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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.

What is the low FODMAP diet?

The low FODMAP diet is a temporary diet designed to help people with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). In this diet, you tactically remove FODMAP foods to eliminate IBS symptoms, and then slowly add them back in to identify which cause you issues. You can think of it as a short diet that will help identify problem foods to avoid long-term. Today on the blog, we’ll go into detail on the FODMAP diet and how it can help you.

What is FODMAP?

FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. Basically, these are all short-chain carbohydrates (sugars) that you can find in foods. The small intestine may absorb these poorly, causing stress on the digestive system. Many people with IBS are sensitive to some of these sugars, and can experience symptoms like bloating, diarrhea, and cramping if they eat them. This diet is designed to remove foods that contain the sugars to help relieve symptoms first.

Phase 1 of a FODMAP Diet

In the first phase of this diet, you’ll avoid eating certain foods. The foods you remove in a FODMAP diet include milk, honey, fruits, beans, sweeteners, and more. Your medical provider will provide specific guidelines to follow. For this phase, you’ll need to avoid FODMAP foods for 4-6 weeks. This may help eliminate symptoms you’ve had from the foods. For people with a bacterial overgrowth issue in their small intestine, it gives time for the bacteria levels to decrease.

The diet does eliminate a lot of foods you may be used to eating. Some foods you can continue to eat in this phase of the diet include eggs, meat, certain cheeses (like brie), potatoes, grapes, and almond milk.

Phase 2

Phase 2 involves slowly reintroducing certain foods. While Phase 1 is all about eliminating everything and calming down symptoms, Phase 2 is an exploration of what specific foods you react to. The way this usually works is by adding one FODMAP food back into your diet every few days. This gives you time to see if the latest food you added causes any reaction. When you encounter a reaction from a specific food, you will be able to avoid that food long-term with this knowledge.

Effectiveness

The FODMAP diet approach is considered one of the most effective therapies for treating IBS. It reduces symptoms in around 86% of people. However, since it is so restrictive initially, you will need to work with a doctor or dietitian who can coach you on staying healthy while avoiding FODMAP foods. They can provide a full list of FODMAP foods, and provide key guidance while you undergo this therapy. When successful, the long-term dietary changes you make as a result of FODMAP dieting are a powerful tool to reduce IBS and bacterial overgrowth symptoms.

Our experienced team at GHP has years of experience treating for IBS. 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.

Coronavirus Vaccines: Best Practices for People with IBD

People with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), such as Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis, may have questions about how they should approach coronavirus vaccines. The International Organization for the Study of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IOIBD) recently highlighted an article titled ‘SARS-CoV-2 vaccination for patients with inflammatory bowel diseases: recommendations from an international consensus meeting.’ In this article, the organization highlights the recommendations related to coronavirus vaccines IOIBD has developed for people with IBD. Here are a few highlights:

1. People with IBD should get a coronavirus vaccine

Overall, there was broad and overwhelming agreement among IOIBD members that coronavirus vaccines are safe and necessary for people with IBD. This consensus was reached through multiple questions that explored IOIBD member opinions on the efficacy and safety of the vaccines for IBD patients.

2. People with IBD should get a coronavirus vaccine as soon as it is possible

Not only does the IOIBD recommend vaccines for people with IBD, they recommend people with IBD receive a vaccination as soon as they are eligible.

3. Coronavirus vaccines, including messenger RNA vaccines, replication-incompetent vector vaccines, inactivated vaccines and recombinant vaccines, are safe for people with IBD

IOIBD members considered the main types of vaccines that may be available for people with IBD. They did this to ensure safety across all vaccines. After review, they broadly agreed that all vaccine types are safe.

4. Coronavirus vaccination shouldn’t be delayed if a person with IBD is receiving immune-modifying therapies

Some people with IBD may be undergoing immune-modifying therapy to suppress an inflammatory response. Still, coronavirus vaccines are safe for them.

