Don’t Let IBD Get Too Comfortable

Your digestive system is one of the most vital systems in your body. If something goes wrong, it is also one of the most disruptive. You have felt the pain of an upset stomach, the discomfort of an unwanted bowel movement, but what if these feelings are constant? What if nausea and diarrhea settle in like a family member? You know the one. The crazy uncle that stays way past his welcome. That’s what IBD may feel like.

If part of your digestive tract becomes chronically inflamed, you may be suffering from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). IBD is the headliner for two gastrointestinal diseases that unfortunately, never go away. Those two diseases? Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. The more you understand what you’re up against, the easier it will be to prevent your unwanted guest from getting too comfortable.

Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s disease can occur when any part of the GI tract is inflamed from the mouth to the rectum, although it is most commonly found at the base of the small intestine. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and can be progressive over time. Most people are diagnosed with Crohn’s disease before the age of 20, but it can occur at any age. Symptoms include:

  • Frequent diarrhea
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Abdominal pain and cramping
  • Fatigue

It is possible to experience seasons of remission where you show no symptoms. However, Crohn’s disease is a lifelong disorder with currently no cure. But don’t let that discourage you. Treatment is completely possible to help reduce the pain and severity of your symptoms and even put the disease into remission. If you, or someone you care for, are experiencing any of these symptoms, contact one of our doctors so that we can put together a treatment plan that is right for you. Usually, medication can help ease your pain and discomfort.

Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative colitis (UC) is another form of inflammatory bowel disease that is contained in the large intestine or colon. In this case, the tissue lining of the large intestine becomes so inflamed that ulcers form. This is usually caused due to an abnormality in the immune system and while the symptoms can be treated, there is no cure for UC. The symptoms of ulcerative colitis are similar to that of Crohn’s disease:

  • Diarrhea
  • Rectal pain and bleeding
  • An urgency to defecate, even if you are unable to
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal pain
  • Weight loss

Symptoms of UC can range from mild to severe and may change over time. People who have been diagnosed with UC have also experienced seasons of remission.

Causes And Risk Factors Of IBD

Both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis have unknown causes. Doctors are certain that while stress or certain foods may trigger symptoms of IBD, they are not causes. You cannot get IBD from something you ate. Many doctors believe that IBD is a genetic issue. Inherited genes may make you more susceptible to either Crohn’s or UC, so let your doctor know if you have a family history of IBD. While most people diagnosed are the first ones in their family to suffer from this disease, if a blood relative has IBD, there is a 20% chance that you are more likely to be diagnosed. Another risk factor includes your environment. Viruses and bacteria in the environment may be a danger to your body. You are also at a higher risk for IBD if you are white or of Ashkenazi Jewish descent.

These risk factors are not meant to scare you, but make you aware. Inflammatory bowel disease can be painful and embarrassing to live with, but treatment for your symptoms is available. If you experience any of the symptoms of Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, or have a family history of IBD, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with one of our doctors at Asheville Gastroenterology Associates. We are committed to finding the best treatment plan for you to keep your symptoms at bay and prevent them from progressing.

Pancreatic Cancer Awareness

Get In The Loop

November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, making it the perfect time to get in the loop by educating yourself about this serious illness. It doesn’t get the press like some other cancers, but the number of deaths from pancreatic cancer is suspected to surpass breast cancer in the United States this year. It has never been more important to understand this disease and help in the efforts to change these statistics for the better. Start your awareness journey by preparing yourself and knowing the risk factors, symptoms, and treatments.

What Increases My Risk?

There are certain risk factors of pancreatic cancer that are outside your control. If you are between the ages of 60-80 and a male, your risk is higher. A family history of pancreatic cancer leads to a higher chance of pancreatic cancer as well. Although these factors play a part, there are activities within your control that may contribute to your higher risk. These include things like smoking, carrying excessive weight, drinking alcohol regularly, and exposure to carcinogens. Taking steps to address these controllable risk factors will greatly lower your risk of contracting pancreatic cancer and may even outweigh the uncontrollable factors! With info like that, it’s worth the effort, especially if you have one or more uncontrollable factors.

