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GI North Blog

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.

Yogurt with Berries | Digestion | Gastroenterologist Atlanta

Yogurt is the most widely recognized fermented food on the market today.

Fermentation is a process that humans have used to preserve food for thousands of years. Fermentation occurs when microorganisms transform sugars and carbohydrates into lactic acid. The result is that fermented foods contain beneficial bacteria, good microflora and enzymes. Many of these beneficial bacteria or probiotics will help with digestive health. The beneficial bacteria continue to grow in the body after eating fermented products and can heal the lining of the gut or reduce the permeability of the intestines.

The most widely recognized fermented item on shelves today is yogurt. Yogurt contains a number of bacteria like lactobacillus. These organisms can actually replace naturally occurring bacteria in the intestines. This restores balance to the body and reduces the severity of food intolerances and digestive issues like gas. A similar fermented milk beverage is known as Kefir. Kefir has a large number of beneficial bacteria and yeasts. Kefir has a sour taste similar to yogurt.

Unpasteurized sauerkraut contains many helpful bacteria such as lactobacillus, leuconostoc and pediococcus. Additionally, sauerkraut has a large amount of vitamins and nutrients from the cabbage. Eating unpasteurized sauerkraut will help to replace essential bacteria and heal the gut. It also allows the body to digest foods more easily. This increases the effectiveness of the immune system and can fight certain gastrointestinal diseases.

Several fermented Asian foods are incredibly healthy for the body and digestive system. Miso is a paste made from fermented soybeans that contain over 100 different types of beneficial bacteria. Miso is often used in soups. Tempeh is a block of fermented soybeans that contains good bacteria as well as antibiotics that kill harmful bacteria. The good bacteria technically start digesting the foods during fermentation. This reduces the amount of work the body must do to extract nutrients. Miso and tempeh both improve digestive health.

Several other fermented products are available. Some include fermented pickles, real sourdough bread made from a starter and even soft cheeses that have been aged. Eating these foods increases the ability of the body to fight harmful organisms in the gut such as parasites and viruses. The foods maintain the critical balance between good and bad bacteria.

Eating fermented foods can help people who have Leaky Gut Syndrome. This syndrome occurs when the lining of the bowels becomes too porous. This allows harmful substances to leave the gut and enter the bloodstream. Fermented foods can prevent or heal some of the inflammation, damage and bacterial imbalances that are thought to cause the syndrome.

Eating foods that are fermented should be a regular part of any healthy diet. The wide variety of foods available today makes it easy to pair fermented products with everyday dishes. This will help to keep colonies of good bacteria active in the gut. The result is better digestion, higher nutrient absorption and fewer health issues. It is best to try to eat one to three servings of foods like yogurt every day.

© 2013 GI North Gastroenterology Services. All rights reserved.


Wild salmon is one of the best sources of Omega oils.

When we think of eating fats, we tend to automatically think they are bad for us because that is often what we have been taught. However, there are good fats too, known as omega oils, that are found in some fish, nuts, plants, and seeds. These “good” fats are not only great for us but they are also essential to our health. The reason they are known as essential fatty acids is because we need them and our body does not produce them on their own.

Fish oil has gotten a lot of publicity over the last three or four years for good reason. The benefits of adding fish oil into your daily diet are numerous, but some of the biggest benefits are:

  • Improves digestive health, now we’re talking!
  • Helps boost brain function; we all could use a boost!
  • Protects the cardiology system
  • Helps lower cholesterol
  • Helps reduce inflammation

Wild salmon is one of the best sources of Omega oils but here are a few other foods that are rich in omega-3 fats and could also give your GI health a boost:

  • Flax Seed, ground
  • Walnuts
  • Sardines
  • Grass-fed Beef

It is recommended by The American Heart Association to eat at least two servings of fatty fish a week. Fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids are: salmon, albacore tuna, sardines, herring, lake trout, and mackerel.

If you are not eating fresh fish twice a week, you may want to consider taking fish oil as a supplement to your regular diet. Adding fish oil to your daily diet will add lubrication to the bowels to help keep food moving through the bowels smoothly. The Omega oils also help nourish the cells in the lining of the intestine. This helps to give strength to the intestinal lining which helps prevent harmful toxins from leaking into your bloodstream.

To get the most benefits, there are a few things to look for when purchasing fish oil. Make sure to find a formula that is highly concentrated and clean with high amounts of DHA and EPA. It is important to look for enteric-coated capsules as they help get the essential oils into the intestines and help lessen the fishy aftertaste that is one of the complaints of taking fish oil. If you decide that you would like to add fish oil to your diet, it is best to talk to your doctor first to help determine the proper dosage.

© 2013 GI North Gastroenterology Services. All rights reserved.

Are You 50 or Over?

For the prevention of colorectal cancer, the US Preventive Services Task Forces (USPSTF) recommends having your 1st colonoscopy at age 50 and then one every 10 years until the age of 75. At 75, your doctor will determine if you need to have additional colonoscopies.

Time to have a colonoscopy

If you are 50 or over – it’s time!

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the US with men at a slightly higher risk than women. Having a colonoscopy can be the major tool in not just finding the presence of colorectal cancer but in preventing its occurrence to begin with. This should be the foremost incentive of having the test but is the aging US population actually having the recommended test at the recommended intervals?

Statistics from the Government Accountability Office found that only 25% of all Medicare beneficiaries ages 65 to 75 had undergone the screenings from 2005 to 2009. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Cancer Institute found that only 58.6 percent of men and women between the ages of 50 and 74 got screened in 2010, far short of the national goal of 70.5 percent.

There has been a steady decline in incidents of colorectal cancer over the past two decades. Awareness has definitely increased and part of this trend can be contributed to that.  Many people have opted to have a colonoscopy and decrease their chances of getting the disease. However, the incidence of contracting colorectal disease can increase if people start taking chances and choose not to get screened at suggested times.

© 2013 GI North Gastroenterology Services. All rights reserved.

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