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Colon cancercolon cancer ribbon star may be the second leading cause of overall cancer deaths in the United States, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. Through a national campaign of education, early screening and diagnosis, Northeast Digestive Health Center is fighting to knock colon cancer out as one of the top three killer cancers – for good.


March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month and Friday, March 4, is National Dress in Blue Day, a movement spearheaded by the Colon Cancer Alliance. “It’s a time to honor and remember loved ones who have been affected by colon cancer and to motivate people to talk about colon cancer and take the important steps to get screened,” said Laura Henry, practice director for Northeast Digestive Health Center.


Because there are often no symptoms when colon cancer is first developing, early detection through screening can dramatically reduce your risk. One of the reasons Northeast Digestive Health Center created its Open Access program was to make colon cancer screening more accessible and help save lives.


“If you’re healthy and over 50, you can complete and submit our simple survey,” Henry said. “Once the questionnaire has been reviewed by our physicians, the office will contact you to let you know if you can go ahead and schedule a colonoscopy, or if you need to be seen by a physician beforehand.”


The benefits of early detection and treatment are substantial because most colon cancers start as small polyps. If physicians can find these polyps while they are still non-cancerous, they can remove them and help prevent the risk of colon cancer by up to 90 percent. Timely and regular screening can also help detect colon cancer early, when it is more treatable.


However, screening is only part of the solution to help slash colon cancer stats. People also can lower their risk of getting the disease by avoiding high-fat foods; eating plenty of vegetables, fruits and other high-fiber foods; exercising regularly; maintaining a healthy body weight; avoiding smoking; and only drinking alcohol in moderation.


Northeast Digestive Health Center also is working to combat colon cancer by hosting its fifth annual Highway to Health Car Show on April 16 and helping sponsor the Colon Cancer Coalition’s Get Your Rear in Gear event in Charlotte on March 5.


“Colon cancer doesn’t garner the same attention as some other cancers, but by joining Colon Cancer Awareness Month efforts like these we hope to substantially increase the number of people who get screened, diagnosed and treated early.”


Colon Cancer & Awareness Month Resources

Colon Cancer Alliance

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

American Cancer Society

Five Myths about Colorectal Cancer

Take the Colorectal Cancer Quiz!



celiac diseaseFor some people, stocking up on gluten-free items may be a way to partake in the latest diet trend, but for those who suffer from celiac disease, it’s a medical necessity.


September 13 is Celiac Disease Awareness Day, a time to shed light on a disease that affects 1 in 141 people in the U.S. Those with celiac disease, sometimes called sprue or coeliac, have an immune reaction to eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. The gluten triggers an immune response in the small intestine that, over time, can cause damaging inflammation to the intestinal lining and prevent the absorption of some nutrients (malabsorption).


While the classic signs of celiac disease are diarrhea and weight loss, many people experience few, if any, digestive symptoms and the disease often goes undiagnosed. Other signs of the disease include fatigue or paleness (resulting from anemia), bloating, loss of bone density (osteoporosis) or an itchy, blistery skin rash (dermatitis herpetiformis). In children, malabsorption can affect growth and development.


The cause of celiac disease isn’t known and it can afflict anyone; however, it tends to be more common in people who have type 1 diabetes, microscopic colitis or who have a family member with celiac disease.


Although there’s no cure for celiac disease, diet and nutrition play a major role in treating and managing it. Most people who follow a strict gluten-free diet can help alleviate their symptoms and promote intestinal healing. Fortunately, there are numerous products, support and resources available (see list of links below) to help you live a gluten-free life, while still maintaining a balanced diet.


The board-certified gastroenterologists at Northeast Digestive Health Center can diagnose and treat a variety of digestive conditions and related diseases, including celiac disease. A blood test can show elevated levels of certain antibodies that can detect celiac disease even if you have few or no symptoms.


Eliminating gluten from your diet prior to diagnosis may change the result of blood tests, so it’s important to be tested before trying a gluten-free diet. Your physician also may order an endoscopy to view your small intestine. If you’re experiencing symptoms or have concerns or questions about your digestive health, contact us today.


Celiac Disease Sources & Additional Resources:

pancreatic cancer monthPancreatic cancer is now the third leading cause of cancer death in America. It is estimated that more than 53,000 Americans will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this year and more than 41,000 – the equivalent of a small city – will die of it.


