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No Surgery, No Drugs: The First Results In Our Area For The ORBERA Gastric Balloon

It’s a new way to lose weight, and it doesn’t involve surgery or drugs. It is called ORBERA, an intragastric Balloon that takes up room in the stomach allowing obese patients to adapt to smaller, more healthy portion sizes. Consequently, patients are losing weight.

“A month ago, these pants would’ve been super tight on me,” Susan Mangler explained. Mangler has lost 21 pounds in a month thanks to a temporary balloon in her stomach. “It basically prevents you from becoming hungry,” she explained.

Dr. Robert Bailey with Hillmont G.I. is the first in the area to use the ORBERA Gastric Balloon to help people lose weight. “What we do is we place it down the mouth, down the esophagus, and into the stomach,” Dr. Bailey explained. Once the narrow catheter is inside the stomach, the balloon is filled with 600 CC’s of saline, and the endoscope is removed. “It is big, your stomach is pretty big as well — it takes up about half of your stomach,” he explained.

Gluten: The Dietary Bad Guy That’s Not so Bad

When it comes to dieting, we always like to single out the bad guy. In the 80s, we swore off anything and everything with fat. In the 90s, we eschewed carbs with absolute fervor. And now, it appears that the latest dietary supervillain on the scene is gluten. This composite protein found in wheat, rye and barley seems harmless enough. So why is everyone from Bill Clinton to Lady Gaga championing the gluten-free diet?

For people with celiac disease, avoiding gluten is an absolute necessity, but in recent years the gluten-free diet has soared in popularity as a means of weight loss, treating gastrointestinal issues and improving overall health. Estimates show that 1 in 3 Americans avoid gluten in their diets, yet only 1 percent of the American population suffers from celiac disease. So is giving up gluten really the way to go?
Experts warn that while the gluten-free diet might be trendy and enticing, it probably isn’t the best option for your health. Giving up gluten without a medical reason could result in a diet that is lacking in nutrients such as calcium, iron, folate, phosphorus and zinc. Gluten-free products tend to be lower in fiber, which can place you at greater risk for conditions like diabetes, heart disease and colon cancer, and they are often higher in calories, which ultimately leads to weight gain instead of weight loss.

Contrary to the belief that gluten is bad for your health, studies have shown that gluten can actually be quite beneficial. Gluten contains the amino acid glutamine, which may boost immunity, and according the British Journal of Nutrition, may lower the risk of infection after surgery. A Canadian study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that adults with high cholesterol who increased their gluten consumption lowered serum triglyceride levels in just two weeks. Gluten also promotes a healthy balance of gut bacteria which promotes digestion and aids in immunity.

If you suffer from gastrointestinal issues that you suspect may be due to gluten, be sure to visit your doctor before starting a gluten-free diet. If you do have celiac disease, giving up gluten before visiting your doctor will normalize your blood levels, making diagnosis more difficult. It is also wise to consult with a dietician before beginning a gluten-free diet to help you identify healthy, gluten-free sources of whole grains and ensure you receive the proper nutrients for good health (Source: The Washington Post).

Milk: It Does a Body (and Gut) Good

Your mom probably told you to drink your milk for strong bones and teeth, but did she ever mention a healthy gut? Probably not, but a new study indicates that dairy products can actually boost the effectiveness of probiotics, the “good” bacteria that promote digestion and strengthen immunity. This research was published July 10 in Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

Probiotics can be found naturally in several dairy products such as yogurt, kefir and some raw or aged cheeses, but there are plenty of other probiotic sources that are not in the dairy family. Sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, and even pickles are rich in these gut-healthy microbes. While consuming any of these options will undoubtedly increase your intake of probiotics, researchers believe the key to unlocking their full range of health benefits is dairy.

Researchers at the University of California at Davis focused their study on the probiotic strain Lactobacillus casei BL23 in mouse models with colitis, a condition which causes inflammation of the colon. They found that the mice who consumed the probiotic with milk had decreased symptoms compared to mice who consumed milk without a probiotic and mice that were given the probiotic in a nonfood supplement.

Corresponding author Maria Marco, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Food Science and Technology at the University of California at Davis, says these findings indicate that the delivery of probiotics can influence the effect that they have on the body. While dairy products are often the go-to source or individuals wanting to bulk up on probiotics, this is the first study to investigate whether probiotics are more effective in dairy versus other foods or supplements.

Probiotics are an excellent way to maintain balance in your digestive tract, and they are a safe and easy addition to practically any diet. Whether you choose supplements, fermented foods or products that have been fortified with probiotics, make sure to include dairy when consuming your probiotic sources. You’ll enjoy a wealth of health benefits and feel great about yourself.

Inflammatory Foods Increase Colon Cancer Risk, Study Finds

There are several decisions that go into deciding what you want to eat. Should it be something sweet or savory? Healthy or indulgent? Refreshing or comforting? But the real question you should be asking yourself is whether it’s pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory. New research shows that pro-inflammatory foods increase systemic inflammation and could raise the risk of developing colon cancer.

Researchers from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia developed a dietary inflammation score based on the association of independent dietary components with C-reactive protein (CRP), a protein found in blood plasma that elevates in response to inflammation. They used several food components to develop their score, including four types of meat, nuts, pepper, coffee, tea, dairy products, refined and whole grains, and twelve botanical categories. Then, they examined the association of inflammation scores with the occurrence of colorectal adenomas. The results of the study indicated that diet may contribute to systemic inflammation, thus increasing the risk of cancer (Source: Food Consumer).

