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Frequently Asked Questions About Digestive Diseases

1. What Are Hemorrhoids and How Can They Be Prevented?

Hemorrhoids are swollen blood vessels near the anus and lower rectum. These blood vessels are found in spongy cushions of tissue just under the lining of the anal canal. Hemorrhoids bleed when the blood vessels rupture. Sometimes this happens if you strain during a bowel movement. Because bleeding can be a sign of colon cancer or colon polyps, you should consult with your health care provider whenever you have bleeding from the rectum, blood in your stools, or blood in the toilet after a bowel movement. Your doctor may recommend a visual examination of the rectum (anoscopy), the lower colon (sigmoidoscopy), or entire colon (colonoscopy).

The best way to prevent hemorrhoids is to keep your stools soft so they pass easily without straining. Eat a high-fiber diet and drink plenty of fluids (six to eight glasses) each day. 

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2. What Is Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease?

When you swallow, food passes down your throat and through your esophagus to your stomach. A muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter controls the opening between the esophagus and the stomach and remains tightly closed except when you swallow food. When this muscle fails to close, the acid-containing contents of the stomach can splash back up into the esophagus. This backward movement is called reflux. When stomach acid enters the lower part of the esophagus, it can produce a burning sensation, commonly referred to as heartburn.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) occurs when reflux is frequent enough to affect your daily life, and/or damage your esophagus.

3. What Is Laparoscopic Antireflux Surgery?

Laparoscopic surgery is "minimally invasive" surgery in which several small (usually 5- to 10-millimeter) incisions are made in the abdomen. The laparoscope and surgical instruments are inserted through these incisions. The surgeon is guided by the laparoscope, which transmits a picture of the internal organs onto a monitor, during a procedure.

Laparoscopic antireflux surgery is used to treat GERD when medications don't help. During the procedure an improved valve mechanism at the bottom of the esophagus is created.

Laparoscopic antireflux surgery is most appropriate for people who have not had previous abdominal surgery, those who have small hiatal hernias without complications of GERD, and those who experience most symptoms of reflux when lying down.

4. How Can Dietary Changes Prevent Digestive Discomfort?

Many digestive problems can be prevented with lifestyle changes. Poor eating habits, such as eating too quickly or skipping meals, can result in digestive discomfort. Be sure to eat food slowly, chewing thoroughly. You might want to try eating several small meals throughout the day to help lessen any symptoms of digestive discomfort.

In addition, eating a balanced diet can help you avoid digestive discomfort. Unhealthy diets can contribute to digestive system difficulties. Eat less processed food and sugar and more fiber, fruits, and vegetables. 

If you are sensitive to certain types of food, such as dairy or gluten, eliminate these foods from your diet or cut back on them. Talk with a nutritionist before eliminating a food from your diet to make sure you still get important nutrients from other sources.

WebMD Medical Reference

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