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.

A prospective cohort study has revealed that fish oil may protect against IBD and ulcerative colitis. Researchers used data from the UK Biobank to determine whether the oil has any protective benefits against the condition.

So, could fish oil be the secret to preventing and managing IBD? Let’s look at what the latest study found and what it may mean for patients…

Fish oil supplements show reduced risk of IBD

The latest prospective cohort study analysed data from 447,890 patients aged 40-69. The data ranged from the years 2006-2017. During an eight year follow up period, there were 1,646 IBD cases reported, which included 533 Crohn’s disease cases, and 1,185 ulcerative colitis (UC) cases.

The researchers discovered that when compared to non-use, taking fish oil supplements reduced the risk of IBD and UC. However, there wasn’t any evidence to suggest fish oil supplements reduced the risk of Crohn’s disease.

All those who took fish oil supplements had reduced baseline CPR levels, alongside increased baseline albumin levels.

Although this research does show fish oil can help protect against IBD, larger studies now need to be conducted to confirm the findings.

How does fish oil impact the symptoms of IBD?

There have been conflicting findings over whether fish oil can help control the symptoms of IBD. In particular, there is little evidence it can help with the symptoms of Crohn’s disease.

In cases where fish oil has helped to manage the symptoms of IBD, it is thought to be down to its Omega 3 fatty acids. They help to reduce inflammation, which is common in patients with IBD. Reducing the inflammation of the digestive tract would automatically help to ease some of the symptoms of the disease.

This again calls for further, larger studies to be carried out. Currently there is conflicting evidence, with some small studies even suggesting fish oil has no impact on IBD symptoms.

Should I use fish oil to manage my IBD?

There is no harm in taking fish oil supplements, and they do boast other fantastic health benefits. However, before taking any supplement you should always consult your doctor. Taking fish oil supplements alone also isn’t a recommended treatment for IBD.

Although there is no cure for IBD, there are treatment options available to manage the symptoms. These include making dietary changes, taking antibiotics and medications, and surgery to remove or repair any damage caused by the condition.

If you suspect you have IBD, book a consultation with Mr Alan Woodward.

 

After the recent passing of Dame Deborah James to bowel cancer, her popular podcast ‘You, Me, and the Big C’, has won a top award. Focusing on living with cancer and its treatment, the podcast helped to break new ground by discussing the realities of cancer and the struggles patients go through.

Deborah highlighted her own experiences and urged others to ‘check their poo’ in a bid to catch bowel cancer early. Co-presenter Lauren Mahon accepted The Podcast Champion award and stated she would be continuing to champion the cause.

Raising awareness of bowel cancer

Dame Deborah James was diagnosed with stage 3 bowel cancer in December 2016 when she was just 35 years old. Nicknamed Bowelbabe, she went on to raise £7.4 million for charity and worked tirelessly to raise awareness of bowel cancer, becoming a patron of Bowel Cancer UK.

One of the most common types of cancer in the UK, the exact cause of bowel cancer is unknown. While it typically occurs with older age, it has become much more prevalent in younger patients in recent years. Most commonly affecting the large section of bowel, the odds of beating it rely upon early detection.

NHS see surge in symptom checker use

After the death of Dame Deborah James, the NHS saw a surge in the use of their online symptom checker. Over 23,000 visitors headed to the symptom checker website to look for the symptoms of bowel cancer. This is compared to around 2,000 the day before the podcast host passed away.

Speaking of the impact Deborah had on the nation, former health secretary, Sajid Javid, stated:

Having lost my father to bowel cancer, I know how devastating this disease can be, and we must continue to break down barriers around what she called the ‘C’ word – encouraging people to have open and honest discussions. Our upcoming 10-year cancer plan will build on this with a focus on early diagnosis to help save more lives.

There is no denying that Dame Deborah James helped to educate and raise awareness of bowel cancer. Being aware of the symptoms and breaking down the stigma helps others to spot the symptoms early and seek the treatment they need.

The importance of early treatment

Identifying bowel cancer early is key to treating it successfully. Unfortunately, tests are typically carried out on the NHS for patients aged 60 and over. This leaves younger patients more at risk of developing late-stage bowel cancer before it is detected.

By knowing what symptoms to watch out for, patients can get checked over by a doctor at any age. The main symptoms include bleeding from the bottom, changes in your poo, extreme fatigue, and abdominal pain.

For patients who are concerned about their risk, a colonoscopy can help to detect the early stages of bowel cancer. Undergoing this simple but effective test ensures patients get the diagnosis they need to provide speedy treatment.

To book a colonoscopy, get in touch with Mr Alan Woodward today.