5. People with IBD who receive a coronavirus vaccine should be informed that the vaccine’s efficacy can decrease if they are receiving systemic corticosteroids

This is also an important insight for people with IBD. They should receive a coronavirus vaccine when possible. However, if they are receiving corticosteroids to calm a flare-up, the vaccine may be less effective.

Our experienced team at Gastro Health Partners continues to safely provide care for our patients during the coronavirus pandemic. We can help establish the best plan of care for your situation. Visit us online at https://www.gastrohealthpartners.com/ to learn about the options we offer and schedule an appointment today.

Chronic Diarrhea: What You Should Know

Chronic diarrhea can be caused by a variety of things, including infections, GI disorders, food intolerance, and a reaction to medication. Let’s take a closer look at the condition.

Causes and Risk Factors

Diarrhea is chronic when it occurs three or more times per day for more than two weeks. It has several potential causes. Infection is one main cause. This infection can be parasitic, and from parasites like Giardia or Cyclospora. Infection can also be bacterial, from bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli. Some viral infections cause chronic diarrhea too, like some rhinoviruses and rotoviruses.

Outside of infections, there are several other potential causes. Pancreatic disorders like pancreatitis and cystic fibrosis can be a cause. GI diseases like Chrohn’s and IBS can cause diarrhea as well. Intolerance to foods can be at play too- lactose intolerance and fructose malabsorption are two examples. Additionally, some medications like laxatives and antibiotics can cause chronic diarrhea.

Symptoms of Chronic Diarrhea

As previously mentioned, diarrhea becomes chronic if it occurs three or more times per day for two or more weeks. Diarrhea is characterized by loose, watery stools that occur often more frequently than usual. Other symptoms include abdominal pain, abdominal cramps, bloating, nausea, blood or mucus in stool, and a fever. It also dehydrates you over time. If left untreated, this can be very dangerous. You should always see a doctor for chronic diarrhea.

Diagnosis

Chronic diarrhea itself is simple to diagnose, based on the definition outlined above. When you see a doctor for chronic diarrhea, they will work to diagnose the underlying cause. Depending on your symptoms, medical history, medications, the results of a physical exam, and other factors, they will select the appropriate testing measures. Stool samples can be tested to help identify if parasites, bacteria, or viruses are a cause. Your doctor may also want to do a blood test. If initial testing does not reveal a cause, your doctor may order an x-ray or endoscopy.

Chronic Diarrhea Treatment and Prevention

The cause of the condition dictates its treatment. With any case of diarrhea, fluid replacement is key. You should consume fluids and salts to replace those lost through diarrhea, unless otherwise ordered by your doctor. Some fruit juices and soup can be good options here. If liquids are upsetting your stomach, your doctor may recommend an IV to help rehydrate you.

Diarrhea caused by infection can often be treated with antibiotics or other medications. Your doctor will prescribe the proper medication for you depending on your case. If infection isn’t the cause, it will likely take more time to determine the underlying cause and therefore appropriate treatment. Conditions like IBS, Chrohn’s, fructose malabsorption, and Ulcerative Colitis all have their own treatment approaches. Your doctor will work with you to determine the best treatment options depending on the underlying cause.

Preventing chronic diarrhea involves mitigating risk factors for its various causes. To avoid infections that cause diarrhea, always drink safe, clean, properly-treated water. You should also use good food handling techniques, and practice good hand hygiene after using the bathroom and around food. If some foods trigger diarrhea for you, narrow down what they are and avoid them if possible.

Our experienced team at GHP has years of experience treating GI conditions like chronic diarrhea. 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.

Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation 2020 Take Steps Walk

Join us on Saturday, June 20th for the Crohn’s and Colitis Take Steps Virtual Walk

The Take Steps Walk is put on by the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, an organization with a mission to provide support and resources for people suffering from Inflammatory Bowel Disease. The nationwide walk will help fund patient services, education, advocacy and research.

Gastroenterology Health Partners proudly sponsors this event. Through better treatment methods and cures, we can improve the quality of life for those affected by IBD. To schedule an appointment and get screened, contact us today.

