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Don't Be Afraid to Ask

I seem to have more gas now than ever before. Is it what I’m eating? Is it always what you eat that causes gas or does something else play into it?

Excessive gas is one of the most frequent and difficult problems to explain. Gas is generally benign in origin; however, if it is associated with symptoms such as vomiting, abdominal pain, weight loss, difficulty swallowing, or diarrhea, you should get a prompt evaluation by a physician.

Even though many people believe that diet plays a large role in producing these symptoms, there are no reliable scientific studies that demonstrate this. The majority of people with major gas symptoms have visceral hypersensitivity or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Therapy for IBS may improve symptoms, and avoidance of foods that seem to exacerbate the symptoms can be helpful as well.

Lately I have noticed what looks like blood in my stool. How do I know if it is or not? Could it just be something I ate? Should I be concerned and why?

There are many causes of blood in the stool, including hemorrhoids, benign ulcers of the stomach and small intestine, infectious diarrhea, inflammatory bowel disease, and bleeding from diverticulitis. However, the most worrisome cause of blood in the stool is colorectal cancer, one of the leading causes of cancer-related death in the United States.

For this reason, patients should always tell their physician about even small amounts of blood in the stool. A careful digital rectal examination can provide the physician with important information, including the presence of microscopic blood, which can only be detected by special card testing of the stool. Armed with this information, the physician and patient can determine what further investigation is needed.

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