So what exactly is a pro-inflammatory food? Foods that are starchy or sugary and contain flour or other sweeteners are considered to be pro-inflammatory. This includes:

  • Breads and bagels
  • Pasta
  • Crackers
  • Ice cream, sherbet and frozen yogurt
  • Cakes, pies and pastries
  • Soda
  • Jams and jellies
  • Honey and molasses

Foods that are processed or contain unhealthy oils are also pro-inflammatory and should be avoided. They include:

  • Fast food
  • Fried foods
  • Chips and pretzels
  • Hot dogs
  • Eggrolls

To adopt an anti-inflammatory diet and lower your chances of developing colon cancer, build your meals around fresh, whole foods. Most fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, whole grains, and lean proteins are excellent choices that will provide essential nutrients and prevent inflammation. Cook with healthy oils and fats such as organic butter, coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil, and replace sugary beverages with water or herbal tea (Source: Auger Family Chiropractic). As you fill your diet with wholesome, anti-inflammatory ingredients, you will begin to reap the rewards of a healthier body, a more energetic lifestyle, and a reduced risk of colon cancer.

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Healthy Food Swaps

Healthy digestion starts with healthy eating. Is your diet making the cut? We all fall short of our dietary goals sometimes, but healthy food swaps are a quick and simple way to get back on track. By removing poor eating habits and replacing them with healthier alternatives, you can easily improve the quality of your diet, promote good digestion and increase your overall health. Here are a few tips to get you started:

Drink water instead of diet soda

Diet soda seems like a win/win for those who want to cut calories and satisfy their sweet tooth, but artificial sweeteners and other chemical additives make this drink a lose/lose. Good old-fashioned H2O still reigns supreme as the healthy drink of choice. Drinking water promotes healthy digestion, improves kidney function and keeps your skin looking great!

Eat a normal diet instead of going gluten-free

For people with celiac disease, a gluten-free diet is crucial to improving their health and digestion. But if you haven’t been diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, giving up gluten may not be a wise choice. Many whole grains that contain gluten provide a wealth of vitamins, nutrients and digestive benefits. Experts also warn that many gluten-free products are high in fat, sugar, salt and other additives. Instead of eliminating gluten from your diet, focus on eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein.

Eat salad greens instead of kale

Ok, kale isn’t exactly an unhealthy food choice. But while it’s true that kale is chock full of vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants, it isn’t the easiest food to digest. “It contains a high amount of fiber as well as oligosaccharides, which can only be digested by our colonic bacteria. This can cause gas and bloating in some people, especially those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS),” says James Lee, MD, a gastroenterologist at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, California. If you decide to have a healthy salad for lunch, do your digestive system a favor. Lay off the kale and opt for some leafy spinach or salad greens instead (Source: Time).

Snack on trail mix instead of granola bars

At first glance, those low-calorie granola bars seem like the perfect healthy snack. They’re made from whole grains, packed with fiber, and some of them even have chocolate! But many of these low-calorie bars are high in sugar and preservatives, making them more of a treat than a health food. For a more wholesome alternative, make your own trail mix using a variety of nuts, seeds, dried fruit and whole grain cereal. You can even throw in a small handful of chocolate chips for some added sweetness!

It takes time for healthy choices to become habits, so remember to cut yourself some slack as you grow accustomed to a your new way of life. Your diet may not always be perfect, but even the smallest improvement is a step towards better health, better digestion and better living.

Black History Month: Earlier Screenings Recommended for African Americans

February is Black History Month, a time to celebrate and reflect upon the contributions of the many great African Americans throughout our nation’s history. From Harriet Tubman’s courageous journey as a conductor in the Underground Railroad to Martin Luther King Jr.’s uplifting “I Have A Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial, these stories encourage and inspire us to work together toward a brighter future for ourselves, our children and our country.

If you are of African American descent, one step you can take during Black History Month to give yourself the best future possible is to schedule your screening colonoscopy. Colon cancer is the third most common form of cancer among men and women in the United States, and African Americans have the highest rate of colon cancer and mortality among any ethnicity in the country. Because of this increased risk, it is recommended that African Americans begin screening at the age of 45.

In addition to regular screening, you can reduce your risk of colon cancer by becoming familiar with the risk factors of this disease. They include:

  • Age
  • Obesity
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • High-fat diet
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Use of alcohol or tobacco products
  • Inflammatory bowel disease involving the colon
  • Personal history of colon polyps
  • Family history of colon polyps or colon cancer

If you have a personal history of polyps or a family history of polyps or colon cancer, you may need to begin screening before the age of 45. However, you should never assume that a clean family history is a reason not to get screened. Approximately 5 to 10 percent of colon cancer cases are hereditary, but the vast majority of them occur independently, meaning the individual had no family history of the disease (Source:

Colon cancer is more than 90 percent treatable when discovered in its early stages, so it is absolutely vital to get screened early and regularly. Let February be the month that you schedule your screening colonoscopy or encourage a loved one to schedule theirs. It is a decision that will have a profound impact on your health and your future, and it all starts with a simple phone call!

