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Posts for category: Gastroenterology

By Alaska Digestive and Liver Disease
February 14, 2019
Category: Gastroenterology

What is a Flexible Sigmoidoscopy?

A flexible sigmoidoscopy is a critical diagnostic tool to evaluate the health of your large intestine, or colon. An ultra-thin, flexible tube called a sigmoidoscope is inserted in the rectum and guided up through the intestine.

The tube contains a tiny camera at the end which provides the doctor with a view of your sigmoid colon, which is the last two feet of the large intestine. The sigmoidoscope also allows the doctor to take samples of tissue for later biopsy. Tissue biopsy is the definitive way to determine whether there are precancerous or cancerous changes in your tissue cells.

The sigmoidoscopy procedure is often combined with a colonoscopy because the sigmoidoscope doesn’t show the entire colon, only the lower portion. Sigmoidoscopy may be recommended over colonoscopy because it often doesn’t require anesthesia and is a faster procedure than colonoscopy.

A flexible sigmoidoscopy can be used to determine the cause of intestinal problems like abdominal pain and bowel issues like diarrhea and constipation. It is also used to look for abnormal growths or polyps. It is also a vital tool to screen for colon and rectal cancer.

Flexible sigmoidoscopy may be recommended if you are over 50 years old to help detect colon and rectal cancer in the early stages, when it is the most treatable. Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. Each year, about 150,000 new cases are diagnosed in this country, and 50,000 people will die of the disease.

The flexible sigmoidoscopy procedure is a safe, effective way to determine the health of your sigmoid colon. It is a vital tool in maintaining your good health. If you are having abdominal issues, or you are at least 50 years old, a flexible sigmoidoscopy can help you. Your doctor can tell you more about flexible sigmoidoscopy and other procedures to help you feel better.

By Alaska Digestive and Liver Disease
February 08, 2019
Category: Gastroenterology
Tags: Colonoscopy  

How your gastroenterologists in Anchorage, Alaska can help you

You probably haven’t thought much about a colonoscopy, but if you are age 50 or older, a colonoscopy is important. That’s because the procedure can detect colorectal cancer at an early stage, when it is most treatable. Colorectal cancer ranks third in cancer deaths. The American Cancer Society estimates that over 49,000 people will die of the disease this year.

Colonoscopy AppointmentThe gastroenterologists at Alaska Digestive & Liver Disease in Anchorage, Alaska Dr. Ronald Boisen, Dr. Daryl McClendon, and Dr. Jeffrey Molloy provide a full range of services including colonoscopies, to protect the health of your digestive system.

These are just a few of the most common questions and answers about colonoscopies:

 

When should I begin having colonoscopies?

When you are at least 50 years old or have a family history of colon cancer. You may also need a colonoscopy if you experience:

  • Blood in your stool
  • Recurrent diarrhea
  • Chronic constipation
  • Chronic abdominal pain

How do I prepare for a colonoscopy?

You will need to have only clear liquids the day before your colonoscopy. You will also need to take laxatives prescribed by your doctor to clean out your colon.

Will I be awake during the colonoscopy?

You will probably be sedated for the procedure, so you won’t remember much of the appointment or the procedure. It’s important to bring a driver with you to take you home.

How is a colonoscopy performed?

A small, ultra-thin, flexible tube is inserted into your rectum and threaded through your colon. The tube contains a small camera at the tip, which allows your gastroenterologist to see the inside of your colon.

How long does the procedure take?

The procedure takes about 45 minutes, but the entire appointment will require 2 to 3 hours because of sedation.

A colonoscopy is a vital tool in the fight against colon cancer. To find out more about colonoscopies and other gastrointestinal services to help you stay healthy, call the gastroenterologists at Alaska Digestive & Liver Disease in Anchorage, Alaska today!

By Alaska Digestive and Liver Disease
February 01, 2019
Category: Gastroenterology

If you’ve been dealing with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and you have either been ignoring your symptoms or haven’t been able to get them under control then you could end up dealing with Barrett’s esophagus, a serious complication of GERD that causes the lining of the esophagus to mimic the lining of the intestines.

There are no unique symptoms associated with Barrett’s esophagus, as many of the symptoms are the same as they are for GERD; however, a reason that patients shouldn’t ignore symptoms of GERD is that Barrett’s esophagus can increase the likelihood of developing an extremely serious and life-threatening cancer of the esophagus.

Symptoms to be on the look out for include:

  • Heartburn
  • A burning sensation in the back of the throat
  • Persistent cough
  • Laryngitis
  • Nausea

Even though Barrett’s esophagus is not a common complication of acid reflux, if someone experiences persistent acid reflux this can alter the cells within the esophagus over time to resemble the cells found in the lining of the intestines.

You may be screened with Barrett’s esophagus if you have some of these risk factors:

  • Male
  • Over 50 years old
  • Hiatal hernia
  • Chronic GERD
  • Obesity or being overweight

A gastroenterologist will guide a small flexible tube, known as an endoscope, into the throat and down into the esophagus. This is performed under light sedation. At the end of the endoscope is a camera that allows a gastroenterology doctor to take a biopsy of the lining of the esophagus.

The biopsy sample will be tested for cancer or any precancerous cells. If Barrett’s esophagus is detected in the sample, further endoscopies may be required in the future to detect early warning signs of cancer.

Treating Barrett’s Esophagus

While this condition cannot be reversed there are ways to at least slow down or even prevent the condition from getting worse by getting your acid reflux under control. This can be done through a variety of lifestyle changes (e.g. quitting smoking; changing diet; losing weight) and either over-the-counter or prescription medications (e.g. H2 blockers; proton pump inhibitors).

If you are dealing with acid reflux a few times a week then it’s time to turn to a gastroenterologist for more information. By getting your GERD under control as soon as possible you could prevent complications such as Barrett’s esophagus. Call your gastroenterologist today.

