Vim & Vigor - Winter 2017 - University of Virginia - 43

Q

Every morning after you eat your
cereal and drink your latte, you feel
bloated. Most days you have diarrhea, too. You're really tired of starting
each day feeling terrible.
Is it: Lactose intolerance or
Crohn's disease?
LACTOSE INTOLERANCE. Lactose
intolerance is common, Bell says. There
are other symptoms that might tip
the scales toward a Crohn's diagnosis,
including blood in your stool and
abdominal pain that's persistent. Skin
rashes and perianal disease (that's
inflammation around the anus) might
also prompt a physician to consider a
Crohn's diagnosis. There's an easy way
to see whether it's lactose causing the
problems, though.
"The simplest test is to go home
and drink two glasses of milk and tell
me what happens," Bell says he tells
his patients.

Q

Your body is usually predictable
when it comes to morning bowel
movements, but that hasn't been
the case lately. In fact, you're noticing all
kinds of changes in your bowel habits.
Your diet hasn't been great lately, and
you know you're not getting enough
fiber. And now your belly is tender, so
you're starting to worry.
Is it: Diverticulitis or colon cancer?
DIVERTICULITIS. "When adults have
abdominal pain or a change in bowel
habits or blood in their stool, they might
worry they have colon cancer," Bell says.
"It's the second most common type
of cancer."
But abdominal pain and tenderness and even a change in bowel habits can be markers for diverticulitis,
or inflammation of the sacs of the

WEBSITE

lining in the large intestine. Increasing
the amount of fiber you eat could
decrease your risk of flare-ups. And if
you notice blood in your stool, see a
physician. That could signal something
more serious.

Know Your Gut
Do you know where
your pancreas is? How
about your duodenum?
Visit niddk.nih.gov/
health-information/
digestive-diseases/
digestive-system-howit-works for a handy guide
and map of the gastrointestinal tract.

Q

Holy Toledo, are you having serious heartburn after that work
potluck, or what? A potluck
encourages you to try a little bit of
everything, but you should've passed
on the casserole. The heartburn is so
bad that even your chest hurts.
Is it: Acid reflux or a heart attack?
PROBABLY ACID REFLUX, but don't
guess. If you're experiencing anything
that might resemble a heart attack,
you should treat it like a heart attack-
especially women, who can have atypical symptoms, Bell says. Where men
can have pronounced left-arm pain
and sharper chest pain during a heart
attack, women don't always. Better
check it out with your doctor or at an
emergency department right away to
be on the safe side.

Q

You had been at the ballfield all
day for the kids' games when your
back started to ache. It's mostly
in your lower back, and you have been
sitting on metal bleachers all day. But
you've also been eating the greasy fare
from the concession stand.
Is it: Gallbladder attack or muscle pain
from the bleachers?
BLAME THE BLEACHERS.
Gallbladder pain does sometimes
masquerade as back pain, but it's
pretty specific: It's not fleeting, meaning it lasts 20 minutes or longer, and
it mostly is isolated in the upper right
quadrant of your back. It also often

is associated with large meals or fatty
foods, Bell says.
"It could even awaken you from
your sleep," he adds of the discomfort that often accompanies gallbladder problems.

Q

Your teenage son never met a
pizza he didn't like-and promptly
devour. But he's skipping pizza
night, saying it has been hard for him to
swallow solid food. You're alarmed, to
say the least.
Is it: Esophageal blockage or cancer?
LIKELY A BLOCKAGE. That can mean
many different, and surprisingly common, things, Bell explains. It could be
a food bolus, where food has gotten
stuck and caused an obstruction. It
could be something called eosinophilic
esophagitis, which is a type of allergic
reaction involving white blood cells
in the esophagus (where there aren't
white blood cells, normally). Your doctor will know how best to figure out
what's causing his trouble and what
steps to take next. ■

W INT E R 2017

43


http://niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/digestive-system-how-it-works http://niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/digestive-system-how-it-works http://niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/digestive-system-how-it-works http://niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/digestive-system-how-it-works http://niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/digestive-system-how-it-works

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Vim & Vigor - Winter 2017 - University of Virginia

Contents
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2017 - University of Virginia - Cover1
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2017 - University of Virginia - Cover2
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2017 - University of Virginia - Contents
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2017 - University of Virginia - 2
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2017 - University of Virginia - 3
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2017 - University of Virginia - 4
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Vim & Vigor - Winter 2017 - University of Virginia - Cover3
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2017 - University of Virginia - Cover4
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