Gastroenterology

Gastroenterology is the study of the normal function and diseases of the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon and rectum, pancreas, gallbladder, bile ducts and liver. It involves a detailed understanding of the normal action (physiology) of the gastrointestinal organs including the movement of material through the stomach and intestine (motility), the digestion and absorption of nutrients into the body, removal of waste from the system, and the function of the liver as a digestive organ. It includes common and important conditions such as colon polyps and cancer, hepatitis, gastroesophageal reflux (heartburn), peptic ulcer disease, colitis, gallbladder and biliary tract disease, nutritional problems, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and pancreatitis. In essence, all normal activity and disease of the digestive organs is part of the study of Gastroenterology.

The following highlights the services we offer and lists our gastroenterology locations:

Gastroenterology and Endoscopy Services

Colon Cancer Screening

Colon cancer is still a significant cause of early death, but a simple screening for the disease could prevent most of these untimely losses. Southwell’s expert team has specialized expertise in carrying out colon cancer screenings using state-of-the-art colonoscopy technology. Call your nearest gastroenterology clinic today to schedule your colon cancer screening.

Why should I undergo colon cancer screening?

You should be screened because colon cancer is far easier to prevent or treat at an early stage.

Figures show that five-year survival rates are significantly higher in people who have an early diagnosis. Colon cancer screening is one of the most effective cancer screening programs available and saves thousands of lives every year.

Unfortunately, many thousands of people still die in the United States because of colon cancer. It’s the second-highest cause of cancer deaths, most of which would be preventable if patients went for a colon cancer screening.

What causes colon cancer?

One of the most important risk factors for developing colon cancer is your genes. If other members of your family have had colon cancer, your risk of getting it is higher. Other factors that could increase your risk of developing colon cancer include:

  • Being overweight
  • Smoking
  • Heavy drinking
  • Lack of exercise
  • Lack of fiber in the diet
  • Diet high in animal fat
  • Lack of fresh fruit and vegetables

If you have any of these risk factors, it’s even more vital that you start having regular colon cancer screenings.

What’s involved in having colon cancer screening?

Colon cancer screening is done using a colonoscope. This is a miniature camera on a long, flexible tube. Your provider inserts the colonoscope into your rectum and passes it along your colon, checking for signs of cancer.

Colonoscopy is an outpatient procedure. A sedative keeps you relaxed, but you don’t need an anesthetic. The procedure takes 30 minutes or so, and once your sedative wears off, you can go home.

How does colon cancer develop?

Colon cancer tumors start as polyps, small growths in the lining of your colon. Polyps themselves are mostly benign and don’t cause any problems. However, a small number of polyps mutate and go on to become cancerous.

There’s no way to tell for sure which polyps might turn cancerous, so the safest course is to simply get rid of any polyps before they change. During your colonoscopy procedure, your provider locates any polyps and removes them.

How often should I have colon cancer screening?

Those at high risk of developing colon cancer, such as where there’s a family history of the disease, should begin screenings at age 40, sometimes earlier.

If you’re not at high risk, then experts recommend starting colon cancer screening at age 50. After the first test, you should go for another one every 10 years until you get to 80. If your colonoscopy picks up polyps, you’ll need to have a check-up every 3-5 years.

To arrange your colon cancer screening test, call your nearest clinic.

Colonoscopy

A colonoscopy is a straightforward procedure that could quite literally save your life. Undergoing a colonoscopy is a highly effective way of screening for colon cancer and removing the polyps that could cause the disease before they become cancerous. Call your nearest clinic today to schedule your colon cancer screening.

What is a colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is a minimally invasive procedure that uses a type of endoscope to diagnose and treat colon (large bowel) conditions.

An endoscope is a special kind of instrument that has a camera and a light on one end of a flexible tube. The tube can go into your body without the need to make any incisions. The camera sends back images of the inside of your body to a monitor in the treatment room, so your provider can see everything in detail.

A colonoscopy is a type of endoscope that goes into your rectum and travels all the way along your colon to the small intestine.

Why would I need a colonoscopy?

Your provider might recommend a colonoscopy to help diagnose symptoms such as:

  • Lower abdominal pain
  • Irregular bowel movements
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Chronic constipation
  • Rectal mucus or pus

A colonoscopy is used to identify cancer if you have any symptoms. In its early stages, colon cancer doesn’t usually cause any problems, so you wouldn’t know you have it. Screening can detect polyps that could become a tumor, so your provider can remove them.

