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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.

Identifying Different Types of Colorectal Polyps

What Are Polyps?

Polyps are small growths of abnormal tissue, found projecting from the inner lining of the colon (large intestine). Polyps can range in size from a few millimeters to several centimeters. Polyps are very common: In fact, an estimated 25 to 40% of Americans over the age of 50 develop colon polyps. While developing polyps is most associated with being 50 and older, other factors are also considered including: having a family history of polyps/colon cancer, being obese, smoking, heavy alcohol consumption, a history of inflammatory bowel diseases, a poor diet, and other environmental factors. 

The vast majority of polyps are harmless, but they can also be precancerous or cancerous in nature. Polyps can take a long time to become cancerous, and are best to be removed upon identification. During a medical exam or colonoscopy, your doctor may identify and remove polyps. Larger or complex polyps are more likely to be cancerous, and can require additional procedures to remove. Colon polyps rarely cause any symptoms, which means scheduling a colorectal screening test is vital for identification.

Identifying Types of Polyps

There are two main categories of polyps: nonneoplastic and neoplastic. Neoplastic polyps are typically precancerous or cancerous, while nonneoplastic polyps are usually benign (non-cancerous). Within these categories, there are many types of polyps. Some of the most common include:

Types of Neoplastic Polyps

  • Adenomatous polyps (Adenoma): The most common type of polyp as well as the most common cause of colon cancer. Structurally, they’re described as tubular, villous, or tubulovillous. Tubular adenoma is less likely to develop into cancer, and makes up 70% of adenomatous polyps. Villous adenoma is flatter and more difficult to remove, and makes up 15% of adenomatous polyps. Tubulovillous is a mix of the two.
  • Serrated polyps: Serrated polyps cause 20-30% of colon cancers. They are divided into two categories: sessile serrated adenoma (SSA) and traditional serrated adenoma (TSA). SSA’s and TSA’s are very rare and almost always precancerous. 

Types of Nonneoplastic Polyps

  • Inflammatory polyps: Typically found in people with Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Usually benign.
  • Hamartomatous polyps: Rare. Usually caused by autosomal disorders. 
  • Hyperplastic polyps: A form of serrated polyp, but are very common and almost always benign. 

Polyp Shapes

Polyps generally grow in three different shapes: pedunculated, sessile, and flat. Pedunculated (polypoid) polyps grow out from the side of the inner lining of the colon like mushrooms, a clump of tissue on a thin stalk. Sessile polyps, on the other hand, do not have a stalk, but rather grow against the side of the colon. The least common shape is a flat polyp. Flat polyps grow completely flat, or depressed into the side of the colon. Sessile and flat polyps are generally more difficult to detect than pedunculated polyps.

Symptoms of Polyps

There are typically no signs of polyps. However, in some rare cases, they can be associated with symptoms such as:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Blood in stool
  • Diarrhea 
  • Constipation
  • Anemia caused by internal bleeding
  • Weakness or tiredness caused by anemia
  • Weight loss
  • Changes in bowel habits
  • Changes in stool color

Diagnosis and Treatment

If you experience any symptoms of colorectal polyps, it’s recommended that you consult a medical professional as soon as possible. Otherwise, most polyps will be diagnosed and treated through a screening test, like a colonoscopy or flexible sigmoidoscopy. In some cases, polyps are too large or complex to be removed immediately and require further surgical procedures.

It’s also important to note that if you have a neoplastic polyp, like an adenoma or a serrated polyp identified and removed during your screening test, you’re still at an increased risk of developing cancer, and will need regular screenings for polyps. The type, amount, and size of the polyps identified will determine how often you need a screening. This can vary from 6 months to 10 years

The experienced team at GHP has years of experience treating patients with various GI conditions including colorectal polyps. 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 to schedule an appointment today.

 

Importance of Colon Screening in Younger Adults – Dr. Sohi Interviewed

Dr. Sunana Sohi of Gastroenterology Health Partners was recently featured in a WHAS-11 article and video about the increasing rates of colon cancer in younger adults.

