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Hiatal Hernia Diagram | Gastroenterologist AtlantaA hiatal hernia, also called a hiatus hernia, can be a difficult problem to live with. This condition occurs when the top portion of the stomach, the fundus, protrudes up through the hiatus, or the opening in the diaphragm. There are two main variations of hiatal hernia. One is the sliding type where the stomach tends to move up and down through the hiatus regularly. The second is the paraesophageal type. This occurs when the stomach slides up through the hiatus and twists or otherwise obstructs the esophagus. Even if these conditions aren’t causing any issues at the moment, over time, they can develop into more serious situations.

Pain and Discomfort

A hiatus hernia has the potential to cause considerable distress for its sufferers. Due to the unnatural position and location of the stomach, people with the condition may experience pain in their chest or abdomen, particularly when slouching, bending, lifting, lying down or inhaling deeply. It may also prove difficult to eat a full meal in one sitting, simply because available stomach space has been reduced. Unfortunately, this pain can easily be confused with the classic heart attack symptom, prompting many people to panic. If you experience this pain regularly and wish to identify the cause, consider making an appointment at GI North.

Acid Reflux

Acid reflux is another common symptom of a hiatus hernia. Due to the dislocation of the stomach, the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is unable to close properly. The LES serves as the gate through which eaten food passes into the stomach, and it normally closes afterward to prevent the stomach content from going back up. However, with a hiatus hernia, this function is impaired.

Sleep Apnea

In some cases, a hiatus hernia can also cause sleep apnea. This can happen in two ways. In one, the stomach may protrude through the hiatus enough that normal sleeping respiration is hindered and disrupted. The other is when stomach acid from a malfunctioning LES causes results in inhalation of the caustic vapors, which can also disrupt normal breathing patterns. Sleep apnea is a very serious problem that is important to address. If you suffer from sleep apnea and sleep studies have failed to provide you with answers, a visit to GI North may reveal whether a hiatus hernia is involved.


If the condition becomes serious enough, or if it is aggravated, it could result in a complication known as strangulation. This happens if the stomach twists or becomes stuck in the hiatus, which may cut off the blood supply to the stomach. This is a potentially life-threatening problem that requires emergency surgery to fix.

A hiatal hernia is often a challenging condition to live with, and it can severely disrupt your everyday life. If it has been causing problems for you, you should know that it’s not something you have to endure.

© 2013 GI North Gastroenterology Services. All rights reserved.

Man Holding Stomach | Gastroenterologist AtlantaBarrett’s Esophagus is a medical condition that is a direct result of a GERD. The term GERD is also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease, which is caused by stomach acid that ends up in the esophagus due to heartburn and excessive acid indigestion.

Causes of Barrett’s Esophagus

The disorder of Barrett’s Esophagus can be described as serious alterations in the lining of the esophagus that is caused by stomach acid refluxing and scarring the esophageal tissue. Due to this scarring effect on the tissue, the esophagus no longer stretches and conforms in shape when food or liquid is ingested.

One of the main problems facing patients with Barrett’s Esophagus is the loss of elasticity to the esophagus tissue. Swallowing may become difficult due to this condition. Patients who develop this disease are also at a greater risk of developing esophageal cancer due to the harmful changes in the lining of the esophagus.


Patients may experience no direct symptoms of this disorder, yet may have been troubled with symptoms of heartburn and severe acid reflux for years prior to the onset of Barrett’s Esophagus. Dysphagia or difficulty swallowing may also occur with this condition.

Other potential symptoms that may be experienced include sore throat, hoarseness of the voice, and possibly adult-onset asthma. All of these symptoms have been found to be related to the diagnosis of Barrett’s Esophagus.

Treatment Options

The main goal of medical practitioners who treat patients with Barrett’s Esophagus is to stop any further damage to the tissue and lining of the esophagus. This would include medication therapy with prescription or non-prescription antacids, acid reducers, or proton pump inhibitors. These medications are commonly used to treat regular heartburn and GERD and typically have few side effects.