What Are The Symptoms?

Pancreatic cancer symptoms can be somewhat tricky, because they don’t obviously point to the pancreas. In other words, the symptoms that arise because of pancreatic cancer also arise in other conditions. These symptoms include jaundice or yellowing of the skin and eyes, pale stool, back or stomach pain, unintentional weight loss or poor appetite, nausea and vomiting, and blood clots. Another challenge is that often the symptoms don’t show up until the cancer has spread throughout the pancreas or into other organs. This makes it even more crucial that you understand the warning signs and not ignore them, even if you suspect it might be something minor. Visit your doctor; sure, it might be nothing, but in the worst case scenario, if the symptoms do point to pancreatic cancer, you’ll be glad you did.

Is Pancreatic Cancer Treatable?

Pancreatic cancer is treatable, and the earlier it is diagnosed, the higher the chances of a successful treatment. If you are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, there are various options available. Surgery to remove the tumor or tumors is one option and depends on the location of the tumors and the ability for the doctor to reach it. Your doctor may suggest a procedure that aims to destroy the tumors themselves rather than removing them. Most likely radiation and chemotherapy will be used in addition to a surgical procedure to treat the cancer and prevent recurrence. In making the decision on which treatment option or combination of treatments will be best, your doctor will assess the stage of your condition, the likelihood of success with each treatment, and your medical history.

Who Do I Go To For Help?

If you do start to exhibit symptoms that look like they might point to pancreatic cancer, visit a gastroenterologist right away. Gastroenterologists deal with disorders in the digestive system and have the ability to conduct diagnostic testing and procedures to accurately identify and treat pancreatic cancer. Because of the difficulty presented by the location of the pancreas, some treatments of pancreatic cancer can cause other complications like bleeding, pancreatitis, or gut perforation—all of which a gastroenterologist is uniquely qualified to handle. If you are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, your gastroenterologist will likely continue to work closely with an oncologist in creating and implementing a smart, effective treatment plan.

Pancreatic cancer is a scary topic, but having knowledge of a disease takes some of the fear out of it. For further information, or if you are concerned about symptoms, make an appointment with Asheville Gastro today. We can discuss your personal risk factors to help with a plan for prevention, or we can look at any symptoms and assess if there is cause for concern or further action. Let us be part of increasing your awareness this November!

New Location

New Satellite Office Now Open

We are excited to announce that in addition to our 191 Biltmore location, we are now seeing patients at our south location. This office is located at 15 Turtle Creek Drive off of Hendersonville Road. For those patients with an appointment at the Turtle Creek location, directions to our new south office are below for your convenience.



To Our Blue Cross/Blue Shield North Carolina Patients

Asheville Gastroenterology is not part of Mission Health systems, but remains an independent practice which continues to have insurance coverage for our BCBS of North Carolina patients. Due to contractual issues yet to be resolved between Mission Health Systems and BCBS of North Carolina, you may wonder about your options for continuity of care with Mission Health Systems. If you anticipate that you may require continuing care from Mission in the future, you may be able to complete a BCBS of North Carolina continuity of care form.

To find out more, Mission Health System’s website suggests the following:

  • To check and see if your current care plan is covered after October 5, you may call Blue Cross/Blue Shield of North Carolina at (800) 446-8053 to ask about Continuity of Care benefits. Mission Health also offers assistance by calling their Continuity of Care Concierge Service at (828) 412-6363, 8am-8pm, Monday-Friday. Patients must apply for Continuity of Care benefits no later than Sunday, November 19, 2017 (Saturday, December 9, 2017 for Federal Employees). Applications sent after these dates will be denied by BCBS North Carolina.
  • You can access all necessary forms at this link.