By Alaska Digestive and Liver Disease
December 31, 2018
Category: Gastroenterology

Though many people never know they have one due to lack of symptoms, a hiatal hernia can cause complications which can affect your daily life. Knowing the signs and symptoms of this condition can help you spot its presence, alert your gastroenterologist, and get the treatment you need.

What is a hiatal hernia?
Your chest and abdomen are separated by a large muscle called the diaphragm. The esophagus passes through a small opening in the diaphragm and brings food from the mouth, down the throat, and into the stomach. A hiatal hernia occurs when the stomach pushes through the hole and begins bulging out of the other side, into the chest. Though small hiatal hernias are often nothing to worry about and do not produce symptoms, larger hernias may cause potentially serious complications.

Do I have a hiatal hernia?
A small hernia often does not produce any symptoms at all. However, larger hernias can cause some issues that can affect your day-to-day life:

  • Heartburn
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Chest or abdominal pain
  • Regurgitation of foods (into the mouth)
  • Acid reflux
  • Vomiting blood or passing black stool
  • Shortness of breath

If you think you have a hiatal hernia, you should see your doctor to ensure that you receive the care you need.

How does a gastroenterologist diagnose a hiatal hernia?
It is not uncommon for a gastroenterologist to find a hernia while investigating the cause of heartburn, abdominal pain, or other symptoms. Some diagnostic tools they may use include x-rays or upper endoscopy. They will also gather your medical, family, and lifestyle history to further investigate the cause of your symptoms.

Hiatal Hernia Treatments
If a person with a hernia does not experience any symptoms or complications, they may not need any treatment at all. However, if the patient begins experiencing discomfort, their doctor will probably suggest beginning treatment for their condition. Medications, such as antacids or medication to reduce the body’s acid production, can help with symptoms of a hernia. In more severe cases, a surgical procedure to repair a hernia or make the hole in the diaphragm smaller may become necessary.

Your gastroenterologist can help you find the best treatment plan for you. If you think you have a hernia or are experiencing uncomfortable symptoms such as recurrent acid reflux or heartburn, you should speak with your doctor.

By Alaska Digestive and Liver Disease
December 14, 2018
Category: Gastroenterology

Tummy troubles? When some people are diagnosed with celiac disease, they also discover that they are lactose intolerant and have difficulty digesting milk and dairy products. Read on to learn all about lactose intolerance and celiac disease and their symptoms. Gastroenterologists are doctors who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of digestive disorders, including lactose intolerance and celiac disease.

Lactose Intolerance Overview

Lactose intolerance is a condition in which people have digestive symptoms after eating or drinking milk or dairy products. People with lactose intolerance are unable to fully digest the sugar in dairy products. Lactose intolerance is caused by a deficiency of an enzyme in the body called lactase. Lactose intolerance is not serious. Your doctor may do a breath, blood or stool test to find out if your problems are due to lactose intolerance.

Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance

After drinking or eating dairy products, you may feel sick to your stomach. You may also have loose stools or diarrhea, gas, pain, or cramps in the lower belly, rumbling or gurgling sounds in the lower belly. or swelling in your stomach. If you are lactose intolerant, you may still be able to eat or drink small amounts of milk. Some individuals do better if they have dairy with a meal.

Celiac Disease Overview

Celiac disease is a disorder triggered by consuming a protein called gluten, which is rye, barley, and wheat. When an individual with celiac disease eats foods that contain gluten, an abnormal immune reaction is triggered that damages a small part of the intestine called villi. Long-term complications of celiac disease include intestinal cancer, liver disease, and malnutrition, which can lead to osteoporosis and anemia. The longer people go untreated, the greater the risk for long-term complications.

Symptoms of Celiac Disease

Many individuals with celiac disease have no symptoms. Digestive symptoms, including stomach bloating, flatulence, pain, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, vomiting, and irritability are more common in children. Adults may experience numbness in hands and feet, joint or bone pain, fatigue, anxiety, depression, canker sores inside the mouth, seizures, itching, and a skin rash.

If you are experiencing any symptoms of lactose intolerance or celiac disease, make an appointment with a gastroenterologist. Get your life back on track by receiving the best treatment available. A visit to the gastroenterologist will bring all the relief you need, with little hassle or expense.

By Alaska Digestive and Liver Disease
December 06, 2018
Category: Gastroenterology
Tags: Heartburn  

Got heartburn? Heartburn, also known as acid indigestion, is a form of indigestion felt as a burning pain in the chest. It's caused when stomach acid flows up into your esophagus. More than just a minor discomfort, acid indigestion can reduce quality of life. The following tips will help you rid yourself of heartburn.

1. Change your diet. Stay away from beverages and foods that commonly cause heartburn. A good way to work out what beverages and foods trigger your heartburn symptoms is to keep track of what you eat. Common offenders include tea, coffee, tomatoes, garlic, fatty foods, spicy foods, milk, chocolate and peppermint. 

2. Don't overeat. Overeating can trigger heartburn. Big meals put pressure on the muscle that helps keep stomach contents from backing up into the esophagus. The more food you eat, the longer it takes for your stomach to empty, which contributes to acid reflux. Try eating five small meals a day to keep reflux at bay.

3. Avoid alcohol. Alcohol can trigger heartburn. Alcohol can relax the sphincter muscle at the lower end of your esophagus, causing stomach acid to flow up into your esophagus If your aim is to unwind after a long day at work, try exercise, stretching, listening to soothing music, or deep breathing instead of drinking alcohol.

4. Lose weight. If you overeat, lose weight- but be sure to consult your doctor before starting a vigorous exercise program. The increased risk of heartburn is thought to be due to excess abdominal fat causing pressure on the stomach.

