Discovering, treating and leading the way to improved digestive and liver health. The University of Michigan is home to over 60 expert physicians and health care providers focused on the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the digestive tract and liver.
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is an umbrella term used for diseases that involve chronic inflammation of all or part of the digestive tract. Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are two most common forms of IBD. IBD is different from IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), which can have some of the same symptoms, but does not cause inflammation or permanent damage to the digestive tract.
Symptoms of IBD include rectal bleeding, abdominal cramping, fatigue, weight loss and diarrhea. Most people with IBD begin experiencing symptoms before the age of 30. It is more common in Caucasians, but can occur in any ethnic group. Those with family members with IBD are also at higher risk. There may be environmental factors involved as well, as people who live in an urban area or industrialized country are more likely to develop IBD.
IBD is diagnosed after ruling out many other potential causes of the symptoms. Doctors may use several diagnostic tests, including blood tests, stool samples, colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, and various imaging tests.
In up to 20 percent of patients with Crohn’s disease, the disease is isolated to an area of the small bowel that is out of reach of an upper endoscopy (a procedure where a scope is passed through the patient’s mouth and into the esophagus, stomach and upper part of the small intestine) or a colonoscopy (a procedure where a tube is inserted into the patient’s rectum and passed through the colon). This makes getting a proper diagnosis challenging. Without a correct diagnosis, we can’t know if we are treating the right disease.
We have made strides in imaging techniques that allow us to see a patient’s small bowel. During a capsule endoscopy the patients swallows a pill-sized camera. As the capsule passes through the patient’s body, Continue reading →
What causes Ulcerative Colitis (UC) flares is a mystery that University of Michigan researchers are working to solve.
It’s a challenging topic to study because flares can be unpredictable. We do know that when someone with Ulcerative Colitis has a specific infection, a Clostridium difficile infection, often called c.diff, they have a 50 percent chance of developing a flare in the next 180 days. We are studying why some people experience a flare and some do not.
C.diff infections are treated with antibiotics, which affect the normal diversity of bacteria in the gut. It’s believed that those who have flares do not reconstitute a normal level of bacteria in their gut after the treatment. Without that healthy balance of bacteria, they are more prone to a flare.
If we can determine exactly what is causing flares in this specific situation, we may be able to create a probiotic to help prevent those flares. We’re just getting started with this research and expect to be done in three years.
A normal human digestive tract has about 400 different kinds of probiotics, which are bacteria that help maintain the normal balance of organisms in the intestines. Probiotics are found naturally in some foods, such as yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir and tempeh. There are also probiotic supplements on the market.
Eating foods that contain probiotics is good for your immune and digestive systems. It’s a good idea to incorporate these foods into your daily diet, especially if you have any gastrointestinal disorder, such as IBS or IBD. There are not bad side effects of probiotics, unless your immune system is compromised. The elderly, cancer patients and others who may be immunocompromised should consult with their healthcare provider before adding probiotics to their diet.
Probiotics can be helpful if you have experienced antibiotic-associated diarrhea. Taking antibiotics can wipe out the good bacteria in your gut. Probiotics help that bacteria repopulate. They are also useful after experiencing a Clostridium difficile infection, something many patients with ulcerative colitis experience. Research findings on the effectiveness of probiotic supplements are lacking, but research is ongoing. One probiotic strain, Bifidobacterium infantis 35624, has been shown effective in research. If you are evaluating probiotic supplements, you want one that has colony forming units in the billions. That information will be on the supplement’s label.
If you are feeling bloated, gassy or constipated, don’t despair. There are simple things you can do to diminish and eliminate symptoms. Being aware of foods and behaviors that cause and worsen digestive tract disturbances is a great first step. Read on for some simple solutions to your gastro woes.
Stop swallowing air
Unfortunately, there isn’t a magic medicine to make gas dissolve into thin air (pun intended). But you can easily change behaviors that unknowingly produce gas. Any time you consciously or unconsciously swallow air—by doing things like chewing gum, smoking, drinking through a straw and eating quickly—you may increase gas within your GI tract.
Physical activity even without weight loss can reduce fat in the liver.
Some fat in the liver is normal, but for a large and growing group of people too much fat in the liver puts them at risk for a condition called nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
The rise in numbers of people with fatty liver disease is tied to the increase in obesity. It’s yet another reason to maintain a normal weight, but you don’t have to be obese to get it.
About 30 percent of adults and an increasing number of children now have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. The abnormal accumulation of fat in their liver tissue can lead to inflammation, liver damage requiring liver transplant, cancer, and even death.
We are seeing that rates of fatty liver disease can differ by ancestry. Hispanics have higher rates of fatty liver disease than other groups.
The racial difference is unclear but part of the story may be genetic predisposition to developing the disease in combination with the right environmental triggers.
The general public may not be aware of their risk for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, but about a decade ago the medical community recognized it as a digestive health issue to watch.
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