A colonoscopy is useful for stretching areas of your colon that are narrowing, and treating some of the causes of bleeding in the lower gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Your provider can also take a sample of tissue (biopsy) during a colonoscopy to test for inflammatory bowel diseases, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

What happens during a colonoscopy?

You have to take special, strong laxatives the night before your colonoscopy to clear out your bowels. You’re told when to stop eating and drinking, and when to start taking the laxatives. You need to stay close to a convenient bathroom for a few hours once the laxatives start working.

Once you arrive for your colonoscopy, you get a sedative so you feel relaxed. You have to lie on your left side with your knees bent, and your provider gently feeds the colonoscope into your rectum.

It might feel a bit odd, and you could experience some cramping, bloating, or a feeling of pressure, but you shouldn’t be in too much discomfort. The colonoscopy takes around 30 minutes, maybe more depending on why you’re having the procedure.

You can discuss the results of your colonoscopy with your provider once you recover from your sedative. If you had a biopsy, it could take a few days to get the results back, so your provider contacts you when the results come in.

If you have any gastrointestinal problems or wish to arrange a screening for colon cancer, call us today.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is often a cause of chronic abdominal discomfort and digestive problems. Getting an accurate diagnosis of your symptoms can be a challenge as there’s no test for IBS, but the expert team can help. They have specialized skills in diagnosing and treating a range of digestive problems, including IBS. Call us today to schedule a consultation.

What is irritable bowel syndrome?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a condition that causes a range of uncomfortable and unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms. You might experience:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Cramps after eating

Symptoms like cramping might improve following a bowel movement.

IBS isn’t a serious health problem, but it can cause severe disruption to your everyday life. The pain, uncomfortable feelings, and frequent need for the toilet can affect work, home life, leisure time, and relationships.

How is irritable bowel syndrome diagnosed?

There are no specific tests for IBS. The team at Gastroenterology Associates of Beverly Hills needs to review your symptoms to see if they could be explained by anything else, and whether they match the typical symptoms of IBS.

Your provider needs to run tests to check for other explanations, as well as possible triggers that can cause similar symptoms. You might need to have tests for:

  • Food allergies or intolerances
  • Infection
  • Enzyme deficiencies 
  • Ulcerative colitis 
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Celiac disease 
  • Anemia
  • Thyroid dysfunction
  • Medication triggers

This could involve having blood tests, breath tests, and giving stool samples, and diagnostic tests such as X-rays, abdominal ultrasound, upper endoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, or wireless capsule endoscopy. Your provider can also check how well the muscles in your bowels are functioning.

How is irritable bowel syndrome treated?

Once your provider at Gastroenterology Associates of Beverly Hills makes a diagnosis of IBS, you and they work together to tailor a treatment plan to your needs. There are various methods of treating IBS, and not all of them work for everyone, so it takes your provider’s expertise and your input to create an effective plan.

First, you need to identify triggers that set off your IBS. Keeping a diary of what you eat and any symptoms you experience can help you work out what foods or other triggers can cause a flare-up. Once you know what’s likely to trigger a flare-up, you can avoid your triggers and reduce your symptoms.

Medications can help some patients. Antibiotics can change the balance of gut bacteria, which some people find helps for as much as six months. Other patients find a course of antidepressant medication can help. Your provider can recommend the best medications to take for problems like constipation and diarrhea. 

You might benefit from using bulking agents to slow the pace of food as it passes through your digestive system. The good bacteria and yeasts in probiotics can enhance gut health and aid digestion as well.

If you have any symptoms of IBS, call us today to schedule your consultation.

Bloating

Feeling bloated after a special meal is a shared experience, and easy to explain. Bloating at other times or on a regular basis could be a sign of an underlying problem, so you should get a diagnosis from the expert team. Bloating is most often related to diet and eating habits, but whatever is causing your symptoms, the team can help. Call us today.

What is bloating?

Bloating is a symptom rather than a medical condition. It means feeling like your abdomen is swollen or distended.

It’s not unusual to feel bloated when you’ve eaten a large meal, for example, after a Thanksgiving turkey dinner. Overfilling your stomach can make you feel bloated, then as the food starts traveling through your digestive system, gas can build up and make the problem worse.

