Wednesday, December 2, 2020

My Stomach Hurts

To Your Health


There’s almost nothing worse than a stomachache. This is especially true for those who suffer from persistent gut issues—the “aches” often seem to be never-ending and can encompass a significant number of internal organs. 

Plus, we all eat. Digestive health involves the optimal functioning of the body’s digestive system. The body’s digestive system breaks down foods and liquids so that they can be absorbed, giving the body energy and the essential nutrients it needs to function properly. 

The breakdown process begins in the mouth and then substances pass through multiple organs that include the esophagus, stomach, small intestine and large intestine. Other organs that play a part in digestion include the liver, gallbladder and pancreas.

I was in a meeting recently and the topic of digestive health came up. Though that may seem unusual to some people, as the Market CEO of Physicians Regional Healthcare System, these types of spontaneous discussions are not unusual—no matter where I am. And candidly, I appreciate the feedback.

One of the other attendees, a self-described “gastrointestinal disaster,” listed all the Physicians Regional doctors she had seen over the past ten years. Her comment: “I would never have thought that I’d spend so much time as an adult dealing with gut issues. Had I known, I would have made some major lifestyle changes many years ago.”

She proceeded to list all five of our gastrointestinal and colorectal team members and quite enthusiastically endorsed each based on the specific reason for the visit/interaction—from office visits and procedures to support during hospitalization. Not only did she appreciate the care she received (thank you), but she understood WHO she saw each time and WHY she saw them. 

I’m always happy to receive positive feedback on any of our doctors, but I was especially pleased with these comments, as Physicians Regional has made a significant investment in expanding our “gut health” services. 

You could say we offer a “soup to nuts” approach with specialists available to handle virtually any gastrointestinal (GI) issue. We even have a Digestive Disease Nutritionist on staff to help GI sufferers understand what soups, nuts, and other foods are best to address their specific set of conditions—GI, cardiovascular, neurological, etc. 

Before seeing a GI specialist, you should always start with a visit to your primary care physician (PCP). Without his or her guidance, you may choose a specialist who is not best suited to diagnose and address your specific condition. If you do not have a primary care physician, our Marco Island Clinic offers primary care five days a week.

According to Physicians Regional gastroenterologist Dr. Alexandra Grace, “The public’s biggest misconception is that gastroenterologists and colorectal surgeons do the same thing, but there are some very distinct differences. Both can perform colonoscopies and upper endoscopies; however, for example, a gastroenterologist would not perform the surgery to remove a tumor.”

Let’s break it down:

Gastroenterologists

A gastroenterologist specializes in the management of diseases of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and includes treatment of other nearby solid organs such as the pancreas, gallbladder and liver. 

The gastrointestinal tract covers a broad area of the body, and symptoms affecting anywhere from the tongue to the rectum may be treated by a gastroenterologist. 

Common GI symptoms can include:

  • Change in bowel habits such as constipation or diarrhea
  • Consistent heartburn
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Blood in stool
  • Constant bloating
  • Unexplained weight loss

Dr. Grace explains: “A gastroenterologist deals with the entire gut—mouth to behind. For example, gastroenterologists tend to be diagnosticians, and if we can’t manage the condition with medication and diet, we often refer the patient to a colorectal surgeon.” 

Colorectal Surgeons

Physicians Regional’s colorectal surgeons offer colon and rectal surgery, including minimally invasive techniques, to treat colorectal conditions. Minimally invasive surgery may offer smaller incisions, less pain, and a quicker recovery. They tend to see patients for recurrent diverticulitis, hemorrhoids, colon cancer, surgical treatment of Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis.

Our surgeons work closely with gastroenterologists and other specialists to provide comprehensive and supportive care for conditions such as:

  • Colon and rectal cancer
  • Diverticular disease
  • Benign or precancerous polyps
  • Injuries or block in the intestine

General Surgeons

Physicians Regional’s general surgeons also perform minimally invasive procedures. By using miniature cameras with microscopes, tiny fiber-optic flashlights, and high-definition monitors, surgeons can perform surgery through small incisions that take only a few stitches to close. Smaller incisions result in less blood loss, less pain and a quicker recovery.

For example, our general surgeons, Dr. Brian Smith and Dr. Jonas Mansson, perform GI-related procedures such as reflux surgeries, hernia repairs, robotic gastric and small bowel surgeries for both benign and malignant pathology, liver and gall bladder surgeries and pancreatic surgeries for benign and malignant path. 

For those situations where the patient’s condition requires multiple specialists, we also have a Digestive Disease Navigator on staff to help facilitate compassionate, seamless patient care, as they move throughout our organization. 

Dr. Grace adds: “Please don’t suffer unnecessarily. 

We can’t fix what we don’t know about—so please come see us and ask.

For more information or to make an appointment with a primary care physician, gastroenterologist or colorectal surgeon, please call 239-348-4221 or visit PhysiciansRegionalMedicalGroup.com.

 


Submitted Photos

Susan Cera, M.D.
Colon and Rectal Surgery

Medical Education

  • Georgetown University

Residency

  • Carolinas Medical Center

Fellowship

  • Cleveland Clinic FL

Board Certifications

  • American Board of Colon and Rectal Surgery
  • American Board of Surgery 

Michael Cohen, M.D.
Gastroenterology

Medical Education

  • Northwestern University Medical School

Residency

  • Northwestern McGaw Medical Center

Fellowship

  • Jackson Memorial Hospital and University of Miami Affiliated Hospitals 

Board Certifications

  • American Board of Internal Medicine 
  • American Board of Gastroenterology

Alexandra Grace, D.O.
Gastroenterology

Medical Education

  • Nova Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine

Residency

  • Mount Sinai Medical Center

Fellowship

  • St. John Macomb – Oakland Hospital

Board Certifications

  • American Osteopathic Board of Internal Medicine 
  • American Board of Gastroenterology 

Maria Valdez
Gastroenterology

Medical Education

  • St. George University School of Medicine

Residency

  • St. Vincent’s Hospital and Medical Center of NY

Board Certifications

  • American Board of Gastroenterology

Fellowship

  • The Brooklyn Hospital Center 
  • New York University

Anthony Vernava, M.D.
Colon & Rectal Surgery

Medical Education

  • St. Louis University School of Medicine 

Residency

  • St Louis University Medical Center 

Fellowship

  • University of Minnesota

Board Certifications

  • American Board of Colon and Rectal Surgery 
  • American Board of Surgery

 

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