Maintain a healthy gut: Three reasons to see a gastroenterologist

July 9, 2021 Providence Health Team


This story was originally published in the Winter 2021 edition of Providence Health Matters. 

In this article

  • Maintaining a healthy gut is critical to maintaining health. 
  • LINX is a minimally invasive treatment that is highly effective at eliminating both the symptoms and causes of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). 
  • Providence gastroenterologist Dr. Erika Madrigal Hoyos recommends a colonoscopy for every American starting at age 45–50 to prevent and treat colon cancer. 

When Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the gut,” he was onto something. Your gut is responsible for vitamin and mineral absorption, hormone regulation, immune response and even the prevention of depression, as most of the body’s serotonin is made in the digestive tract. “Gut health starts with a diet filled with nutrient rich foods, healthy fats and fiber,” explains Erika Madrigal Hoyos, MD, a board-certified gastroenterologist at Providence St. Jude Medical Center, who says oatmeal with blueberries and cinnamon mixed in is a near-perfect breakfast choice. But if an issue develops, it may be time to involve a gut expert. Here are three reasons to make an appointment to see a gastroenterologist:  

chronic cough or lump in your throat  

Not everyone with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) has heartburn or regurgitation. For some, a chronic dry cough, hoarseness or a feeling like something is caught in the throat can be the only symptom. “GERD is a common cause of unexplained coughing, which can get misdiagnosed as asthma or some other issue,” explains Dr. Madrigal Hoyos. Left untreated, the acid reflux from GERD can damage your esophagus. The good news is that new minimally invasive treatments, like LINX, are proving highly effective at eliminating both the symptoms and causes of GERD.  

Stomach pain and bloating  

There are a wide variety of reasons for persistent pain and bloating, from diverticulitis to lactose or gluten intolerance. A gastroenterologist can help you sort through your symptoms to find a diagnosis and treatment. Peptic ulcers, which affect 15 million Americans, are another trigger of abdominal pain. These open sores in the stomach lining are frequently caused by the bacteria H. pylori, which requires antibiotics. But another common culprit? The long-term use of NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications) such as Advil. “People assume that because these are over-the-counter medications, there are no risks—which simply isn’t true,” says Dr. Madrigal Hoyos, explaining that NSAIDs interfere with the stomach’s ability to protect itself from gastric acids.

“If you’re reaching for NSAIDs on a daily basis—without your doctor’s recommendation—then it’s probably time to address the underlying cause.”  

Colon cancer prevention 

Colon cancer screenings and colonoscopies allow a gastroenterologist to identify and remove precancerous polyps, thereby preventing a malignancy from developing. Recommended for every American starting at age 45 or 50, this 30-minute screening has had a dramatic impact on successfully preventing and treating colon cancer. “Unfortunately, since COVID-19 began, fewer people are having routine colonoscopies, which will mean an increase in cancer diagnoses down the road,” explains Dr. Madrigal Hoyos. “If you’re overdue for your screening, don’t put it off any longer.”  


Find a doctor 

Managing your gut health can lead to better overall health. The Providence gastroenterology team can help you manage chronic conditions like GERD and acid reflux. To schedule an appointment with a gastroenterologist, search our online provider directory. 

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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions. 

About the Author

The Providence Health Team brings together caregivers from diverse backgrounds to bring you clinically-sound, data-driven advice to help you live your happiest and healthiest selves.

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