Benefits of Gut Bacteria

Bacteria often gets a bad rap. From anti-bacterial soap and hand sanitizer to disinfectant wipes and surface sprays, we spend a great deal of time and effort trying to eliminate bacteria from our lives. But research shows that not all bacteria are created equal, and some bacteria can actually be beneficial. More and more, researchers are finding that gut bacteria offers a wealth of benefits to the human body.

The intestinal tract plays host to trillions of bacteria, which have an active role in digestion, nutrient absorption, immunity support, and fighting off harmful bacteria. These bacteria are acquired during the birthing process, and colonization of the gastrointestinal tract begins immediately. By the time you reach adulthood, these gut microbes can add up to approximately four pounds of your body weight.

In addition to supporting the immune system and promoting healthy digestion, gut bacteria is now suspected to play a role in preventing obesity and a variety of diseases. A 2006 study found differences in the gut bacteria found in thin mice and overweight mice. Additionally, when microbes from an overweight person were given to a thin mouse, the thin mouse gained weight. However, when microbes from a thin person were given to an overweight mouse, the overweight mouse experienced weight loss. This study raises the question of whether probiotic therapy can be used to prevent obesity in humans.

Further studies have revealed associations between gut bacteria and colon cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, ­allergies and diabetes (Source: Mirror). One study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science found that the gut bacterium A. muciniphila was considerably lower in mice with obesity and type 2 diabetes. When researchers gave probiotic supplements to raise levels of A. muciniphila in at-risk mice, they noted improved function of the gut lining and reduced fat mass, inflammation and insulin resistance (Source: Everyday Health).

Scientists have only scratched the surface of understanding the benefits of gut microbiota, but one thing is for certain: bacteria isn’t always the bad guy we’ve made it out to be. The next time you stop to appreciate your good health, remember that your gut bacteria played a part!

Colonoscopy Prep Tips You Need to Know

Do you know the number one reason people avoid getting a colonoscopy? It isn’t embarrassment, lack of time or even concern about the cost. It’s fear. A survey by the Colon Cancer Alliance found that fear of the test results, the bowel preparation and the procedure itself was the primary reason that qualified candidates did not get a colonoscopy.

Colon cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer among men and women in the United States, but with early detection and regular screening, it is 90 percent preventable. Instead of focusing on the fears and anxieties you have about this exam, try to focus on ways you can make it easier. Here are some tips to help your colonoscopy experience go as smoothly as possible:

Split-dose your prep – Traditional colonoscopy prep required patients to drink a gallon of solution the night before their exam, but doctors have found that the split-dose method is better tolerated by patients and more effective in cleansing the colon. With a split-dose prep, patients drink half the prep solution the night before their colonoscopy and the other half 3 to 8 hours prior to the exam. Research has shown that split-dosing increases adenoma detection rates by five percent and improves prep quality sevenfold (Source: Mayo Clinic).

Give your tush a little TLC – A day of constant bathroom visits is going to be rough on your rear. Be sure to have an adequate stash of soft toilet paper or wet wipes on hand, and keep a bottle of diaper rash ointment nearby. You’ll be glad you did!

Pamper yourself – You’ll be anchored to the toilet most of the day, so think of ways to keep yourself comfortable and entertained. Wear a pair of comfortable pajamas or sweatpants with an elastic waistband to make frequent bathroom breaks a little easier. Rent movies from Redbox or add TV shows and movies to your list on Netflix for entertainment that is readily available all day long. Ask a friend to be available for encouraging texts or phone calls throughout the day.

Rely on others – Chances are you’ve got a friend or family member who has been through a colonoscopy and would be happy to share their experience with you. Words of advice and encouragement from a loved one can work wonders to calm your fears, so rely on the experience of others to help you get through this.

For more colonoscopy helpful tips and personal experiences, visit the Testimonials page on

Do You Know How Much Your Surgery Should Cost?

If you’ve ever opened the bill from a recent surgical procedure and experienced serious sticker shock, you’re not the only one. A 2015 Consumer Reports survey of 2,200 Americans found that one-third of respondents received a medical bill for which they had to pay a higher cost than expected.

With medical cost inflation reaching an 8-year high in 2015, consumers are more concerned than ever with keeping their healthcare expenses under control (Source: CNBC). Luckily, the internet is making the process easier with procedure cost estimator websites. These sites estimate your average procedure cost based on what healthcare practitioners in your area usually charge. Once you know the average cost, you can easily shop for a doctor with reasonable rates and avoid unexpected medical expenses. Here are a few sites to help you find average procedure rates in your area:

Healthcare Bluebook

Just like Kelley Blue Book tells you the fair market value of your vehicle, Healthcare Bluebook estimates the total fair price for a wide variety of medical procedures. The site provides cost estimates for surgical and non-surgical procedures, labs, imaging, pharmacy, dental, cosmetic medicine, and hearing aids. The site also provides a breakdown of fees for physician services, facility services and anesthesia. Enter your ZIP code for customized results based on what physicians in your area typically charge.


MDsave is an online healthcare marketplace that allows consumers to pay up-front for medical procedures, imaging and treatment for a wide variety of diseases and conditions. Prices are negotiated with medical providers to provide up to 60 percent out-of-pocket savings, and fees are bundled into one lump sum so you don’t have to worry about surprise expenses. The search tool allows you choose from a list of providers in your area, and you can even read user reviews to find the doctor who is right for you.