5. Stop smoking. Nicotine is a muscle relaxant. Nicotine can relax the sphincter muscle, causes acid from the stomach to leak upward into the esophagus. Nicotine gums, patches, and lozenges are healthier and safer than cigarettes, and they are less likely to give you heartburn. 

6. Contact your doctor. Your doctor may suggest antacids for occasional heartburn. Sometimes, more powerful prescription medications such as proton pump inhibitors or H2 blockers and are needed to treat chronic heartburn. When all else fails, surgery may be required to repair the LES.

Chronic heartburn can affect your daily activities and make life frustrating and miserable. Don't hesitate to contact a gastroenterologist about heartburn.

By Alaska Digestive and Liver Disease
November 09, 2018
Category: Gastroenterology
Tags: Cancer   Colon Cancer  

Protect yourself by knowing the early warning signs of colon cancer.

Colon cancer is a condition that can affect both men and women, which is why everyone should know the risk factors, warning signs, and when to visit our Anchorage, AK, gastroenterologists, Dr. Ronald Boisen, Dr. Daryl McClendon, and Dr. Jeffrey Molloy, for a further evaluation. Regular colon cancer screenings are important as they're the most effective way to detect the disease during its earliest and most easily treatable ages.

Colon CancerWhat are the symptoms of colon cancer?

The symptoms of colon cancer aren’t always that easy to detect because a lot of the earlier warning signs aren’t exclusive to colon cancer. Some of these warning signs include abdominal cramps and changes in bowel habits (e.g. diarrhea; constipation), which could be caused by many different problems; however, it’s more important to understand when you shouldn’t just ignore these symptoms. Symptoms of colon cancer may include,

  • Fatigue
  • Sudden and unexplained weight loss
  • Anemia
  • Blood in the stool
  • Lower abdominal cramps
  • Changes in the appearance of your stools

If in doubt, call our Anchorage, AK, GI doctors to let us know what symptoms you are experiencing. From this, we will be able to gauge whether or not you need to come in for a further evaluation.

Who is at risk for colon cancer?

Both men and women are at risk for colon cancer. While there certainly are risk factors that can increase your chances, many people who are diagnosed with colon cancer don’t have risk factors. Family history will play a role in whether or not you develop colon cancer or polyps.

Along with heredity, if you have a history of inflammatory bowel disease, this can also increase your chances of developing colon cancer. Other risk factors include a sedentary lifestyle, a poor diet, heavy alcohol consumption, and being overweight or obese.

How is colon cancer diagnosed?

The most effective way to diagnose colon cancer is through a colonoscopy. Regardless of whether or not you are experiencing symptoms, once you turn 50 years old, you should start coming in for routine colonoscopies. This is something both men and women need to do. A colonoscopy will allow our gastroenterologist to be able to view the inside of the rectum and colon to look for and remove colon polyps, which could develop into cancer.

Call today!

Is it time to schedule your first colon cancer screening? Do you want to talk to us about digestive symptoms you are experiencing? If so, we have offices in both Anchorage and Eagle River, AK, to better serve you. Call Alaska Digestive and Liver Disease today at (907) 569-1333.

By Alaska Digestive and Liver Disease
October 16, 2018
Category: Gastroenterology
Tags: Hemmorrhoids  

Wondering if you have hemorrhoids? Hemorrhoids are very common, especially among people ages 45 to 75. Hemorrhoids are inflamed and swollen veins around the anus or in the lower rectum. One of the main causes of hemorrhoids is straining when you’re trying to have a bowel movement. Other contributing factors include heredity, diarrhea, chronic constipation, pregnancy, and aging. Here's how to tell if you have hemorrhoids.

1. A lump near the anus- Although many individuals have hemorrhoids, not all experience symptoms. External hemorrhoids are felt as swelling or a hard lump near the anal area. Internal hemorrhoids protrude with bowel movements; usually, they return to the inside by themselves.

2. Painless bleeding- Hemorrhoids can cause bleeding. If you have hemorrhoids, you may see blood in the toilet bowl or on the toilet paper. Rectal bleeding is also a symptom of diverticulitis, colitis, colon polyps, and colorectal cancer. If you experience rectal bleeding, you should see a doctor. An evaluation and proper diagnosis by a gastroenterologist is important any time bleeding from the rectum lasts for more than a few days. 

3. Itching around the anus- Hemorrhoids can cause severe itching around the anus. Initial treatment of anal itching is directed toward relieving the soreness and burning. Your gastroenterologist may prescribe hydrocortisone cream, gel, foam, or ointment or rectal suppositories to treat itching.

4. Pain or discomfort- Pain is a common symptom of external hemorrhoids, especially during bowel movements or when sitting. Internal hemorrhoids are typically painless, even when they produce bleeding. When hemorrhoids are painful, it’s hard to think about anything else. Your gastroenterologist may prescribe pain medication, hydrocortisone cream or rectal suppositories to ease your pain. 

Why suffer? If you think you may have hemorrhoids, you should schedule an appointment with a gerontologist right away. The symptoms hemorrhoids cause are hard to ignore. Thankfully, there are many treatments that can provide relief.

By Alaska Digestive and Liver Disease
August 29, 2018
Category: Gastroenterology
Tags: Diarrhea  

Diarrhea is very common. When you have diarrhea, your bowel movements are loose and watery. In most cases, diarrhea lasts a couple of days. Chronic diarrhea is diarrhea that lasts longer than two weeks. When diarrhea lasts for weeks, it can indicate a serious disorder. Although diarrhea is usually not serious, it can become dangerous or signal a more serious problem. Read on to find out how chronic diarrhea is treated.

1. Replacing lost fluids- Chronic diarrhea is treated by replacing lost fluids and electrolytes to prevent dehydration. Adults with diarrhea should drink water, sports drinks, sodas without caffeine, or fruit juices. Fluid can also be delivered through a vein (intravenously) if the dehydration is severe. 