To increase awareness during the month of November and all year long, our friends at the Charlotte Affiliate of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network are inviting you to get ready to go purple and join the thousands of others who are taking on this disease one stride, ride, ribbon, petition, purple purchase, voice, clinical trial and research breakthrough at a time.


Here are some Wage Hope Together events happening in November:

  • Inspire others to be #PANCaware this November by posting a picture of how you Wage Hope on Twitter or Instagram. Mention the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network using @pancan and include hashtags #PANCaware and #WageHope. Learn more:
  • The Charlotte Hornets will take on the Atlanta Hawks on Friday, Nov. 18. Use Promo Code PURPLESTRIDE and $5 from each ticket sold will be donated to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.
  • The Kendra Scott Gives Back Party is an in-store shopping event on Sunday, Nov. 20. Twenty percent of the proceeds benefit the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and every sale between the hours of 1 and 3 p.m. count towards fundraising efforts. Learn more:
  • Join special guests Ron and Stephanie Rivera for the 2nd Annual Charity Dinner on Sunday, Nov. 20. Enjoy an evening of community and food at Bonterra Dining & Wine Room while raising awareness for pancreatic cancer. Learn more:


The exact causes of pancreatic cancer are not yet well understood. Research studies have identified certain risk factors (outlined below) that may increase the likelihood that an individual will develop pancreatic cancer. Additional factors that may increase risk include being over 60 years old; being male; consuming a diet high in red or processed meats; and obesity.


Family History: If a person’s mother, father, sibling or child had pancreatic cancer, then that person’s risk for developing the disease increases 2-3 times.


Diabetes: Pancreatic cancer is more likely to occur in people who have longstanding diabetes (over 5 years). Research studies suggest that new-onset diabetes in people over the age of 50 may be an early symptom of pancreatic cancer.


Chronic Pancreatitis and Hereditary Pancreatitis: People with chronic pancreatitis have an increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer. Hereditary pancreatitis causes recurrent episodes of inflammation of the pancreas that generally start by the time a person is 20 years old.


Smoking: Smoking is a significant risk factor and may cause about 20-30 percent of all exocrine pancreatic cancer cases. People who smoke cigarettes are 2 times more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than people who have never smoked.


Race (Ethnicity): African-Americans have a higher incidence of pancreatic cancer than individuals of Asian, Hispanic or Caucasian descent.


Source: Pancreatic Cancer Action Network


probiotics good vs badWe have trillions of bacteria that live in our digestive tracts and while many of these bacteria are healthy, others can wreak havoc on our digestive systems and cause uncomfortable symptoms.


Over the last decade or so, many people have turned to probiotics (aka “good” bacteria and yeast) to help promote gastrointestinal health and keep the “bad” bacteria at bay. A balance between good and bad bacteria can help alleviate some medical symptoms and illnesses, including irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea and ulcerative colitis.


In 2001, the World Health Organization defined probiotics as “live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.” Probiotics can be found naturally in yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, some raw cheeses, buttermilk, miso soup, tempeh and kombucha, as well as in other products and dietary supplements.


The good bacteria in probiotics can help stimulate the immune system by secreting chemicals that break down toxins produced by the bad bacteria. Other benefits include helping stop the byproducts of bad bacteria from leaving the gastrointestinal tract, boosting the number of infection-fighting cells and alleviating pain.


Numerous studies have shown that probiotics have been used safely for more than 100 years. However, since they are not scientifically tested or approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, you should first consult with your primary care doctor or Northeast Digestive Health provider before taking probiotic supplements, especially if you have a chronic gastrointestinal condition.


Your gastroenterologist can help determine which supplements are appropriate for your specific symptoms and diagnosed condition. For example, a probiotic supplement that is known to help alleviate irritable bowel syndrome symptoms might be different from a supplement used to reduce ulcerative colitis symptoms.


The board-certified gastroenterologists at Northeast Digestive Health Center can diagnose and treat a variety of digestive conditions and related diseases. If you’re experiencing symptoms or have concerns or questions about your digestive health, contact us today.