Asheville Gastroenterology (a division of Digestive Health Partners, PA) is an independent practice, so BCBS North Carolina coverage is not affected by the contract between Mission Health and BCBS of North Carolina. For patients obtaining their care through any of our offices or our Endoscopy Center, there is no change in insurance coverage.


What You Need to Know About High-Fat Diet and Colorectal Cancer

There are many risk factors related to colorectal cancer. Some, like genetic predisposition, are outside of your control, but one risk factor you can control is a high-fat diet. The connection between a high-fat diet and colorectal cancer can’t be denied.

The Facts

The amount of fat in your diet is directly related to your risk of getting colon or rectal cancer. If you have a high-fat, low-fiber diet, your chances of getting colorectal cancer are significantly higher than someone with a low-fat, high-fiber diet. Research shows that 80% of the time a poor diet is connected to a colon or rectal cancer.

A high-fat diet also includes a lot of trans and saturated fats. These fats are found in foods such as red meats, cookies, chips, doughnuts, and fried foods. Fried foods, although pleasing for your taste buds, are not friendly to the rest of your body. If you’re cholesterol is high and your doctor tells you about it at every appointment, you might have a diet with too many fats.

What You Can Change

When you make healthy changes to your diet, your risk of colon cancer goes down. Even if you’ve had a high-fat diet in the past, you can make simple changes to improve your health. By consuming less fast food and more fruits, vegetables, and a moderate amount of
low-fat, animal based food (like fish and poultry), you will reduce your risk of colorectal cancer. Exercise, alongside those diet changes, will lower your risk even further. Lessening junk food consumption and increasing vegetable intake will decrease your chances of developing colon or rectal cancer. There’s a reason your mother told you to eat your vegetables!

Here at Asheville Gastro, we care about your health. If you are worried about your high-fat
consumption, schedule an appointment with us today. We want to help you stay healthy and live a full, happy life.


Colorectal Cancer In Young Americans, and What You Can Do About It

Whether or not you know it, there is always a risk of colorectal cancer. The American diet brings tastier foods into our diets that are not as beneficial to our health. Our diet may play a part in the increase of cases and deaths in people under age fifty due to colorectal cancer. Colon cancer isn’t an “older person’s disease” anymore. It is vital to know what symptoms and warning signs to look for no matter your age.

Why An Increase?

In the last ten years, doctors have noticed an increase in deaths because of early onset colorectal cancer in people around the age of 50. A study by the American Cancer Society found that the number of deaths among younger Americans due to colorectal cancer have increased by one percent each year from 2004 to 2014. The increase does not necessarily come from younger people being screened earlier, but from an actual increase in the occurrence of the disease. Although researchers are still unclear, some believe inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis) could be a factor. It is crucial to know the symptoms of colorectal cancer and to speak with your doctor about when you should schedule your first screening.

What Should I Look For?

The recommendation for those with average risk is to begin colon cancer screening at age 50. However, you shouldn’t dismiss symptoms even if you are younger. These symptoms include a change in bowel habits that lasts longer than four weeks, rectal bleeding or blood in your stool, persistent abdominal discomfort like cramps, gas, or pain, feeling like your bowel doesn’t completely empty, weakness or fatigue, and unexplained weight loss. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should discuss them with a physician at Asheville Gastro.

Am I At Risk?

There are some risk factors you cannot change such as a family history of colon cancer, your age, or your ethnic background. Be sure to talk with your doctor about any family history of colon polyps or cancer. Other risk factors are due to lifestyle choices. These can be modified, and you can start making healthier choices today.

If you are overweight or obese, even losing ten percent of your body weight can reduce your risk of colon cancer. A sedentary lifestyle is also a risk factor, so get active! Even if you have little to no physical activity in your life now, you can begin walking 15-30 minutes several times a week. Pay attention to your diet. Consuming too much red or processed meat has been linked to a higher risk of colon cancer, but a diet high in vegetables, fruit, and whole grains can actually lower your risk. Not surprisingly, smoking and heavy alcohol consumption also raise your chances of developing colon cancer. Aim for no more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women, and if you need to stop the smoking habit, the American Cancer Society is a great place to start.

