Our Gastroenterology Blog
Posts for: April, 2022
Should you schedule an appointment with a gastroenterologist?
A gastroenterologist is a medical specialist who diagnoses and treats conditions and disorders that impact the gastrointestinal tract including the liver, gallbladder and intestines. If you are dealing with digestive problems, a GI doctor is probably going to be the best doctor to turn to. Here’s when you could benefit from seeing a gastroenterologist,
You’re Experiencing Persistent Heartburn
Dealing with heartburn two or more times a week? If so, your heartburn could actually be a sign of something more serious known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Untreated GERD can increase your risk for esophageal cancer so it’s important that you turn to a qualified GI doctor for the proper way to treat heartburn symptoms. If you are dealing with recurring heartburn, using over-the-counter medications regularly is not the answer. A gastroenterologist can help.
You’re Noticing Abnormal Bowel Issues
Whether you’re dealing with diarrhea, constipation or a mix of both, we all know that these issues can be uncomfortable and embarrassing; however, it’s important to recognize when these are issues that warrant seeing a gastroenterologist. If you’re experiencing constipation or diarrhea that lasts for more than a couple of days, or if you’re experiencing dehydration due to diarrhea, you should turn to a GI doctor.
You Experience Rectal Bleeding
Rectal bleeding may be caused by more minor issues such as a fissure or hemorrhoids but it may also be a sign of internal bleeding. The color of the blood can give you a clue as to where the bleed is coming from. For example, dark blood often comes from the upper GI tract and may be caused by inflammation, gastroenteritis or ulcers. If blood is bright red this typically comes from the lower digestive tract and may be caused by polyps, inflammatory bowel disease, hemorrhoids or rectal prolapse. If you notice frequent or heavy rectal bleeding, you should see a gastroenterologist right away.
You Turned 50 Years Old
Everyone, regardless of risk factors, should turn to a gastroenterologist for routine colonoscopies. A colonoscopy is the best way to detect early signs of colorectal cancer (a gastroenterologist can even remove polyps during this standard procedure). If you are at an increased risk for colorectal cancer, you should talk to your GI doctor about getting colonoscopies starting at 45 years old.
No one wants to deal with digestive difficulties. If you are dealing with any of the situations above, a gastroenterologist can help you make sense of what’s going on and provide you with the treatment you need to feel better.
If your heartburn keeps returning, it’s important to know what to do.
You are getting ready to sit down to dinner and realize it’s taco night. While this would make most people jump for joy, if you suffer from heartburn then the idea of eating anything spicy may preemptively make your chest hurt. You want to enjoy your favorite foods but you know you’re going to pay for it later. If this sounds like you, a gastroenterologist can provide some simple solutions for how to tackle your heartburn.
Treating Heartburn Yourself
Before turning to a gastroenterologist you may wish to try controlling heartburn on your own. There are some simple lifestyle approaches you can take to manage mild to moderate heartburn symptoms such as,
- Not eating 2-3 hours before bedtime
- Eating slowly and mindfully (to prevent overeating)
- Staying away from certain foods (e.g. chocolate, caffeine, tomatoes or spicy foods) that could aggravate your symptoms
- Losing excess weight, if needed
- Limiting alcohol
- Quitting smoking
- Waiting two hours after a meal before exercising
- Not wearing clothes that are restrictive or put pressure around the waist
Nothing Seems to Be Working. Now What?
If these habits don’t improve your heartburn, then it’s time you turned to a gastroenterologist to figure out what is going on and how to treat this problem. Often, a prescription medication like a proton pump inhibitor or a stomach acid reducer is better equipped to target your symptoms and reduce stomach irritation than over-the-counter remedies.
Plus, over-the-counter heartburn medications might be great for treating the occasional bout of heartburn, but shouldn't be used more than twice a week. If you find yourself dealing with heartburn two or more times a week, then this is also a sign to see a gastroenterologist.
Keeping a diary while making these simple lifestyle changes is a great way to determine what helps your symptoms and what makes them worse. If you do keep a heartburn diary be sure to bring it with you to your doctor's appointment so your gastroenterologist can gain as much insight into your heartburn issues as possible.
If you’re suffering from heartburn and can’t seem to manage your symptoms on your own then it’s time you turned to a gastroenterologist who can figure out whether you could have GERD. If left untreated, GERD could lead to more serious complications, so it’s important to get evaluated by a medical specialist.