What is a Gastroenterologist?
A Gastroenterologist is a physician with dedicated training and unique experience in the management of diseases of the gastrointestinal tract and liver. What is Gastroenterology? Gastroenterology is the study of the normal function and diseases of the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon and rectum, pancreas, gallbladder, bile ducts and liver. It involves a detailed understanding of the normal action (physiology) of the gastrointestinal organs including the movement of material through the stomach and intestine (motility), the digestion and absorption of nutrients into the body, removal of waste from the system, and the function of the liver as a digestive organ. It includes common and important conditions such as colon polyps and cancer, hepatitis, gastroesophageal reflux (heartburn), peptic ulcer disease, colitis, gallbladder and biliary tract disease, nutritional problems, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and pancreatitis. In essence, all normal activity and disease of the digestive organs are part of the study of Gastroenterology.
Both Drs. Miller and Scholl have this advanced training and are Board Certified experts in their specialty. They are highly qualified to diagnose and treat diseases of the gastrointestinal tract and liver and place special emphasis on the GI health of women.
I experience belching and flatulence daily, should I be concerned?
Belching is a normal process that is generally caused by air accumulating in the stomach. Flatulence is also a normal process and is the passage of rectal gas that is a combination of swallowed air and gas that is a result of the activity of colon bacteria on undigested carbohydrates. Although sometimes embarrassing, both belching and flatulence should be a part of every woman’s life. Avoiding carbonated beverages, sucking on hard candy and chewing gum can help to reduce the amount of air swallowed.
Foods such as cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, beans and bran can contribute to flatulence. Some belching and flatulence are completely normal daily occurrences, excessive episodes that cause increasing pain or are accompanies by bleeding should be immediately evaluated by your physician.
Heartburn occurs when I eat spicy foods, is this normal?
Occasional heartburn, a burning feeling just below or behind the breast bone, happens to almost everyone sometimes. Many dietary components can cause occasional heartburn, including alcohol, caffeine, carbonated drinks, citrus fruits, spicy or fatty foods, tomatoes and tomato sauces and chocolate. There are also medications that can cause heartburn, which should be discussed with your physician if you have increased heartburn when a new medication is added. Frequent heartburn can indicate that you have Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) and this should be evaluated by your physician. Heartburn occurring, regularly, more than twice a week is a sign that you should contact your physician. GERD can damage the lining of your esophagus and should not be left untreated.
My bottom itches – is this a hygiene issue?
Rectal itching or “Pruritus Ani” refers to itching around the anus and can be most bothersome at night or immediately following a bowel movement. The most common cause of this itching is actually the opposite of poor hygiene – it’s due to “too good” hygiene! Excessive cleaning or wiping of the anal area causes moisture that can lead to the growth of yeast. Excessive sweating in that area can contribute, too. Unfortunately when this problem occurs most women increase the cleaning of the anal area, which exacerbates the problem. If you have rectal itching, avoid harsh perfumed soaps, gently blot (rather than wipe) the area with a moist wash cloth, and keep the area dry. Sometimes itching is caused by hemorrhoids, too. Hemorrhoids can block the anal canal so that it leaks small amounts of stool or mucus, and these itch as they dry. Itching can be made worse by coffee, alcohol and spicy foods, which should be avoided until the episode resolves. If the condition lasts more than a week, after trying the above, you should consult your physician to ascertain whether you have an infectious or skin condition that can rarely cause this condition.
How does smoking affect GI health?
Studies show that smoking increases the rates and/or severity of many common disorders of the digestive system, such as heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), peptic ulcers, Crohn’s Disease, colon polyps, pancreatitis, and some liver disease, as well as women who smoke have higher rates of colon cancer. Smoking is known to contribute to cancers of the esophagus.
What can I do to protect my GI health?
Moderate exercise, not smoking, moderating high fat and high sugar content foods, drinking adequate water, including fiber in your diet, maintaining a healthy weight and limiting alcohol intake will help to maintain a healthy GI tract. Discuss with your physician adding probiotics to your diet to assist with digestive health.
Is bowel incontinence/leakage normal?
Bowel or Fecal incontinence is a problem that is more prevalent in women than men. It tends to occur in older women and a common cause is damage to the anal muscles often from childbirth. Bowel incontinence can be effectively managed in most cases with a combination of diet, medication, exercise and other treatments suggested by your gastroenterologist.