What Does a Gastroenterologist Do On Your First Visit?

first gastroenterologist visit

What to Expect on the Initial Visit

Gastroenterologists are board certified, highly trained specialists that are expected to complete four years of training at medical school, three years in a residency, and then a fellowship that can last between two and four years. There are general gastroenterologists, and then there are others that specialize in a particular part of the digestive system such as the esophagus or the liver.

A gastroenterologist can diagnose and examine, but they do not perform surgery, there are other specialists for that. Usually, you will be referred to a gastroenterologist by your GP. They will send you there if you have GI symptoms that have lasted for a long time and that have not responded to diet changes or to basic treatments.

Establishing History

Your first visit will likely involve being asked a lot of questions about your medical history. You may have been given a questionnaire to fill out. This is to establish a medical history of you and your family, so that they can get an idea of any health issues that you may be more likely to suffer from or that are known to run in the family.

You may see a nurse before the specialist. They will do a basic exam, checking things like your heart rate and blood pressure. After that, the gastroenterologist will then double check the details in your medical history and ask any appropriate questions about medication, allergies or symptoms. Before you are given a full test you will be examined. You may need a motility test, an x-ray, or a GI procedure. In some cases, endoscopies or other procedures may be performed.

The first visit could take up to one hour, depending on the kind of tests that are carried out. It is important that the specialist can get a full profile of you so that they know what treatments to suggest for the future. You may need medication, or extra care. If you need a full GI endoscopic procedure and the specialist at the facility cannot do it, they will book one at a different clinic for you. Often, these can be scheduled for the same day and transport can be arranged for you.

Follow-up Visits

A single visit will not resolve the issue; you will need to book another appointment, or more than one, as a follow-up. The follow-up appointments are typically much shorter than the initial one as there are fewer details needed.

You will be advised if you are going to need detailed exams or procedures. You will be told if you need to limit your food intake or not drink anything, or avoid taking certain medication before you come to the clinic. Be sure to follow these instructions, because you will find that if you do not follow them, the results of the tests could be invalid and in some cases you could be putting your health in danger. There are good reasons for the instructions regarding food intake, as frustrating as they can be.

What To Do When You Have Digestion Problems

Digestion problems are of two types: acute and chronic. In the case of food poisoning, for instance, your body will do everything it takes to get rid of the toxic substances, so you’ll experience nausea, vomiting, stomach and abdominal pain, and possibly diarrhea. All these symptoms are part of the natural response of your body, so there’s not much you can do about them. Most probably, you’ll feel much better as soon as you get rid of the toxic food from your system.

Other digestion problems, however, require special care, and sometimes even medical attention. These problems include but aren’t limited to heartburn, acid reflux, and Crohn’s disease. These medical conditions generate a lot of discomfort, so you should seek effective methods to alleviate them. For example, while you won’t be able to cure your acid reflux, you can keep it under control by avoiding the foods that worsen its symptoms and by sleeping on a special wedge pillow. In addition, you should also discuss with your doctor about your medication options. Sometimes, taking a pill can help avoid an episode of heartburn or acid reflux, so it’s worth knowing what to do in case of such problems. You should avoid self-medicating, particularly if you suffer from multiple medical conditions that require ongoing treatment. Some substances may interfere, causing you even more trouble. This is why you should talk to your doctor about your intention to take any kind of pills, over the counter ones and natural supplements included. It’s always better to be on the safe side, so ask your doctor before taking any nutritional supplement or substance meant to soothe your digestive issues.

digestion problems

The best thing to do in order to maintain your gut health is to have a food diary in which to write down everything you eat, day after day. You should also make note of your digestive troubles and symptoms whenever they appear. By analyzing this data, you may be able to determine which foods cause you all these problems. Sometimes, the quality of the drinking water can be the culprit for such problems. Some other times, your dietary habits can affect your metabolism and your ability to digest the foods and absorb their nutrients into your system. The solution is very simple, and it consists of removing those foods from your diet. Any good gastroenterologist would tell you the same thing.

Foods That Promote Gut Health

gut health

Studies show that a healthy microbiome is a crucial component of overall wellness. It can minimize the risk of an array of ailments including arthritis, heart disease, inflammation, dementia and even cancer. It also helps burn fat to maintain healthy body weight.

However, to maintain this ecosystem of microbes, most of which reside in the gut, you have to eat healthily. Anything containing probiotics or good bacteria can help replenish this crucial source of health. That said, here are some foods that can help maintain ideal gut health.