Sources & Resources


colon cancer ribbon starMarch is National Colon Cancer Awareness Month, a time to increase awareness about how important routine screenings are. “Colon cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in men and women and it is one of the top three cancer killers,” said Dr. Thomas Dalton, a gastroenterologist with Northeast Digestive Health.


This year, an estimated 100,000 people will be diagnosed with colon cancer and more than 50,000 will die from it. However, you don’t have to be one of those statistics. “Colon cancer is one of two preventable types of cancer with regular screenings,” added Dr. Dalton.


The risk of developing colon cancer during a person’s lifetime is one in twenty people. While the rate of colon cancer in older adults is declining, the rate is increasing in people under 50 years old. The median age for a colon cancer diagnosis in younger people is 44 years old. Early detection is the key to survival. If you have risk factors such as a family history of colon cancer or you are having unexplained symptoms, you should get tested for colon cancer.


To learn more colon cancer or schedule an appointment for a routine screening, please visit Northeast Digestive Health or call 704-783-1840.


To raise awareness about the importance of routine screenings for colon cancer, Northeast Digestive Health will hold “Highway to Health” this Saturday, March 25, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Northeast Digestive Health Center, 1070 Vineyard Drive NE in Concord, NC (rain or shine). This event will be filled with fun activities, including a car show, live entertainment, children’s games, food trucks, vendors and prizes. Admission is free, but there is a $25 fee for individuals who wish to show their cars during the event. Proceeds from Highway to Health will benefit the Colon Cancer Alliance.


Northeast Digestive Health appreciates the support of these generous sponsors who help make “Highway to Health” possible.


Thank you to our sponsors


The liver is one of the largest organs in the body and plays a vital role in sustaining life by processing nutrients, creating bile and removing toxins.


Although the liver is a resilient organ, disorders like fatty liver disease can disrupt critical functions and, in severe cases, cause permanent damage. What do you need to know to prevent fatty liver disease and sustain the health of your liver throughout your life?

Understanding Fatty Liver Disease

fibro scan rederingThe liver normally contains some fat, but fatty liver — also known as steatosis — occurs when the fat exceeds 5 to 10 percent of total liver weight.


Most people with fatty liver disease have no symptoms at all, or are asymptomatic. Unless you have a chronic underlying liver disease, like Hepatitis C for example, it's uncommon for fatty liver to cause any abdominal discomfort.


Fortunately, fatty liver disease can often be reversed with proper treatment and lifestyle adjustments. It can, however, cause permanent harm if it goes undetected for too long.


Fatty liver disease occurs as four distinct types:

  • Alcoholic fatty liver can result from heavy drinking that impairs the liver from breaking down fats. The condition often can be reversed with cessation of alcohol consumption, but continued drinking can result in cirrhosis.
  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver occurs when the ability of the liver to break down fats becomes impaired, but the condition is not related to consuming alcohol.
  • Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis occurs when fat builds up in the liver sufficiently to cause swelling due to factors other than alcohol consumption. Without treatment, the condition can result in eventual scarring and failure of the liver.
  • Acute fatty liver is a rare, very serious condition that occurs during pregnancy. Symptoms typically start in the third trimester and include jaundice, malaise, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.

Are You at Risk?

Certain populations have a higher risk of developing fatty liver. If you’re overweight or have type 2 diabetes, you may be at greater risk.


In addition, pregnancy, high cholesterol or triglycerides, malnutrition, and metabolic syndrome can increase your risk. If you consume alcohol excessively or take doses above the recommendation of some over-the-counter medicines — including acetaminophen — you also may have a higher chance of developing the condition.

Preventing Fatty Liver Disease

When you take steps to protect the health of your liver, you greatly reduce the risk of fatty liver disease. Consider limiting your alcohol consumption to one drink daily for women and no more than two drinks a day if you’re a man.


In addition, eat a healthy diet that includes vegetables, whole grains, fruits and healthy fats, and try to keep your weight within the recommended range. Get some exercise several times a week, with approval from your doctor.


If you have high cholesterol or diabetes, be sure to follow your doctor’s advice and take your medications as recommended.


How Does the New FibroScan® Technology Help?

An exam using new FibroScan® technology is a quick, easy and non-invasive way to help maintain the health of your liver.


