Change Your Diet to Change Your Life

One of the most misunderstood—and misdiagnosed—gastrointestinal diseases is celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that attacks the small intestine. Its symptoms may present as gluten-sensitivity, but its impact is far more severe.

Among the symptoms you may experience are recurring bloating, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, and fatigue. While any of these may be caused by other illnesses, the combination of several symptoms can point to celiac disease. In some cases, there are no symptoms at all, or they may affect different parts of the body. Since May is Celiac Disease Awareness Month, we want to alert our patients to the inherent perils of the disease and provide information to help everyone who may be at risk.

Risk Factors

One key factor in determining celiac disease is that it is hereditary. If your mother, sibling or child has been diagnosed with it, there’s a good likelihood that you, too, could be a sufferer. So, what exactly is celiac disease? Most significantly, it is an autoimmune disease that essentially “turns against itself,” whereby your immune system attacks healthy cells in your body by mistake. There is no cure for celiac disease. It is also progressive, which means that it will continue to worsen if left undiagnosed and untreated.

Celiac disease affects the villi—long “fingers” lining the small intestine—whose purpose is to extract and absorb nutrients from ingested foods. When the villi are damaged and shortened, their function is impaired and they fail to absorb nutrients for the body. As you can imagine, this disruption in the body’s ability to nourish vital organs and extremities causes widespread damage throughout your system. Your body signals its distress through the severe reactions mentioned above.

Cutting Out Gluten

Fortunately, the specialists at Asheville Gastroenterology Associates, a division of Digestive Health Partners can help you learn a new way of eating and living successfully with celiac disease. Since gluten—a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and sometimes oats—is the main culprit in aggravating celiac disease, you will need to adopt a strict, gluten-free diet. There is no other treatment available that effectively limits the damage to the small intestine.

What some celiac disease patients may not realize is that the treatment is not just a change of diet—it’s a change of life! It may at first seem daunting to banish gluten from your home, your food, and your environment. But take heart—there are many delicious gluten-free foods and recipes that do a great job of mimicking “real” foods without the negative impact of the gluten protein on your system.

Just knowing that you can still enjoy your favorites, like gluten-free noodles, breads, crackers and desserts, without suffering the debilitating effects of products that contain gluten, is a huge stress-reliever in itself. Eventually you won’t notice the difference in taste, but the absence of gluten in your gut and digestive system will enable you to live without the pain or destructive effects that celiac disease imposes.

Consult Your Gastroenterologist

Because autoimmune diseases can be difficult to diagnose, there is a danger that patients may not seek a physician’s help. If no symptoms exist, individuals could go for years being unaware that they do, in fact, have celiac disease. Without treatment, people can develop other health problems, such as diabetes, autoimmune thyroid disease, autoimmune liver disease, rheumatoid arthritis, Addison’s disease, and Sjögren’s syndrome.

Celiac disease is diagnosed by blood tests and a biopsy of the small intestine, which can be performed by the doctors at Asheville Gastroenterology. If you think you may be at risk for developing celiac disease, schedule an appointment so we can get you on the road to treatment right away.


IBS: No Longer Misunderstood

This month, we shine a light on a very common and misunderstood disorder called IBS. Irritable bowel syndrome affects millions of Americans every year. Although the details surrounding IBS may seem uncomfortable or even embarrassing, the better you understand them, the easier it will be to respond correctly to IBS. You may not yet have a formal IBS diagnosis, but as we lean into IBS Awareness Month, you might decide it’s time to contact your doctor and speak honestly about the symptoms you endure.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

The word “irritating” may sum up this disorder perfectly. When symptoms of IBS strike, the intestine is irritated. And the person suffering through the symptoms is irritated because their plans are certainly ruined by the inconvenience and discomfort of IBS. While the disorder is known to disrupt your life, it does not damage the tissue of your intestine or raise your risk for colon cancer. The symptoms of IBS are what make the disorder seem embarrassing or unbearable. Abdominal cramping or bloating are closely related to IBS as well as the potential for mucus in the stool or excess gas. Most people experience diarrhea or constipation—sometimes a combination of the two—when IBS strikes. Although IBS is chronic, there are ways you can prevent or minimize your symptoms.

