Karlee Ausk
Karlee J. Ausk, MD

Karlee J. Ausk, MD

Karlee J. Ausk, MD
Specialty

Gastroenterology, Hepatology

Clinical Interests / Special Procedures Performed

Celiac Sprue Disease, Colon Cancer, Colon Cancer Prevention, Colon Cancer Screening, Colonoscopy, Crohn's Disease, Endoscopy, Gastroenterology, Gastro-Esophageal Reflux, Gastrointestinal Cancer, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Ulcerative Colitis

  • Accepting Children: No
  • Accepting New Patients: Yes
  • Accepting Medicare: Yes
  • Accepting Medicaid/DSHS: Yes
Insurance Accepted:

Contact this office for accepted insurance plans.

Philosophy of Care

Dr. Ausk attended medical school at the University of Washington, where she also completed Internal Medicine residency, chief residency, and fellowship in Gastroenterology and Hepatology. She practices general gastroenterology and hepatology with a particular interest in inflammatory bowel disease and colorectal cancer screening. She believes that healthcare providers have the privilege of accompanying patients and their families through the often stressful times brought on by an illness. She strives to guide patients in making healthcare decisions considering the best evidence available tailored to their individual story.

Personal Interests

When not at work, Dr. Ausk is usually spending time with her husband and two young children. She also enjoys cooking, dining out, running, reading, and attending Husky sporting events.

Medical School

University of Washington School of Medicine

Residency

Internal Medicine, University of Washington

Fellowship(s)

Gastroenterology and Hepatology, University of Washington

Board Certifications

Gastroenterology, Internal Medicine

Gluten allergy: myth or fact?

Gluten is a hot topic these days, and is hitting the headlines again. Why? At the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology annual meeting, Dr. David Stukus (a pediatric allergist) set out to clarify frequent myths that he encounters in his practice.  So, why is he saying that gluten allergies do not exist?

Gluten is a protein found in foods processed from wheat and related grain products.  In celiac sprue (affecting up to 1% of adults), gluten intake leads to damage of the small intestine, impairing its ability to absorb nutrients.  I like to imagine that a healthy small intestine is like a shag carpet, and small intestine affected by active celiac sprue is more like a tile floor.  Celiac sprue is not a gluten allergy, but rather an autoimmune condition where the gluten is triggering an inflammatory response in the body.

Studies find that ...

What is celiac sprue or celiac disease?

An estimated 1.6 million Americans are currently following a gluten free diet, though many have never been diagnosed with celiac sprue (also known as celiac disease).  Patients commonly ask me about celiac sprue and gluten free diets, so I will try to answer some of these questions. The first question I get is what is celiac sprue or celiac disease.

What is celiac sprue?

In celiac sprue, the ingestion of gluten causes inflammatory damage to the lining of the small intestine.   Gluten is a protein, very common in our diet, found in wheat, rye, barley, and oats. (Ed. note - see this chart from the NIDDK that shows other ingredients and items that may contain gluten.)  In people with celiac sprue, the usually large absorptive surface of the small intestine is flattened from damage, significantly limiting its ability to absorb nutrients. 

Though celiac sprue is estimated to affect approximately 1.8 million Americans, many are unaware they have the disease. 

What are the symptoms of celiac sprue?

Celiac sprue causes a variety of symptoms.  They can range in intensity from very mild to debilitating.  Some of the most common signs and symptoms are:.

Why you should be eating more fiber

The recommended daily intake of dietary fiber is 25-35 grams per day. Despite this, the average American consumes about 15 grams of fiber per day. You may have heard fiber is important, but read on to learn more about why it matters in your diet.

What is fiber?

Fiber is the portion of plants that is not digested in the gastrointestinal tract. Therefore, it stays in the intestine, aiding in digestion and contributing to stool consistency. Dietary fiber is categorized into soluble fiber and insoluble fiber.

  • Sources of soluble fiber: fruits, legumes, oats, and barley
  • Sources of insoluble fiber: wheat, rye, grains, and many vegetables

What are the health effects of fiber?

  • Decreased risk of coronary artery disease and stroke. This is the leading cause of death in the United States and a diet high in soluble fiber decreases this risk by 40-50%.
  • Decreased risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus and improved glucose control in people with diabetes on a diet high in soluble fiber.
  • Insoluble fiber is beneficial for many digestive diseases including hemorrhoids, diarrhea, constipation, and diverticular disease.

Is there a downside to a high-fiber diet?

Colorectal Cancer Prevention

In March, we commemorate National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

To do so, we take the time to recognize the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. We honor loved ones who have been affected by colorectal cancer and raise awareness about colorectal cancer with the hopes to decrease the number of people dying from this disease.

