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What causes constipation and how is it treated?

People often fear the worst about constipation.  Constipation is very common and only rarely signifies something serious.  Just because the average person has a bowel movement daily doesn’t mean you have to—if normal for you is every 3, 5, or 7 days that is okay so long as it’s not adversely affecting your life. In many cases, people with constipation struggle with it all their lives and are looking to be certain nothing more serious is going on and for a way to treat their symptoms.  Even in people with relatively new onset of constipation, there usually is a simple solution.  It is certainly reasonable to have your constipation assessed but in the absence of other warning signs for more serious disease, additional testing related to constipation is not always essential.

What are the causes of constipation?

Colonic inertia

  • Most cases of constipation are caused by colonic inertia, which is simply a slow moving colon.  Different people are made differently, and the muscles and nerves that are supposed to act in concert to push stool along just work a little slower in people with constipation.  In such cases, if we could look at the colon under the microscope it would look normal but if we took an x-ray of how quickly it pushed stool through, it would on average move things along more slowly.

Pelvic floor dysfunction

  • If ...

Is the FODMAP diet right for you?

FODMAPs is an acronym, coined by two Australian researchers, that refers to Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols.  These are small chain sugars, fibers, and sugar alcohols that are poorly digested by humans, but are easily digested by the bacteria in your intestine and colon.  When the bacteria consume FODMAPs, they produce gas, which leads to symptoms of gas, bloating, abdominal discomfort, and changes in bowel movements.  The FODMAP diet is used to alleviate the impact these types of foods have on your gastrointestinal tract. 

A diet low in FODMAPs food was designed to help minimize symptoms in individuals that suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and functional bloating.  You should discuss your symptoms with your physician prior to starting this diet since other gastrointestinal related disorders need to be excluded first (i.e., celiac disease, thyroid disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and others). 

If a diet low in FODMAP is recommended for you ...

Tips for reducing hot flashes for women with breast cancer

Hot flashes are the most common complaint from women going through menopause. And for women who are breast cancer patients, the problem is often more acute. Surgery, chemotherapy and estrogen blocking medications can bring on hot flashes or make them worse if you already have them. And for women who must discontinue hormone replacement therapy, the instant onset of hot flashes and night sweats can severely impact quality of life.

Fortunately, there are several strategies you can easily and safely employ to decrease the severity and frequency of hot flashes and night sweats. Everything I recommend here is non-estrogenic so while it is generally safe for breast cancer patients and survivors, you should always check with your oncologist before trying any new supplement.

First, a few notes on diet. I recently had a patient who stopped eating refined sugars for general health reasons, and her hot flashes nearly disappeared. Your mileage may vary on this one but there are clear health benefits from lowering sugar intake, so it may be worth a try. You might also try ...

Managing your fall allergies and symptoms

Although it’s hard to avoid everything that triggers fall allergies, there are many things that can be done to limit or treat the side effects so everyone can enjoy the season.

What allergies present in the fall?

Dirt-based molds are the main trigger of fall outdoor allergies. Mold is in decaying that plant material in yards and parks, as well as in pumpkin patches, hay and barns. Because we tend to close up our homes as the weather gets worse, inside allergens may get worse. Indoor mold, dust mites and our pets can trigger symptoms.

How do I know I have fall allergies?

Symptoms are the same as you might experience in the spring. Congestion, sneezing, post-nasal drip and itchy, watery eyes are the most common signs of fall allergies.

How can I limit allergens and reduce allergy symptoms?

Tips for kids with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Working as a CMA (certified medical assistant) in Swedish Pediatric Gastroenterology, I have the responsibility and honor of taking care of children diagnosed with a variety of gastrointestinal problems, one of the most serious being Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).  IBD is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic intestinal inflammation.  Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis are the two main types of IBD, depending on the location and depth of inflammation in the gut. 

As I work with the families of children diagnosed with IBD, I am constantly amazed at what a complicated job they have, balancing life between a chronic illness and the challenges of “normal childhood”. 

As the school year gets off to a start, seeing how hectic life can become for most kids, I wanted to write down a few ways children with IBD might better empower themselves to gain control over their chronic disease:

Signs of Hearing Loss for Babies and Children

Early identification and intervention of childhood hearing loss is linked to improved outcomes in communication and learning. Most newborns receive a hearing screening before being discharged from the hospital. However, some children may experience hearing loss sometime after that initial screening. Childhood hearing loss can be caused by a number of factors including family history, health problems at birth, syndromes, persistent middle ear fluid, chronic ear infections, and exposure to loud noise or head trauma. Children with normal hearing typically demonstrate similar listening and vocalization behaviors. If your child does not display these behaviors, it may be a sign of possible hearing loss or other problems.

Does your baby…

 

Birth – 3 months

  • Wake or startle in response to a sudden noise?
  • Seem to be soothed by your voice?

4-6 months

  • Move ...

Food allergies and emergency epinephrine in Washington State schools

Food allergies have been on the rise in recent years.  Studies suggest that up to 1 in 13 children are affected by a food allergy.  Egg and cow’s milk are the most common food allergies for infants and toddlers.  Fortunately, most children will lose a milk or egg allergy by the time they enter school.  Peanut and tree nut allergies are also becoming more common.  Unfortunately, only 10-20% of children will ever outgrow a nut allergy.

Currently there is no cure for food allergies.  Instead, doctors rely on an accurate diagnosis, avoiding food triggers, and being prepared in the event of a severe reaction.  Making the situation more challenging, nearly half of children with a food allergy may be at risk for a potentially life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis. 

Symptoms of anaphylaxis may include:

  • hives or itchy welts
  • swelling
  • vomiting or diarrhea
  • difficulty breathing (cough, wheeze or shortness of breath)
  • dizziness or passing out

During a severe food allergy reaction, epinephrine (“adrenaline”) can be a life-saving medication. Epinephrine is typically injected into a thigh muscle with an “auto-injector” device like EpiPen® or Auvi-Q™.  Oral antihistamines like Benadryl, Allegra, or Zyrtec can help with some anaphylaxis symptoms, but are not considered life-saving treatment.

Emergency Epinephrine in Schools

Until recently, only certain students in Washington State could receive a life-saving epinephrine injection while at school.  They needed to be diagnosed with a food allergy and already have an epinephrine injector in the health room.  However, some students may not have an injector at school, or they have their first serious allergic reaction while at school.  In that case, the school could only call 911 and hope they arrived in time to save a life.

In January 2013...

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