Other methods of treatment include changes in diet, weight loss, and elevating sleep position to avoid reflux at bedtime.

Surgical Treatment

Barrett’s esophagus may require surgery to stretch the esophagus when it has progressed to a point where swallowing becomes difficult. Doctors may also opt for surgery to tighten the upper stomach’s sphincter to stop excessive acid from reaching the esophagus.

Additional Information

For patients who would like to learn more about this disorder, detailed information can be found at GI North gastroenterology services or by clicking here. GI North offers medical services related to Barrett’s Esophagus and other gastrointestinal disorders.

© 2013 GI North Gastroenterology Services. All rights reserved.

Chia Seeds Arranged to Spell Chia | Gastroenterologist AtlantaChia seeds are one of the super foods that naturally work on improving digestion in your body. Many of its healing benefits are not known and are sometimes overlooked by digestive sufferers. These are five ways chia seeds helps your digestive tract get healthy again.

Add Fiber Without Adding Bulk

Increasing fiber prevents some digestive disorders, but it aggravates others. Chia seeds don’t bulk and dry in your stomach like other forms of fiber. If you are warding off a digestive disorder and have to avoid bran, wheat or psyllium husks, chia seeds can help you get the benefits of eating fiber without feeling the side effects of a clogged gut.

Reduces Inflammation While Improving Digestion

Chia helps digestive sufferers of disorders like irritable bowel syndrome, gastroparesis or gluten sensitivity. Ordinarily, you have to worry about inflammation and swelling in your stomach affecting your entire day. However, adding chia seeds to your diet reduces inflammation and soothes the stomach lining. It makes it easier for your body to digest healthy foods from a balanced diet.

Get the Same Benefits, as Fish Oil Without the Smell

This super food is high in Omega-3 fats. You get more Omega-3 from chia seeds than salmon, but it doesn’t have that fishy taste, unless that’s what you want it. Chia seeds do not have a flavor and take on the taste of the food it’s eaten with. You get all the GI health benefits of fish oil, without the fishy smell.

Heal the Stomach Lining with Chia Seeds

When mixed with water, chia forms a slippery gel similar to applesauce. Inside your body it coats the lining of your stomach and allows the villi to absorb the many antioxidants chia seeds contain. Chia is high in vitamin C, calcium and iron and several times better than blueberries for fighting free radicals.

Helps Control Your Weight

Chia seeds help you feel full even when you are eating smaller meals. Chia seeds are high in nutrients, like magnesium and boron and are high in trace minerals. You have fewer cravings to foods like chocolate or potato chips just by adding the seeds to your diet.

Another benefit of Chia Seeds is increased energy. People who simply add a sprinkle of the seeds to their morning meal have seen a noticeable difference in their energy levels. These are a few of the little-known ways chia seeds work on improving digestion naturally.

© 2013 GI North Gastroenterology Services. All rights reserved.

photo of healthy holiday meal on plateThe key to good health during the holidays is to remember that the season does not last forever. If you’re not careful, then you’ll find yourself holding onto a few extra pounds by the start of a new year. However, making a few minor adjustments to your holiday routine will keep you in tiptop shape.


An easy way to keep your diet on track is to use healthy substitutions in place of regular ingredients.

  • Substituting olive oil in place of butter will eliminate cholesterol and add good fats to a dish. In addition, using it to baked goods and dinner items will help with nutrient absorption in the intestines.
  • By incorporating herbs and spices in holiday food, you can reduce the sodium content. These ingredients will enhance the natural flavors of a dish, reduce inflammation and alleviate gas.
  • Replacing white flour with whole grain flour is a simple way to bring fiber and other nutrients into your holiday meals. Using it will keep you full and help stabilize your blood sugar level.
  • Many holiday recipes call for the use of high-fat creams. However, you can still get the same great taste by using a low-fat alternative. Ingredients such as yogurt and half-and-half will reduce the fat content without removing the protein.
  • Dishes that require copious amounts of sugar can be made healthier with the help of honey. Unlike sugar, it is unprocessed and still contains most of its natural nutrients. Honey is also lower on the glycemic index and will help maintain blood sugar levels.