What causes colorectal cancer?

There are a variety of genetic and environmental factors that contribute to the development of colon polyps. Only a small fraction of adenomatous colon polyps develop into colorectal cancer, but nearly all colorectal cancers arise from an adenomatous polyp. The role of colonoscopy is to identify and eradicate any adenomatous polyps so as to minimize future risk of colorectal cancer.

Several studies show that obesity increases your risk of developing colorectal cancer by 1.5 times. Cigarette smoking and moderate-to-heavy alcohol use also increase colorectal cancer risk. There is good news for Seattleites, however. Regular coffee consumption seems to decrease the risk of colorectal cancer.

How can I prevent colorectal cancer?

We have talked before about why you should be thinking about colorectal cancer screening. Simply put, it saves lives!

Besides...

What is Gastroenteritis?

This past week, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II was hospitalized with a “stomach bug”. Gastroenteritis (also called the “stomach flu”) is the second most common illness in the United States. So, chances are good that your family has been affected by gastroenteritis already this year!

What are the symptoms of gastroenteritis?
Gastroenteritis is inflammation of the stomach and intestines causing symptoms of diarrhea, vomiting, cramping, and fever. If a person is not able to keep up with fluid losses from diarrhea and vomiting, then they can become dehydrated. Gastroenteritis occurs year-round and affects people of all ages. Those who are young, old, or have a suppressed immune system are more susceptible to severe gastroenteritis and to dehydration.

What causes gastroenteritis?
The majority of cases are caused by a viral infection (occasionally, a bacterial infection) transmitted through contact with another sick person or contaminated food/drink.

I have gastroenteritis, how can I feel better?
Rest and fluids! Staying hydrated is the most important step to controlling gastroenteritis. Some good options for staying hydrated include sports drinks or oral rehydration solutions (such as Pedialyte in drug and grocery stores).

I typically do not recommend any anti-diarrheal medications as this may even prolong the illness. In addition, antibiotic therapy is not helpful unless a specific bacterial cause is identified.

When should I call my doctor?
If you have questions or concerns you should always call your provider. However, things to watch for if you have gastroenteritis include:

Make a new year's resolution to be screened for colorectal cancer

We have come upon the time of year when we reflect back on the events of 2012 and look forward to new beginnings in 2013. About 45% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions every year and frequently these resolutions are health-related.

Why not let 2013 be the year you resolve to be updated on colorectal cancer screening?

Why should I worry about colorectal cancer?

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. The average lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is about 5%. In the colon, cancer usually arises over time from abnormal polyps, called adenomas. This provides us the rare and life-saving opportunity to intervene and remove polyps to prevent cancer from developing. Pre-cancerous polyps or early cancers do not always cause symptoms, highlighting the need for routine screening.

Simply stated, there are large studies showing that screening for colorectal cancer prevents cancer. Screening saves lives. Screening detects cancer at an early and more treatable stage. How can you argue with that?

Who should be screened for colorectal cancer?

Regardless of your age, you should discuss any GI symptoms you are concerned about with your healthcare team.

If you are without symptoms...

Probiotics and our gut - what you should know

Did you know that the bacteria that live in our intestines account for over two pounds of our body weight? And that there are 10 times the number of bacterial cells in our body than human cells? Some bacteria play a beneficial role in a normal gastrointestinal (GI) tract and are known as probiotics.

Probiotics have a variety of functions in the GI tract including aiding the intestinal immune system and the intestinal nervous system, breaking our food into nutrients, blocking the bad bacteria, and promoting a healthy intestinal lining. With so many important tasks, it is no surprise that probiotics can be used to treat some common GI conditions. Though studies of probiotics are small with considerable variability, there is evidence supporting probiotic use for prevention of diarrhea caused by antibiotic use and treatment of infectious diarrhea, ulcerative colitis, clostridium difficile, and irritable bowel syndrome.

What you should know:

The U.S. FDA considers probiotics as dietary supplements, so their production is not tightly regulated and quality can vary widely. In addition, insurance companies do not cover probiotics, and the cost adds up quickly.

Should I ....

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Offices

Gastroenterology - Ballard
Swedish Tallman Professional Clinic
5350 Tallman Ave., N.W., Suite 304
Seattle, WA 98107
Phone: 206-215-4250
Fax: 206-215-4252

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Gastroenterology - Seattle - First Hill
1221 Madison St.
Suite 1220
Seattle, WA 98104
Phone: 206-215-4250
Fax: 206-215-4252

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