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.


Celiac Awareness Month

Celiac disease is not commonly diagnosed, so there is not a lot of general knowledge circulating on this topic. In fact, many Americans probably don’t even know what it is. But, many Americans are familiar with the archenemy of Celiac Disease – gluten.

What is Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease is actually considered to be an autoimmune disease, meaning that the body is literally attacking itself in response to gluten. Gluten is a protein that is found in different grains like wheat, barley and rye. When people with celiac disease eat gluten, damage is caused to the lining of the small intestine. The majority of the nutrients we get from our food is broken down and absorbed in the small intestine. If the lining is damaged the absorption of nutrients is hindered. This can lead to malabsorption problems, especially in children who are still growing.

What Does Celiac Look Like?

People with celiac disease can experience a wide range of symptoms including symptoms outside of the GI tract. Common GI symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, gas, and bloating. Symptoms outside the GI tract may include headache, anemia, tiredness, and joint pain. Celiac disease can lay dormant and symptoms vary from person to person. Due to the widespread symptom possibilities, celiac is harder to diagnose. A person may not think to go to a GI doctor with headache and fatigue if the stomach issues are only minimal.

The Next Step

If you feel that you have symptoms consistent with celiac disease, it is important to speak with your doctor before you try to alter your diet at home. The doctors at Asheville Gastroenterology are here to help. Celiac disease can be diagnosed with a blood test or biopsy from direct visualization. You should talk to your doctor before altering your diet, as decreasing your gluten intake may affect your test results. Talk with your doctor about your symptoms and see if celiac testing is right for you.

IBS Blog

A Bad Burrito or Something More?

Abdominal pain, diarrhea and constipation are things everyone experiences from time to time. But if you have these type of GI symptoms often, there just might be more going on. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a condition that affects the large bowel and produces abdominal pain and gas with diarrhea or constipation. Since irritable bowel syndrome symptoms are not always consistent and may vary, it can be difficult to see that these may not be isolated events but a chronic condition.

How Is IBS Diagnosed?

IBS often goes undiagnosed because people are unaware that something besides an upset stomach might be the problem. While there is no cure for IBS, being aware of the diagnosis allows you to make dietary and lifestyle changes that may improve your symptoms and quality of life. If you feel like you may have IBS, call Asheville Gastroenterology Associates today and schedule an appointment for evaluation.

How Can I Relieve My Symptoms?

Dietary and lifestyle changes are the best treatment for IBS. It is important to avoid foods that trigger your symptoms like high fat, greasy or fried foods, raw fruits and vegetables. Avoiding carbonated drinks may decrease gas and bloating. Over the counter medications are extremely helpful for treating symptoms of IBS. Fiber supplements, stool softeners, anti-diarrheals and gas reducers are all medicine cabinet necessities for those with IBS. Staying hydrated, getting regular exercise and reducing stress will also improve your IBS symptoms.

Living with IBS can be difficult since your symptoms may change over time, and they are not predictable. Unpredictable GI upset means that sometimes your life is halted by avoiding activities. The doctors at Asheville Gastroenterology Associates are here to help you navigate your IBS symptoms and regain control.


Take Charge of Your Health During Colon Cancer Awareness Month

Benjamin Franklin once said, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Although it was said in reference to fire safety, the adage couldn’t ring more true in regards to healthcare. This March, join Asheville Gastroenterology Associates as we celebrate National Colon Cancer Awareness Month and aim to find the best way toward that “pound of cure.”

Colon Cancer Prevention

So how can you help out in the effort to understand and discuss colon cancer? It’s always best to start out by understanding the disease and ways to prevent it. Since researchers haven’t determined a definitive cause of colon cancer, they usually focus on the major risk factors that are associated with it and what we can do about them. The first step should be to take control of your diet and exercise choices, making sure to incorporate regular exercise and a diet rich in fruits and veggies and low in red and processed meat. Make sure to maintain a healthy body weight and keep alcohol usage to a minimum and quit smoking. Even if you maintain all of the above, you should also understand the other risk factors that aren’t within your control. Certain racial and ethnic backgrounds put you at a higher risk, preexisting health conditions like IBD or Type 2 Diabetes, and a family history of colon cancer. If you have concerns about any of the above, voice them to your doctor at Asheville Gastroenterology Associates so we can evaluate your needs.

What Should I Do?

One of the most simple ways to help combat colon cancer is through lifesaving, regular colonoscopies beginning at age 50. The test surveys the lower digestive system with a thin, flexible camera, looking for polyps that may indicate the presence of colon cancer. The test is quick and typically done in an outpatient environment, so you’ll usually be back home that afternoon. If you have concerns about colon cancer or want to discuss your needs for screening, contact us today to help.


American Heart Month

In the game “Six Degrees to Kevin Bacon” you try to connect an actor to Kevin Bacon with six movies or less. It is actually pretty easy. That guy is in everything. Well, the same can be done with your health by connecting risk factors to health conditions. Heart disease – high cholesterol – obesity – diabetes – colon cancer. Wait, heart disease to colon cancer? The truth is that many of the things that put you at a greater risk for heart disease also increase your risks of colon cancer. February is American Heart Month, so let’s discuss keeping your heart healthy and in turn, keeping your colon healthy!

What’s the Connection?

So many risk factors for chronic health conditions are related to lifestyle choices and often overlap to many different illnesses. For example, smoking is not only terrible for your lungs but also increases your risks of heart disease and many types of cancers. Being overweight is a huge risk factor for heart disease and colon cancer, especially if your weight is primarily around your middle. If you are overweight you are more likely to have high cholesterol and diabetes which are more risk factors. Having a sedentary lifestyle without exercise and eating an unhealthy diet will raise your risks higher. Making lifestyle changes and healthier choices may decrease your risks of developing heart disease and colon cancer.

What Should You Do?

Family history and genetics may play a role in your personal health and could increase your risks of developing heart disease or colon cancer. It is important to know your risks and talk with your doctor about the state of your health. There are heart health screenings as well as colon health screenings that could help diagnosis a problem in its early stages when treatment is easier. Don’t delay making lifestyle changes or talking with your doctor about your health and risk factors for developing chronic conditions. Screenings and taking control of your health could save your life. The doctors at Asheville Gastro are here to help keep you healthy. If you have any concerns, make an appointment with us today!

Colon Cancer Awareness Run

Mark your calendar!

Digestive Health Partners

2017 Get Your Rear in Gear 5K is scheduled for Sunday, March 26th at 2:00 in Fletcher Park.


Hosted by Asheville Gastroenterology Associates and Carolina Mountain Gastroenterology, this event is an opportunity to raise awareness and funds for colon cancer screening and prevention. The race features both a timed and untimed 5K. For more information, or to register as a runner or a volunteer, visit the Colon Cancer Coalition website.



Could Probiotics Help My IBS?

Irritable bowel syndrome is a very common gastrointestinal disorder. How widespread is hard to determine since a large number of patients with IBS symptoms self-diagnose and also self medicate. IBS can be very hard to live with due to its often debilitating side effects of abdominal pain, bloating, constipation or diarrhea. Each person may experience different side effects and get relief from different medications making it hard for physicians to pinpoint the exact origins in each patient. Many people living with IBS are constantly reaching for over the counter medications to control either their diarrhea or constipation. But what if your OTC medicine could be offensive instead of defensive?

A new study shows that some people with IBS may greatly benefit from using a daily probiotic. Probiotics are good bacteria that help promote healthy digestion and fight bad bacteria. Probiotics can be found in foods like yogurt or can be purchased and taken daily in pill form. These good bacteria help to keep the colon functioning more normally which reduces IBS symptoms. Many things can change how the colon functions from stress to medications and foods. On average patients saw a decrease in their symptoms of abdominal pain, bloating, cramping and gas. While probiotics may not work for everyone, it is definitely worth a try.

Living with irritable bowel syndrome can be extremely challenging and is filled with trial and error. It is important to know the triggers that make your symptoms worse, such as stress or certain foods, and try to avoid them. Lifestyle changes like eating smaller meals more often and exercise may help to improve your symptoms. If you are one of those people who are just “living with” your symptoms it is time to take action! Talk with one of the doctors at Asheville Gastro about your symptoms and if trying a probiotic may be right for you. You can schedule an appointment with us here.