Women often have problems with bloating during their period, because their bodies are retaining more water than usual. Bloating can happen at other times when hormones are out of balance, such as during menopause.

As long as bloating isn’t too severe, and you know why you’re feeling it, it shouldn’t be a big problem. However, if bloating is frequent, painful, or prolonged, it needs to be checked out.

What can I do about digestive bloating?

The first step is to stop eating or drinking so much. If you feel bloated after eating a large meal or having a lot to drink, that’s to be expected — your stomach isn’t very big, and overfilling it is bound to make you feel bloated.

Next, cut down on fats in your diet. They take longer to digest than proteins and carbohydrates, so they make you feel stuffed for longer periods of time. Some foods are harder for your body to digest and tend to cause bloating and excess gas production. These foods include:

  • Beans
  • Pulses
  • Carrots
  • Prunes
  • Apricots
  • Sorbitol (sweetener)
  • Fructose (natural sugar)

The third crucial action is to slow down when you eat. Eating too quickly encourages you to swallow air, which can cause trapped gas and bloating. Eating too quickly also allows you to overeat. Your brain doesn’t get the message from your stomach that you’re full right away, so the faster you eat and drink, the more likely you are to overeat.

When should I see a doctor about bloating?

Bloating is rarely a sign of anything serious, so making changes to the way you eat should solve the issue. If it doesn’t work, or your bloating is becoming a constant problem, please call us.

You could have a food intolerance that’s causing bloating. Lactose intolerance can cause problems if you consume dairy products, for instance. Wheat is another food that some people have trouble tolerating, so they experience bloating.

An intolerance isn’t the same as an allergy or a condition like celiac disease that causes severe symptoms, but it can make you feel very uncomfortable.

In a few cases, bloating could be a sign of a more serious condition, like a physical obstruction in your digestive tract or problems with the muscles in your gastrointestinal system. It could also be due to small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).

Our highly experienced team can find out what’s wrong and get you the best treatment when you have a bloating problem. Call today to schedule a consultation.

Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) is, as you would imagine, a problem relating to the bacteria in your small intestine. The symptoms it causes can mimic those of several other conditions, so you need to consult our expert team for an accurate diagnosis. They have specialized expertise in treating a range of digestive problems, including SIBO. Call us today to schedule a consultation.

What is small intestinal bacterial overgrowth?

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) means you have high levels of bacteria in your gut.

Bacteria are essential to gut health, and everyone has bacteria in their small intestine that help with digestion. However, the balance between good and bad bacteria can sometimes get disrupted, leading to SIBO.

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth typically arises when your small intestine isn’t moving food through your gut fast enough. If the partially digested food isn’t progressing along at the right speed, the bacteria in that area start to multiply.

There are good bacteria that help you digest food, but there are also harmful bacteria in your gut, and if they are the ones growing out of control, it can cause the imbalance that leads to symptoms of SIBO.

What are the symptoms of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth?

The first signs of SIBO include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Queasiness
  • Fatigue
  • Bloating
  • Passing a lot of gas
  • Diarrhea or constipation

If your SIBO gets worse, you could also experience weight loss and anemia because your body isn’t absorbing enough nutrients from your food.

These symptoms are quite vague and could be due to many other causes, so you need to visit Gastroenterology Associates of Beverly Hills for a diagnosis.

Why would I get small intestinal bacterial overgrowth?

The slowing down of your digestive system that leads to SIBO could be due to:

  • Advancing age
  • Having diverticulosis
  • Undergoing gastric bypass surgery
  • Scar tissue from abdominal surgery
  • Buildup of amyloid protein
  • Blockages in the GI tract
  • Diabetes
  • Lupus
  • Scleroderma
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Immunoglobulin A deficiency

If your provider suspects you have SIBO, they’ll ask you to do a lactulose breath test. You have a sugary drink first, then breathe into a balloon every 15 minutes for three hours. Your provider can then test the air for high levels of hydrogen or methane, which indicates you have SIBO.

How is small intestinal bacterial overgrowth treated?

Where possible, treating the underlying cause of SIBO can reduce your symptoms and prevent future attacks.

If your breath test shows high levels of hydrogen, you can take an antibiotic called rifaximin to rebalance the gut bacteria. If you have high levels of methane, you can also take the antibiotic neomycin.

