G is for Gastroenterology

Trust Your Gut Reaction

Mounzer Al Samman, M.D., holds the unique GI Pill Cam.

If you have ever undergone a colonoscopy, fought heart burn, or suffered from an ulcer, you’ve likely been introduced to gastroenterology—the study of the normal function and diseases of the digestive system.

A gastroenterologist is a physician trained in the management of diseases of the gastrointestinal tract and liver. Mounzer Al Samman, M.D., a gastroenterologist with NorthBay Medical Group, said some of the most common disorders he sees in his practice include acid reflux disease, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, hepatitis C, and chronic constipation. Gastroenterologists are also called to treat conditions such as colon polyps and cancer, peptic ulcer disease, colitis, gallbladder and biliary tract disease, nutritional problems and pancreatitis.

You can’t do much about genetics but you can control what you eat. So try to eat a healthy, balanced diet.”
–Mounzer Al Samman, M.D.

How is a patient to know whether their indigestion is a sign of something more serious? Dr. Al Samman said one clue can be how often and for how long the indigestion occurs. “If it is not often, say less than once a week, it may be something you ate or perhaps you were over eating,” he explained. “But if it is more frequent, more than twice a week, or is accompanied with serious weight loss and it interferes with your work or sleeping, you should see your doctor and get it checked out.”

Advances in medicine and technology are improving options in the diagnosis and treatment of gastroenterological issues. For example, for several years now, Dr. Al Samman has offered his patients the leading-edge technology of the GI Pill Cam. The Pill Cam is a small capsule that patients simply swallow. A tiny camera in the capsule transmits thousands of images of the small intestine as it passes through. An advantage of the GI Pill Cam is that the procedure does not require the patient to be sedated and they can perform their regular activities while it is working. Any gastrointestinal condition identified is treated separately.

Dr. Al Samman said there are steps you can take to maintain good gastrointestinal health. “Everyone over 50 needs to get checked for colon cancer (get a colonoscopy) every 10 years and if there is a history of colon cancer in their family, start getting checked even earlier,” he said. “You can’t do much about genetics but you can control what you eat. So eat a healthy, balanced diet.”

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