What Should I Do?

If you are age 50 or above and have never had a colorectal cancer screening, now is the time! Make an appointment at Asheville Gastro and don’t put your health at risk any longer. If you have a family history of colon cancer, talk with your doctor to determine the right time for your first screening. The doctors at Asheville Gastro are committed to providing the highest quality of care for you and your family.


Diarrhea Really Does Serve a Purpose!

“Why do we get diarrhea?” You’re not the first person to google search this question. Right now, you’re crouching down in your cubicle wondering if anyone will notice you dash into the restroom … again. “Why did this happen today?” you’re asking yourself. Tempted to take an early lunch break and run the nearest drugstore, you’re desperate to make the diarrhea stop. But what if we told you that your diarrhea may serve a purpose in making you feel better?

The Cause

This uncomfortable, yet common, experience is often caused by an infection or virus in the stomach. Due to bacteria, food is not absorbed correctly in the intestines which causes bowel movements to become loose and often watery. Diarrhea can also be the effect of lactose intolerance or other food allergies, alcohol abuse, food poisoning, or other more chronic diseases like Crohn’s disease. While the source of the virus varies, there may be dangers in preventing diarrhea.

The Purpose

Recent studies at Brigham and Women’s Hospital have determined that diarrhea plays a crucial role in clearing the bacteria that is found in the intestines at the beginning of an infection. When a virus like E. coli strikes, two molecules in the intestine work together to enable pathogen clearance before the infection causes too much damage. While you may be inconvenienced by diarrhea, it may actually be the best thing for your body. Diarrhea could limit the severity and longevity of the infection.

What To Do

These suggested guidelines are for adults only—please contact your child’s pediatrician for instructions concerning diarrhea in children. If you’re experiencing diarrhea, keep drinking fluids and replenishing electrolytes so that you don’t get dehydrated. Consider allowing diarrhea to run its course, rather than working so hard to prevent it. Diarrhea typically lasts for 2-3 days and may be accompanied with abdominal pain and cramping. However, you may not need to see a doctor right away. If your diarrhea persists for more than three days, you have a bloody stool, or show symptoms of dehydration, please contact us at Asheville Gastroenterology Associates to make an appointment. Our doctors are here to help you understand your GI needs and are committed to making you feel better!

An Important Announcement From Asheville Gastroenterology Associates

To date, the Mission Health System and Blue Cross Blue Shield have been unable to agree on a contract. If both parties remain at an impasse by October 5, 2017, BCBS customers will have to pay out of network for most services provided by the Mission Healthcare System.

What does this mean for you as a patient of Digestive Health Partners (Asheville Gastroenterology Associates & Carolina Mountain Gastroenterology)?

Digestive Health Partners is an independent practice so all clinic visits and procedures performed at either the Asheville, Hendersonville, or satellite offices would not be affected. Services provided through the Mission Health System—labs (Labcorp excluded) or radiology tests would be affected.

Inpatient or outpatient services performed at a Mission hospital or facility would also be affected. We remain hopeful that Mission and BCBS will come to an agreement. At DHP, we remain committed to providing the highest quality GI care without disruption to your services.


Knowing the Difference

Abdominal pain and urgent bowel movements are no joke, especially when they start to happen more frequently. They can create problems, not only in your body, but in your life as well. In fact, bowel issues are second only to the common cold in the list of reasons people miss work. Finding out if you have a bowel disorder and which disorder you have can make all the difference in you being able to live your life normally.

You may know the problem involves the bowels, but did you know that there are two very different disorders that cause chronic abdominal pain? Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Could knowing the difference be the key to relief?

What Are They?

