From the first bite of a bagel or sip of coffee to the absorption of nutrients and the eventual elimination of waste, the path along the gastrointestinal (GI) system involves a symphony of organs and intricate processes all working in harmony to keep the body nourished and healthy. As with any complex system, however, there are many issues that can stand in the way of good digestive health—and ultimately, whole-body wellness.
At Columbia Memorial Health’s gastroenterology practice in Hudson, the dedicated team of providers are there to guide their patients through all the conditions that affect their GI health. From routine screenings such as colonoscopies to the complex management of conditions that affect the digestive organs—the esophagus, stomach, liver, intestines, colon, rectum, pancreas, gallbladder, and the bile ducts that connect them—CMH’s providers offer patients across Columbia and Greene counties access to state-of-the-art gastrointestinal care close to home.
Treating Gastrointestinal Issues Big and SmallDealing with a nagging digestive issue but not sure where to start? Whether it’s pesky acid reflux, unexplained nausea, abdominal discomfort, or abnormal bowel movements, the first stop is a visit to see one of CMH’s providers. “When a patient first comes to see us, I begin with a lot of history-taking and information-gathering,” says Lynn Carollo, a nurse practitioner at CMH’s gastroenterology practice. “Most people don’t realize that what they eat affects how their gastrointestinal system works.”
For most issues, patients will also go through initial testing and screenings such as a colonoscopy or endoscopy to rule out more serious conditions. “Many people can go years undiagnosed with a condition like Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder triggered by gluten,” says Dr. Daniel Blachman, a general gastroenterologist at CMH. “It’s also estimated that a third of the US population has IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). A lot of patients with abdominal bloating and discomfort have IBS. There are ways to manage these symptoms, and we can refer patients to a nutritionist who provides guidance on how to navigate any dietary changes.”
While it may seem tempting to downplay frequent bouts of acid reflux or tummy troubles, in some instances the root cause could be much more serious. "The average 20 to 25 year old seeing their general practitioner doesn't necessarily need a referral to discuss their GI health," says Dr. Blachman. "But if you're experiencing chronic acid reflux, pain, nausea, or diarrhea, you should always be evaluated. And starting at 45, everyone should be coming for their routine screening colonoscopies."
Starting Routine Colonoscopy ScreeningsIn 2018, due to the rising incidence of colorectal cancer, the American Cancer Society changed its recommendation for screening colonoscopies for those with an average risk to age 45 or earlier for those with a family history. "Colorectal cancer is now the third leading cause of cancer in the US. It’s so important to have screenings to be able to treat anything early,” says Dr. Asna Amin, a colorectal and general surgeon at CMH who works hand-in-hand with CMH’s gastroenterology team. “You may not have early symptoms, and screening is the only way to catch polyps before they develop into cancer.”
If a regular colonoscopy screening does reveal a malignancy, CMH’s gastroenterology providers refer patients to Dr. Amin to discuss the options for surgery. According to Dr. Amin, significant advances in surgical treatments like minimally invasive laparoscopic procedures have decreased recovery time, helping patients get back onto their feet sooner after any necessary surgery. If a patient needs more advanced cancer treatment, such as medical oncology or radiation oncology, she works directly with specialists at Albany Med, a member of the Albany Med Health Center along with CMH, to provide patients in Columbia and Greene counties with a seamless approach to care when it matters most.
To learn more about gastroenterology services at Columbia Memorial Health, visit Columbiamemorialhealth.org.