This Year’s Virtual Walk

In light of CDC guidelines during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation will not be hosting in person walks this year. Instead, they are hosting a national TAKE STEPS + VIRTUAL walk experience on Saturday, June 20, 2020. Visit their website to read a full update on the event.

What is Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)?

IBD is a term that describes disorders involving chronic inflammation of the digestive tract. Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis are two of the most common types of IBD. Crohn’s Disease affects the lining of the entire digestive tract. Ulcerative Colitis specifically inflames the lining of the colon and rectum.

While the causes for Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis are currently unknown, combined they affect nearly 3.1 million Americans. Patients tend to get diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 35. However, the fastest growing segment of patients is children under the age of 18.

IBD and COVID-19

The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation has compiled helpful information and resources on the topic of COVID-19 and IBD on their website. This includes video interviews with medical professionals, helpful tips, and other resources. Visit their website to learn more.

Join and Support the Walk

The Crohn’s and Colitis Take Steps Walk is a great opportunity for patients, families, healthcare providers and organizations to come together as a community and offer lasting support to one another. For those interested in registering as a virtual walker, donating, or creating a team of virtual walkers, visit the Virtual Walk FAQ page for more information. Each team and individual is able to set their own fundraising goal. Visit the Kentucky Take Steps page or the Indiana Take Steps page to learn more, register, and make a donation!

Understanding Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammation in the digestive tract. Crohn’s can occur in any area of the digestive tract from mouth to anus, but most often affects the lower small intestine. 

Here’s what you need to know about Crohn’s Disease. 

Causes and Risk Factors

The cause of Crohn’s disease isn’t fully understood. It may be due to an abnormal immune response to a microorganism, where the immune system injures cells in the digestive tract. Heredity may also be a cause, as Crohn’s is more common for people with a family history of the disease. However, most people with the disease do not have a family history of it. 

There are some risk factors for Crohn’s that are important to be aware of too. Age plays a role- you are most likely to develop Crohn’s before the age of 30. Smoking can cause Crohn’s to increase in severity. Using NSAID’s like ibuprofen can cause inflammation in the bowels and worsen symptoms. Higher fat and processed foods seem to increase the odds of developing Crohns. Having a family member with Crohn’s is a significant risk factor as well- around 1 in 5 people with a family history of Crohn’s disease will develop it themselves. 

Symptoms

As a chronic disease, Crohn’s often affects people differently over time. Flare-ups and periods of remission are common. Disease severity varies widely, with cases ranging from mild to severe. In severe cases, Crohn’s can affect multiple layers of the intestine, while other times some layers may remain healthy. 

Some of the most common symptoms are persistent diarrhea, abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, an urgent need to defecate, weight loss, and a loss of appetite. More severe complications may develop from the disease. These include anal fissures, strictures, and fistulas. Crohn’s disease also increases the risk of colon cancer.

Diagnosis

Crohn’s disease is usually diagnosed after a process of ruling out other explanations for symptoms. Diagnostics are done through several types of testing. Blood tests can check for anemia or infection. A colonoscopy can provide a view of the colon and give the opportunity for tissue samples doctors can check for clusters of inflammatory cells. Additionally, an MRI, CT scan, capsule endoscopy, or balloon-assisted enteroscopy may be pursued depending on the situation. 

Treatment

Treating Crohn’s centers on reducing inflammation, increasing periods of remission, and decreasing flare-ups. Treatment plans vary based on each person’s situation. Several types of medication can help decrease inflammation, including aminosalicylates, corticosteriods, immunomodulators, and biologic therapies. Many of these medicines decrease inflammation by targeting and reducing aspects of the immune system. Another type of treatment for more severe Crohn’s is bowel rest. This can entail intravenous (IV) nutrition or a feeding tube over the course of days or weeks. 