Understanding IBS Triggers

In order to know how to reduce your symptoms, you first need to understand what causes the symptoms. These are known as triggers. Triggers do not cause IBS as a whole, but do provoke the onset of IBS symptoms. The most common trigger is food. Foods associated with IBS symptoms include carbonated beverages, cabbage, beans, citrus fruits, wheat products, and dairy products. If you notice your symptoms increasing in either severity or frequency after consuming these foods, it does not mean you have an allergy to them, but simply that they irritate your intestine. Another common trigger is stress. Again, stress does not cause IBS, but it does negatively affect your body and can play a major role in prompting symptoms. The third trigger is most commonly associated with women–hormones. Hormonal changes seem to affect symptoms of IBS and many women claim that their symptoms become more severe during their period.

How to Reduce Symptoms

Don’t be discouraged by the fact that there is not a cure for IBS or that you may not be able to control your symptoms, especially if they are triggered by hormones. While that is out of your control, there are other triggers within your control. Stress may be inevitable. Life happens, work never ends, deadlines quickly approach. But you can manage your stress by getting enough sleep and making physical activity a priority. Managing your stress may be equivalent to managing your IBS symptoms. You can also make adjustments to your diet and avoid trigger foods while adding in foods that are high in fiber. For those who experience gas and bloating, cut out alcohol, carbonated drinks, and caffeine. Avoid raw fruits and vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. If diarrhea is one of your symptoms, trying avoiding gluten. Even if you don’t have celiac disease, research indicates that diarrhea is reduced in IBS patients who skip products made from wheat, barley, and rye. Your symptoms may be so severe that medication is necessary. Regardless of how intense or frequent your IBS symptoms, it’s time you do something about it.

If you are concerned that you may be suffering from IBS, don’t wait another day to schedule an appointment at Asheville Gastro, a division of Digestive Health Partners. Our team is here to help you better understand this disorder and find a solution that reduces your symptoms.


Amazing Turnout for 2018 Get Your Rear in Gear

Thank you for being a part of the 2018 Get Your Rear in Gear – Asheville on Saturday, March 24. The turnout was AMAZING even with the cold and rainy weather we endured! With your help, and the support of our sponsors, teams, and individual participants we had over 300 preregistered runners and walkers. Donations continue to come in, but we have almost reached our goal of $7,500 to increase screening rates and early detection for this preventable cancer.

We were overwhelmed by the stories we heard and the crowds that came out to celebrate survivors and give an extra hug of support to those who have lost someone to this disease. We also received emails from people in the community who came out on Saturday just to support our efforts. Seven survivors registered for the 5K race. Dr. Shrode spoke about one of them on the day of the race, so we had the opportunity to hear about JJ’s story.

In addition to the WNC Colon Cancer Screening Initiative, we hold this race each year to raise awareness of the importance of screening and to show support for these survivors and their families, letting them know that we stand beside them. In doing this, we are building a stronger community for them. Community support was demonstrated throughout the race. For example, a group of medical students formed a team and drove to Asheville from the northern part of Tennessee just to support the race. Another woman came from Missouri with a personal challenge to run a charity race in each of the 50 states. Our race made #25 for her. Yet another team had a new captain because their 41 year old team captain from last year lost her fight to colon cancer just a couple of months after our last race. The Rump Shakers team carried on in order to honor the memory of their friend, A.

When you talk to the participants, you realize what a caring community we do have. We want to personally thank each and everyone one of you for your involvement with this year’s 5K race and by supporting our local community!

View a complete album of photos here on Facebook.


Detection and Prevention of Colon Cancer is Possible

Colon cancer is currently the third most common cancer diagnosis in the United States and the third leading cause of cancer deaths. Colon cancer is difficult to detect and even harder to treat in the later stages. However, there is hope! Screening makes it easy to detect cancer in its early stages or even before it becomes a threat to you. There are also several things you can begin implementing into your life today to help lower your risk for a colon cancer diagnosis. March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month, and as we celebrate those who fought colon cancer bravely, take a moment to consider your own life and how you can prevent this disease from harming your body.

Who is at Risk?

There are two groups of people who are at risk for colon cancer–those that have control over their risk factors and those that don’t. Those that have control, have the opportunity to make changes in their life to lower their risk and potentially prevent a diagnosis. Smoking, diet, sedentary lifestyle, and obesity are included on the list of risk factors for colon cancer. However, making adjustments to your current habits may actually save your life. Smoking causes a number of health issues including colon cancer. Take steps to stop smoking and you may avoid an unwanted diagnosis. If your diet currently includes high fat or highly processed foods with little fiber, then you are at a higher risk for colon cancer. Begin trading out the fast food for fruits and vegetables. A sedentary lifestyle can easily be traded for an active lifestyle if you commit to making exercise a priority. Changes in diet and exercise may also help if you need to manage your weight and live a more healthy life. You might be at risk for colon cancer and not have any control over it.