Also known as an endoscopy, a gastroscopy is used to diagnose a variety of gastrointestinal conditions. Straightforward and painless, over a million procedures are performed in the UK each year.

So, why might you need a gastroscopy? And what can you expect from the procedure? Find out everything you need to know in this useful blog.

Why might you need a gastroscopy?

Your digestive system runs from your mouth, all the way down to your back passage. This long and complex system can be affected by a wide range of conditions that aren’t always easy to spot. A gastroscopy helps doctors to diagnose these conditions, ensuring you get the treatment you need to fix them.

A gastroscopy involves inserting a long thin tube with a tiny camera attached, through the mouth and into the throat. Just some of the reasons you may be recommended to undergo the procedure include:

  • Heartburn
  • Indigestion
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Weight loss
  • Long-term stomach pain

The procedure gets to the bottom of any digestive issues you are having, helping to identify the best course of treatment.

How is a gastroscopy different from an endoscopy?

Technically a gastroscopy and endoscopy are the same thing. However, a gastroscopy is always inserted into the throat. An endoscopy on the other hand, can be inserted via the mouth or the anus. A gastroscopy is therefore a type of endoscopic procedure.

What to expect from a gastroscopy

Undergoing a gastroscopy can understandably be daunting for patients. However, the good news is that it is a quick, painless, and straightforward procedure.

A throat spray or sedation can be provided for maximum comfort as you will be kept awake while it is being carried out. The endoscope is then inserted into the mouth and down the throat. You’ll have no trouble breathing while it is being done as it isn’t inserted into the windpipe.

As the tube travels down the digestive tract, your doctor will be able to see everything that is going on. Gas is pumped into the stomach and the doctor may need to carry out a biopsy for further diagnosis.

The entire procedure isn’t painful, but you may feel some discomfort such as bloating from the gas pumped into the stomach. Complications are very rare but include bleeding and perforation.

What can you expect after the procedure?

Once the procedure has been completed, you will be taken into a recovery room to ensure you are well enough to return home. It is recommended you have somebody come and pick you up rather than trying to drive yourself home.

You may experience some difficulty while eating for a few days, so sticking to a soft diet will help. The results of the test will be provided usually within a few days.

If you need a gastroscopy to identify the cause of your digestive issues, book a consultation with Mr Woodward today.

 

Exercise has long been known to provide a plethora of benefits for our physical and mental health. Now, a new study has revealed that even moderate amounts of physical activity can help to prevent deadly diseases such as bowel cancer.

Published in the International Journal of Cancer, the latest study reveals exactly how exercise helps to reduce the risk of getting the disease. Here, we will look at what the study found and why becoming more active is key to staying healthy.

The latest bowel cancer study

The latest study was carried out by researchers from the York St John and Newcastle universities. A prospective, two-site, controlled, and randomised trial was carried out on 16 men. They ranged in age from 50-80, and each had lifestyle risk factors of bowel cancer.

The men were split into two groups, with one group undergoing six 5-minute indoor cycling intervals with a 60% heart rate reserve. The other group carried out no exercise and instead enjoyed 60 minutes of seated rest while the other group were exercising. Human serum was collected before and after exercise to measure any exercise-induced changes in intracellular protein expression and serum cytokines.

It was revealed that exercise increased the levels of blood IL-6 protein. When blood was taken right after exercise, it helped to slow down cancer cells while also reducing the amount of DNA damage caused.

Speaking of the findings, Exercise Physiology lecturer from the Newcastle University, Dr Sam Orange, states:

“Previous scientific evidence suggests that more exercise is better for reducing bowel cancer risk, as the more physical activity people do, the lower their chances of getting it. Our findings support this idea.”

What type of exercise is better at preventing cancer?

While all types of exercise can help to reduce the risk of cancer, cardio tends to be one of the most effective. This gets the heart rate up, and it also leads to the production of higher levels of blood IL-6 protein.

Carrying out exercise multiple times a week can provide protection against several forms of the disease, including bowel cancer. What was most interesting about the new study was that it showed exercise has benefits at reducing the risk of cancer far beyond weight loss.

Detect bowel cancer early

While this new study could lead to the development of new treatments and aid in the prevention of bowel cancer, this could take a while. It is also worth noting that not all cases of bowel cancer can be prevented. The best way to detect bowel cancer early is to be regularly screened.

There are numerous ways to screen for bowel cancer, but a colonoscopy is one of the most effective. This common and painless procedure helps to detect any changes within the large colon and rectum. Book a consultation with Mr Woodward today to arrange a colonoscopy, or you can seek a referral from your GP.

