffee and tea, these tend to have a dehydrating effect on your body, and you may need to compensate with additional water.

6. Make the time to deal with your worry and stress. Sometimes constipation is exacerbated by stress. It is important that you recognize and deal with this if possible. Find ways to help yourself relax. Consider trying mindfulness, meditation and/or breathing exercises, listen to relaxing music, and engage in other healthy practices that help you feel calmer and more relaxed.

7. Prioritize a healthy routine including getting enough sleep leading up to the procedure. While it is always important to focus on a healthy routine, including getting enough sleep each night, it may become even more important the week leading up to your colonoscopy. This can help you feel your best for the procedure, enabling you to follow the prep with greater ease, also reducing your level of stress and worry.

8. Don’t be embarrassed, constipation is something many people experience. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney diseases, constipation is common among people of every age and population in the U.S. Approximately 16% of adults experience symptoms of constipation on a regular basis, with this number increasing with age, to a third of adults 60 years and older.

Data reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that upwards of one in three adults ages 45 to 75 has not had a colonoscopy, the recommended screening for colorectal cancer. While there are many reasons why people may opt to avoid this recommended procedure, concerns about what is required to prepare for the exam certainly play a role for some.

The experienced team of medical professionals at Gastroenterology Health Partners is committed to making every patient’s experience with a colonoscopy as low stress and easy as possible. For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact Gastroenterology Health Partners today at a location near you.

Why You Shouldn’t Wait To Get A Colorectal Cancer Screening

Are you on the fence about getting screened for colorectal cancer? Perhaps you think you’re too young to get cancer, or you don’t have a family history of it, or you’re anxious about the procedure. You push off the appointment, allowing yourself to think, “I’ll do it sometime soon…”

When it comes to colorectal cancer screenings, you shouldn’t ever wait. Regular screenings are recommended for those 45 years and older, and even younger if you have certain risk factors. For example, people with certain inherited conditions are at a higher risk for colon cancer, including those with Lynch syndrome and those with adenomatous polyopsis. You are also at higher risk if you suffer from certain inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s colitis, or ulcerative colitis.

Early detection is the key to effectively dealing with colorectal cancer. When detected early, colorectal cancer has a 95% survival rate. However, that rate drops to 25% if the cancer is not detected and spreads to other organs. 

Screening tests aren’t just used to identify existing cancer. Through screening, your doctor may find and eliminate precancerous polyps (abnormal tissue growths) in the rectum or colon, removing them before they even have the chance of becoming cancerous. Between 25-40% of adults in the United States are estimated to have colorectal polyps.

Colorectal Cancer Increases in Younger Populations 

While the overall occurrence of colorectal cancer has dropped in recent years (largely due to a rise in screenings), its rate among younger populations has actually increased. In fact, according to the American College of Gastroenterology, a millennial now has 2 times the risk of getting colon cancer and 4 times the risk of getting rectal cancer than someone from the baby boom generation. Research shows that rates in adults younger than 50 are continually increasing by 2%, every year. Mortality rates are also increasing.

What is causing this alarming change? Researchers attribute higher colorectal cancer rates in younger adults to a number of factors, including higher rates of obesity, more sedentary lifestyles, poor diet, and other environmental factors. A study released this May found a link between the consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and colorectal cancer in women under 50. According to the study, women who drank two or more servings of sugary beverages had twice the risk of developing early-onset colorectal than those who consumed less. Furthermore, adolescents ages 13-18 who consumed sugary sodas had a 32% risk of eventually developing early-onset colorectal cancer. Research is only beginning to unlock certain lifestyle and dietary factors that play a role in developing colorectal cancer.

Colorectal Cancer and Covid-19

During the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, lockdowns and closings forced many people to cancel or put off every type of screening test. Colorectal screening tests in particular decreased by over 90%. In the following months, the numbers of tests only increased to 50% of what they were before the pandemic began. This drastic decline in testing is associated with troubling data about cancer outcomes. In June 2020, the National Cancer Institute predicted an excess of 10,000 colorectal cancer or breast cancer related deaths in the U.S. over the next 10 years, just because of pandemic-induced delays in testing, diagnoses, and treatments. Remaining up-to-date on testing is more important now than ever. 

If you’re due for a colorectal screening test or appointment, but are concerned about Covid-19 safety, don’t hesitate to book an appointment at Gastroenterology Health Partners. We uphold a number of safety procedures in-office, including mask requirements, cleaning and sanitization practices, disinfecting common spaces, and upholding social distancing when possible. Maintaining your safety is of the highest importance to us, just as is providing you with colorectal screening tests such as colonoscopies, flexible sigmoidoscopies, and more. Give us a call today to schedule your appointment.