Making changes to your diet can also help. Cut out sugar to start with, including anything containing sugar alcohol. A low FODMAP diet could help as well. FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols, which are types of carbohydrates. You need to follow a nutritionist’s advice when on a FODMAP diet.

Some people might benefit from taking prebiotics or probiotics to boost levels of good bacteria in the gut. Talk to your provider about using these supplements, so you make the right choice.

For more information about SIBO or to book an appointment, call us today.

Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids aren’t a serious health issue, but they can be tremendously painful. If you have hemorrhoids, our team has specialized expertise in carrying out cutting-edge procedures to remove or destroy hemorrhoids. Call us today to schedule a consultation.

What are hemorrhoids?

Hemorrhoids are swollen, protruding veins on your anus or inside the anal canal. They can be very uncomfortable and cause symptoms such as:

  • Pain
  • Itching
  • Bleeding
  • Burning

Internal hemorrhoids are less likely to be painful, and you might not realize you have them at first. They can sometimes rupture and start to bleed if you pass a hard stool. They might also drop down from your anal canal. This is a more serious problem, as the circulation in the veins could get cut off.

External hemorrhoids are often extremely painful. This is because there are so many more nerve endings in your anus than inside in the anal canal. External hemorrhoids can sometimes develop blood clots. The clots turn the hemorrhoids into hard, painful lumps called thrombosed hemorrhoids. 

What causes hemorrhoids?

The primary cause of hemorrhoids is straining too hard or too often during bowel movements. If you have frequent problems with constipation that make you strain, hemorrhoids are likely to develop.

Constipation is typically due to a lack of fiber in the diet, not enough exercise, and not drinking enough water. You can combat constipation by eating healthy, fiber-rich foods, getting more exercise, and drinking more water.

Other factors that increase your chances of developing hemorrhoids include:

  • Aging
  • Family history
  • Using laxatives
  • Frequent bouts of diarrhea
  • Pregnancy

Sitting on the toilet is bad for your anus, as modern toilet design makes you more likely to strain. Sitting for too long also puts extra pressure on the veins in your anal canal, so don’t stay on the toilet any longer than necessary.

How are hemorrhoids treated?

Hemorrhoids often heal on their own, especially if you take steps to reduce the risk factors that cause them. They can return if you fall back into bad habits or have problems with your bowels. Having hemorrhoids once can also weaken the veins and make them more likely to return.

If you need treatment for your hemorrhoids, your provider can prescribe medicated creams or pads and suppositories to ease the itching and pain. If your hemorrhoids are severe or won’t go away, the team provides a range of effective ways to remove or destroy them, such as:

  • External hemorrhoid thrombectomy 
  • Rubber band ligation 
  • Sclerotherapy
  • Infrared, laser, or bipolar coagulation 
  • Hemorrhoidectomy
  • Stapled hemorrhoidectomy 

Your provider can discuss which treatment is right for you at your consultation.

If you notice blood when you wipe after a bowel movement, or you have anal discomfort, our team can help. Call us today.

Abdominal Pain

Abdominal pain is one of the most familiar health problems because, like headaches, everyone gets a stomachache now and then. If your abdominal pain is severe or getting worse, you might need help from our team. Most stomachaches aren’t serious, but if you’re worried or you have other symptoms as well, call our office today.

What causes abdominal pain?

There are many possible causes of abdominal pain. Most often, a stomachache comes from mild indigestion, or the effects of stress. In women, abdominal pain is common during menstruation. Other possible causes of abdominal pain include:

  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Food poisoning
  • Food allergies
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Ulcers
  • Hernia
  • Gallstones
  • Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
  • Kidney stones
  • Appendicitis
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

With so many possible causes of abdominal pain, it can be difficult to know whether your stomachache is something to worry about.

Do I need to see a doctor about my abdominal pain?

If you have abdominal pain that’s severe or worsening, it’s best to seek medical advice. There are other symptoms you might have at the same time as abdominal pain that can also indicate you need medical attention, such as:

  • Fever
  • Continual vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • No bowel movements
  • Pain when urinating
  • Vomiting blood
  • Bloody, black, or tarry stools
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Yellow skin

Abdominal pain isn’t very often a sign of anything serious, but if you’re concerned, you can always call our team of experts for advice.

How is abdominal pain diagnosed?

To diagnose the cause of your abdominal pain, your provider reviews your medical history and discusses your current symptoms with you. Then they carry out a thorough physical exam.