FAIR Health Consumer Cost Lookup

This site estimates your procedure cost based on the FAIR Health’s national database of healthcare claims. Whether you have insurance or not, the cost estimator tool shows how much you can expect to pay out-of-pocket for medical and dental care. You can also compare the cost of seeing an in-network or out-of-network provider to help you find the best price possible.

At a time when medical costs are higher than ever, it truly pays to shop around for reasonably priced care. Take some time to do your research, and don’t be afraid to call your doctor or medical facility and ask for their rates. Knowledge is power when it comes to managing your medical expenses, and it could mean extra dollars in your pocket!

Be a Survivor: How Three People under 50 Managed to Beat Colon Cancer

More than 90 percent of colon cancer cases occur in adults over the age of 50. But make no mistake: colon cancer affects the young and the old alike. Research shows that young onset colon cancer is steadily rising, with dramatic increases seen among adults in their 20s, 30s and 40s (Source: Regardless of age, it is vital for everyone to familiarize themselves with the risk factors and warning signs of colon cancer and talk to their doctors immediately about any concerns. These are the stories of three people under the age of 50 who were able to beat colon cancer through early detection, diagnosis and treatment.

Scott McConnell

Scott was diagnosed with two unique forms of cancer before the age of 45. The first in his family to ever be diagnosed with colon cancer, Scott consulted his parents thinking maybe he had overlooked something that could have alerted him earlier. Scott has since managed to beat cancer three times, which has made him much more aware of the hereditary aspects of cancer and the need to discuss early screening with his children.

Scott has a unique outlook on his colon cancer diagnosis, saying he has the “best worst luck” of anyone he knows. While he would certainly never choose to have a cancer diagnosis, he feels fortunate to have a type of cancer that can be easily detected and treated.

Lisa Goldstein

Lisa thought colon cancer was the last thing she had to worry about due to her age and family history. So when she was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer at the age of 47, it came as a complete shock. Lisa remembers experiencing some fatigue, which she attributed to being a working mother, but she experienced no other alarming symptoms. “I’m so thankful that my doctor thought to send me to get a colonoscopy because this could have been very different,” she says. Due to early detection and prompt treatment, Lisa is now cancer free. In addition to discussing the need for early screening with her 17 year old daughter, Lisa is passionate about telling others of the need for colon cancer screening. “I talk about it all the time to anybody who will listen that it’s so important to get screened and screened early.”

Steve Green

Steve’s colon cancer journey began when he started noticing blood in his stool. He initially ignored his symptoms in hopes that they would disappear, but after about a month and a half of seeing no improvement, Steve finally consulted his primary care physician. This ultimately led to him being diagnosed with colon cancer at the age of 43.

In addition to routine screening, Steve encourages everyone to be aware of any suspicious symptoms and have them evaluated by a doctor. “What I know now about colon cancer, and what I think everybody should be aware of is, pay attention to what’s going on with your body and don’t delay. Get screened. Talk to your doctor about things…The sooner you catch things, the better the result is going to be.”

New Study May Explain Link between Obesity and Colon Cancer

Obesity is a known risk factor for many diseases and cancer types, but studies have found a particularly strong link between obesity and colon cancer. Individuals who are overweight or obese are 50 percent more likely to develop colon cancer, and they have a greater risk of dying from the disease.

Obesity-related colon cancer is the 6th leading cause of cancer death in the United States, but experts have not been able to identify why obesity raises colon cancer risk. One theory suggests that high levels of insulin in obese individuals may signal cells to rapidly increase, a characteristic of cancer. However, recent findings published in the journal Cancer Research may shed new light on the obesity-colon cancer link.

Researchers from Thomas Jefferson University have discovered a biological connection that links obesity to the development of colon cancer. The investigators found that a high-calorie diet in lab mice inactivated a key hormone in the intestines which increased the risk for cancer. When this hormone was reactivated with the use of a particular drug, colon cancer development was prevented, even when the mice continued to eat a high-calorie diet.

"These findings came as a surprise — we and many other researchers worldwide have been trying to disentangle obesity from development of colorectal cancer. Calories sit in the middle of these two conditions, but the question of what they were doing has been one of the most perplexing and provocative questions in cancer research,” said lead researcher Dr. Scott Waldman (Source: Newsmax).

Further research is needed to fully understand the ties between obesity and cancer, but maintaining a healthy weight remains an important step in colon cancer prevention. To determine whether your body weight falls within a healthy range, begin by checking your body mass index (BMI). A healthy BMI ranges from 18.5 to 24.9. A BMI of 25.0 to 29.9 is considered overweight, and a BMI of 30.0 or above is considered obese.

Additional healthy habits that can lower colon cancer risk include:

  • Staying physically active
  • Following a low-fat, high-fiber diet
  • Limiting alcohol intake
  • Eliminating tobacco products
  • Limiting intake of red meats, especially processed meats
  • Staying current with colonoscopy screenings (Source:

Young Onset Colon Cancer More Prevalent than Previously Thought

More than 90 percent of colon cancer cases occur in individuals over the age of 50. This simple fact has greatly contributed to colon cancer being perceived as an “old person’s disease”, but experts warn that individuals under the age of 50 should be just as aware of problematic symptoms. New findings show that young onset colon cancer is more prevalent than originally expected.