2. The use of medication- Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics and medications that target parasites to treat parasitic or bacterial infections. If a virus is causing your diarrhea, antibiotics won't help. Pain relief medications can help alleviate fever and pain. Your doctor may also prescribe medications to treat an underlying condition that may be causing your chronic diarrhea.

3. Treating medical conditions- How doctors treat chronic diarrhea depends on the cause. Chronic diarrhea is sometimes caused by an underlying medical condition that requires treatment. Common conditions that cause diarrhea include irritable bowel syndrome, Chrohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, and chronic pancreatitis. 

4. The use of probiotics- Your doctor may recommend probiotics to treat diarrhea. Probiotics are good bacteria that are very similar to the bacteria that are already in your body. Probiotics reduce the growth of harmful bacteria and promote a healthy digestive system. If your gastroenterologist recommends probiotics, talk with him or her about how much probiotics you should take and for how long. 

Chronic diarrhea can affect your daily activities and make life frustrating and miserable. Don't hesitate to contact a gastroenterologist about diarrhea. A visit to the gastroenterologist will bring all the relief you need, with little hassle or expense. 

By Alaska Digestive and Liver Disease
July 24, 2018
Category: Gastroenterology
Tags: GERD  

Many adults have experienced acid reflux at one time or another. Acid reflux occurs when stomach fluids regurgitate back up into the gerdesophagus, which can produce a burning sensation in the throat and chest areas known as heartburn. Acid reflux is more properly known as gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. Treatments are available for individuals with chronic GERD. At Alaska Digestive and Liver Disease, Dr. Ronald Boisen, Dr. Daryl McClendon, and Dr. Jeffrey Molloy are your gastroenterologists for the treatment of GERD in Anchorage, AK.

GERD Symptoms

Several symptoms are associated with GERD. Heartburn is one of the most common symptoms and involves a burning sensation in the chest and throat areas caused by stomach fluids reaching the mouth. Lying down can aggravate heartburn and worsen the burning sensation. In addition to heartburn, other symptoms of GERD include:

  • A bitter taste in the mouth
  • Regurgitation
  • Belching
  • Heartburn
  • Sore throat
  • Dry cough
  • Chest pain

Causes of GERD

GERD can be caused by a number of different factors. Certain conditions increase a person’s likelihood of developing GERD. For instance, in women, GERD often occurs during pregnancy even if a woman never experienced GERD prior to being pregnant. Obesity also increases the risk of developing GERD, as does smoking. Consumption of certain foods and beverages can induce GERD, as well. Such foods and beverages include:

  • Excess alcohol
  • Citrus beverages
  • Coffee
  • Tomato sauce
  • Fatty foods
  • Peppermint
  • Chocolate

Treatment of GERD

Over-the-counter antacid products are available for treating mild, occasional instances of GERD. Dietary modifications can also reduce instances of GERD. Chronic and more serious cases of GERD are best treated by a gastroenterologist, as over-the-counter antacids are only effective for a short time. A gastroenterologist can prescribe an appropriate medication for long term GERD relief, such as a prescription antacid or a proton pump inhibitor.

Proton pump inhibitors treat the symptoms of reflux by blocking the final step of the acid production process in the stomach. Proton pump inhibitors are the most effective treatment for individuals experiencing frequent GERD symptoms. Examples of proton pump inhibitor medications include omeprazole, lansoprazole, rabeproazole, and pantoprazole. See an experienced gastroenterologist for treatment of GERD in Anchorage.

Effective treatments are available for preventing and alleviating the symptoms of GERD. For treatment of GERD in Anchorage, schedule an appointment with Dr. Boisen, Dr. McClendon, and Dr. Molloy by calling Alaska Digestive and Liver Disease at (907) 569-1333.

By Alaska Digestive and Liver Disease
June 29, 2018
Category: Gastroenterology
Tags: C. Diff   C. difficile  

C. difficile (Clostridium difficile) is an infection that should be talked about more often than it is despite the fact that it infects half a million Americans each year. While C. diff bacteria can be found within the gut of healthy individuals the healthy gut bacteria work to keep the potentially harmful bacteria in check. C. diff spores can be found in our environment through the air we breathe, or even the clothes on our back or the foods we consume. This is usually how we end up with C. diff in our guts.

However, sometimes circumstances arise in which C. diff bacteria are able to multiply within the gut. This most often occurs in someone who is taking antibiotics because while antibiotics are being used to fight an infection it can also kill off some of the healthy bacteria in our gut.

Unfortunately, C. diff bacteria are resistant to many kinds of antibiotics, giving it free range to thrive and multiply quickly within the gut. These bacteria, particularly in larger numbers, can also produce toxins. It’s usually the toxins themselves that lead to symptoms such as diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, and fever.

C. diff infections can range from mild to severe. In milder cases, patients may liken their symptoms to an infection within the stomach (also known as gastroenteritis). These symptoms may be mild and self-limiting, lasting anywhere from a couple of days to multiple weeks. Usually, medication or treatment isn’t needed in order to treat the infection.

However, those dealing with severe diarrhea, blood in the stool, severe abdominal pain, fever, and dehydration should seek the care of a gastroenterologist as soon as possible. While these symptoms can be indicative of several different gastrointestinal issues, if you suspect that you might have a C. diff infection it’s important that you seek immediate medical treatment.

Since most people have C. diff within their gut, if it isn’t causing any issues then no treatment is necessary. As we mentioned before, those dealing with minor symptoms may be able to let the issue run its course. Those with severe infections may need to be hospitalized. If you are still taking the antibiotics that may have caused this problem then you will most likely need to stop taking it so that the healthy gut bacteria have a chance of returning and making the gut healthier.