The scan provides your doctor with valuable information on your liver’s stiffness and overall health. The procedure works by releasing an energy pulse that you’ll feel as a gentle vibration on your skin.


FibroScan® measures the speed of the energy to quickly determine the stiffness of your liver and help your doctor assess your liver health. Most insurance plans cover the procedure.


To learn more about protecting your liver health, please contact Northeast Digestive Health Center.


August Gastroparesis Awareness Month 2017Gastroparesis, also known as delayed gastric emptying, is a medical condition that inhibits normal digestion by interfering with movement of food through the stomach and into the small intestine. The specific cause is unknown, but the disorder commonly occurs as a complication of diabetes as well as some surgeries.


August is Gastroparesis Awareness Month, a time to promote understanding of this disorder that can cause serious, debilitating symptoms. What do you need to know about gastroparesis, and what should you do if you believe you have the condition?

Signs of Gastroparesis

Both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes can cause damage to the vagus nerve, which regulates how food moves through the digestive tract. The damage occurs due to levels of blood glucose remaining high over an extended period, harming blood vessels that transport oxygen and nutrients to nerves.


Along with diabetes, certain neurologic conditions, medications or prior surgery to the stomach also may impact digestion and motility.


Symptoms of the disorder include nausea, heartburn, abdominal pain, unexplained weight loss, dry heaves, vomiting, stomach spasms, abdominal distention and unpredictable blood-sugar levels.


In addition, individuals with gastroparesis may feel that the stomach is full after eating only a small amount of food, and they may have trouble finishing meals. Severity varies among individuals, but the symptoms often occur during or following a meal.


Gastroparesis can interfere with quality of life and can be debilitating and even life-threatening for sufferers. The disorder may worsen diabetes by making it more difficult to manage glucose levels. Food that stays in the stomach for too long can also result in bacterial overgrowth and can harden into solid masses known as bezoars, which can obstruct the stomach.

Diagnosing the Disorder

If you have heartburn and other symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease that do not respond to treatment, your board-certified gastroenterologist can conduct tests to check for gastroparesis. As part of the diagnosis process, your doctor also will take a full medical history and perform a physical examination.


The right screenings — which may include an ultrasound, upper endoscopy, upper GI series and blood test — can point to a diagnosis of gastroparesis and can help rule out other conditions. If your medical history and test results indicate the condition, your doctor will confirm the diagnosis by testing how quickly your stomach empties.

Treatment and Management

Once a diagnosis of gastroparesis is confirmed, your doctor will work with you to design a personalized course of treatment and management. The specifics of your treatment plan will depend on the intensity of your symptoms, along with any other medical conditions you have.


Some patients experience relatively mild symptoms that may be treated with changes to diet and lifestyle. Other people experience moderate or severe symptoms that require additional interventions, such as medication.


No single treatment will correct every symptom for every individual with gastroparesis, and treatments come with varying levels of risk. Your doctor will provide you with the information you need to assess the potential benefits and risks of any proposed treatment.


Your treatment may include one approach or a combination, including medications, dietary and lifestyle changes, surgery, and other procedures. In most cases, treatment does not provide a cure for gastroparesis, which generally is a chronic condition. However, the right treatment can help you manage the condition to give you the best possible quality of life.


If you believe you may have symptoms of gastroparesis, getting immediate diagnosis and treatment can help you avoid common complications of the condition. The board-certified gastroenterologists and other professional medical team members at Northeast Digestive Health Center are ready to assist you. Please contact us to schedule an appointment.


Roadmap to gut health.Where are you headed: the Caribbean, Down Under, Europe or maybe somewhere a little closer to home? Wherever the road may lead, is travel on your 2018 Bucket List? Unfortunately, travel can wreak havoc on your digestive tract and a little discretion can make the trip much more pleasant. To help keep you from being …well… “grounded,” consider these recommendations and ideas, focused on gut health, from the gastroenterologists at Northeast Digestive Health.