A recent study published in the journal Cancer found that one out of every seven colon cancer patients is under the age of 50 – the recommended age to begin colon cancer screening. The study involved 260,000 colon cancer patients who were diagnosed between 2008 and 2011. Researchers found that 15 percent of patients were under 50. These individuals tended to have colon cancer in more advanced stages than older study participants. However, they generally responded better to cancer treatments and had a lower chance of recurrence.

Lead study author Samantha Hendren expressed surprise to see figures so high, noting that a significant rise was seen among individuals in their 30s and 40s. Hendren called these findings a wake-up call for younger individuals to become familiar with colon cancer symptoms and seek medical attention for any concerns.

Colon cancer in its early stages often presents no symptoms, but individuals may experience:

  • Changes in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation or pencil-thin stools
  • Rectal bleeding or blood in stool
  • Abdominal pain
  • Unexpected weight loss
  • Weakness and fatigue

Researchers have not been able to explain this increase among younger individuals, though they suspect that environmental factors could be partly responsible. Certain lifestyle habits such as smoking, obesity, unhealthy eating habits, and lack of exercise may also be contributing factors.

Hendren says these findings do not necessarily mean that screening guidelines will be changed. However, individuals who have a family history of polyps or colon cancer should talk to their doctor about earlier screening (Source: Voice of America). Current guidelines recommend that these individuals begin colon cancer screening at age 40 or 10 years before the youngest case in the immediate family (Source: American Cancer Society).

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Adenoma Detection Rate: the Primary Colonoscopy Quality Indicator 

The mere mention of a colonoscopy can cause just about anyone to cringe. A visual examination of the rectum and colon? No thanks! But take a quick look at the statistics surrounding colon cancer and it becomes abundantly clear just how important a colonoscopy is:

  • Approximately 140,000 individuals are diagnosed with colon cancer each year in the United States.
  • Colon cancer claims the lives of more than 50,000 Americans annually.
  • Up to 60 percent of colorectal cancer deaths could be prevented if everyone over 50 had regular screenings (CDC).

There’s no denying that colonoscopies save lives, but experts say it isn’t just the test itself that matters; it’s the quality of the examination. That’s where adenoma detection rates come into play.
Adenoma detection rate (ADR) is a percentage that indicates how often a physician detects an adenoma during a colonoscopy in patients over 50. This figure is widely accepted as a benchmark of quality in colonoscopy screening and may be a key indicator in colon cancer incidence and survival outcomes.

Adenomas are small, benign tumors of glandular tissue that are detected and removed during a colonoscopy. Although adenomas themselves are not cancerous, they have the potential to become colon cancer if left undisturbed. A gastroenterologist with a high ADR is more likely to perform a thorough and quality examination that will detect the presence of any adenomatous polyps.

A report published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) found that patients who chose doctors with higher ADRs had a significantly lower risk of developing colon cancer. The rate of colon cancer among patients with doctors in the highest quintile of polyp detection was just 52 percent of that among patients with doctors in the lowest quintile. The study further found that every one percent increase in ADR was associated with a three percent decrease in colon cancer risk and five percent decrease in risk of fatal colon cancer.

When choosing a gastroenterologist to perform your colonoscopy, remember to ask the most important question of all: “What is your adenoma detection rate?” This rate should be at least 15 percent in women and 25 percent in men. While doctors are not currently required to record or share ADRs with their patients, a quality physician will be proud to share this information with you.

Another important question to ask is a physician’s average withdrawal time – the amount of time it takes to withdraw the scope from the colon. This figure represents how much time is spent examining the colon for polyps. You want your doctor’s average withdrawal time to be at least six minutes.

Talk to your gastroenterologist about ADRs and average withdrawal times, and make sure you’re getting the highest quality exam possible. When your long-term health is on the line, you can never be too careful.

Study Links PPI Use to Dementia

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are the most effective and widely used class of drugs to treat acid reflux, but patients who use these medications unnecessarily could be placing themselves at risk for even greater health problems. Previous studies have linked long-term PPI use to complications like osteoporosis, hip fractures, pneumonia and C. difficile, and now, researchers have reason to believe PPIs could increase the risk of dementia in seniors.

Research published in the Feb. 15 issue of JAMA Neurology found that people aged 75 and older who regularly take PPIs have a greater risk of dementia than patients who do not take these medications. German researchers collected data from a health insurance firm on nearly 74,000 individuals who were 75 or older. Approximately 2,950 of these individuals had at least one PPI prescription per quarter over an 18-month period. Researchers discovered that these patients had a 44 percent increased risk of developing dementia.

The researchers found that PPIs appear to affect amyloid beta and tau, proteins which are associated with Alzheimer’s disease. PPIs are also known to interfere with nutrient absorption and lead to vitamin B12 deficiency, another factor which could contribute to dementia.

PPIs play an important role in the treatment of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), but results from this study raise concerns about patients who overuse these medications. PPIs are currently one of the most widely used drugs in the world, yet previous studies have shown that many patients who use these drugs do not need them. A 2012 study published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology found that 42 percent of study participants continued taking PPIs even after pH testing determined they did not have GERD.