Those with severe diarrhea or colitis (inflammation of the colon) may be prescribed very specific antibiotics known to kill the C. diff bacteria. In the meantime, make sure you are drinking enough water and fluids to keep your body hydrated. If diarrhea is severe, your doctor may need to give you fluids and nutrients through an IV.

Luckily, most people dealing with this infection will be able to fully recover, even if they don’t get treatment; however, those who are older or have a weak immune system should seek medical attention as soon as possible if they suspect an infection. While symptoms can be unpleasant, they will usually go away in a few weeks.

By Alaska Digestive and Liver Disease
June 15, 2018
Category: Gastroenterology
Tags: Heartburn   GERD  

Do you find that most mealtimes end up being ruined by gnawing, nagging heartburn? While most people will experience heartburn at some point during their lifetime, if you are someone who suffers from this problem several times a week then you may just have a digestive disorder known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

 

What is GERD?

Whenever you eat food, it travels from the esophagus to the stomach. Once food enters the stomach, the stomach produces acid to break up the food. Of course, in healthy individuals the food travels from the stomach to the intestines; however, if you have GERD then the acid and food contents actually flow back up to the esophagus from the stomach, irritating the lining of the throat and causing a nasty case of heartburn.

 

What are the symptoms?

Heartburn is a classic symptom of GERD. Heartburn is a burning in the chest that also affects the lining of the throat. Heartburn sometimes produces an acidic or bitter taste in the mouth. Symptoms may get worse if you eat a big meal, consume something spicy or lie down immediately after eating.

 

How is GERD diagnosed?

In some situations a gastroenterologist may be able to determine that you have GERD based on the symptoms you describe and through a simple physical exam; however, sometimes a diagnostic test is required in order to determine whether your symptoms are truly caused by GERD or something else. An upper endoscopy is one common diagnostic procedure performed to check for signs of inflammation or damage to the lining of the esophagus, which are indicative of GERD.

 

What are my treatment options?

Your treatment plan will most likely consist of lifestyle modifications and medications.

 

Lifestyle modifications

If you are overweight or obese you may be at a higher risk for developing GERD. It’s important to lose that excess weight and to maintain a healthy weight to reduce your symptoms. Quit smoking if you are currently a smoker. Make sure to eat slowly and eat smaller meals. Don’t lie down immediately after eating and eat about three hours before going to bed.

 

Also, there are certain foods that can trigger heartburn symptoms including chocolate, caffeine, alcohol, tomato sauce, garlic, or fatty and spicy foods. Limit or avoid any of these foods if they are known to cause you heartburn.

 

Medication

Those with milder symptoms may be able to use an over-the-counter antacid or medication to manage their symptoms; however, if symptoms are moderate-to-severe, or if you have damage to the lining of the esophagus, then you’ll need a stronger medication to reduce or even prevent the production of stomach acid until the damage has healed.

 

If you deal with heartburn on a regular basis or can’t seem to get heartburn under control it’s important that you turn to a GI doctor who can help you find the proper treatment option to prevent digestive complications and to make mealtimes more enjoyable again.

By Alaska Digestive and Liver Disease
May 22, 2018
Category: Gastroenterology
Tags: Colorectal Cancer  

Colon cancer affects thousands of Americans. According to American Cancer Society's statistics, more than 95,000 people wereCancer cell diagnosed with colon cancer in 2016. The best way to avoid colon cancer is by visiting your Anchorage and Eagle River, AK, doctor.

Colon Cancer Screening:

A routine visit to your doctor for a colonoscopy is how most people detect cancer during its earliest stages. Board-certified physicians, Dr. Ronald Boisen, Dr. Daryl McClendon and Dr. Jeffrey Molloy, want their patients to schedule an appointment for a colonoscopy, or a flexible sigmoidoscopy, as soon as possible.

The CDC recommends adults ages 50 to 75 visit their gastroenterologist on a regular basis. Colorectal cancer usually begins as a small polyp in the colon. At first, the polyps aren't cancerous but may develop cancer over time. If you take the proper precautions of screening and keeping an eye out for symptoms, cancer can be treated or prevented.

Colon Cancer Symptoms:

Symptoms aren't always obvious. Here are the symptoms you need to keep an eye out for according to the doctors in Anchorage and Eagle River:

  • Bowel Habit Changes: If you are suffering from Colon constipation, or diarrhea, for more than four weeks, that may be a sign of cancer.
  • Blood in Your Stool: Hemorrhoids are usually accompanied by blood in stool, but may also be a sign of a more serious condition like cancer.
  • Incomplete Evacuation: If there are constant bowel movements, even if you've just had a bowel movement, then you need to contact your doctor.
  • Fatigue: Colon cancer results in patients feeling weak and fatigued.
  • Weight Loss: Unexplained weight loss.

Scheduling a Colorectal Cancer Screening

If you would like more information on colonoscopies and screening procedures, you can contact the doctors at Alaska Digestive and Liver Disease. If you are in Anchorage and Eagle River, AK, call to schedule an appointment today!

By Alaska Digestive and Liver Disease
May 15, 2018
Category: Gastroenterology
Tags: Heartburn  

You would love to just be able to sit down and enjoy a meal, but you know that not long afterward you are going to be dealing with the burning, Heartburngnawing pain in your stomach caused by heartburn. No matter if this is something that you have been facing for a while or this is a new issue you are dealing with, it’s important that you have a gastroenterologist that can help you figure out what’s going on.

It’s important to understand that heartburn isn’t a condition but a symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), in which stomach acid travels back up through the esophagus causing burning and irritation of the esophageal lining.

So, what are the leading culprits of heartburn? There are quite a few things that could cause this issue including:

  • Certain foods or drinks: Everything from alcohol and caffeine to acidic and spicy foods can exacerbate heartburn symptoms. Diets that are high in fatty or fried foods can also make heartburn worse.