  • Drink … drink and then drink some more. Take along bottled water and drink more than you normally would when at home. Hydration is crucial, especially when you are in the air. And, resist the temptation for an in-flight alcoholic beverage. You will be happy you did, as alcohol is dehydrating.
  • Remember to keep moving. When you are in-between flights at the airport, walk the terminal before boarding. Consider packing a travel yoga mat and take a pose whenever you can. Stretching, twisting and staying limber are excellent ways to open the body and digestive system, keeping things moving in the gut.
  • Pack the probiotics. Many fellow travelers swear by their daily intake of probiotics to protect them from those germ-laden airplanes and people-filled bathrooms. Grab an easy “on the go” probiotic juice or a cup of yogurt for something a little more substantial. Probiotics also boost your immune system. And, when traveling in the winter months, this is sure to be a plus.
  • Go with what you know. Traveling isn’t the right time to change up your menu. However, if you are traveling to a foreign country, experiencing new flavors is half the fun. Here are a few tips to keep traveler’s diarrhea at bay. Skip caffeine, stick to bottled water and resist buying food from street vendors where proper sanitation may be an issue. Make certain meat is completely cooked and steaming hot when served. If you are a big fruit fan, consider only fruits and veggies with skin that can be pulled off, and if they are already peeled, don’t eat them unless you did the peeling.


Following these few simple tips will hopefully keep your gut happy when on the road. Bon Voyage!


brain gut health blog“Go with your gut” is a commonly used phrase and for good reason. Gut health is key to overall health – including the brain. What takes place in your intestines not only affects your brain’s daily functions but also determines your risk for a number of neurological conditions. Understanding how closely the gut and brain are related is important and knowing what you can do to boost your brain health through your gut can make a significant impact on your daily life.

The “Second Brain”

Hidden in the walls of the digestive system, the “brain in your gut” is revolutionizing medicine’s understanding of the connection between digestion, mood, health and the way people think. This second brain, also known as the enteric nervous system (ENS), consists of two thin layers of more than 100 million nerve cells lining the gastrointestinal tract from esophagus to rectum.


Ever felt “butterflies” in your stomach when you were nervous or excited? That was most likely triggered by signals from the ENS. The main role of the second brain is to control digestion; this includes swallowing, the release of enzymes that break down food, the control of blood flow that helps nutrient absorption, and elimination. The ENS also regulates muscle function, immune cells, and hormones and manufactures an estimated eighty to ninety percent of serotonin (the “feel-good” neurotransmitter).

So, How Does This Affect Me?

Since the gut makes more serotonin than the brain, neurologists are realizing that this may be one reason antidepressants are often less effective in treating depression than proper dietary changes. Other chemicals manufactured in the gut, like GABA and Glutamate, are also critical for the nervous system and many neurological challenges – including anxiety, behavioral issues, depression and Alzheimer’s. The ENS may also trigger big emotional shifts (like anxiety and depression) experienced by people coping with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and bowel problems like constipation, diarrhea, bloating and upset stomach. Gastroenterologists, like the professionals at Northeast Digestive, act as counselors listening to the two brains “talk” to each other and finding ways to help them communicate.

Boost Your Brain Health

The most important factor related to the health of the ENS and therefore the brain is the food we eat. The good and bad news is we have total control of the food we put into our body. Changing the state of your brain and gut health is as simple as making the appropriate dietary changes. Below are some tips on how to boost your brain health through your gut.


  1. Probiotics. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeast that support good digestive health. Live-culture yogurt, kefir, kombucha tea, kimchi, sauerkraut and pickles are all good sources for probiotics.
  2. Balance. A diet high in fiber and protein and low in carbs and sugar keeps your gut bacteria balanced. Important nutrients for feeding your brain include omega-3 fats, monounsaturated fats, vitamin B12, zinc, magnesium, iron, choline, lycopene, vitamin E and carotenoids.
  3. Water. Hydrating with plenty of water is vital to intestinal health, but be sure the water doesn’t contain gut-busting chemicals like chlorine that can disrupt gut bacteria. Drink filtered water that removes chlorine and other contaminants.
  4. Dark Chocolate. It’s okay to indulge … in dark chocolate. Research has found that elderly individuals suffering mild cognitive impairment who consumed the highest-level of flavonols (one benefit from cocoa) showed heightened cognitive function. Cocoa also supports a healthy balance of gut flora and exhibits antioxidant properties.


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Northeast Digestive Health Center
1070 Vinehaven Drive NE
Concord, North Carolina 28025
Phone: (704)783-1840
Fax: (704)783-1850
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