Frequently Asked Questions

What is a gastroenterologist?
A gastroenterologist is a physician with dedicated training and unique experience in the management of diseases of the GI tract and liver. A Board Certified gastroenterologist has completed four years of medical school, three years of internal medicine residency, achieved board certification in internal medicine, completed gastroenterology fellowship (two to three years, plus an extra year for advanced training in endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) or endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), and passed the gastroenterology board examination).

When should I see a healthcare provider about digestive problems?
If you have any of the following symptoms, you should seek medical care:

  • Heartburn that doesn't go away or gets worse, or doesn't get better with medication
  • A feeling that food is caught in your chest or throat
  • Unusual or lasting abdominal pain
  • Discomfort that keeps you from your usual activities
  • Trouble or painful swallowing
  • Heartburn that causes vomiting
  • Vomiting blood
  • Bloody or black stools, or stools that contain pus
  • Major weight loss you didn't intend or can't explain
  • Hoarseness or a sore throat that doesn't improve
  • Choking
  • Diarrhea that lasts more than two days
  • New or lasting constipation
  • Fever or chills
  • Signs of dehydration

How can I prevent hemorrhoids?
The best way to prevent hemorrhoids is to keep your stools soft so you can pass them easily without straining. Eat a high-fiber diet and drink plenty of fluids each day.

What kind of dietary changes can I make to prevent digestive discomfort?
Many digestive problems can be prevented through simple lifestyle changes. Bad habits, such as eating too quickly or skipping meals, can upset your stomach. Be sure to eat slowly and chew thoroughly. Your digestive system might respond well to eating several small meals throughout the day.

A balanced diet can help too. Unhealthy foods can cause trouble for your digestive system. Eat less processed food and sugar, and more fiber, fruits, and vegetables. For other healthy, balanced diet ideas, visit https://www.choosemyplate.gov.

If you're sensitive to certain types of food, such as dairy or gluten, stay away from these foods or cut back on them. Talk with a nutritionist about ways to make sure you still get important nutrients from other sources.

Are celiac disease and gluten sensitivity/intolerance the same thing?
No. While both conditions may cause similar symptoms in reaction to gluten, they are two distinct diseases. Celiac disease causes damage to the small intestine. Gluten sensitivity does not.

What is the difference between inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?
IBD is a group of conditions, including ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, that cause inflammation in the large intestine. IBS, on the other hand, refers to a group of symptoms, including abdominal pain and changes in bowel habits.

What is the difference between endoscopy and colonoscopy?
Etymologically, the term "endoscopy" means "looking inside." In medicine, endoscopy can refer to any procedure that looks inside the body, but it most often refers to an examination of the upper part of the GI tract. A colonoscopy is a specific type of endoscopy that examines the colon and the rectum.

Is colonoscopy painful?
No, colonoscopy is not usually painful. Complications can be painful, but they are quite rare. Patients are generally sedated during a colonoscopy, and the most common type of sedation has a mild amnesiac effect, which means most patients don't even remember the procedure.

Why do I need a colonoscopy every 10 years?
Colonoscopy is considered the "gold standard" for colorectal cancer screening. Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common type of cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death, and it often forms from colon polyps, which are easily found and removed by colonoscopy. On average, it takes a type of colon polyp called an adenoma 10 years to turn cancerous, so most providers recommend colonoscopy screening every 10 years beginning at the age of 50. Other forms of colorectal cancer screening are available, but they aren't as accurate as colonoscopy, so they are usually recommended more often than every 10 years.

What is the most common type of gastrointestinal cancer?
In the United States, colon cancer is the most common type of GI cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death, followed by pancreatic cancer, liver cancer, and rectal cancer. Colon and rectal cancers are often referred to as colorectal cancers, and the statistics for them are often combined. Together, colorectal cancers are the fourth most common type of cancer diagnosed in the United States, behind breast cancer, lung cancer, and prostate cancer. By comparison, pancreatic cancer (12th most common) and liver cancer (13th most common) are relatively rare.