While the German study did uncover an association between PPI use and dementia, it did not establish a cause-and-effect relationship. Senior author, Britta Haenisch, from the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases in Bonn, explains, “To evaluate cause-and-effect relationships between long-term PPI use and possible effects on cognition in the elderly, randomized, prospective clinical trials are needed.” Until further research can be conducted, Haenisch adds, “Clinicians should follow guidelines for PPI prescription, to avoid overprescribing PPIs and inappropriate use” (Source: CBS News).

Chewing Gum could Relieve Discomfort during Colonoscopy Preparation

Double your pleasure, double your fun, double your comfort during your colonoscopy prep! A new study published in the February issue of the Journal of Clinical Nursing contains evidence that chewing gum could relieve abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting when preparing for a colonoscopy.

Jisun Lee, R.N., from Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea, and colleagues recently conducted a study involving 131 participants undergoing colonoscopy preparation. The researchers randomly assigned 66 participants into the gum-chewing group and the remaining 65 participants into the control group. All participants drank a polyethylene glycol solution, a laxative solution used to cleanse the colon prior to a colonoscopy exam. The gum-chewing group was given one stick of sugarless gum to chew during the pause interval of drinking the solution.

The results of the study showed that the group who chewed gum experienced less abdominal discomfort, nausea and vomiting and overall took less time to drink the polyethylene glycol solution, compared to the participants in the control group.

"Gum chewing was demonstrated by this study to be a potentially effective nursing intervention that is easy for patients to perform with simple instructions and is low cost with no side effects," said the authors of the study (Source: Medical Xpress).

The colonoscopy has developed a bad reputation over the years due to the undesirable preparation process, but new developments have made preparation for this exam much more palatable and easier to tolerate. Updated guidelines in the Standards of Practice Committee of the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE) now allow patients to split their prep solution into two doses. This method allows patients to drink half of the prep solution the night before their procedure and the other half the morning before their exam. This method has been shown to be more effective in cleansing the colon and is better tolerated by patients.

New guidelines also allow patients to follow a low residue diet rather than the traditional clear liquid diet leading up to bowel preparation. This permits patients to eat a variety of foods including rice, fruits and vegetables without peels or seeds, tender meats, yogurt, and refined breads and crackers. Outcomes on the low residue diet have been just as effective as the clear liquid diet, and patients are generally much happier with the preparation process (Source:

Fewer diet restrictions, split-dosing prep solutions and simple tricks like chewing gum to relieve discomfort are helping to make the bowel preparation process easier than ever. Ask your doctor or gastroenterologist for more tips on how to make your colonoscopy prep a breeze!

Gender May Affect Reflux Symptoms

Does your gender play a role in how you experience acid reflux? Australian researchers have reason to believe so. A study published in the Archives of Surgery found that men and women differ in their symptoms of acid reflux, and this could have an impact on long-term health.

The study involved 3,000 adults in the Australian community as well as 2,000 patients who were having corrective surgery to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). The researchers found that while men and women were equally likely to suffer from acid reflux, women were more likely to complain of frequent and severe heartburn than men. The study also noted that:

  • Women reported more difficulty swallowing food.
  • Men were more likely to have a weak lower esophageal sphincter (LES).
  • Women were more likely to treat their heartburn with medication.
  • Women had higher incidence of hiatal hernia.
  • Men were more likely to have esophagitis or Barrett’s esophagus.
  • Women seeking corrective surgery for reflux tended to be older and were more likely to be obese than men.

Interestingly, researchers found that while women were more likely to complain of acid reflux, men actually experienced more symptoms of the condition. One possible explanation is that men are less likely to seek medical attention when they experience problematic symptoms (Source: WebMD). This would further explain why men are three to four times more likely than women to develop esophageal cancer. Tissue damage from long-term acid exposure can lead to precancerous cell mutation in the esophagus, which may develop into esophageal cancer.

While men and women may experience acid reflux differently, both genders should be equally diligent in seeking treatment for their symptoms. Chronic reflux can lead to serious health complications, but many of these conditions are preventable and treatable with medical intervention. If you frequently experience heartburn or have any other symptoms associated with GERD, schedule an appointment with your doctor or gastroenterologist.

What’s the Difference between Heartburn, GERD & Acid Reflux?

You’ve probably heard the terms heartburn, GERD and acid reflux used interchangeably, but do they really have the same meaning? Despite being closely related, these three terms have some important differences, and understanding them could help you gain better insight into your digestive issues.

Acid reflux is a term that describes the occurrence of stomach acid rising up into the esophagus. The lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is a ring of muscle located at the base of the esophagus where it meets the stomach. This muscle acts like a valve, opening to allow food and liquids to enter the stomach and then closing tightly to prevent the contents of the stomach from rising back into the esophagus. When the LES is weak or does not close properly due to structural reasons, stomach acid and undigested food can rise back into the esophagus, resulting in acid reflux.

Heartburn is a symptom of acid reflux. It is a burning sensation that occurs in the chest area – usually right behind the breastbone – and it can be accompanied by chest pain or tightness. Heartburn is very common, affecting more than 60 million Americans at least once a month. Occasional heartburn is generally no cause for concern and can typically be treated with over-the-counter medications and lifestyle changes. However, patients who frequently experience heartburn should see a doctor, as this could be a sign of a more serious condition such as GERD.