Yogurt

This dairy product is the king of good bacteria. You can take a fruit induced blend, but ensure you do not go beyond 15 grams of sugar per serving. Exceeding this limit will only feed the harmful bacteria in your gut with the sugar they like.

Kefir

This fermented milk drink, just like yogurt, is rich in probiotics. It’s also almost lactose-free making it ideal for the lactose intolerant. Also, kefir has anywhere from 8 to 11 grams of protein per gram and has very few calories, making it an ideal addition to any diet.

Miso Paste

Dairy is not the only ideal source of good bacteria. This paste is made from aged and fermented soybeans and is available in an array of flavors and colors. Miso paste is a low-calorie food which is an excellent, savory and earthy way to ensure proper gut health. It’s also full of fiber, protein and Vitamin K. It’s ideal for glazing chicken and fish before cooking, mixing into tri-fry and even adding it a liquid to make miso broth. However, you may want to know that it’s relatively high in sodium.

Kombucha Tea

Tangy, fizzy and with a hint of vinegar, kombucha is one of the most trendy health drinks. Kombucha tea is naturally carbonated by floating particulate substance which is actually the bacteria and yeast that makes probiotics. It’s better to buy it than make it yourself as it is quite hard and can make you sick. You may want to stick to one 12 oz bottle on a daily basis as the fermentation process produces some alcohol.

Tempeh

This variety of fermented soybeans comes in a cake like form and gives a tangier and nuttier alternative to tofu. It can be used in stir-fries, sandwiches and even grilled or marinated on its own. Apart from probiotics, it contains about 15 grams of protein per half cup and is an excellent iron source. It can also help in reducing cholesterol, just like most soy products.

What Is Acid Reflux?

Acid reflux commonly referred to as heartburn is a result of stomach acid being pushed up the esophagus causing pain and discomfort. Stomach acid is highly volatile, meaning that the pain and burning can be extreme and can even damage the lining of the esophagus and throat in severe cases.

While this type of heartburn is primarily caused by bad eating habits and indigestion, there is a wide range of health conditions, illnesses, and diseases that can lead to acid reflux. Crohn’s disease which is an inflammatory condition of the stomach can result in heartburn.

Pregnant women often suffer from heartburn in the second to last trimester of their pregnancy due to pressure on the stomach from the fetus. Failure of either the lower or upper esophageal sphincter to close after swallowing or eating can also result in acid reflux that is constant and consistent. The stomach acid, therefore, gets pushed up the esophagus and normally results in damage to the lining.

Treatment for heartburn can range from taking antacids to surgical intervention. Surgery will be required if malfunctioning valves or sphincters are the cause. In all cases, some lifestyle changes will be recommended.

Lifestyle changes may include a change of diet as well as exercise. Obesity can result in more regular and severe cases of heartburn. Excluding certain foods that are acid producing is essential. Acid producing foods result in the stomach producing more acid and these include alcohol, dairy products, meat, oily food, processed food, etc.

Healthier food options like fruits and vegetables are considered to be alkaline foods as they do not result in the stomach producing more acid. They provide the body with acid, therefore negating the need for acid production. Excessive stomach acid is another cause of heartburn.

Water is another essential ingredient to combat acid reflux. Water dilutes the stomach acid and helps flush excess acid from the body. It is advisable to drink water after every meal to assist in digestion and neutralize stomach acid. Water can also reduce the symptoms of heartburn.

If lifestyle changes are not made, then the heartburn or condition causing the heartburn will continue to aggravate the condition. It is recommended to seek medical diagnosis, advice, and treatment as soon as possible to determine the underlying cause of constant and consistent or chronic heartburn before damage is done to the esophagus, throat or trachea.

acid reflux

What is Crohn’s Disease? The Symptoms and Risk Factors Explained

If you are wondering what Crohn’s disease is, you might be already experiencing some uncomfortable symptoms like diarrhea and abdominal pain. To fully comprehend what Crohn’s disease is and whether you have contracted it, you’ll need to take a look at the bigger picture.

Well, Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory disease that has similar symptoms to ulcerative colitis. The similarity can make diagnosis hard and your doctor will have to perform visual or blood tests of your intestines to form an accurate diagnosis.

The main difference between Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis is that the former can affect any area of the digestive tract when the latter only affects the rectum and colon.

Although Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the digestive tract, the last section of the small intestine called ileum is usually the biggest victim.