  • Medications: There are certain over-the-counter medications that can also cause heartburn to flare-up.

  • Smoking: Smoking cigarettes can actually affect how the lower esophageal sphincter functions, allowing stomach acid to travel back through the esophagus.

  • A hiatal hernia: A condition in which some of the stomach protrudes into the chest.

  • Pregnancy: Pressure placed on the abdomen during pregnancy could increase your chances of heartburn.

  • Obesity: Having any additional pressure placed on the abdomen, which is common if you are overweight or obese, can bring on a nasty bout of heartburn.

Fortunately, there are many ways in which to reduce the severity and frequency of heartburn. Turning to a GI specialist is the best approach, as they can provide you with a variety of lifestyle changes and medications based on your symptoms, current health, lifestyle, and how much damage has already taken place within the esophagus.

From there, they will create a tailored treatment plan with a medication that will either greatly lessen the amount of acid the stomach produces or temporarily block stomach acid from being produced to help promote healing within the esophagus.

Lifestyle changes may include eating smaller meals, not eating right before bedtime, avoiding exacerbating foods or drinks, losing excess weight, and quitting smoking.

Don’t let heartburn make you dread sitting down to enjoy your favorite meals. There are so many ways in which to get your heartburn symptoms under control. If you are having trouble finding the right treatment option for you don’t hesitate to turn to a gastroenterologist for guidance and treatment.

By Alaska Digestive and Liver Disease
April 30, 2018
Category: Gastroenterology
Tags: Colonoscopy  

Chances are good you’ve heard of a colonoscopy before, whether through a health report on the news or because you know someone who had toColonoscopy get one. A colonoscopy is a diagnostic procedure and often a screening tool that allows your gastroenterologist to be able to see what the lining of the colon and intestines looks. A thin scope is inserted into the rectum and carefully directed through the lower intestines. The scope has a camera at the end that allows your doctor to pinpoint potential problems with the lining of the intestines or colon. There are a few reasons why your doctor might recommend getting a colonoscopy.

If a patient comes in complaining of abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, or persistent diarrhea and these symptoms can’t be explained through a routine exam and testing then your GI doctor may recommend performing a colonoscopy to be able to determine the root cause for these symptoms. This might be particularly helpful if you or a family member has a history of colon cancer or colon polyps.

Even if you are feeling fine, both men and women, once they reach 50-years-old, will need to start getting routine colonoscopies to screen for colon polyps and other signs of colorectal cancer. A colonoscopy is one of the most effective screening tools a gastroenterologist has for being able to pinpoint warning signs of cancer with the large intestines and colon. No other screening tool will be able to provide the detailed imaging that a colonoscopy can.

If the results of your routine colonoscopy come back normal then you probably won’t need to repeat the procedure for another 10 years. If one or more polyps were detected during your colonoscopy your GI specialist may choose to remove them during the procedure but may recommend that you come in more regularly for a colonoscopy.

You may also need to have this procedure performed more often if you have a family or personal history of colon cancer or colon polyps. It’s important to be upfront about your detailed medical history when talking to a gastrointestinal specialist to determine the best colonoscopy schedule to protect your digestive health.

No matter if you are experiencing distressing intestinal symptoms or you just turned 50-years-old, it’s a good idea to turn to a gastrointestinal specialist who can provide you with the individualized care you need. Remember, getting a colonoscopy after you turn 50 could just end up saving your life!

By Alaska Digestive and Liver Disease
April 02, 2018
Category: Gastroenterology

Irritable bowel syndrome, also known as IBS, is a condition affecting the large intestine or colon. It is associated with a variety of symptoms, including abdominal discomfort and diarrhea. The exact cause of irritable bowel syndrome is not known and the condition tends to affect women more often than men. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, a gastroenterologist can determine if you truly have the condition and develop an appropriate treatment plan for your symptoms.

Symptoms

A variety of gastrointestinal symptoms is associated with irritable bowel syndrome. If you experience any of these symptoms regularly, consult a gastroenterologist who can make a proper diagnosis. A diagnosis of IBS is usually made by ruling out other gastrointestinal problems through blood tests, stool sample tests, x-rays, a colonoscopy or a sigmoidoscopy. Symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome include:

  • abdominal pain or cramping
  • bloating
  • gas
  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • mucus in stools
  • recurring urgent need to have a bowel movement

Treatment

Although the exact cause of irritable bowel syndrome is unknown, there are several treatment options for alleviating some of the discomfort associated with IBS. Dietary habits can have an impact on the frequency and severity of symptoms. Eating smaller meals during the day can ease digestion and lessen symptoms. Including more fiber during the day can also help with symptoms such as constipation. Eliminating foods, such as dairy, that aggravate the symptoms of IBS can also help alleviate some of the pain and discomfort.

Other strategies for treating irritable bowel syndrome include medications, probiotics and managing stress. Increased stress can aggravate IBS symptoms so keeping stress levels low can minimize symptoms. Additionally, probiotics and certain medications can also help improve digestion and alleviate some of the symptoms of IBS, such as gas or diarrhea. A gastroenterologist can help you determine which treatments options are best for your symptoms.

Irritable bowel syndrome can result in a lot of pain and discomfort. Fortunately, there are treatments that can provide relief. See a gastroenterologist for diagnosis and a treatment plan.

By Alaska Digestive and Liver Disease
March 14, 2018
Category: Gastroenterology
Tags: Colonoscopy  

What your gastroenterologist wants you to know

The right time to get a colonoscopy is if you are over 50 years old, or if you have a family history of colon cancer. There are also signs and symptoms to pay attention to which may indicate the need for a colonoscopy. You should see your gastroenterologist to schedule a colonoscopy if you have:

  • Rectal bleeding
  • Black, tarry stools which may indicate blood in your stool
  • A family history of intestinal growths or polyps
  • Chronic, recurrent constipation or diarrhea
  • Chronic, recurrent pain in your abdomen

A colonoscopy is the primary screening tool to determine if you have colorectal cancer. A colonoscopy also helps to diagnose colorectal cancer at an early stage, when it is more easily treatable. Don’t delay having a colonoscopy because the longer you wait, the more serious colorectal cancer becomes.