IBS is a non-inflammatory disorder that doesn’t have a specific cause. People who suffer from IBS experience a number of symptoms, including chronic abdominal pain or cramping, constipation, diarrhea, or a combination of these. IBS is considered a “functional” disorder meaning that there is a definite problem in the digestive tract, but it does not qualify as a disease. Because IBS has no physical evidences medically-speaking—meaning that a person with IBS may still test normally and have clear screenings—it is not as well understood, and often treatments for IBS involve treating the symptoms rather than the actual disorder.

IBD is a whole different animal. It is an inflammatory disease that tends to get progressively worse without treatment. It is considered “structural,” which means that there is underlying physical damage which causes symptoms. While some symptoms mirror those of IBS, like abdominal pain and diarrhea, symptoms of IBD can include fever, anemia, bloody stool, and weight loss. Inflammation can cause damage to the intestines and colon requiring surgery. The goal of most medications prescribed for IBD is to keep inflammation from doing this kind of damage.

Which One Do I Have?

IBS is typically diagnosed through a process of questions, and the examination will help rule out other possibilities. For a diagnosis of IBS, you will be asked about the frequency of abdominal pain, and a frequency of 3 days a month for 3 months coupled with at least 2 of the following are likely indications that you may have IBS:

  • After a bowel movement, the pain gets better.
  • At the start, bowel movements come more often or less often.
  • At the start, bowel movements look different than at other times.

IBD is generally diagnosed more easily because its effects can be seen in the body, so a doctor will likely do a series of tests to see if any of the signs show up. Tests may include blood and stool, colonoscopy or other imaging, and/or CT scan. If the doctor discovers inflammation, she can use specific tests to help narrow down which type of IBD you have, like Crohn’s disease or Ulcerative Colitis.

What Should I Do?

IBS can often be helped through dietary changes. Each person is different, so involve your doctor in the discussion, but some common suggestions are to add fiber and eat less fried or greasy foods, drink more water, and consume less caffeine and dairy. Also, IBS has been shown to worsen with stress, so finding ways to decrease the stress in your life may prove beneficial. You may also ask your doctor if taking a daily probiotic can help lessen your IBS symptoms.

IBD requires medical attention, so if you have black or bloody stools or abdominal pain, constipation, or diarrhea lasting for several days or that seems to be worsening, talk to a doctor right away. You may need to be on prescription medication or even require a procedure to repair damage done by inflammation. IBD can lead to colorectal cancer, so it is important that you have regular screenings.

Whether you think you might have IBS or IBD, it is a good idea to make an appointment with a gastroenterologist. The doctors at Asheville Gastro are ready and willing to talk with you about possible diagnoses and treatment options, so contact us today.


The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Bacteria are an ever present and important part of our digestive systems. There are trillions of bacteria, or gut flora, living in your colon that help build your immune response, protect you from infection, and help breakdown and metabolize food for energy. Researchers continue to discover new benefits of gut flora, and we now know that it is extremely important keep your gut flora healthy.

How to Improve your Gut

A diverse range of different types of gut flora are important for a healthy gut. Eating a wide variety of foods including vegetables, fruit, beans, and grains will help to diversify the gut flora. A high fiber diet helps promote Bifidobacteria, which decreases inflammation in the colon. Adding fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi, and kombucha to your diet will increase lactobacilli and can help to decrease the amount of bacteria that can cause diseases.

Things to Watch For

Good bacteria helps keep the disease causing bacteria under control. The use of a probiotic may help to decrease the amount of bad bacteria and increase the amount of good bacteria, but you should talk with your doctor before beginning a probiotic regimen. Antibiotics can decrease the amount of healthy bacteria and lead to diarrhea, which could be life threatening. Clostridium difficile is a type of bacteria that can get out of control following an antibiotic causing inflammation in the colon. These types of infections are very serious and require medical intervention.

If you are concerned about the health of your colon, call Asheville Gastro and make your appointment for consultation today.