GERD stands for gastroesophageal reflux disease, a digestive condition characterized by chronic acid reflux. The most common symptom of GERD is frequent heartburn, but some patients with GERD may not experience heartburn at all. Other symptoms of GERD include:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Sensation of a lump in the throat
  • Hoarseness
  • Dry cough
  • Sore throat
  • Food regurgitation
  • A sour or bitter taste in the mouth

GERD is a chronic condition that requires treatment to control the presence of acid in the esophagus. Long-term acid exposure to the esophagus can produce several complications including ulcers, esophageal strictures, Barrett’s esophagus, and esophageal cancer (Source: Healthline).

Knowing the difference between acid reflux, heartburn and GERD can help you understand your symptoms and the best way to treat them. (And you’ll sound smarter in front of your friends, too!) But if you still have concerns or unanswered questions about your digestive symptoms, your next step should be a visit with your doctor or gastroenterologist. Your condition may not be serious, but when it comes to good health, you can never be too careful.

The Connection between the Gut and the Brain

The human body is full of mysterious connections. Take, for example, the eyes and the brain. Did you know that the width of blood vessels in your retina may be an indicator of brain health and cognitive function? Or consider your skin and your blood pressure. Studies have found that individuals within the same age group who have more youthful looking skin tend to have lower blood pressure and a lower risk of heart disease. These unexpected connections within our body are fun to think about, but they rarely have an impact on our daily lives. However, there is one connection within your body that does deserve regular attention: the link between your brain and your gut. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, which is a good time to consider the effects that your gut can have on your emotional wellbeing.

The human gut harbors over 100 trillion microbial cells which play an active role in our mental and emotional health. These gut microbes produce hundreds of neurochemicals which our body uses to regulate mental processes, such as learning, mood and memory. In fact, an estimated 95 percent of the body’s serotonin – the neurotransmitter that acts as a mood stabilizer and enables communication between the brain cells and nervous system cells – is produced within the digestive tract (Source: American Psychological Association).

You can actually feel the connection between your brain and your gut every time you experience butterflies in your stomach, but the impact that the gut has on the brain extends far beyond a few nervous jitters. Scientists have found evidence suggesting that bacterial imbalance in the gut can actually affect behavior and may contribute to conditions such as depression and anxiety.

Researchers at McMaster University found that when healthy adult mice had their gut bacteria altered through antibiotics, the mice exhibited higher levels of risk-taking behavior and showed an increase in the stress hormone cortisol. These changes were accompanied by an increase of brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a brain chemical linked to depression and anxiety in humans (Source: McMaster University).

The good news about this gut-brain connection is that you can naturally improve brain chemistry and elevate your mood by eating a well-balanced diet filled with probiotics. Probiotics are the “good bacteria” that promote a healthy microbial balance in the digestive tract. You can find probiotics naturally in fermented foods such as cultured yogurt, sauerkraut, kombucha, and kimchi, or you can opt for a probiotic supplement to ensure your body gets a full dose of these gut-friendly microbes. By giving your gut the balance it needs, you are sure to enjoy a wealth of benefits that can be felt in mind, body and spirit.

Women More Likely than Men to Suffer from GI Issues

Being a woman comes with its own unique set of struggles, but did you know that digestive issues could be one of them? Nearly 60 to 70 million Americans are affected by chronic gastrointestinal conditions each year, and new research indicates that women are nearly twice as likely to be affected by these issues as men.

The digital healthcare company Amino examined two years of data from more than 4.7 million individuals. They found that women are:

  • 2.9 times more likely to develop irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • 2.3 times more likely to have Celiac disease
  • 2.1 times more likely to develop gallstones
  • 1.5 times more likely to have acid reflux
  • 1.2 times more likely to have Crohn’s disease

Because these conditions vary greatly, experts have yet to identify one cause that would fully explain why women are at higher risk than men. However, they suspect that hormones could play a role. For example, estrogen is known to elevate cholesterol levels in bile which slows gallbladder movement. This could contribute to a higher incidence of gallstones in women. Maneesh Singh, M.D. explained in Amino’s release, “There is some evidence to support a slight female predominance in a disease such as Crohn's, for instance, and this could be attributed to hormone changes" (Source: Shape).

Another possible explanation, Amino suggests, is simply that women are more likely than men to see a doctor for routine examinations. A Kaiser Women’s Health survey found that 91 percent of women claimed to have seen a doctor within the last two years. Only 75 percent of men reported the same. Patients who maintain routine medical visits are more likely to schedule recommended screening services, which could further explain why women have a higher rate of diagnosis.

While women may be at higher risk for chronic gastrointestinal conditions, both men and women should be equally diligent in seeking medical treatment for their digestive symptoms. Non-invasive screening techniques and improved treatments make it easier than ever to diagnose and treat a wide variety of digestive conditions. The sooner you see a doctor, the better your chances of getting your symptoms under control and enjoying your life to the fullest.

Statins May Prevent Colorectal Cancer in IBD Patients

Statins are a type of drug typically prescribed to control high cholesterol, but could these medications reduce the risk of colon cancer in certain individuals?