Surgery is another common treatment for people with Crohn’s disease. While surgery won’t cure the disease, it can significantly improve symptoms and decrease complications. Surgical procedures can treat fistulas, internal obstructions, and life-threatening bleeding. Some procedures can even remove part of the small or large intestine. Sometimes patients need to have their entire colon and rectum removed through a surgery called a proctocolectomy. During this procedure, surgeons also create an opening in the abdomen called a stoma. A removable collection pouch (called an ostomy pouch) then collects stool outside of the body. 

While there is no cure for Crohn’s, there are a multitude of ways medical professionals can help people manage the disease and live healthier lives. 

Our experienced team at GHP has years of experience helping patients manage and treat Crohn’s disease. We can help you 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.

 

What is Infusion Therapy?

When people become severely sick or weighed down by compound disease conditions, oftentimes they have difficulty swallowing. This can make seemingly simple things like eating, drinking and taking medications difficult.

Additionally, certain medications may not be recommended orally since an individual’s stomach acids may affect their quality, rendering them ineffective when it comes to treating diseases.

There are many reasons why people may receive medication through their body instead of their mouth (orally).

What is Infusion Therapy?

Infusion therapy is an alternative to oral treatment that entails the administration of drugs or medicine through a sterile catheter or needle. These are often introduced into a patient’s vein and secured by a professional healthcare provider. This treatment option has been used for a long time by hospitals.

Increasingly, infusion therapy is also applied in outpatient healthcare settings and community care centers, by specialized nurses who are professionally trained to carry out this procedure. At Gastroenterology Health Partners, our outpatient infusion center is available to patients in a convenient and higher quality setting, with no wait time and ample appointment availability. Depending on one’s insurance carrier and plan, this procedure can often be done at a lower cost, with the benefit of getting to know the same infusion RN over time.

What Medical Conditions Does Infusion Therapy Treat?

Infusion therapy is primarily used to treat severe or chronic diseases and infections that may not respond to oral antibiotics. There are many examples of disease conditions and infections that are treated continuously using infusion therapy. This includes different types of cancers, gastrointestinal tract infections, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and inflammatory bowel disease.

An Overview of What to Expect with Outpatient Infusion Treatment

There are a couple of factors that you need to expect with outpatient infusion treatment or therapy.

The infusion process typically lasts for an hour, but this does vary. The time taken during this therapy is based on the type of medication administered and also the kind of illness or infection being treated. While some medicines require more extended periods of infusion, others take a short time.

Dosage also dictates the length of infusion. In some cases, patients receive their infusion dosage slowly, especially for their first time. Whereas for others, it may take a longer length of time. This may be done to confirm that a patient doesn’t develop adverse reactions to the medication offered via infusion.

Prior to the administration of infusion therapy, there is also some preparation. This might involve recording a patient’s blood pressure, weight, height, and body temperature.

Prior to infusion therapy your doctor might ask you to prepare by drinking a specific amount of water. You may also be advised to wear comfortable clothing for the procedure.

As an infusion patient, you have a choice in deciding a location for your infusion therapy. Cost and convenience are critical to this decision.  GHP offers the convenience of this service to its patients at a cost which is far lower than an inpatient setting. Contact any of our office locations to reach a dedicated infusion therapy concierge to confirm options available to you based on your specific health plan.

Understanding IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease)

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a disorder of the digestive tract that results in chronic inflammation. Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are the two most common forms of IBD. Ulcerative colitis specifically affects the colon and rectum while Crohn’s disease inflames all areas of the gastrointestinal tract. While a direct cause is not known, inflammatory bowel disease is thought to be a result of an abnormal immune response that causes the immune system to attack the digestive track.

Signs & Symptoms

  • Diarrhea
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Blood in stool
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal pain and cramping
  • Lack of childhood development

While one’s stress and diet may not be directly causing inflammation, lifestyle changes can help to relieve symptoms. Avoid dairy products and other problematic foods to see how they affect your flare-ups. Additionally, while fiber is known to help with bowel issues, it could behaving an adverse effect. Drink plenty of water and experiment with more frequent smaller meals.