Pandemic Alcohol Intake and GI Health

The past year-and-a-half has been incredibly difficult for everyone. From hundreds of millions of deaths to the challenge of lockdowns, social isolation and economic hardship, no one has remained unscathed.

Many people have turned to harmful coping mechanisms to deal with the medical, psychological, and sociological problems brought on by pandemic-related stress. While research is still limited, studies suggest that alcohol consumption has increased greatly. The first week of the pandemic, alcohol sales increased by 54% and online alcohol sales increased by 262%. A cross-sectional survey of American adults published in December 2020 found that 60% of people reported increased drinking. 34% of people engaged in binge-drinking and 7% reported extreme binge-drinking.

The impact of increased alcohol consumption on gastrointestinal health is even more staggering. Studies presented at the 2021 Digestive Disease Week suggest a major surge in inpatient consults for alcohol-related gastrointestinal and liver diseases since the beginning of the pandemic. Waihong Chung, a research fellow for the Division of Gastroenterology at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, conducted extensive research on the subject.

Chung found that during the initial lockdown phase of the pandemic, the number of in-person gastrointestinal appointments decreased by 27% (due to restrictions/closings). However, of those appointments, the proportion of consults for alcohol-related GI and liver diseases, such as hepatitis, pancreatitis, gastritis and cirrhosis increased by 59.6%! And, as lockdowns lifted, that percentage increased to 78.7%. Furthermore, patients with alcoholic hepatitis increased by 127.2% (since 2019) and the number of inpatient endoscopic procedures almost tripled.

Chung also contested that the occurrence of alcohol-related diseases could be much higher than reported, since many illnesses take time to manifest or show mild symptoms. Even if you seem to experience no ill-effects from binge-drinking, you should be aware that excessive alcohol is wreaking havoc on your gastrointestinal system. In the short-term, excessive alcohol causes intestinal inflammation and organ damage, alters intestinal microbiota, harms intestinal immunity and homeostasis, and damages the liver. In the long-term, you can suffer from alcohol-related gastrointestinal and liver diseases.

Unfortunately, the long-term effects of Covid-19 on alcohol misuse and overconsumption still have yet to be realized. For example, following the 2003 SARS epidemic, individuals in China who had been directly affected/involved were far more likely to abuse alcohol three years after the epidemic ended. The lasting psychological effects of the pandemic will likely increase alcohol misuse for years to come.

Besides causing fatal gastrointestinal conditions, alcohol can worsen existing mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression. If you or a loved one has been struggling to maintain a healthy relationship with alcohol during the pandemic, it’s recommended that you talk to your primary care doctor or seek medical help. There are behavioral, medical, and mutual-support-based treatment options available for you.

If you are struggling with gastrointestinal issues, induced by alcohol or by something else, seek experienced medical attention. The professional team of medical providers at Gastro Health Partners serves patients across the state of Kentucky and Southern Indiana. Contact a location near you today for more information, or to schedule an appointment.

Understanding the Connection Between Exercise and Gastrointestinal Health

While we all know that the foods we consume have a significant impact on gut health, very little is often said for the influence of exercise and activity on the GI system. People usually exercise to get fit, lose weight, or socialize, unaware of the deeper functional benefits of regular activity.

Recent studies have only just begun to unlock insight into the powerful role of exercise in promoting digestion, gastrointestinal health, metabolic capacity, disease prevention, and long-term wellbeing.

Maintaining Regular Exercise is Key

A study conducted at the University of Illinois in 2018 found that regular exercise alters the entire gut microbiome. In the study, previously sedentary participants engaged in daily endurance activities for six weeks. Across the board, participants experienced an increase in both diversity and metabolic capacity of the gut microbiome.

Furthermore, scientists found a widespread increase in short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), a subset of fatty acids that are produced by the gut microbiota. SCFAs are known to reduce inflammation, boost the metabolism, improve the immune system, improve neurogenesis and fight insulin resistance. In short—the more, the better!

After the study ended, participants stopped exercising. Interestingly, within weeks, their gut composition reverted back to how it was before the study. The effects of the exercise did not last. This proves that maintaining regular exercise is vital to improve and upkeep gut health.

The benefits of regular exercise were again reaffirmed in a 2019 study. In this study, insulin response in male participants was tested after no exercise, after one day of exercise, and again after three consecutive days of exercise. Research found that maintaining exercise over three days was significantly more effective at improving insulin response. A single day of isolated exercise had almost no benefit.

Exercise Can Help Prevent Colon Cancer

Regular exercise can also play a role in preventing colon cancer. In one study, exercise was reported to decrease the total number of intestinal polyps by 50% and the number of large polyps by 67%. Another study found that the risk of colon cancer decreased 40% in those who exercised more than 7 hours a week. In turn, over 40% of those diagnosed with colon cancer already suffered from a comorbid disease, such as diabetes, obesity, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and heart failure. The influence of exercise on preventing colon cancer cannot be overstated.

Exercise Doesn’t Have To Be Hard

Many people think that exercise needs to be high-intensity to really count. They push themselves too hard, and then get injured or burned out. We’ve all seen it before—your friend’s New Year’s resolution to go to the gym dissipating within days after they discover they don’t enjoy Pilates or bench pressing.

Exercise doesn’t have to be a big ordeal or a fancy gym membership. As the studies listed above have shown, what matters more than anything is consistency. Whether it be consistently walking 30 minutes a day, doing yoga poses in the morning, or jogging around your neighborhood—all that matters is that you keep it up. Long-term health and wellbeing comes from committing to an active lifestyle, above all else.

For more information about gastrointestinal health or to schedule an appointment with a board-certified gastroenterologist, contact Gastroenterology Health Partners today. Schedule an appointment by calling a location near you. For additional details, visit our contact us page.

Hirschsprung’s Disease: An Overview

Hirschsprung’s disease is a congenital condition that affects the large intestine. Here’s what you need to know. 

Causes and Risk Factors

Hirschsprung’s disease occurs when a baby is born missing nerve cells in their colon. Due to these missing nerve cells, they develop issues passing stool. While we do know that it’s a condition people are born with, the exact cause is not known. In some cases, it does occur in families. In fact, if one parent has the condition, their child has an increased chance of having the condition as well. In families with a child that has Hirschsprung’s disease, there’s between a 3% and 12% chance that if the parents have another baby, the baby will have the condition. 

Being a male is another risk factor for the condition. People with inherited conditions like Down’s syndrome and congenital heart disease are also at a higher risk of Hirschsprung’s disease. 

Symptoms

This condition can vary in severity, and as such so can its symptoms. In general, symptoms tend to appear right after birth. One well-known sign of the condition is if a newborn is unable to have a bowel movement within 48 hours of being born. Other common symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting a green or brown substance, constipation, gas, and a swollen belly. Newborns are likely to be fussy if they have some of these symptoms. Older children with the condition can have some of the same symptoms, and others including fatigue, chronic constipation, and a failure to thrive. 

Diagnosing Hirschsprung’s Disease

As noted before, one key sign your child could have this condition is if they are unable to have a bowel movement in the first couple of days after birth. Your doctor will also perform a physical exam to check the child’s condition. They can perform a number of other tests as well. They can take a biopsy, a tissue sample, of your child’s colon to send off for lab testing to determine if there are nerve cells present or not. They can also insert contrast dye into your child’s bowel and perform an X-ray to visualize their colon. They can then check to see if there is a narrow section of the bowel (a section without nerves) and a swollen section behind it, a sign of Hirschsprung’s disease. 

Treatment

The most common way doctors treat this condition is through surgery. The pullthrough procedure is the most common approach, and can be done in a few ways. Ultimately, doctors first work to remove the abnormal part of the colon. They then attach the healthy section of the colon to the anus. Today, this is most often done through a laparoscopic surgery which is minimally invasive and results in fewer complications for children with the condition. The surgery leads to very positive outcomes in the majority of cases, and can fully treat the condition. 

There are some potential complications from surgery. Children can experience diarrhea, fecal incontinence, a delay in toilet training, and constipation. In some cases, these complications resolve over time. Children who have had this surgery are also at a higher risk of a bowel infection up to a year after the surgery. 

Our experienced team at GHP has years of experience treating patients with various GI conditions including Hirschsprung’s Disease. We can help establish the best plan of care for your situation. Contact any of our office locations to learn about the options we offer and schedule an appointment today.

Fecal Incontinence

Fecal incontinence is a condition in which you are unable to control bowel movements. Here’s what you need to know. 

Causes and Risk Factors

Many things can cause fecal incontinence, and may occur in combination. For example, nerve damage in the rectum or anal sphincter, which can occur during childbirth, may be a cause. Muscle damage in the anal sphincter, also possible during childbirth, may prevent you from being able to hold stool back. Diarrhea can also be a cause, as loose stool is more difficult to retain in the rectum. Other potential causes include aging, hemorrhoid surgery, rectal prolapse, and IBS. 

Risk factors for fecal incontinence include being older than 65, being female, having late-stage dementia or Alzheimer’s, having a condition that causes nerve damage, and having a physical disability. If more than one of these apply to you, you have a heightened risk of developing the condition. 

Symptoms of Fecal Incontinence

With fecal incontinence, you are unable to control bowel movements. In some cases, this may be temporary due to having diarrhea, while in other cases it may be a chronic condition. Urge incontinence is one type of the condition, in which you may feel the sudden urge to defecate and are unable to control your bowels. In another case, called passive incontinence, you may not feel the urge to pass stool and pass it unknowingly. Fecal incontinence can be accompanied by other symptoms like diarrhea, gas, constipation, and bloating. 

Often times, people feel emotional distress as a result of having fecal incontinence. They are often reluctant to tell their doctor about the condition due to the social taboo around it. If you do experience fecal incontinence, please talk to your doctor- they can help you manage the condition. 

Diagnosis

Your doctor can diagnose fecal incontinence in several ways. They will start out by asking you about your symptoms and medical history, before performing a visual exam. Your doctor will likely visually examine your anus first. They can also perform a digital rectal exam, whereby they evaluate the strength and coordination of your sphincter muscles. They can also perform an anal manometry test to evaluate the function of your rectum. To visualize your sphincter and rectum, they can also perform other tests like a colonoscopy, an MRI, or anorectal ultrasonography. 

Treatment 

Doctors treat fecal incontinence based on what is causing the condition in your case. If there is a particular food that is causing diarrhea and incontinence, they will help you work to identify and remove it from your diet. If you have diarrhea or constipation, your doctor may recommend increasing your fiber intake through your diet or through supplements. They may also recommend bowel training if muscle damage is at play; here, you will work to exercise and strengthen the affected muscles to help you better control bowel movements. 

In some cases, you may need surgery. Doctors can perform a number of procedures to help repair muscle damage, nerve damage, and other underlying causes of incontinence. 

Our experienced team at GHP has years of experience treating patients with various GI conditions including fecal incontinence. We can help establish the best plan of care for your situation. Contact any of our office locations to learn about the options we offer and schedule an appointment today.

 

COVID-19 and the GI System

Back in August 2020, we first explored how a COVID-19 infection could affect your GI system. There was very little data to work with at the time, as the pandemic was largely still unfolding across the United States and across the world. 

Since then, much has happened with the pandemic. Now, at a time when vaccinations are widespread in the United States, case counts are ever decreasing, and more of the country starts to open back up, we’re going to take another look at the evidence around COVID-19 and its effects on the GI system. Here’s what the best evidence shows today. 

GI Symptoms in People with COVID-19

Over the past year and a half or so, well over 100 million people around the world have gotten the coronavirus. Researchers have been able to perform numerous studies to examine different aspects of the disease and its impact on communities globally. One study published in September 2020 found that 53% of people hospitalized with COVID-19 experienced at least one GI symptom. 

In our previous post on COVID-19, we noted that research on COVID-19 patients who were ill in March and April of 2020 found several common symptom clusters. One of these clusters was primarily characterized by GI symptoms, and several others included GI symptoms. 

Disease Outcomes when GI Symptoms are Present

An emergent insight from the past year and a half of research is that people with COVID-19 who have GI symptoms seem to be more likely to have more severe disease outcomes. A number of different studies, each focusing on different populations, have found the following: 

Why COVID-19 Causes GI Symptoms

Clearly, the coronavirus attacks the body in a way that implicates the GI system. Scientists have learned more about exactly how this happens, and thus why GI symptoms seem to be fairly common and significant. 

The coronavirus infiltrates cells in the intestine through the ACE-2 receptor, which is a protein in cell membranes. The virus’ spike proteins bind to this receptor and enter the cell. Once in the cell, the virus reproduces itself. When it leaves infected cells, it causes a release of cytokines, proteins that help fight inflammation in your body. When the virus causes too many cytokines to be released, they can damage your GI system and cause symptoms. The coronavirus can also attack your GI system directly in other ways. It may damage tissues, disrupt your gut microbiota, and impact your vagus nerve (which can lead to nausea).   

We hope this overview sheds some light on the recent discoveries of how COVID-19 impacts the GI system.

Our experienced team at GHP has years of experience treating patients with various GI conditions. We can help establish the best plan of care for your situation. Contact any of our office locations to learn about the options we offer and schedule an appointment today.