The cold weather of the holiday season has many people headed towards their fireplaces instead of the gym. However, exercising during the holidays is not as difficult as it may seem.

  • A simple way to burn a few extra calories is to go shopping. While online shopping is extremely convenient, shopping at the mall can burn the average shopper an extra 1,500 calories over the course of a month.
  • Get into the spirit of fitness by incorporating games and relays during holiday parties. Games that involve running, jumping and passing will improve blood circulation and keep the digestive tract running smoothly.
  • Sitting around telling stories with family will undoubtedly give you a great workout. A good belly laugh reduces the stress hormone that increases belly fat. Likewise, laughter will help the digestive system with absorption.


A good night’s rest is often overlooked during the holiday season. However, it is essential for the body to perform at an optimal level. Those buttery, sugary treats will quickly add up and wreak havoc on the average digestive system. Getting enough sleep each night will give your digestive system the necessary time to rest and recuperate from the damage. It will also reduce your body’s cravings for excessive sugar and caffeine.

It is possible to make it through the holiday season without having to choose between good fun and good health. With a few simple adjustments, you can have the best of both worlds.

© 2013 GI North Gastroenterology Services. All rights reserved.

image of esophageal varicesIf you’re having problems bleeding from your gastrointestinal (GI) tract, there might be several different reasons. Some people may have bleeding from hemorrhoids, and other people may be bleeding from the upper GI tract. This type of bleeding can be fatal if left untreated. Emergency treatment should be sought immediately if there is bleeding from this region. Here are some other tips and information you may need to know about gastrointestinal tract bleeding from GI North.

1. GI Tract Bleeding is Not a Disease

The bleeding from the GI tract is a symptom of a disease. Some of these conditions can be cured, and others cannot be cured, but all conditions should be addressed by a physician to receive a diagnosis and treatment plan.

2. Diagnosis Will Depend on Where in the GI Tract the Bleeding Originates

The GI tract consists of the esophagus, the small intestine, the stomach, the rectum, the anus, and the large intestine or colon. For instance, the most common cause of bleeding in the esophagus occurs when it becomes inflamed due to stomach acid backing up into the esophagus. Bleeding may also occur from the varices, which are the enlarged veins located near the lower end of the esophagus. A tear in the esophagus may also lead to bleeding after prolonged vomiting.

Ulcers in the stomach may also cause bleeding if they erode a blood vessel. Other common causes of bleeding may be gastritis, cancer, and a duodenal ulcer in the small intestine. Hemorrhoids may cause bleeding in the lower digestive tract. This happens when the veins become enlarged in the anal area. When they rupture and bleed, it’s time to visit a physician. Diagnostics may include an upper endoscopy, colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, anoscopy, biopsies, and barium X-rays.

3. Be Aware of Symptoms of GI Tract Bleeding

Symptoms of GI tract bleeding usually fall into two categories: acute or chronic. Acute bleeding is brief and usually severe. Chronic bleeding occurs over a long duration of time.

Some of the most common symptoms include dark clots or material in vomit that resembles coffee grounds. A person’s stool may also be black or tar-like in appearance. Some people may also experience: weakness, shortness of breath, dizziness, cramping or abdominal pain, reduced urine flow, diarrhea, faintness, confusion, sleepiness, lethargy, faintness, or chest pains.

What to Do About Bleeding in the Intestinal Tract

Talk to Dr. Cofrancesco and he will devise a plan to minimize the symptoms and stop the bleeding. When your symptoms subside, you’ll be able to continue with daily activities as usual. Contact GI North for more information.

© 2013 GI North Gastroenterology Services. All rights reserved.

image of man having a dose of heartburn after a mealGastroesophageal reflux disease, also known as GERD, involves chronic symptoms including heartburn, dry cough, regurgitation and problems swallowing. Although GERD is often a lifelong condition, it is sometimes possible to reduce symptoms by avoiding certain foods and making lifestyle changes. If these measures fail to control GERD symptoms, patients can visit Dr. Cofrancesco at GI North to find out whether they are eligible for surgery to correct the condition. Here’s a deeper look at GERD, its symptoms and complications, lifestyle changes that can improve it and the surgery used to fix it.