If you can, try to describe your pain, as this can help with the diagnosis. Is it a sharp or stabbing pain? Dull or aching? Is the pain continuous, or does it come and go? When you’re in pain, does it get worse or better if you do anything in particular? Is it always in the same place, or does it move or radiate into other areas?

After your exam, you might need to undergo diagnostic tests, such as:

  • Blood tests
  • Urine or stool samples
  • Hydrogen breath test
  • H. pylori breath test
  • Barium drink or enema
  • X-ray
  • Abdominal ultrasound
  • CT (computed tomography) scan
  • Endoscopy
  • Wireless capsule endoscopy

It’s essential to get an accurate diagnosis so you receive the best possible treatment for your abdominal pain. 

If you have abdominal pain that’s not getting better, or if you have additional symptoms, call us today.

Acid Reflux

Acid reflux is sometimes known as heartburn, and with good reason, because when you have acid reflux, you get a burning pain that feels like it’s near your heart. If your acid reflux is becoming a constant or worsening problem, our expert team can help. Acid reflux can lead to more serious complications, so get on top of yours now. Call us today.

What is acid reflux?

Acid reflux is also known as acid indigestion or heartburn because it causes a burning pain in your chest roughly where your heart is. Acid reflux has nothing to do with your heart, though; it’s a problem in your esophagus.

Your esophagus is the pipe connecting your throat to your stomach. When you swallow food or drink, it goes down your esophagus and into your stomach, which is full of very strong acid. The acid helps to digest the food, and your stomach has a special lining to prevent the acid from affecting it.

At the top of your stomach is the lower esophageal sphincter, which lets food and water in, but prevents acid from leaving your stomach. If the sphincter gets weak or damaged, stomach acid can start to go back up the esophagus. The burning pain you feel when you have acid reflux is the stomach acid causing inflammation in your esophagus.

What are the symptoms of acid reflux?

The primary symptom of acid reflux is the familiar burning pain in your chest, but you could also experience:

  • Frequent belching
  • Sore throat
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Mouth flooding with saliva
  • Feeling nauseated
  • Hoarse voice
  • Halitosis (bad breath)
  • Inflamed gums

Stomach acid can rise into your mouth, causing a bitter taste. If this happens regularly, the acid is powerful enough to erode your teeth.

Although acid reflux isn’t a serious problem, it can become a chronic condition called GERD — gastroesophageal reflux disease. Untreated GERD can cause changes in the esophagus that could eventually lead to esophageal cancer, so you shouldn’t ignore acid reflux.

What causes acid reflux?

Acid reflux is most often due to lifestyle issues, such as:

  • Being overweight
  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol
  • Certain medications
  • Chronic constipation
  • Eating fatty or spicy foods
  • Drinking caffeine

Acid reflux is a frequent problem during pregnancy. The larger the baby grows, the more it presses on its mother’s internal organs, and the worse her acid reflux is likely to get.

How is acid reflux treated?

For most patients, addressing the lifestyle issues that are causing their acid reflux is the best way to treat the problem. That means eating a healthy diet and avoiding trigger foods or drinks, losing weight, and quitting smoking.

You can take medications like over-the-counter antacids for mild acid reflux. More serious acid reflux needs medicines like proton pump inhibitors that reduce the production of stomach acid.

These measures help most patients recover from acid reflux. However, some patients who have GERD might need to undergo surgery to repair or replace the esophageal sphincter.

If acid reflux is becoming a regular problem, call our team of experts today.

Gastroenterology and Endoscopy Locations

Southwell Medical Clinic

P: 229-391-4100

 

2225 HIGHWAY 41 NORTH
TIFTON, GA 31794

 

Southwell Gastroenterology & Southwell Valdosta Endoscopy Center

P: 229-244-1570
F: 229-299-4291

 

410 CONNELL RD
VALDOSTA, GA 31602

 

Southwell Gastroenterology & Southwell Lowndes Endoscopy Center

P: 229-262-6800

 

2301 N. ASHLEY ST
VALDOSTA, GA 31602

 

Tift Regional Medical Center                                 24 Hour Emergency Services

P: 229-382-7120

 

901 E 18TH ST
TIFTON, GA 31794

 

Southwell Medical          No Emergency Services

P: 229-896-8000

 

260 M J TAYLOR RD
ADEL, GA 31620

 

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