Did you know bowel cancer is the second biggest cancer killer in the UK? According to Bowel Cancer UK, approximately 268,000 people are currently living with the disease. It is the fourth most common type of cancer, yet many patients know very little about what it is or the signs to watch out for.

Like any type of cancer, detecting the early signs of bowel cancer is crucial. One way to ensure you catch it as early as possible is to undergo a colonoscopy. Here, you’ll discover what a colonoscopy is, alongside what to expect if you do undergo one.

What is a colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is performed to detect abnormal changes within the large colon and rectum. It is a common diagnostic procedure carried out on thousands of patients each year and it can help to detect a range of conditions early.

The procedure isn’t usually painful, but it may cause some level of discomfort. For this reason, you may request a sedative if preferred. However, if you do choose this option, keep in mind that you won’t be able to drive for around 24 hours. This means you will need somebody to come and pick you up after the procedure.

How is it performed?

On the day of your colonoscopy, you will be required to fast for a set period of time. The surgeon will let you know when you need to stop drinking and eating. To ensure the bowels are empty during the procedure, a laxative will typically be provided. This helps the surgeon to get a better look at what is going on inside the bowel.

During a colonoscopy procedure, a long flexible tube with a tiny camera attached is placed into the rectum. This is known as a colonoscope, and it helps the surgeon to get a good view of what is happening in the rectum and large colon. Once the tube has been inserted, air is used to open the bowels. This may cause a bloated feeling, or you may feel like you need the toilet.

It takes around 30-45 minutes to undergo a colonoscopy, but you may be at the clinic for up to 2 hours in total.

Is a colonoscopy only used to detect bowel cancer?

No, a colonoscopy can be used to detect a variety of conditions. If your doctor has recommended you undergo the procedure, it could be down to any of the following reasons:

  • To investigate changes in bowel habits
  • To detect any growths within the bowels
  • To check for conditions such as Crohn’s Disease, or ulcerative colitis

Most people who undergo a colonoscopy don’t have bowel cancer. However, if it is cancer, the procedure can help to catch it early, improving the prognosis.

If you have been recommended a colonoscopy, contact Mr Woodward today. Although it can be worrying, the procedure is straightforward and painless. It can also help to provide peace of mind and ensure you get the treatment you need whatever the problem turns out to be.

After undergoing gallbladder surgery, you may find you experience a few digestive issues. While the body doesn’t need the gallbladder to survive, it can take a while for it to adjust to no longer having one. In some cases, digestive changes will be permanent, while in others they may only last for a few weeks.

It is also worth noting that most patients don’t experience any digestive issues after gallbladder removal. However, if you do, it’s worth chatting with your surgeon to see what dietary changes you should make.

Here, you’ll discover a brief guide on how to manage your diet after gallbladder surgery.

What food should you avoid after gallbladder surgery?

After undergoing gallbladder surgery, there are some foods you might want to avoid in order to reduce the risk of digestive issues. These include high-fat foods such as:

  • Ground beef and other fatty meats
  • Fried foods
  • Full-fat dairy products
  • Chocolate
  • Pizza
  • Chicken or turkey skin

You should ideally avoid high fatty foods for a few weeks after the surgery. You will also want to limit your consumption of gas-inducing foods and high-fibre foods such as:

  • Nuts and seeds
  • Whole Grain bread, pasta, and rice
  • Broccoli and cauliflower
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Legumes

Not all fibre-based foods are bad. If you consume soluble fibre, it can actually help to regulate bowel movements. This is great for avoiding digestive issues after gallbladder surgery. Your healthcare provider will be able to provide a more accurate list of foods you should avoid based upon your specific dietary requirements.

Making the right dietary changes

Now that you don’t have a gallbladder, your body won’t be able to store as much bile as it did before. This means you will need to make some dietary changes to accommodate it.

Ideally, you should switch to having smaller, more frequent meals. These will be much easier for your body to digest. You may also need to avoid spicy foods as these can trigger digestive upset.

Often, it is a process of trial and error to determine which foods cause you the most issues after gallbladder surgery. For this reason, you may find it useful to start keeping a food diary. This will alert you to any patterns linking digestive issues to specific foods you are eating.

Knowing when to seek help

While some digestive issues are to be expected after gallbladder removal, there are some symptoms when you would be advised to seek help. If you experience consistent abdominal pain, severe nausea, or an inability to pass gas for more than three days, it may be time to call the doctor.

These, alongside jaundice and an inability to pass stools for more than three days, could indicate a more serious underlying issue.

For more information on having your gallbladder removed, book a consultation with Mr Woodward today.

Throughout our lives, we are frequently exposed to microplastics. However, a new study has revealed that those suffering from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) tend to have more microplastics in their stools than those without the condition.