GERD Explained
Gastroesophageal reflux disease GERD is the name given to chronic symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux, which is experienced occasionally by many people. GERD involves reflux of stomach acid into the esophagus due to opening of a dysfunctional lower esophageal sphincter. Acid may travel only to the lower esophagus, causing heartburn, but it can also reach the upper esophagus, where it may enter the mouth, causing dental erosion and bad breath, or it can be inhaled into the lungs, resulting in breathing problems. Over time, chronic acid reflux can cause ulceration of the esophagus, spur the development of Barrett’s Esophagus, a pre-cancerous condition, and cause esophageal cancer. Tobacco use, obesity, and pregnancy can all cause GERD, and certain foods can worsen it. Due to the risk of long-term complications, patients with GERD should seek medical supervision to watch for progression of the disease and start treatment early if cancer develops.

Living with GERD
Making key lifestyle changes and avoiding certain foods may improve GERD symptoms for some patients. Some of the foods that commonly worsen GERD are spicy foods, nightshade vegetables, garlic, mint and chocolate. Usage of tobacco, alcohol and caffeine can cause the lower esophageal sphincter to relax and result in acid reflux. Patients should allow several hours for digestion of food before going to bed, and some may benefit from raising the head of their bed several inches. Wearing tight clothing and eating large meals should both be avoided. Many patients benefit from over-the-counter medications for GERD, including calcium carbonate antacids, such as Tums, proton-pump inhibitors, such as Prilosec, foaming agents, such as Gaviscon, and prokinetics, such as Reglan.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease GERD Treatment at GI North
Patients with severe GERD symptoms should consider treatment at GI North. Our clinic offers fundoplication, a procedure that can relieve patients from having to suffer with GERD for a lifetime. Nissen fundoplication, the specific type of this procedure normally used to fix GERD, involves wrapping the top of the stomach around the lower esophageal sphincter to prevent acid and stomach contents from refluxing into the esophagus. In many cases, this can be accomplished with a laparoscope through a very small incision. Recovery takes only one to three days in the hospital and two to three weeks out of work.

© 2013 GI North Gastroenterology Services. All rights reserved.

photo of freshly harvested black salsify

Freshly harvested black salsify.

For centuries, the human race has searched for a magic pill to preserve health and youth. While this pill has yet to be discovered, modern research increasingly uncovers the benefits of super foods. The future of fighting disease is bright when humans harness the exponential power of natural plants from around the world. Here are a few of the less familiar super foods with concentrated nutrition:

This Japanese fruit looks much like a lemon but contains more Vitamin C. Limonene within the peel fights inflammation, a major player in heart disease and digestive difficulties.

Rye Berries
While many gluten-containing grains promote inflammation, these berries actually reduce it and regulate insulin in the blood. Rye berries package 12 vitamins and amino acids, as well as muscle-building protein. They hail from Southeast Asia originally.

Matcha Green Tea Powder
This green powder often brewed into a tea not only reduces stress and cholesterol but also gives the metabolism a boost. Monks brought the concept of green tea powder from China to Japan to be used ceremoniously.

Growing in the western United States, these fruits look like miniature tomatoes. They taste sweeter than the common tomato and pack a powerful punch to disease with their vitamin A and C content.

Containing a natural insulin to bolster the pancreas, this root vegetable tastes best cooked. Besides our own United States, it grows in countries such as the Netherlands and New Zealand as well as on the continent of Australia.

Leaves from this tree, which grew originally in Africa and Asia, contain 46 antioxidants. Some of its miracle properties include fighting diabetes by lowering glucose in the blood and heart disease by lowering lipids.

Ripe Mangosteens from Indonesia

Ripe Mangosteens from Indonesia.

This fruit from Indonesia treats gastrointestinal illnesses and skin conditions. As a powerful antioxidant, it may be an effective treatment for cancer in the future.

