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.

Another Way To Prevent Colon Cancer?

Homemade yogurt in the glass on wooden background,healthy food

It seems like everywhere you turn, there are news articles about what sort of foods, drinks, medicines, and environmental factors that increase your risk of getting certain types of cancer. Since those are often alarming, it is nice to hear about something that is within your power to help lower your risk of certain types of cancers, including colon cancer.

A recent study helped prove that there is a relationship between gut microbiota and colon cancer. What exactly is gut microbiota? Your intestine is filled with microorganisms that perform a wide array of tasks. They help the body digest foods, produce some vitamins, and assist in maintaining a healthy immune system. The study that was performed involved cancer prone rats that were injected with various types and combinations of gut microbiota. The results showed that after 6 months, the rats with a specific type of microorganisms, LEW gut microbiota, developed significantly fewer tumors than the other rats, with two of them not having developed any tumors at all.

Although it’s not a failsafe bet against colon cancer, and there are many genetic factors that may be at play as well, it is good news to know that there is something within your reach to help prevent it. Maintaining the gut microbiota in your body can be done with certain diets. There are certain foods, mainly traditional fermented foods, which contain the beneficial lactic acid producing bacteria. Fermented foods include yogurt, cottage cheese, whey, Kefir, and pickled vegetables. Probiotic supplements are also available in powder or pill forms.

As with many health concerns, it’s always important to talk to your doctor. Balancing gut microbiota through diet is not going to completely take away your risk of colon cancer, especially if you have a family history of the disease. Talk to your doctor about what is right for you, have regular exams, and keep an eye on your body and discuss any health changes with your doctor.  If you are age 50 or older, call to schedule your screening colonoscopy with one of the doctors at Asheville Gastro.

GERD Awareness Week

Woman suffering from acid reflux or heartburn, isolated on white background

The holidays can be such a hectic time of year and probably the last thing on your mind is your health. But this time of year can actually have an effect on certain health conditions and even worsen them. Case in point is gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, and fittingly GERD awareness week is the week of Thanksgiving.

GERD is caused by stomach acid rising from the stomach into the esophagus causing a burning type of pain in the chest from irritation to the lining of the esophagus. Often GERD is self treated by reaching for some TUMS and not much thought goes into what is causing or making the reflux worse.

During the holidays we eat too much, eat late, cook and bake richer recipes, are stressed, drink more alcohol and maybe even smoke a little more. All of these things can worsen side effects from gastroesophageal reflux disease. Side effects of GERD may include burning or chest pain, cough, difficulty swallowing and hoarseness. If you already have GERD you may find that your symptoms are not as well controlled during this time of year.

GERD is easily treated over the counter these days whether it is TUMS for immediate relief or the use of a daily medication to help control acid production called a PPI, proton pump inhibitor. While taking medications will treat your symptoms, you should also try and avoid triggers and things that can worsen symptoms. Avoid eating large meals and eating very late. You should stay upright following a meal while your food digests so those holiday naps will have to wait. Limit your alcohol intake and don’t smoke.

While self treating is OK it is important to know when to talk with a doctor. You should make an appointment with your gastroenterologist if you have reflux symptoms more than once a week and if your symptoms are not well controlled on over the counter medications. Your doctor might recommend different medications or further testing.

Don’t let another holiday season go by suffering with GERD symptoms. Talk with one of the doctors at Asheville Gastro about your concerns today.

Listen To Your Gut


Intestines with Gut Bacteria on Blackboard



If there was a way you could help prevent colon cancer wouldn’t you do it? Doctors suggest that by listening to your body and paying attention to changes in your bowel habits you may be able to do just that.

Changes in your bowel habits can be a signal that something is wrong. Symptoms of colon cancer can include changes in the consistency and shape of your stool, blood in the stool, persistent abdominal pain and unexplained weight loss. Paying attention to these symptoms and talking with your doctor could be a life saving decision.

Colon polyps are an abnormal accumulation of cells that grow outwardly in the colon and eventually turn cancerous. When colon polyps are found early they can be removed before they become cancerous or in early stages of cancer. Colon cancer is more easily treated when found in its earliest stages and has more successful treatment outcomes.

It is suggested that the average person should begin colon cancer screening at age 50, but some people may need to begin earlier screenings. Your doctor may suggest earlier screening if you have changes in your bowel habits, a family history of colon cancer or some genetic conditions putting you at greater risk for colon cancer. Talk to your doctor and know your colon cancer risks to help decide when to begin colon cancer screenings and what screening tool is right for you. The doctors at Asheville Gastro are committed to helping you reduce your risk of colon cancer. If you are age 50 and have never been screened for colon cancer, contact us today!