The small-scale study identified a link between microplastics and IBD. While it wasn’t found to be a cause of IBD, further research is required to determine why levels are higher in IBD patients. Here, we will look at what the study found and how microplastics impact our health.

What the latest study revealed

The small Chinese study included a total of 102 participants. Faecal samples were taken from 52 participants with IBD and 50 healthy participants. It was discovered that those with IBD had an average of 1.5 times more microplastics in their faeces than healthy participants. It was also revealed that IBD patients had smaller particles present. Both groups mostly had polyamide and polyethylene terephthalate particles in their stools. These are known to come from textiles, food packaging, food containers, and plastic bottles.

Findings also showed that those with more severe IBD had an increased amount of microplastics in their faeces. However, the researchers aren’t sure whether IBD patients have more microplastics in their bodies due to consuming more, or whether the disease creates them. Additional research will need to be carried out to determine the cause.

Addressing the need for additional research, the director of public health for the World Health Organization, Dr. Maria Neira, states:

“We urgently need to know more about the impact of microplastics because they are everywhere, including in our drinking water. Based on the limited information we have, microplastics in drinking water don’t appear to cause a health risk, but we need to find out more.”

What are microplastics?

Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic that typically measure under 5mm. They are contained in everything from our drinking water to the cosmetics we use.

All microplastics are man-made, though they are sometimes caused by sunlight and other natural processes. The sunlight can cause the plastic to become brittle, making it easier for tiny particles to break off. In some cases, microplastics are as small as fragments of dust.

Due to the fact they are everywhere, it is unsurprising that we all have some level of them in our bodies. The question is why those with conditions such as IBD, tend to have more of them in their system.

Could microplastics be a cause of IBD?

At the moment there is no evidence to suggest microplastics are a cause of IBD or any other condition. However, further research is required now that a link has been identified. Larger studies will need to be carried out to determine the root cause of additional levels in some patients.

Those who are suffering from IBD can choose from a range of effective treatments. If you think you may have inflammatory bowel disease then book an appointment with Mr Alan Woodward.

Worried about your anal health? It’s common to be embarrassed about issues with your posterior. However, did you know some anal health concerns can turn out to be serious?

Seeking help for anal health-related issues is important. So, this Valentine’s Day why not commit to loving your bum and seeking help for any lingering issues you are experiencing? Here, we will look at some of the most common anal health problems you may be experiencing.

Haemorrhoids

Haemorrhoids (Piles) are the most common anal issue most people experience at some point in their life.
Common symptoms of Haemorrhoids include itching, bleeding after relieving the bowels, discomfort, and feeling like you haven’t fully emptied the bowels after going to the toilet. While they can be worrying, Haemorrhoids are usually easy to treat with lifestyle changes, and surgery is rarely required. However, there are different surgery options, including Rafaello technique, which Mr Woodward specialises in. To find out more about Rafaello treatment, get in touch to book a consultation.
If you are not sure, it is always worth getting any lumps around the anus or rectal bleeding checked out properly by your doctor first.

Anal Health – Skin troubles

While skin conditions mostly occur on the face, arms, or legs, they can affect your bum too. One condition in particular that could be the culprit for an itchy bum is known as lichen sclerosus. It presents as white patches of skin and is uncomfortable as well as itchy. While the condition can’t be cured, it can be successfully managed with steroid cream.

If you are found to have lichen sclerosis, it will need to be monitored on an annual basis. This is because it increases the risk of developing cancer of the penis or vulva.

Alternatively, you may be suffering from a less harmful skin condition such as thrush. This causes redness and soreness as well as itching around the anus. It can be treated with a specialist cream, though it will typically go away by itself.

Worms

If you have noticed small pieces of what looks like white thread in your stools, you could be suffering from worms. If this is the cause, you will notice the itching becomes worse at night. While they are easy to treat, worms can spread through the household, infecting everyone in the family. Therefore, you may need to treat everyone in the home with medication.

Anal fissure

Sometimes, the skin of the anus can split, leading to what is known as an anal fissure. This can cause bleeding and pain, especially when you attempt to go to the toilet.

Initially, the pain may be intense before it gradually turns into a deep burning kind of pain. This can last for a few hours after you have been to the toilet. Creams can be used to heal the anal fissure, and laxatives can help soften the stools to make them less painful to pass.

Anal cancer

One of the more serious problems your bum may be trying to alert you to is anal cancer. Bleeding from the anus and small hard lumps can be a sign of cancer. While it is much more likely to be a less serious issue, any problems with your anal health should be checked out as quickly as possible with a medical professional. Book a consultation with Mr Woodward so that you can discuss the different treatment options that are right for you.

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