These risk factors include age, race, genetics, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and diabetes. If you have Type 2 diabetes or have been diagnosed with either Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, you are already at risk for developing colon cancer. Or, you may have inherited a gene mutation in the form of Lynch syndrome or familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) that may be cancer causing. Be sure to inform your doctor if you have a family history of colon cancer or colon polyps as this puts you at a higher risk. In the United States, African Americans have the highest mortality rate linked to colon cancer. Ashkenazi Jews are at the greatest risk of colon cancer among every nationality in the world. Unfortunately, age is something none of us can avoid. Most colon cancer patients are over the age of 50 which is why doctors highly recommend a colonoscopy at that time. But for those of you who are at a higher risk, screenings can take place before you turn 50. This will give you the greatest chance of catching and defeating colon cancer in its early stages.

Why Should I Be Screened?

Colon cancer is difficult to detect in the early stages without a screening, however, the later that it is discovered, the more harmful and potentially fatal it becomes. Colonoscopies are designed to detect cancer early but also detect the threat of cancer. In a colonoscopy, a small tube with a light and a camera at the end is inserted into your rectum and up to your colon. The camera searches for abnormal growths called polyps. Polyps are not cancerous at first, but if left in the colon for 10 to 15 years, they can become cancerous. If a polyp is found during a colonoscopy, it can easily be removed and biopsied to determine whether or not it is cancerous. This is why regular screening is so important! A polyp can be detected and removed before it becomes detrimental to you. There’s no need to be fearful of any pain, discomfort, or embarrassment that is often associated with a colonoscopy. You are typically asleep due to anesthesia for the thirty minute procedure.

If you are at a high risk for colon cancer or are at least 50 years old, then don’t hesitate to schedule a colonoscopy at Asheville Gastro, a division of Digestive Health Partners. Let the blue ribbons that mark Colon Cancer Awareness Month inspire you to take care of your body and take control over your health. Colon cancer doesn’t have to win the battle if you’re willing to step up and get screened.


Colon Cancer Awareness Run

Join Us For The Get Your Rear In Gear 5K!

On Saturday, March 24, we are hosting the Get Your Rear In Gear 5k at Carrier Park! The proceeds from the run support the UNC Colon Cancer Screening Initiative to provide colon cancer screening for uninsured and underinsured residents of western North Carolina. It’s a great way to honor someone special who is fighting colon cancer and to remember loved ones who lost their fight. Form a team and get your friends, family, and co-workers to join you!

Click here to register online now!

DATE: Saturday, March 24, 2018
LOCATION: Carrier Park, 220 Amboy Rd Asheville, NC 28806
FEES: Through March 21 at 10 p.m.
Adult: $20
Youth (12 and under): $15
Race Day
Adult: $25
Youth (12 and under): $20

Did You Know?

  • The Centers for Disease Control states that colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths and the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States.
  • In the United States in 2017, there were an estimated 135,430 new cases and 50,260 colorectal cancer related deaths.
Gluten-Free Isn’t For Everyone

Gluten-Free Isn’t For Everyone

With the start of a new year, many people are focusing on self improvement and how they can make some positive changes in their diet, weight, or lifestyle. If you missed the resolution rush in January or fell off the wagon with your New Year’s resolution, 2018 is just beginning, so there is plenty of time to accomplish your goals. There is endless information available on all manners of diets, and it might be confusing for you to try and decide which one is the best. One diet that seems to be rising in popularity over the past several years is a gluten-free diet. If you’re diagnosed by a doctor as having celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity, there is certainly a need for that diet. Approximately 1 in 100 people have celiac disease, which is an autoimmune disorder that results in damage to the intestines if you consume even small amounts of gluten. Additionally, research shows that 18 million Americans are thought to have a non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

Gluten can can be found in wheat, rye, barley, malt, types of yeast, and certain starches. That means that you can often pinpoint the biggest sources of gluten, like breads, pastas, crackers, cereals, beer, and baked goods. The lesser known offenders may also include energy bars, french fries, candy, soups, salad dressings, soy sauce, or even seasoned meats.