The first step in identifying whether you have the disease is identifying the symptoms. These include:

-Diarrhoea
-Weight loss without knowing
-Fatigue
-Nausea
-Cramping or pain in your abdomen

These symptoms usually come and go in periods, flaring up followed by free periods.

Crohn's disease

Other symptoms that may be experienced include:

-Fever
-Bloody Stool
-Constipation
-Skin rash
-Mouth Ulcers

What Causes Crohn’s Disease?

To further assess whether you have this condition, you may gain some insight if you experience one of the known risk factors. The risk increases if another member of your family suffers from the disease and if you regularly smoke.

Beyond these factors, there is little known about why this disease develops in some individuals and not in others. Some say that there are ties to bacterial infection, but the most supported theory is that the condition is an autoimmune disorder.

In an autoimmune disorder, the immune system mistakenly attacks the healthy tissues. In Crohn’s case, the immune system may attack the intestinal tissue or attack the normally functioning bacteria that reside in the intestines. This can lead to the obvious symptoms of abdominal pain and diarrhea and can also cause other complications like ulcers and other types of damage to the digestive tract.

It is enough to know that Chron’s disease is an inflammatory condition that affects the digestive tract. To see whether you have the disease, you should first identify the symptoms, confirm if you have the mentioned risk factors and consult your doctor who can do tests and confirm the diagnosis.

Cause And Treatment Of Heartburn

heartburn

Heartburn is caused by indigestion which results in stomach acid rising up the esophagus. This produces discomfort, pain and burning in the chest or upper stomach region. In some cases, these symptoms are present all the way up into the throat and can be so extreme that it can be mistaken as a heart attack.

The condition can be either acute or chronic. Chronic or constant and consistent heartburn may be the result of another health condition such as the valve at the top of esophagus failing to close. Pregnant women often suffer from chronic heartburn due to the pressure of the baby on the stomach and other organs resulting in acid reflux. In most chronic cases, it is necessary to treat the cause rather than the symptoms.

Acute heartburn, where the symptoms are experienced every now and again can be treated in a number of different ways. The most common treatment is symptomatic and designed to neutralize the stomach acid or prevent it from rising into the esophageal tract. Antacids are commonly used to treat the condition and are normally a very effective solution for a short period of time.

A change in diet may be recommended for those who suffer from acute heartburn on a regular basis. Avoiding acid producing foods and eating more alkaline foods is advisable. Alkaline foods include fruit and vegetables while acid foods are meats and dairy. Drinking a glass of milk may make the painful sensations abate for a while but will in effect exacerbate the condition in the long run.

Acid producing foods require the body to produce more acid in order for them to be digested. Alkaline foods, on the other hand, provide acid and therefore aid in digestion reducing the need to produce more stomach acid. Heartburn is often caused by too much acid in the stomach.

Drinking large amounts of water can also help reduce the cause and symptoms of heartburn and acid reflux. It is recommended to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day. Water, like antacids, neutralizes stomach acid. However, too much water in one go will drive the stomach acid up the esophagus in a diluted form which can still be rather painful.

It is recommended to consult a medical practitioner if heartburn occurs regularly or lasts for extended periods of time to detect any underlying causes and to provide a comprehensive treatment plan.

Boost Your Digestive System Wellness

digestive wellness and health

5 Tips for Great Digestive Health

Digestive system wellness is linked to your overall health. Eating healthy foods with an unhealthy gut leaves you in the same position, as nutrients are not absorbed efficiently. This is why gut health is so important.

To understand more about digestive system health, and how you can improve it, continue reading.

The digestive system is composed of a variety of tubular organs running from the mouth through the stomach, small and large intestines up to the anus. The pancreas, liver and gall bladder are also part of the digestive system. The condition and health of each of these organs plays a part in a person’s digestive system wellness, as well as their overall health.

A properly functioning digestive system facilitates the intake of food, digestion and absorption of nutrients, and the excretion of solid waste. Cases of bloating, constipation and diarrhea among others are an indication of an unhealthy digestive system.

Read on to find out how you can boost digestive system wellness by following a few simple tips.

Drink Water Before Meals

It is recommended that you drink a glass of water about thirty minutes before each meal. The stomach contains a mucus lining that requires hydration to function properly. By drinking a glass of water you prompt the stomach to produce the mucus required to facilitate healthy and problem free digestion.

With the mucus lining in the stomach intact, digestion takes place without an increased risk of suffering the effects of heartburn.