The American Cancer Society states that colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in this country, with over 49,000 people dying from the disease this year alone.

A colonoscopy typically requires you to be sedated. A long, ultra-thin flexible tube is inserted into your rectum and guided up through your intestines. The tube contains a camera at one end which allows your gastroenterologist to view your colon, remove polyps or take a small sample of tissue for biopsy.

When you come in for your colonoscopy, be sure to bring a driver with you to take you home, and plan on spending 2 to 3 hours in the office. The procedure takes about 45 minutes, and additional time is required for you to recover from sedation.

Remember that early diagnosis is made possible by having a colonoscopy and that early diagnosis is critical to start early treatment. You don’t want to be a cancer statistic, so if you are over 50 or have a family history of colon cancer, take the time to schedule your colonoscopy. Protect your health by calling today!

By Alaska Digestive and Liver Disease
February 27, 2018
Category: Gastroenterology

People in commercials love to talk about diarrhea and constipation, but in real life, the subjects are rarely discussed, even though they affect us all. Understanding what causes the conditions may help you avoid them.

What causes diarrhea?

Diarrhea occurs when your stools are loose, runny or completely watery. Although occasional diarrhea won't harm your health, frequent diarrhea can lead to dehydration. The condition is often caused by viruses or bacterial infections. Washing your hands frequently, particularly after touching raw foods, and cooking food completely can help reduce your chance of developing diarrhea. If you know a friend or family member is sick or has diarrhea, don't share utensils or glasses with them.

Diarrhea can also occur due to stomach irritation caused by taking antibiotics or by an intolerance to certain foods. Lactose intolerance, a condition that occurs when you have difficulty digesting sugars found in dairy products, is a common cause of diarrhea. If you've ever had to dash to the restroom after eating ice cream or pasta covered in creamy Alfredo sauce, you might have lactose intolerance.

Some health conditions can also cause diarrhea, including diabetes, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, hyperthyroidism, inflammatory bowel disease, chronic pancreatitis and Addison's disease.

What causes constipation?

If you're constipated, it may be difficult or impossible to pass stools. Even if your trip to the restroom is successful, the stools you produce may be small and hard. Diet can play a part in constipation. Reducing your intake of dairy products, caffeine, alcohol and junk food can be helpful.

Resisting the urge to defecate can lead to constipation. If you're at work and decide to ignore the urge to go, you may not be able to produce any stools when you finally get home. Constipation can also occur if you change your diet or normal routine, don't exercise regularly or eat foods that aren't usually part of your diet when you're away from home.

Some health conditions can also cause constipation, including

  • Diabetes
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Pregnancy
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Lupus

Occasional bouts of diarrhea and constipation are usually nothing to worry about, particularly if they accompany an illness. If you're frequently constipated or experience diarrhea often, it's a good idea to make an appointment with a gastroenterologist, a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating conditions and diseases of the gastrointestinal system.

By Alaska Digestive and Liver Disease
December 15, 2017
Category: Gastroenterology
Tags: Acute Pancreatitis  

Acute pancreatitis strikes suddenly, causing severe pain and vomiting. More than 300,000 people are admitted to U.S. hospitals every year due to acute pancreatitis, according to The National Pancreas Foundation.

What causes acute pancreatitis?

If you have gallstones, you may be at increased risk of developing acute pancreatitis. The condition can occur when stones get stuck in the common bile duct and prevent pancreatic fluids from flowing freely. Stones can also force bile to flow back into the pancreas, which may damage it.

You may also develop acute pancreatitis if your calcium or triglyceride levels are very high, or you have an autoimmune disorder, infection, an overactive parathyroid gland, cystic fibrosis or regularly take certain medications. High alcohol consumption can cause pancreatitis, particularly if you've been a heavy drinker for years. In some cases, the cause of acute pancreatitis can't be determined.

What are the symptoms of acute pancreatitis?

Pain from acute pancreatitis is felt in the upper part of the abdomen, although it can extend to your back. The pain may be mild at first, but may become severe and constant and may worsen after you eat or drink alcohol. Other symptoms include fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and a rapid pulse. Prompt treatment is essential if you experience any of these symptoms. The condition can cause bleeding, infections and may even damage your kidneys, lungs and heart if the attack is severe. Although most people recover from acute pancreatitis, the condition can be life-threatening.

How is acute pancreatitis treated?

If your condition is caused by gallstones, you'll need surgery to remove the stones. In some cases, surgery may also be needed to keep your bile ducts open. If you're admitted to the hospital, you'll be given fluids to prevent dehydration caused by vomiting and diarrhea and may receive medication for nausea and pain. Foods and beverages are usually stopped for one to two days after you're admitted to the hospital.

Changing your medications, avoiding alcohol and addressing the causes of high triglyceride or calcium levels may help prevent further bouts of acute pancreatitis. If you have numerous attacks of acute pancreatitis or continue to drink alcohol, the condition can become chronic.

Although it's not always possible to prevent acute pancreatitis, you can reduce your risk by exercising regularly, following a healthy diet and avoiding heavy consumption of alcohol.

By Alaska Digestive and Liver Disease
December 08, 2017
Category: Gastroenterology
Tags: Endoscopy  

Gastroenterologists are concerned with conditions that affect the stomach, intestinal tract, colon and other organs involved in digestion and waste elimination. These conditions include certain types of cancer, biliary tract disease, ulcers and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. The test that checks for these potential health issues is called an endoscopy. There are several different endoscopic procedures that allow your doctor to check the digestive system, including a colonoscopy, enteroscopy and an upper gastrointestinal endoscopy. Find out more about getting an endoscopy and whether it’s time for you to have this test.

