GERD and the Holidays

With the holidays fast approaching, it can be difficult to follow a healthy diet and maintain a regular exercise routine. For some individuals, with the holidays come painful symptoms of heartburn and discomfort after indulging in all those delicious meals. Because of this, the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD) has designated the week of Thanksgiving as gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD) Awareness Week. Holiday_Heartburn_blog_words

What is GERD?

GERD is a chronic, often treatable disease, with symptoms of heartburn and regurgitation of acid. Other symptoms may include dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), chest pain, chronic cough, chronic hoarseness, dental problems, and/or experiencing a bitter taste in the mouth. Patients with GERD may respond well to medications like Nexium and Prilosec that reduce the production of acid in the stomach. Diet and lifestyle modifications are also effective in managing GERD. Continue reading

Are energy drinks wreaking havoc on your digestive system?

178856680Monster, Red Bull and Rock Star are just some of the energy drinks on the market. These drinks are loaded with caffeine (any where from 75 to 200 milligrams — about the same as a cup of coffee), sugar/artificial sweeteners and other ingredients. Another way people get a quick hit of caffeine is from 5-Hour Energy drinks that concentrate up to 200 milligrams of caffeine into a two ounce drink.

So what impact do all those ingredients have on your digestive system? Caffeine is a stimulant that increases your motility, or the contraction of the muscles that propel contents in your gastrointestinal tract. Caffeine is also a diuretic that can cause dehydration especially for those who are prone to diarrhea. For some people, this can cause diarrhea. Caffeine can also make you jittery and anxious. Anxiety worsens symptoms of many gastrointestinal conditions, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).

There are about 30 grams of sugar in most eight-ounce servings of an energy drink. That’s the equivalent of more than seven teaspoons of sugar in one small eight-ounce can. For those with IBS and IBD, consuming excess amounts of refined sugar at one time may not be absorbed well in the intestines. The GI tract then draws water into the bowel to dilute and flush out the excess sugar, leading to diarrhea.

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Eating Healthy with IBD

raw food2When someone has an Inflammatory Bowel
(IBD), such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, it can seem like food is the enemy and the cause of many problems. The truth is that when patients are doing well and not experiencing inflammation, typically their diet needs to be no different than any other person — with or without IBD. Many people incorrectly believe that eating foods that irritate their condition during a flare can actually bring on a flare. That is not true.

When you are experiencing a flare, it is often helpful to stick to a bland diet — rice, bread, toast, bananas, applesauce, etc. Avoid caffeine, sugar and protein, which can aggravate an already irritated bowel. Once you are feeling better, gradually start eating foods that you have been avoiding. It’s important when you are feeling well to have a well-balanced diet complete with a variety of foods.

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Baby boomers targeted for Hepatitis C testing

Recently approved drugs make HepC treatment simple and more effective

The diagnosis was a surprise for Claudia Dionne: testing during her yearly check-up revealed hepatitis C. The liver-damaging virus was not causing symptoms but for the 4 million people in the United States with hepatitis C it can lead to liver cirrhosis, liver cancer and is the most common reason people need a liver transplant.

But research is changing what comes next for those who learn their diagnosis early. New drugs – Victrelis, Incivek, Harvoni, Olysio and Sovaldi — make treatment easier and more effective and in November, combination treatment of Sovaldi and Olysio was approved. Interferon-free oral combination therapy is available for almost all types of hepatitis C infection.

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Swallow this camera; watch what happens in your small intestine

A Jelly bean size camera used in capsule endoscopy.

A Jelly bean size camera.

It’s hard to believe any procedure could be a patient’s “favorite,” particularly when it comes to procedures involving the GI tract. But that’s exactly what a capsule endoscopy has become for University of Michigan Health System patients who need it.

The procedure involves swallowing a tiny camera the size of a jelly bean. The camera travels down past the stomach and into the small intestine, the organ responsible for breaking your sandwich down into carbohydrates, proteins and fat. Once there, the camera takes shots of your small intestine (50,000 to 60,000 digital images), the photos are transmitted into a recorder worn in a pouch strapped around  your waist. Then images are downloaded onto a computer. Continue reading

Trained to screen patients for colon cancer, nurse finds a genetic link to this disease in her own family

Lynch syndrome

The Sylvest family tree includes Lynch syndrome, a genetic disorder that can cause cancer.

Lisa Sylvest is a cancer survivor who never met her father Karl’s parents. They lived in Denmark with their other son and daughter. Growing up, Lisa simply knew that her grandmother died at age 54 of a ‘female’ cancer. When Lisa was in high school, Karl’s brother died of brain cancer, also at age 54. Time passed, Lisa entered nursing school and her father’s sister developed endometrial cancer. Lisa traveled to Denmark to meet her relatives face-to-face for the first time.

When her father was diagnosed with advanced colon cancer at age 68, Lisa was a U-M Health System nurse working in gastroenterology, which deals with stomach and intestinal disorders. Her Continue reading