Chew Food For Longer

The mouth represents the beginning of the digestive process; chewing food for longer helps boost proper digestion. First and foremost, chewing food facilitates the mechanical breakdown of food into small digestible particles. This makes it easier for stomach acids to digest the food, and boosts absorption of nutrients as well.

Additionally, saliva in the mouth contains important digestive enzymes. Chewing food for longer helps get the enzymes into the food, getting the digestive process started as soon as possible.

Remember To Feed The Good Gut Flora

The gut is home to a huge variety of bacteria, viruses and yeast. Some of the bacteria in the gut play a vital role in digestion. Stress, antibiotics, aging and even illness among others, can lead to the depletion of the healthy bacteria in your gut leaving the bad bacterial to wreak havoc.

It is therefore recommended that you consume fermented foods and supplements rich in probiotics. These probiotics are known to feed the healthy bacteria in the gut, and help increase them to healthy levels.

Exercise

Regular exercise also helps facilitate faster movement of digested food through the large intestines. This helps prevent the loss of water in the large intestines while encouraging healthy and regular bowel movements.

It is also important for you to ensure that you consume the right amount of fiber in your diet to improve gut health. Implementing all the above tips in your routine will help raise digestive system health to where it should be. Furthermore, you are bound to see improvements in your overall health with time.

Common Gastroenterology Procedures

digestive problem treatments

Digestive Disease Diagnostic Procedures and Treatments

There are several procedures that a gastroenterologist will make a patient undergo in order to determine what is causing digestive problems or to identify specific diseases and disorders. The following are among the most common.

Scans and Tests

An abdominal angiogram views the blood vessels in the abdomen. It checks blood flow in the stomach, liver and the spleen. It is used to treat stomach bleeding and some cancers. An ultrasound of the abdomen views the liver, pancreas, gallbladder, spleen, and kidneys to check the blood flow and to find any abnormalities in these organs.

X-rays are also sometimes used to check the intestines or the stomach and nearby tissues to find out causes of pain and discomfort. They are used if objects are suspected of having been swallowed or to find holes in the intestines.

A gastroenterologist will use barium enemas as tests to view the lower GI or gastrointestinal tract. This enema is used in conjunction with X-rays to view the entire large intestine and the rectum. The small intestines can be looked at using a procedure called magnetic resonance enterography. This imaging test can find problems like bleeding and inflammation.

A pancreas scan also looks for problems like tumors in the pancreas with the help of nuclear radiology.

A sigmoidoscopy is a test that is done to check the lower part of the colon or the sigmoid colon. This is the part of the colon that is near the rectum and the anus and it is done to find diseases and other issues in this part of the intestinal tract.

The upper gastrointestinal region is checked with the help of X-rays that are taken following the consumption of a special contrasting beverage. It will look at the esophagus, the stomach, and the small intestine. The upper GI endoscopy checks, diagnoses and treats any problems that are occurring in the upper GI tract.

A CT colonography or virtual colonoscopy is done to find polyps or other growths inside the colon. Polyps can sometimes develop into colon cancers so they are often removed after being detected.

Many of these procedures are routinely done to check intestinal health. Problems and other illnesses or diseases can be identified afterward and can be effectively treated.

Procedures and Surgeries

One of the most common gastroenterology procedures is the appendectomy. This is a form of surgery that removes an infected appendix. It treats appendicitis and is usually emergency surgery as the appendix is left alone at the right side of the abdomen unless it is the cause of severe pain and discomfort. A pediatric appendectomy is this same procedure done to a child.

A pediatric appendectomy is this same procedure done to a child.

A protectomy is a procedure that takes out some or all of the rectum.

A procedure that removes part of the stomach to reduce its size is called Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass surgery. This is done to limit the amount of food that an individual can consume and digest in the hopes of allowing them to lose large amounts of weight in a relatively short time.

What Are Common Gastroenterology Symptoms?

digestive system problems

Digestive Symptoms to Heed

Consider Seeing a Gastroenterologist

When you are experiencing gastrointestinal tract problems, it might be more than an uncomfortable issue.

In many cases, the symptoms that are being experienced are a signal that something is going wrong with the body. At times, it may be easy to remedy but at other times, the treatment may be more extensive. In order to properly diagnose, evaluate and manage any of those issues, you can call on a gastroenterologist, the type of doctor who specializes in diseases that affect the digestive system.

When You Experience. . .