Common to yellow mustard and Indian curry, this spice slows and prevents the growth of tumors. Its primary ingredient is curcumin, a key player in fighting inflammation.

Green Coffee Beans
Chlorogenic acid found in unroasted coffee beans promotes weight management. Extracts from these beans also fight inflammation and disease.

This fermented soy product is common in Japan. Natto prevents blood clot formation, stroke and heart attacks and maintains bone density.

If Americans begin to draw from the wealth of nature from across the globe, they may well begin to heal themselves from the inside out. Years of processed foods and additives have weakened the health of many across the nation. It is time to reach out to the orchards and fields of other countries and allow their super foods to build the health and longevity to which we have long aspired.

© 2013 GI North Gastroenterology Services. All rights reserved.

image of wheatgrass, a green apple and wheatgrass juice

Wheatgrass is one of the more widely known living foods. Some of the benefits of drinking wheatgrass juice include improved digestion, increased energy, and a more restful night’s sleep.

People are finally starting to consume less unnatural processed foods and move towards healthier lifestyles. One way to do this is to explore the burgeoning availability of living foods and raw foods.

Raw foods are foods heated to less than 115 degrees Fahrenheit and living foods are foods that are in the middle of a growth process like sprouting or fermenting. Those who practice the raw food lifestyle are emphatic about the healing and health benefits of following this regimen.

Enzymes: Topics in favor of raw food living include enzymes. Cooking food destroys 100 percent of this valuable substance. There is an integral relationship between enzymes and digestion. Enzymes are needed to break down large molecules of food into smaller more digestible ones. However, enzymes also help to purify blood, sweep away toxic waste, and deliver nutrients. Raw food enthusiasts claim that by eating enzyme rich food we take some of the pressure off the body to produce enzymes on its own, and the outcome is more energy.

Alkaline: Most Americans eat a very acidic diet, which causes fatigue and increased susceptibility to disease. Alkalizing foods aid in detoxifying and balancing the body. A raw food diet includes green leafy vegetables and fresh fruits, which are alkaline.

Digestion: The benefit of living food and digestion is a hot topic. Raw food proponents suggest that cooked food takes longer to digest and our bodies get stuck with partially digested fat. A healthy colon should eliminate waste between 6-18 hours after a meal, so it stands to reason that raw food which usually completely digests within four hours would aid in maintaining colon health.

If you’re not sure how to start incorporating raw and living food into your diet, you may want to check out some of the classes and workshops available online or in your local area. If you live near Atlanta, the Living Foods Institute is a great place to start. Their two-hour introductory seminar is available for the small price of a 5-10 dollar donation that goes into their scholarship fund. To learn more about the Living Foods Institute, click here.

If you prefer to delve in at your own pace, then you can easily find books and recipes that will get you started. It’s not necessary to totally eliminate cooked food from your diet to achieve health benefits. Just adding 25% more raw foods to your diet can make a world of difference in your digestive and colon health.

© 2013 GI North Gastroenterology Services. All rights reserved.


Make sure to eat a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables for well-rounded nourishment.

Pancreatitis is a daily aggravation for many people. The pancreas is a gland responsible for releasing many enzymes necessary for digestion, especially fats and proteins. When its inflamed, these enzymes basically “digest” the gland itself, and it hurts a lot when we eat. How do we manage it on a daily basis? By simply knowing some basic guidelines, you can take considerable measures for dealing with Pancreatitis.

First and foremost, know what you can consume and what you can’t. Most of this may seem like common sense – especially after the meal – but a little awareness goes a long way. Stick to a diet low in fats and simple carbohydrates. The enzymes that the pancreas produces are specific for digesting protein, oils and fats. Simple carbohydrates are foods that quickly metabolize into sugar and tax your pancreas to produce insulin. If you can avoid the refined foods and fried delicacies, you’ll probably be better off. Never eat until you’re full. Eat as often as you like, but eating smaller meals creates a lighter load on your pancreas, making it an all around smoother move for digestion. When the pancreas is inflamed, it might be easier to avoid solid foods altogether.