What Is an Endoscopy?
During an endoscopy, a long tube is inserted into an orifice (usually the mouth or anus) to look at the organs of the body. The tube, called an endoscope, has a camera that allows your doctor to view the targeted area. In the case of a colonoscopy, the endoscope is inserted into the rectum and provides a visual of your colon and intestines. An enteroscopy views the small intestine and an upper GI endoscopy looks at the parts of your upper intestinal tract, including the esophagus.

What Does an Endoscopy Detect?
An endoscopy can detect polyps (benign and precancerous) as well as cancerous tumors. It can also identify the presence of ulcers, inflammation and other damage to the wall of the intestines or stomach. An upper GI endoscopy can determine the cause of heartburn, chest pain and problems swallowing your food. In some cases, polyps or objects can be removed during the procedure or tissue samples may be taken. A stent can also be inserted in restricted areas of the stomach, esophagus or intestinal tract.

Do You Need this Test?
Here are a few indications that you should see your gastroenterologist soon for an endoscopy:

  • You have intense pain in the abdomen or have been diagnosed with digestive problems
  • You have severe acid reflux or chronic heartburn
  • You feel as if there is some type of blockage in your intestinal tract (such as long-term constipation)
  • There’s blood in the stool
  • There’s a family history of colon cancer
  • You’re over the age of 50

See Your Gastroenterologist
An endoscopy is not a test that you want to delay long if you’re concerned about your stomach, colon and digestive health. Call a gastroenterologist in your area to schedule an initial consultation and exam today.

By Alaska Digestive and Liver Disease
November 13, 2017
Category: Gastroenterology

Gastroenterologists, also called GI doctors, are concerned with a wide array of issues involving the digestive system. One concern for gastroenterologists is precancerous polyps in the colon, rectum and other areas of the intestinal tract. It’s wise to be informed about polyps and how they may affect your gastroenterological and overall health.

What Are Precancerous Polyps?
A polyp is a small, fleshy nodule that forms on the inside of the intestines or colon. It is considered an abnormal growth, but in many cases, they are found to be benign (commonly in the early stages). However, over time polyps can become large and malignant if they aren’t treated. Many polyps are found to be pre-cancerous, which means they have the potential to turn cancerous if they aren’t removed. With early detection through an endoscopic test, the risk can be eliminated by your gastroenterologist.

What Are the Potential Causes?
Doctors aren’t definitively sure what causes polyps to form, but there are a number of theories. Here are a few:

  • Heredity (a family history of colon or intestinal problems) or certain hereditary conditions
  • Poor diet or lack of nutrition
  • Lack of exercise and regular physical activity
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Diagnosis of ulcerative or Crohn’s colitis
  • The natural aging process for some patients (which is why regular exams are recommended after age 50)

What to Do About Them
The good news is that precancerous polyps can usually be quickly and effectively treated by your gastroenterologist. They are diagnosed through an exam called a virtual colonoscopy. A tube called a fiber-optic scope is inserted into the rectum that can identify the presence of a polyp and take a sample for a biopsy. If it is precancerous, your GI doctor can remove the polyp at another colonoscopy appointment. You should make this polyp removal appointment a priority.

Make an Appointment with a Gastroenterologist
The health of your digestive and elimination system is crucial to your overall health. Whether you’re in need of an initial endoscopic test to check for polyps or you’ve already been diagnosed with a precancerous polyp, call a gastroenterologist in your area for an appointment.

By Alaska Digestive and Liver Disease
October 19, 2017
Category: Gastroenterology
Tags: Gastroenterology  

When it comes to matters involving your digestive tract, stomach, and colon, a gastroenterologist is the doctor to consult with. GI specialists also help patientsGastroenterology with matters involving the pancreas, gallbladder, liver and other organs involved in the elimination of waste. Here are some of the most common frequently asked questions that patients have for gastroenterologists.

What Does a Gastroenterologist Do?
A gastroenterologist is tasked with studying, managing and treating disorders involving the gastrointestinal tract. They diagnose potential problems that stand in the way of your body’s ability to comfortably and easily digest food, move it through the body and get rid of waste. It’s important that your gastrointestinal system is healthy so that your body absorbs the nutrition it needs for energy and vitality. GI doctors undergo rigorous training in this specialized area of medicine for five or six years after medical school.

What Tests Are Needed?
There are a number of tests that a gastroenterologist may recommend depending on your digestive concerns. Here are a few of the most common ones:

  • Colonoscopy (checks rectum, colon, and intestinal tract)
  • Upper GI endoscopy (checks esophagus and upper gastro system)
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy (similar to a colonoscopy, but only examines a portion of the colon)
  • Endoscopic or abdominal ultrasound
  • Abdominal Angiogram
  • CT enterography

What Treatments Are Administered?
If a problem is identified in the gastrointestinal tract or system, there are a number of possible solutions your GI doctor may explore:

  • Polyp removal (done with an endoscope)
  • Esophageal, colonic, duodenal or bile duct stent placement (allows the comfortable passage of bodily fluids, solids, and waste)
  • Cecostomy (clears bowels)
  • Surgical procedures (such as bowel surgery, appendectomy, colostomy, proctectomy, gastric bypass surgery, etc)

Ask More Questions at Your Initial Appointment
Whatever specific questions you may have for a gastroenterologist, they are best addressed at your first visit. You should make this important appointment when recommended by your primary physician or when you have symptoms of a GI problem (bleeding, chronic constipation or diarrhea, heartburn and similar concerns), Call a gastroenterologist in your area to schedule a consultation today.