At Dr. Maher’s office, we often hear patients ask why they were referred to a Fulshear TX gastro doctor. Let’s take a look at some of the most common questions about GI doctors.
What is a gastroenterologist?
A gastro doctor, also called a gastroenterologist or GI doctor, specializes in treating the digestive tract system. Very broadly, this includes the stomach, intestines, colon, and esophagus. However, there are many other areas that they can treat.
Why was I referred to a Fulshear TX gastro doctor?
There are many reasons doctors refer patients to a gastroenterologist, but it ultimately comes down to the fact that primary care physicians handle broad diseases and conditions. If you have a more specific digestive tract issue that is not responding to traditional medicines or fixes, your primary care doctor will send you to a specialist to help you resolve the issues.
Who needs a gastroenterologist?
GI doctors treat many different diseases and disorders. While it may seem like such a specific field, these doctors treat a lot of common conditions and diseases.
Acid Reflux and Heartburn
What are acid reflux and heartburn?
The official name for acid reflux is GERD, which stands for gastroesophageal reflux disease. Many people confuse acid reflux with heartburn, but there is a big difference in how they are treated.
Heartburn refers to a burning feeling in your chest after you eat meals that are high in fat or grease, typically “heavy foods.” It usually starts about an hour after you eat, although in some cases, patients may feel it much earlier.
Acid reflux happens when food moves backward. It comes out of the stomach and up into the esophagus. In some cases, it may come into a patient’s throat or even cause someone to completely regurgitate food.
In both heartburn and acid reflux, there is excessive acid in the stomach, causing trouble. Acid reflux is the more advanced condition, in that the acid damaged the entry to the stomach enough for all the food to flow backward.
What are the treatment options?
Heartburn can usually be treated with antacids, which force the stomach to reduce the amount of acid it currently has. However, antacids are taken after heartburn starts, which means you’d have to deal with it before feeling better. An alternative solution is to take an H-2 blocker–common ones are Pepcid Complete and Pepcid AC–to help prevent heartburn entirely. These medicines stop your stomach from producing extra acid instead of lowering it after the fact.
So which is better? It depends on how severe your symptoms are. If you have heartburn every day, every meal, you should take an H-2 blocker. However, if you just have heartburn occasionally, it’s better to take an antiacid only when needed.
Acid reflux is treated with proton pump inhibitors or PPI. They are similar to H-2 blockers, but PPIs also help the stomach lining and entry heal. If the stomach heals, you won’t experience acid reflux as often, if at all. You can help prevent or often even eliminate heartburn and acid reflux by changing your diet and possibly other steps.
Diet: avoiding acidic foods like tomatoes, lemon, etc., and heavy foods like cream, dairy, etc., minimizes the amount of heartburn and reflux you experience.
Weight loss: If you’re overweight, you’re more likely to have heartburn or acid reflux because the weight can push your stomach upward. For some, losing weight will completely cure heartburn.
Inflammatory bowel syndrome
This condition, usually heard as IBS, has gained popularity because of movies. But, unfortunately, the condition is often mocked in movies, with the character seen dashing off to the bathroom and creating all sorts of horrible smells. The reality is a lot more depressing for patients who suffer from IBS.
There are often foods that set off symptoms, but that’s not always the case. Patients who have IBS usually suffer from frequent diarrhea, and they usually are forced to go to the bathroom with very little warning. Some patients have cycles of diarrhea followed by constipation. In both cases, gas getting trapped in the intestines causes a lot of belly pain.
Thankfully, there are medicines that can treat IBS symptoms. You can’t be cured of it, but most patients can find relief with the right medicine. A Fulshear TX gastro doctor can help select the right one for you.
Gall bladder disease
Until it starts causing trouble, many people don’t even realize they have a gall bladder, and most have no idea what it does. Odd as it sounds, doctors still aren’t fully sure why we have a gall bladder.
So what is it? Your gall bladder sits on the right side of your body, under your chest, and slightly above your stomach. When you eat, the gall bladder dumps bile (basically acid) into your stomach to help your body digest your food. The added acid helps your body digest the fat, which gives the liver a bit of a break.
However, gallbladders are known to cause some problems. You can develop something called gallstones, which are hard crystals in your gall bladder. They can block the flow of bile, which is an emergency. People often end up needing their gallbladder removed.
Interestingly, the body is able to function just fine without it. However, many patients say they can’t eat fatty foods as often as they used to.
No one likes to hear the C-word, but when it’s staring you in the face, you want to know how to get it treated. GI doctors check for and treat colon cancer. The colon is the last part of your digestive tract.
Unfortunately, some people develop cancerous growths in the colon. Because colon cancer has few symptoms until it’s advanced, it often goes unnoticed. The good news is if you catch colon cancer early, you have an excellent outlook. That’s why gastro doctors recommend getting a colonoscopy every 5 years or so, starting around age 55.
If your family has a history of colon cancer, you may need to get checked more often or earlier.
About Dr. Maher
Dr. James Maher is a board-certified gastroenterologist serving Houston and surrounding areas, including Sugar Land, Katy, and Fulshear, and more. He attended the Medical College of Virginia and completed his internal medicine residency at the University of California Irvine.
Dr. Maher has many years of experience providing GI healthcare services and treatments, from acid reflux (GERD) to IBS to Crohn’s disease and more. The next time you’re looking for the best Fulshear TX gastro doctor in town, we hope you’ll give Dr. Maher a call.
Fun Facts about Fulshear, Texas
- Between 1988 and 2020, Fulshear’s population increased from 623 to 16,083.
- Despite its relatively modest population, Fulshear was established way back in 1824.
- Fulshear participates in multiple conservation efforts, including Keep Texas Beautiful and its own Keep Fulshear Beautiful organization.
For more fun facts, visit the Fulshear website.