A colorful variation of fruits and vegetables are essential for well-rounded nourishment. Eat a rainbow every day; a good way to do this is to mix them, blend them, juice them or cook them as a delicious soup.

Avoid overly spicy foods. Unless the spices have anti-inflammatory properties, they could instigate an attack. Also, refrain from consuming any alcohol and tobacco. Both of them, especially combined, can increase the risk of an inflammatory response.

Drink plenty of water. Being sufficiently hydrated at all times can prevent pain since dehydration can actually be the source of inflammation. Carry a bottle of water with you to drink from frequently.

Everybody knows that too much stress is bad, but did you know that stress can provoke an inflammatory response in your pancreas? Indeed. Its another good reason to relax, take time to eat your meals and get plenty of sleep. A lack of these simple things can really stress a person out.

Take advantage of the sunshine. By soaking up more sunlight and the subsequent vitamin D, you can prevent inflammation, depression and even pancreatic cancer. Overall, relief from sunshine will help lower your stress levels, too.

Lastly, incorporate herbs into your diet and drink tea every day. Ginger and turmeric are excellent for their anti-inflammatory qualities, and they can be found in most grocery stores. They can be cooked with food or made into a tea for consistent relief. Some other effective herbs for helping to sooth Pancreatitis are chamomile, peppermint, aloe vera, marshmallow root, licorice and the lesser known chaga fungus. Chaga has been used for thousands of years in Siberia for it’s anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and pain relieving agents; chaga could very well become your pancreas’s best friend for this.

Let’s sum this up: Be aware of what and how much you eat, drink plenty of water, enjoy the sunlight, avoid stress, use herbs and cultivate a daily tea habit. Taking these measures may ensure the quality of your life. Often, it is the simpler precautions that make things easier, instead of frequently dealing with the aftermath.

© 2013 GI North Gastroenterology Services. All rights reserved.


Simple acts of support from a partner can really help reduce the stress of someone suffering from Crohn’s Disease or Colitis.

If you love someone who is suffering from Crohn’s Disease or Colitis, you may feel helpless at times, wanting to alleviate the physical symptoms of the disease but feeling that you are powerless to do so. Know this though: Your loving presence and unconditional support can make the difference between a really good day and a really bad day for your loved one with Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD). You cannot take the pain away, but you can do a myriad of “little” things that will communicate loudly just how much you care.

Sometimes, your spouse or partner might feel sluggish, exhausted from a night of running to the restroom and interrupted sleep. Simple acts like picking up the slack and doing a few extra chores around the house, or even running to the grocery store for him and allowing him to stay home (where the familiar bathroom is only a few feet away to ease his fears), can relieve a lot of emotional and physical pressure. Small sacrifices, for example, forgoing eating a greasy but delicious-looking hamburger in front of him and choosing to eat a healthier meal with him instead, display that you have compassion for what he is going through. Human beings thrive on feeling understood; show him that you understand his struggle and that you are in the fight with him.

A little empathy goes a long way. If you were in pain or experiencing frustration, you would want someone to confide in, right? The same goes for someone suffering with IBD. Having Crohn’s Disease or Colitis can make you feel like a wet blanket, always having to run to the restroom and interrupt the meal or a trip to the mall or day at the beach. IBD can make simple activities that are supposed to be fun extremely stressful for its sufferers. If you make a big deal of it, your loved one might feel guilty or disappointed. Instead, be patient with the situation. Always remember that the interruptions are not your partner’s fault; rather, the disease is what is interrupting your day together.

There will be seasons when your partner feels on top of the world; the IBD is in remission, and she can eat again! Enjoy these wonderful moments, and rejoice with her when she feels happy or excited. Encourage her to keep a positive outlook on life at all times, and make sure not to reject her on hard days when she feels down. Your role in her emotional health, and, yes, even physical health, is critical, and she definitely does not take it for granted.

© 2013 GI North Gastroenterology Services. All rights reserved.

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