When you experience any of the following digestive tract symptoms, it is best to consult such a specialist. They can rule out anything serious and offer a treatment option to care for the situation

  • Abdominal Pain or Discomfort – Although it is not abnormal to experience some stomach pain from time to time, any persistent or severe pain could be a sign of something serious.
  • Constipation or Diarrhea – This is often one of the first signs that are noticed when a digestive problem takes place. It is also an issue that can be caused by a wide variety of problems, including improper diet, dehydration and side effects from various medications.
  • Difficulty Swallowing – This problem can be a chronic issue but it could also come on suddenly. Aside from the discomfort you may experience, it could lead to additional issues if it is not treated properly.
  • Gastritis – This is a problem with inflammation of the digestive tract. It could be caused by many different problems, including some that are fairly simple to manage. It can also be an uncomfortable issue.
  • Hemorrhoids – Although this is a common problem, it is one that most people would rather do without. They can be either internal or external and when they are serious, surgery may be considered.
  • Ulcers – This is an issue that can take place in various places along the GI tract. They can be uncomfortable and could lead to a variety of other symptoms, depending on their severity and location.
  • Weight Loss – Many people attempt to lose weight, but when it takes place for no known reason, it can be a sign that something is going on in the body. This is also a problem that can be treated by a gastroenterologist.
  • Jaundice – This is a problem that can be a sign of liver disease.
  • Bleeding – When blood is detected in the stool it is a sign that should be checked into right away.
  • Heartburn – This may be a common problem but it is one that should be checked on by a specialist. Typically, a case of mild heartburn can be treated with antacids but if it is persistent, it may need to be looked into by a specialist.

These are some of the many different gastrointestinal symptoms you might experience. There may be times when they are mild and easy to treat but they could also be a sign of a more serious problem that needs attention right away.

Common Symptoms Of Gastroenterology Diseases

digestive diseases

Digestive Health Disease Symptoms

Are you frequently experiencing stomach or intestinal problems? It is possible you have one of the many gastroenterology diseases and need to see a specialist.

Gastroenterologists specialize in diseases that affect the digestive organs of the body. This includes every organ beginning at the mouth all the way to the anus. The digestive tract includes the small and large intestines, the stomach, and the esophagus. When you experience ongoing digestive health issues, it is a good idea to make an appointment to discuss your concerns with a gastroenterologist. This physician can evaluate your condition, diagnose any problems and then recommend the correct treatment.

There are many symptoms of gastroenterology conditions, but the three most common are heartburn, diarrhea and abdominal pain and constipation. If you have any of these conditions for more than a few days, you should make an appointment with your doctor.

Heartburn

Heartburn is very common, especially following a spicy or fried meal. Heartburn is characterized by a burning feeling that comes up from your stomach and settles under your sternum or reaches into your throat. If you experience this condition frequently you may have acid reflux which is a gastrointestinal disease. Sometimes, the burning sensation is accompanied by difficulty swallowing or a dry cough.

Acid Reflux

If left untreated, acid reflux can result in damage to your esophagus and cause you to develop an ulcer. In some extreme cases, acid reflux can cause cancer. Most of the time, this condition can be treated with medications. In very serious circumstances, a gastroenterologist may recommend surgery to tighten the muscles between the stomach and the esophagus so the acid cannot escape the stomach.

Diarrhea and Abdominal Pain

Other frequent symptoms of gastrointestinal issues are diarrhea and abdominal pain. If you are experiencing either of these, they could be symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease or IBD. This is a serious gastrointestinal disease which should be treated as quickly as possible. Two of the most common types of IBD are ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Individuals who have IBD may also experience rectal bleeding and weight loss. Your doctor can diagnose these conditions by running a series of lab tests. If the results are positive, you will most likely be placed on a regimen of medications that will include immunosuppressant drugs and anti-inflammatories.

If you have persistent abdominal pain, you could also have a peptic ulcer. This type of ulcer forms in the upper part of the intestine or in the lining of the stomach. It may be caused by excessive smoking or use of alcohol. Taking too many NSAIDs can also cause an ulcer and sometimes, they are caused by bad bacteria. If you are diagnosed with an ulcer, the doctor will prescribe antibiotics. If these don’t clear it up, surgery may be required.

Constipation

Another possible gastrointestinal disorder is chronic constipation. This is a common problem and can usually be treated with laxatives. It is important not to take too many laxatives since this can cause other types of medical conditions.

Gastroenterology diseases affect the digestive system. If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, you should make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible.