Did you know that many people who have Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), find it hard to get a good night’s sleep? In fact, over a third of IBD sufferers say they can’t sleep well and experience insomnia, according to a recent study.

The study showed that insomnia can have a big impact on quality of life. Here, we look at the findings of the recent research, and what steps you can take if your IBD is causing you sleepless nights.

Study shows insomnia tied to active IBD

Researchers from the Flinders Medical Centre in Bedford Park, Australia, carried out an online survey involving 670 IBD patients. It revealed ‘active IBD’, when a patient’s condition is not well controlled causing symptoms including belly pain, and significant anxiety and depression, was significantly tied to insomnia. It also found that over a third of patients suffer with some level of sleep disturbance.

There hasn’t been much research carried out to determine how sleepless nights are connected to IBD. However, when it comes to other long-term health issues, not being able to sleep has been tied to a poorer quality of life.

Past research has shown that those with IBD who have a hard time sleeping, experience more severe symptoms, and this affects their overall well-being.

Screening for IBD patients

Results from the study highlight the need for insomnia screening in those who are diagnosed with IBD. In this study, a score of 14 or above on a scale called the ‘Insomnia Severity Index’ meant that a person’s insomnia was serious enough to need addressing.

Identifying sleep problems early is crucial. Thankfully, there are effective ways to treat the condition and improve the life for those struggling with both IBD and sleep issues. However, getting an early diagnosis is essential because if sleep issues persist, they can be more difficult to treat.

Treating IBD related insomnia

If you’re having trouble getting a good night’s sleep, while also dealing with the symptoms of IBD, there are treatments available. The initial step is to verify that insomnia is what’s causing the sleep issues, as other conditions like sleep apnoea, restless legs syndrome, or inadequate sleep practices might be to blame.

If insomnia is found to be the culprit, it’s critical to assess how much it’s affecting your daily life. Is it causing you to miss out on social gatherings, work commitments, or even making it challenging to carry out everyday tasks like driving or shopping?

If insomnia is taking a toll on your lifestyle, consulting a sleep specialist can be highly beneficial. You’ll want to manage your IBD symptoms effectively too, since they can also influence the quality of your sleep.

Don’t let sleepless nights with IBD hold you back; schedule an appointment with a gastroenterologist to discuss treatment options.

According to a recent study, the likelihood of patients developing colon cancer shot up almost fourfold within a year of receiving treatment for acute appendicitis. This research accounted for nearly all appendicitis cases in adults in France, spanning from 2010 to 2015.

The short gap between appendicitis and a cancer diagnosis led the researchers to conclude that appendicitis might serve as an early red flag for colon cancer, rather than being a direct cause. They also suggest those who have undergone an appendectomy should undergo regular colon cancer screenings.

Here, we explore the latest research and provide tips on how to foster a beneficial gut microbiome following an appendectomy.

Colon cancer risk quadruples within a year of an appendectomy

Researchers used the French Hospital Discharge Database to compare 230,512 acute appendicitis cases with 461,024 control cases of trauma patients, over a period of five years. These groups were matched based on age, gender, and overall health. The study excluded individuals with personal or a family history of colon cancer, and other high-risk factors. Results showed that patients diagnosed with colon cancer within a month of suffering with appendicitis were often discovered during appendectomy. These patients were also excluded.

Remaining data revealed 111 patients were diagnosed with colon cancer within a year of having appendicitis or an appendectomy. This was significantly higher compared to 55 individuals in the control group.

After adjusting for other factors, the study found that appendicitis patients had a nearly four times greater risk of colon cancer in the first year, and an almost six times greater risk in the first six months. This risk was particularly pronounced in patients under 40 and for right-sided colon cancer, which is on the same side as the appendix. After one year, colon cancer rates levelled out between the two groups.

The study concluded that appendicitis could be an early warning signal for colon cancer, rather than a direct cause.

What is an appendectomy?

An appendectomy is a surgical procedure that involves the removal of the appendix, a small organ attached to the large intestine, found on the lower right side of the abdomen. This surgery is typically performed as an emergency medical procedure when the appendix becomes inflamed or infected, a condition known as appendicitis.

While it’s generally a straightforward and commonly performed operation, it does carry certain risks, as with any surgical procedure. For this reason, an appendectomy serves as a necessary intervention when the appendix causes health issues.

It is believed that the appendix plays a key role in maintaining a diverse gut microbiome. These bacteria play a crucial role in maintaining your health, although some types can contribute to diseases. A recent study found that microbes in the gut contribute to colorectal cancer risk and that patients could be at higher risk of this disease after an appendectomy, because it disrupts the balance of bacteria.

Precautions to take after an appendectomy

After an appendectomy, you need to be proactive about nutrition to ensure you have an optimal population of good bacteria in your gut. You can nurture your gut microbiome through dietary choices. Consuming fermented foods, like yoghurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, and tempeh, enriches your gut with lactobacilli, a health-supportive bacteria.

Probiotic foods, which stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria will also help. These are primarily fibre or complex carbs that are digested by gut bacteria for energy. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and standalone probiotic supplements are excellent sources.

If you are concerned about your risk of colorectal disease, book an appointment with Mr Alan Woodward. There are different tests for diagnosing colorectal conditions that can be discussed with you, including a Colonoscopy – a common and straightforward procedure that can be carried out under sedation. Get in touch to find out more.

Approximately 1 out of every 400 people in England may be living with Lynch syndrome, equivalent to almost 175,000. However, a staggering 95% are completely unaware that they have the inherited syndrome.

To address this issue, the National Health Service (NHS) has initiated a systematic approach to expand genetic testing for Lynch syndrome. They are aiming to improve diagnostic accuracy for those suspected of carrying the disorder. They are also enabling family members to be informed about their heightened risk.

By implementing a nationwide programme it is anticipated that all patients diagnosed with colorectal and endometrial cancer will be given the opportunity to undergo genetic testing. This critical step paves the way for a more tailored treatment strategy, ensuring optimal patient care and outcomes.

What is Lynch Syndrome?

Lynch syndrome, also known as Hereditary Non-Polyposis Colorectal Cancer (HNPCC), is the leading cause of inherited bowel cancer. It represents a category of inherited cancer syndromes that are linked to a genetic predisposition to various types of cancer. Those who have it are known to face a heightened risk of developing specific cancer types.

The cancers associated with this syndrome tend to manifest at a younger age than typically expected. Those affected also experience an increased probability of being diagnosed with multiple cancer forms throughout their lives.

The Link between Lynch Syndrome and Bowel Cancer

In England, approximately 1,100 cases of bowel cancer annually can be attributed to Lynch syndrome. Based on data from the British Society of Gastroenterology (BSG), the lifetime risk of developing bowel cancer for those with the syndrome varies from 10% to 47% by the age of 70, depending on factors such as gender and specific gene mutations.

Lynch syndrome causes mismatch repair genes that don’t function as they should. Changes within the DNA may not get fixed, leading to cells to multiply and develop into cancer cells.

Testing for Bowel Cancer

The National Health Service’s Genomic Medicine Service has been collaborating with oncology and pathology specialists nationwide to enhance the extent of genomic testing for early Lynch syndrome diagnosis. The introduction of this advanced testing will help speed up detection of the condition. This helps to promote better patient outcomes and enables assessment of family members who could be at risk for bowel cancer.

Those who test positive for Lynch syndrome but have not yet developed bowel cancer, would benefit from routine screenings to minimise their future risk.

While the roll-out of this testing is good news, a colonoscopy screening for bowel cancer is already accessible to everyone. To book this common diagnostic procedure, contact Mr Alan Woodward today.

Anal dysplasia is a condition where abnormal cells grow in or near the anal canal. Although it is not cancer, these abnormal cells can become cancerous over time, making it important to get screened.

Here, we look at what anal cancer is, the signs and symptoms to watch out for, and why getting treatment for anal dysplasia is important.

What is anal cancer and how does it link to anal dysplasia?

Anal cancer is a rare form of cancer that affects approximately 1500 people in the UK each year. Occurring in the anal canal, which is the short tube at the end of the rectum that expels stool from the body, it develops when abnormal cells grow and multiply in the anal region.

Anal dysplasia is considered a precancerous condition because it involves the growth of abnormal cells in or near the anal canal. If left untreated, these abnormal cells can develop into cancerous tumours within the anal region, leading to the onset of anal cancer.

Anal dysplasia is also commonly caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), which is the same virus that can cause anal cancer.

What are the signs and symptoms?

The signs and symptoms of anal cancer can vary depending on its severity and location. Some common symptoms of anal cancer include:

  • Pain/pressure in the anal region
  • Anal itching or burning
  • Bleeding from the anus or rectum
  • Changes in bowel habits, such as diarrhoea or constipation
  • Fatigue
  • A lump or growth in the anal area
  • Unexplained weight loss

Anal dysplasia causes much the same symptoms, though it also might not cause any symptoms at all. Routine screening is recommended for people who may be at higher risk, such as those with a history of anal warts or HPV infection.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or have concerns, it’s recommended that you seek the advice of a GP or a colorectal specialist.

Treating anal dysplasia

Treatment for anal dysplasia depends on its severity and the extent of the lesions. Mild cases of anal dysplasia may require no treatment at all and can be monitored closely over time. More severe cases may require treatment, which can include:

  • Topical creams: Medications can be applied to the anal region to destroy the abnormal cells.
  • Surgery: Lesions may be removed by surgery to eliminate abnormal cells and prevent the progression of the disease.
  • Electrosurgery: This involves using an electrical current to remove abnormal cells.
  • Cryotherapy: Abnormal cells are destroyed by freezing them.
  • Laser therapy: A focused beam of light can be used to destroy the abnormal cells.
  • Radiation therapy: In some cases, radiation therapy may be used to destroy abnormal cells.

It’s important to note that while treatment for anal dysplasia is often successful, the condition can recur. Therefore, it’s important to continue regular monitoring after treatment.

If you have anal dysplasia and you are worried about the risk of developing anal cancer, book an appointment with Mr Alan Woodward. He will assess the condition and determine the best course of treatment to eliminate it.

Acid Reflux is a common health complaint, typically causing mild to moderate temporary discomfort. It affects everyone to some degree, though some are more at risk of developing a more severe form of the condition than others.

While in most cases it is completely harmless, acid reflux can be a sign of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Although GERD is fairly common, if not treated this can lead to more serious health complications.

What is acid reflux?

Acid reflux is a condition that causes stomach acid, and sometimes partially digested food, back up from the stomach into the oesophagus. This occurs when the muscular ring at the bottom of the oesophagus (lower oesophageal sphincter), doesn’t close properly, allowing your stomach contents to leak upward.

Symptoms can include:

  • Heartburn
  • Burning sensation in the chest
  • Sour or bitter taste in the mouth
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Regurgitation of food or sour liquid

These symptoms can be mild or severe and can occur frequently or occasionally.

When might acid reflux be a problem?

Although acid reflux can cause temporary discomfort, it isn’t usually anything to worry about. However, it can become a problem if it develops into chronic acid reflux, or GERD.

Over time, chronic acid reflux can cause damage to the lining of the oesophagus, leading to complications such as inflammation, ulcers, scarring, and a higher risk of developing oesophageal cancer.

It can also cause dental issues due to the teeth being constantly exposed to acid. In some cases, you may find it hard to breathe. If acid reflux is impacting your daily life and causing any of the symptoms mentioned above, there are treatment options available.

Treatment options

Most people who suffer with acid reflux won’t need any significant treatment. The problem will typically clear up quickly.

Treatment mostly involves lifestyle changes, such as avoiding trigger foods, losing weight, and elevating the head of the bed. There are also medications that can help to reduce the production of stomach acid or neutralise it. However, in severe cases, surgery might be needed.

Surgery for acid reflux involves wrapping the upper part of the stomach (the fundus) around the lower part of the oesophagus. This helps to reinforce the lower oesophageal sphincter, preventing stomach acid from flowing back up into the oesophagus.

The procedure is carried out laparoscopically and has a high success rate. It is carried out when simple lifestyle changes and medications haven’t worked. It can also be a good treatment option for those suffering with complications caused by GERD.

If you are suffering with persistent acid reflux and it is impacting your quality of life, book a consultation with Mr Alan Woodward today. He will discuss with you the treatment options, including surgery if this is suitable.

According to new findings from researchers in New Zealand, kiwi fruit can help to encourage more frequent bowel movements in those with constipation.

While constipation is a common problem, the treatments currently available are often not deemed to be as effective as they should be. So, could kiwi fruit be a better, alternative treatment? Here, we look at what the recent study found and when you may need to seek help for constipation.

Kiwi fruit more effective than Psyllium

The latest research carried out by the University of Otago in New Zealand has found that kiwi fruit is more effective at treating constipation than the traditional treatment ‘Psyllium’. The international multicentre controlled study recruited patients from New Zealand, Japan, and Italy, and included a total of 184 participants.

Most participants either had constipation-predominant irritable bowel syndrome (IBS-C), or functional constipation. Some healthy people were also included in the study as controls. There were 136 women and 48 men included.

In the first two weeks of the study, participants were asked to record their bowel movements. They were then assigned either 7.5g of psyllium or two ripe kiwi fruits without the skins for four weeks. Treatment was then paused for four weeks, before participants switched treatments for an additional four weeks.

Those with functional constipation found that after four weeks of eating kiwi fruits, their bowel movements increased by 1.53 movements a week. Participants with IBS-C saw an increase of 1.73 movements per week. With Psyllium, only those with IBS-C saw a significant increase in bowel movements.

How does kiwi fruit help with constipation?

Kiwi fruit can help to aid constipation in numerous ways. Firstly, it has a high fibre content. On average, a kiwi fruit has 2.3g of fibre in every 100g. This is important for softening the stools and encouraging regular bowel movements.

They also contain a digestive enzyme known as actinidin, known to break down proteins and ensure food moves smoothly throughout the digestive system. Finally, kiwi fruits contain up to 80% water, providing an excellent source of hydration. This too is important as it prevents the stools from becoming hard and dry.

When to seek help for constipation

While this latest research is compelling, kiwi fruits should not be used as an alternative to traditional medication. There are many different causes of constipation, and it may point to an underlying issue.

If you experience constipation for weeks at a time, and you also experience abdominal cramping, you should seek medical advice. While increasing your consumption of kiwi fruits may help to eradicate functional constipation, you should still seek medical advice if symptoms persist.

According to statistics, each year, over 41,000 people are diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Cancer of the colon can develop at any age, though it does tend to be more prevalent in older adults.

Beginning as a non-cancerous clump of cells known as polyps, over time some of these cells turn cancerous. Unfortunately, there tends to be very few symptoms in the early stages of the condition, which makes screening for the disease essential.

Although colon cancer can affect anyone, there are some risk factors to be aware of. Here, we look at the risk factors of colon cancer everyone should know.

What causes colon cancer?

In most colon cancer cases; the cause is unknown. What is known is that the cancer develops due to the mutation of healthy cells within the colon. When the DNA of the cell’s changes, they continue to reproduce even when they aren’t needed. This causes them to clump together, forming a tumour.

As the cancer cells multiply, they invade and eradicate healthy tissue, and spread to other areas of the body.

What are the risk factors of colon cancer?

While the exact cause might not be known, there are risk factors associated with colon cancer. They include:

  • Age
  • Inflammatory intestinal conditions
  • African American race
  • Inherited syndromes
  • A personal or family history of colorectal cancer
  • Obesity
  • Unhealthy lifestyle choices

Colon cancer tends to develop in older adults, aged 50 or over. However, there has been a recent shift with rising cases in younger adults developing. Chronic inflammatory conditions such as Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis also increase the risk, alongside inherited syndromes such as Lynch Syndrome and Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP).

If you are obese, your risk of developing colon cancer is increased, and there is a greater chance of dying from the disease, compared to those of a healthy weight. Smokers and those who drink excessive levels of alcohol are also at risk.

Understanding the risks is key to ensuring you are protecting yourself against colon cancer. While you can’t always prevent the cancer from developing, making certain lifestyle changes can help to minimise the risk.

Reducing your risk of colon cancer

If you want to reduce your risk of developing colon cancer, there are things you can do. Studies have revealed that a plant-based diet can greatly help to reduce the risk of colon cancer, though not all plant diets are made equal.

Healthy plant-based foods to include in your cancer-prevention diet include wholegrains, nuts, unsaturated oils, and legumes. These foods help to keep your digestive tract healthy and functioning as it should.

Maintaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking, and monitoring your alcohol consumption are other ways to reduce the risks.

Colon cancer is common, and it can’t always be prevented. However, by understanding the risks, it gives you the opportunity to make any necessary changes to protect against this deadly disease.

Acid reflux is a common condition that is said to affect up to 20% of the population. In some cases, it flares up occasionally, while in others it remains a consistent, ongoing problem.
While it isn’t usually serious, the condition can cause uncomfortable and unpleasant symptoms. In some cases, symptoms may be experienced daily, impacting the patient’s quality of life.

You can experience a bout of acid reflux at any time of year. However, it does tend to be more prevalent in the winter months. So, how can you avoid acid reflux this winter? Find out everything you need to know to protect yourself below…

Increase your Vitamin D consumption

In winter, we tend to spend much less time outdoors than we do for the rest of the year. This means we get a lower natural dose of vitamin D from sunlight.

When you aren’t getting enough vitamin D, it can relax the oesophageal sphincter, making it easier for stomach acid to get back into the oesophagus. This triggers the symptoms of acid reflux.

By getting outdoors more and taking a high-quality supplement, you can increase your Vitamin D intake.

Avoid acid reflux by resisting junk food

It’s easier to follow an unhealthy diet in winter. The colder weather encourages us to turn to comfort food such as cakes, spicy food, and chocolate. While they may make you feel good temporarily, these foods are known to trigger heartburn. In turn, they can cause acid reflux to worsen.

Try and maintain a healthy diet throughout the winter months. A little indulgence is fine, but too much will lead to frequent acid reflux flare ups.

Limit your alcohol consumption

As Christmas approaches, it’s common to increase our alcohol consumption. The odd festive tipple is fine, but if you drink excessively, you are going to experience more frequent bouts of acid reflux. Alcohol itself is acidic, and it is one of the most common contributing factors to acid reflux.

If you limit your alcohol intake, you should see your acid reflux clear up.

Seeking treatment for acid reflux

While the tips above can help to avoid acid reflux this winter, they may not eradicate it completely. This is especially true if the root cause is not linked to your diet. It is important to understand the cause of the condition to treat it effectively. For example, if it is caused by a hernia or an ulcer, you will need to treat them to eliminate the acid reflux. Or, if the condition is caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), surgery may be required.

For those struggling with constant acid reflux symptoms that don’t clear up, other treatment options may be available. Book a consultation with Mr Alan Woodward today to determine the best course of treatment to eradicate the symptoms.

Most of us don’t give much thought to our gallbladder in our day to day lives. Responsible for storing and releasing bile to aid in digestion, this vital organ typically functions well without cause for concern. However, problems with the gallbladder do occur, and can lead to serious health issues.

Knowing how to spot a gallbladder issue early will ensure it doesn’t turn into something more sinister. Here, you’ll discover some of the most common gallbladder problems to be aware of, and what to do if you have one.

Common gallbladder problems

Getting to know the most common gallbladder issues ensures you can catch them early if they do occur. Here’s a look at some common gallbladder problems you may experience…

Gallstones

Gallstones are by far one of the most common gallbladder problems. Stones of various sizes are created from excess levels of cholesterol and bilirubin. In more than 90% of cases, patients don’t experience any symptoms. However, they may cause some level of pain or discomfort.

Gallstones that do cause symptoms, have typically been in the gallbladder for up to 10 years.

Perforated gallbladder

A perforated gallbladder is a serious problem that could prove life threatening. It occurs due to untreated inflammation, and will typically cause severe, sharp pain as it bursts. Other symptoms include nausea and vomiting, fever, and jaundice.

If you experience a perforated gallbladder, you will need emergency surgery to remove it.

Biliary Colic

While most of the time gallstones don’t cause any symptoms, they can potentially block bile from reaching the small intestine. This results in bursts of severe pain known as biliary colic. The pain is caused by vigorous contractions of the gallbladder as it tries to unblock the stones.

The pain will last for around one to five hours, and the pain may linger on for 24 hours or more. Some patients find that biliary colic episodes come on after eating a fatty or large meal.

Inflamed gallbladder

The gallbladder can become inflamed due to infections, excessive alcohol use, and rarely tumours. Sometimes, gallbladder polyps form due to cholesterol deposits in the gallbladder wall. However, 95% polys are typically small and benign.

The most common cause of inflammation is gallstones. They can irritate the walls of the gallbladder, causing them to become inflamed and sore. Occasionally, it can lead to an infection, but most of the time it will ease within a few hours or days.

What to do if you suspect a gallbladder problem

Gallbladder symptoms usually start with pain in the upper right or centre of the abdominal area. If you have been experiencing any symptoms that are causing concern, you should book an appointment with your doctor. Gallstones don’t always require removal, but your surgeon will organise a scan and can recommend treatment options.

Gallbladder removal is a straightforward procedure, and the body can function well without one. Book a consultation with Mr Alan Woodward today to have your gallbladder problem assessed, and to start an appropriate treatment plan.

Long COVID is typically associated with shortness of breath and fatigue. However, did you know it can also impact your digestive system?

An increasing number of people are displaying gastrointestinal symptoms as a result of having the condition. Here, we analyse recent research into Long COVID and its effect on the digestive system.

What does the latest research say?

In April 2022, a study was carried out to determine the link between long covid and gastrointestinal symptoms. It involved 1,114 participants who took a two-part internet survey. All participants had tested positive for COVID-19.

It was discovered that gastrointestinal symptoms were a risk factor for severe COVID cases. Out of the 164 participants who completed the second phase of the study, 66% of them had at least one gastrointestinal symptom.

Additional research in March this year, discovered 16% of 147 patients who had never had a gastrointestinal problem, reported a new digestive symptom. These symptoms typically started within 100 days of developing a COVID infection.

The most prevalent symptoms reported include:

Certainly, the fact that multiple studies have shown an increase in gastrointestinal problems in Long COVID patients points to a strong link. So, what is causing it?

Why does Long COVID affect the digestive system?

The exact reason why so many Long COVID patients are developing issues of the digestive system isn’t fully known. However, there are some theories.

When the SARS-COV2 virus invades cells, it uses receptors within the body. The gut lining is home to many of these receptors. The issues could also be caused by the inflammation caused by the virus. This can upset the bacteria that live within the gut, stimulating the nerves of the gastrointestinal system.

Treating issues of the digestive system

If you are experiencing gastrointestinal issues caused by COVID, making sure you drink plenty of fluids and eating a healthy diet can help. Avoiding processed foods and following a Mediterranean diet, that is rich in fruit and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts, is recommended to manage the symptoms.

Whether Long COVID is the cause of your issues or not, seeking treatment for gastrointestinal problems early is important. When left untreated, they can go on to worsen and trigger other health problems.

If you are experiencing any digestive issues, book a consultation with Mr Woodward. After assessing the symptoms, he will recommend a treatment plan to help you get them under control.

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