The story featured Amanda Blackburn, a 37 year-old mother of two who was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer in 2017. She received a diagnosis after coming to Dr. Sohi with her symptoms of rectal bleeding and a change in bowel habits.

Blackburn had no family history of colon cancer and knew very little about the disease, like many younger adults. “It wasn’t on my radar. The ‘C’ word wasn’t a thing for me,” she said.

Dr. Sohi was able to help Blackburn receive diagnosis and treatment.

“If you have symptoms, don’t wait. There are a lot of tests that can be done, including stool tests, but the number one, the gold standard is colonoscopy. That’s because it’s not only diagnostic but preventative, where we can find and remove small polyps before they become cancer,” Dr. Sohi said.

Read the rest of the Dr. Sohi’s write-up here.

Colon Cancer is not a disease of the elderly anymore; article

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The article also discussed the upcoming Kicking Butt 5K Run/Walk, scheduled for Saturday September 25th at the Louisville Waterfront Park. This event, sponsored by the Colon Cancer Prevention Project, was started in 2003 as a way to bring together cancer survivors and advocates, spread awareness, and encourage screenings. It’s not too late to sign up for the 5K, 1 mile, or virtual event, and support this worthy cause.

If you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of colon cancer or another GI condition, don’t hesitate to contact Dr. Sohi or one of the many experienced physicians at Gastroenterology Health Partners.

As the largest independent gastroenterology practice in the region, GHP is considered the only one of its kind providing results-orientated treatment for a full spectrum of digestive system disorders. Call to set up an appointment at one of our locations in Southern Indiana, Northeast & Central Louisville, and Lexington.

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.

 

Your Gut Health

A healthy digestive system can help you prevent many conditions, and reduce their severity if you do get them. While there are a lot of factors in your individual case that can impact specific advice, there are some general principles that are good to follow in most cases. Here are some important ways you can improve your gut health. 

Food

A lot of gut health starts with what you eat. The advice here is likely something you’ve heard before. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables regularly, and make sure you are eating enough fiber. Fruits and veggies help with the fiber issue, as they provide a good amount of fiber to build healthy bacteria in your gut. Nuts, legumes (think lentils and beans), and seeds are also great sources of fiber and protein as well. 

You should try to avoid red meat, substituting chicken or fish instead, or even going for a vegetarian alternative like tofu. Avoid charred meats as well, which can harm your GI health. Fried foods are also have a negative impact on your gut health. You should additionally moderate your consumption of alcohol and caffeine, as too much of either can be detrimental. 

Probiotics for Gut Health

On the topic of diet and nutrition, you should also be aware of an important ally in your quest for gut health: probiotics. Probiotics are living microorganisms that help your body improve and restore healthy bacteria in your gut. Regularly consume foods with probiotics to help your healthy bacteria flourish. You can find probiotics in foods like yogurt, fermented vegetables, and cottage cheese. Of course, in some cases probiotics may not be the right choice, particularly if you have a condition that weakens your immune system. Make sure to talk to your doctor about how to healthily incorporate probiotics in your diet. 

Exercise, Sleep, and Stress Management

Another piece of the puzzle for gut health is another evergreen health concept: exercise. Regular exercise helps your body in numerous ways. In terms of gut health, it’s particularly helpful for two potential risk factors for gut issues: weight and stress. Exercise is a great, sustainable way to maintain a healthy weight and manage stress. You can work to manage stress in other ways as well. You might consider meditation, relaxation therapy, or other techniques that are proven to help manage stress levels. 

One last key factor for gut health is sleep. Here, like with exercise, it comes back to maintaining a healthy weight. People who do not get adequate sleep are at a higher risk of obesity, which can lead to negative outcomes for gut health. Healthy sleep is multifaceted. In general, you should make sure you have a regular schedule for when you go to sleep and wake up. There are many other steps you can take to improve your sleep hygiene as well.

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.