I’ve Never Heard Of Fructan

Gluten can cause very serious damage to anyone who has been diagnosed with celiac disease or even a sensitivity to gluten, but a new study has indicated that self-imposed gluten-free diets might not be the best route. For many, an assumed gluten sensitivity or allergy might bring about bloating, discomfort, and stomach pains after eating foods containing gluten. There is another ingredient, called fructan, that is found in the same type of foods that may be the culprit for those digestive troubles.

Fructan is a carbohydrate that is found in wheat, as well as some veggies. Fructan has recently been thought to be the cause of gastrointestinal issues that can affect some people after eating wheat based foods. A recent study from the University of Oslo in Norway and Monash University in Australia indicated a stronger relationship between consumption of fructan and gastrointestinal distress than when compared to consumption of gluten.

How Was The Study Conducted?

Researchers studied 59 men and women who had made the choice to go gluten-free due to self diagnosed sensitivities. None of the participants had received a diagnosis of celiac disease. The participants were followed for a year and a half while they recorded their reaction to eating various muesli bars in a double blind study. The muesli bars contained either gluten, fructan, or neither of the ingredients. The study participants recorded any reactions on a GSRS-IBS scale, which is used to understand symptoms of IBS. After the study was over, they found that the worst reactions came from the group who were eating the bars containing fructan.

Does That Mean We Should Cut Fructan Instead Of Gluten?

The most important thing we can say about this study is that you should never make modifications to your diet without consulting your doctor if you have been diagnosed with celiac disease or a sensitivity. This study only analyzed those who were self diagnosed. The study is interesting, though, since it changes some of the preconceived notions about what causes gastrointestinal distress after eating bread or other wheat products. If you have any questions about how your body is handling these wheat products, make an appointment with Asheville Gastroenterology Associates, a division of Digestive Health Partners, so we can discuss your health, run any necessary tests, and help you determine what sort of diet modifications may work for you.


Add A Lifesaving Test To Your New Year’s Resolutions

This year, when you’re working on your New Year’s resolutions, we have a simple and lifesaving one that everyone who is approaching or has already turned 50 should add to their list. If you haven’t already had a colonoscopy, it’s time to make an appointment for this quick and crucial procedure.

What Is A Colonoscopy?

Colonoscopies might have a bad reputation since the subject matter can be uncomfortable and awkward. Thankfully, the exam is quick, relatively painless, and you can be back in the comfort of your own home in a matter of a few hours. A colonoscopy usually takes an hour or less to perform and is conducted right in the doctor’s office. The exam consists of a thin, long, flexible tube being inserted into the rectum. The tube has a light and camera on it, allowing the doctor to examine the inside of your digestive tract, throughout your intestines to the rectum. If an abnormality is detected during the exam, the doctor can take a small sample, send it out for analysis, and determine if it is pre-cancerous or if  colon cancer can be detected. These abnormalities typically present themselves as polyps, which are small growths in the tissue of the lining of the colon or rectum. Most of these polyps are benign, but it is possible that they may become cancerous.

Colonoscopies are simple procedures, but it is actually one of the most important tools that we have to detect and begin to treat colorectal cancer. Since this form of cancer is the second leading cause of cancer related deaths in both men and women, it’s crucial to detect early. If we can find it early, we can begin treatment and have a higher probability for success. In fact, when found early, colon cancer is over 90% curable.

What Are My Risk Factors For Colon Cancer?

Anyone can get colon cancer, and it’s prevalent in both men and women. There are certain factors like race, ethnicity, or family history which can place you at a higher risk, as well as some lifestyle choices. The factors outside of your control include family history of the disease, other cancers, or other diseases of the digestive tract. Additionally, it’s shown that African American men and women are at a higher risk, and some doctors will recommend testing prior to age 50. Lifestyle choices that place you at a higher risk for the disease include being overweight or obese, having a lack of physical activity, poor diet choices, or alcohol and tobacco use.

The current recommendations for when to begin regular colonoscopies is age 50. As long as the test comes back clear, most patients can wait for another 10 years before they have to get another one. If an abnormality is detected, your doctor will let you know what their recommendations are for further testing. There are few symptoms of early stage colon cancer, meaning that many patients don’t catch it until it’s further developed. Since many of the symptoms of colon cancer are similar to those of other GI diseases like irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, or ulcerative colitis, it’s important to check with your doctor any time you notice changes in your digestive system.

Asheville Gastroenterology Associates is here to help you better understand colon cancer, how to detect it, and how to treat it. Make an appointment with us today, especially if you’re nearing 50 and have not scheduled a colonoscopy yet.


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.