A recent study led by Ashwin N. Ananthakrishnan, MD, MPH, of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, found that statin use was associated with a lower risk of colon cancer in patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Ananthakrishnan and his colleagues examined the data of11,001 IBD patients who were treated at hospitals in the Greater Boston metropolitan area from 1998 to 2010.

The research team calculated the number of colorectal cancer diagnoses and verified through electronic prescriptions whether statins were used prior to diagnosis. They determined that 12.5 percent of patients within the study received at least one statin prescription. These patients were more likely to be older, white, male, smokers, and have greater comorbidities than patients who did not use statins.

Over a follow-up period of nine years, the researchers found that two percent of patients who used statins received a colorectal cancer diagnosis, whereas three percent of non-statin users were diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

Because patients with certain types of IBD, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, have a greater risk of colon cancer than the general population, the results of this study are encouraging. However, further research is needed to understand how statins may influence colorectal cancer risk.

“Our findings were robust on a variety of sensitivity and subgroup analyses,” said the research team. “In conclusion, using a large, well-characterized cohort of patients with IBD, we show an inverse association between statin use and risk of colorectal cancer. There is a need for mechanistic studies on the role of statins in colitis-associated cancer to supplement the existing data on sporadic colon cancer. Further confirmation from other cohorts may provide support for the use of statins as a chemopreventive in patients with IBD.”

The results of this study are published in the medical journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology (Source: Healio).

Debunking 4 Common Colonoscopy Myths

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that up to 60 percent of colon cancer deaths could be prevented if everyone over the age of 50 got screened regularly. Unfortunately, not everyone who is eligible for a colonoscopy gets one. Cost, embarrassment, and fear of the unknown are just a few factors that may influence someone’s decision against getting a colonoscopy, and many of these fears are based on false information. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest myths surrounding colonoscopies and set the record straight once and for all.

Colonoscopies are expensive

Under the Affordable Care Act, screening colonoscopies and related anesthesia costs are now mostly or fully covered by Medicare and many private insurers. This does not apply to grandfathered plans which were already in place before the Affordable Care Act, but you may still have coverage under state laws. If you have questions about your out-of-pocket expenses for a colonoscopy, call your insurance representative and ask for a price quote. It could be far less than you expected!

Other screenings are just as effective

The colonoscopy is the most comprehensive exam that can detect and treat colon cancer. Other screenings like virtual colonoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy, fecal occult blood test, and double contrast barium enema may be less invasive or less expensive, but they are not as thorough. A positive or inconclusive result from these tests may require you to follow up with a colonoscopy, so why not save yourself the trouble and schedule a colonoscopy in the first place?

You only need a colonoscopy if you have symptoms

Colon cancer rarely presents symptoms in its early stages when it is most treatable. Current screening guidelines recommend that average risk individuals begin routine colonoscopies at age 50, or age 45 if they are African American. Individuals with a family history of colon cancer or polyps should begin screening 10 years before the youngest case within the family.

Colonoscopies are uncomfortable

Most patients agree that the worst part of a colonoscopy is the bowel preparation the night before, but there are plenty of tips available online to help you get through it. You will be under anesthesia during your colonoscopy, allowing you to rest comfortably throughout the entire procedure.

If fear and apprehension are keeping you from scheduling your colonoscopy, discuss these concerns with your doctor. He or she would be happy to answer any questions you may have and offer encouragement to help you make the right decision. Armed with a strong support system and the right information, you will have nothing to fear on examination day!

The Colonoscopy: It’s Not Just for Colon Cancer

The colonoscopy is considered the gold standard for colon cancer screening because it is the most thorough and comprehensive exam available. But what you may not know is that the colonoscopy can be used to diagnose and treat a variety of gastrointestinal issues. This simple, outpatient procedure provides your doctor with an up-close visual of the inner lining of the large intestine (colon and rectum) to detect the presence of polyps, lesions, bleeding and other abnormalities. Here are some conditions that can be detected, diagnosed and sometimes treated with a colonoscopy:


Colitis is a type of inflammatory bowel disease characterized by chronic inflammation in the lining of the colon. Symptoms of colitis may include abdominal pain, cramping, fatigue, diarrhea, and blood in the stool. A colonoscopy allows your doctor to detect the location of the inflammation and administer treatment.

Diverticular Disease

Diverticular disease consists of two conditions: diverticulosis, which occurs when pockets form within the intestinal wall, and diverticulitis, which occurs when these pouches become inflamed. Diverticulitis can be an extremely painful condition with symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation. A colonoscopy can be used to detect the frequency and severity of infection in diverticulitis to help your doctor decide on the most appropriate course of treatment.

Bleeding lesions

A colonoscopy can detect the location of bleeding lesions within the colon, and medication can be administered on the spot to control the bleeding.

GI symptoms

A colonoscopy can diagnose unexplained gastrointestinal issues such as rectal bleeding, changes in bowel habits, and abdominal pain accompanied by anemia or weight loss. While these symptoms can be indicative of colon cancer, they can also be attributed to several other GI conditions. A colonoscopy offers the most comprehensive examination to identify the cause of these symptoms and determine the best course of treatment (Source: PPcorn).

No one ever looks forward to a colonoscopy, but if you have to get one, take comfort knowing you are receiving the most thorough examination available. Early detection and treatment are key to avoiding long-term complications from colon cancer and many other gastrointestinal conditions.

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