Risk Factors

  • Age: Most patients are diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease before the age of 30.
  • Race & Ethnicity: Caucasians and those of Ashkenazi Jewish decent are at the most risk for inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Family History: Those with a first-degree relative who have suffered from IBD are more likely to develop it themselves.
  • Cigarette Smoking: IBD is most common among smokers.
  • Medications: Anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen, Advil and Aleve have been known to aggravate IBD.
  • Environment: The disease tends to affect those who live in more urbanized and developed areas as well as northern climates.

Patients who are experiencing signs of IBD or know that they are at an increased risk for developing it should take preventive measures by routinely checking in with a healthcare professional. Having IBD increases your risk for colon cancer and blood clots.

Although there is no cure for inflammatory bowel disease, medication is an effective treatment option for those with ulcerative colitis. However, 70% of those with Crohn’s disease often require surgery in order to relieve their symptoms.

If you or a loved one feels they could have ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, schedule an appointment with one of our fellowship-trained gastroenterologist today.

Common Causes of Constipation

Constipation is often defined by tough, hard to pass bowel movements that occur infrequently. Other signs and symptoms include bloating, having the sensation of an incomplete evacuation, abdominal pain and blood present in the stool.

While constipation is known for being both physically uncomfortable and embarrassing, the condition is more common than one might think. Constipation affects approximately 30 percent of the general population, and is most prevalent in women, children and the elderly. Persistent constipation should not be ignored as it could be the sign of a more serious condition, such as colon cancer or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

What are some of the Common Causes of Constipation ?

Dehydration

“If you don’t have enough water in your body already, the large intestine soaks up water from your food waste,” making for harder to pass stools. Caffeine can cause dehydration, and even dairy has been known to constipate some people. Proper hydration however, can help move food through the intestines and create softer stools.

Lack of Fiber

Fiber encourages regular bowel movements by allowing more water to remain in your stool and hastening it’s passage through the gut. Foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and nuts are the best natural source of fiber. However, fiber supplements can be helpful as well.

Stress

Just like most of your bodily functions, the nervous system is in constant communication with your digestive system. During periods of intense stress, the digestive system can slow down resulting in constipation. Waiting too long to go to the bathroom for example, can cause a build up.

Not Enough Physical Activity 

Regular activity helps to stimulate the muscles in intestines and can also help alleviate stress.

Medication

Though laxatives can help ease constipation, they can also become habit forming meaning that one’s bowel movements end up depending on them. Overusing laxatives can over time can weaken the bowel muscles. Additionally, many anti-depressants and pain medications are common causes of constipation. It is recommended that any and all medications should be discussed with your doctor.

While many lifestyle changes can help to relieve constipation, if you experience chronic constipation, schedule an appointment with one of our fellowship-trained gastroenterologist today.

 

Louisville “Crohn’s and Colitis Take Steps” Walk Great Success!

Gastroenterology Health Partners’ first Louisville “Crohn’s and Colitis Take Steps” walk on Saturday, June 1st, 2019 was a great success and a lot of fun, as well!

Gastroenterology Health Partners sponsored the walk, alongside Takeda and University of Kentucky Healthcare. GHP also participated as a team under the name “Strollin’ for the Colon.” As a team, Gastroenterology Health Partners raised $693.00 for Crohn’s Disease and Colitis.

The walk team, “Strollin’ for the Colon”, included employees from Gastroenterology Health Partners:

  • Susan Becht
  • Kayla Kilburn
  • Shetwana Martin
  • Melissa Rainer
  • Deb Walker
  • Laura Yates
  • Rhonda Dase
  • Suzanne Mauck
  • Laura Sprinkle

The last three Gastroenterology Health Partners’ employees each raised over $100.00 for the cause.

The “Crohn’s and Colitis Take Steps Walk” is a nation-wide walking event that is put on by the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation to give support and offer resources to those suffering from Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).

The $693.00 raised by Gastroenterology Health Partners, plus additional funds raised by other participating teams, will go to helping fund patient services, education, advocacy, and research to improve the quality of life for those with IBD.