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Doctors Advise Patients to Trust Their Gut With Stomach Upset

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The latest Heathy Living report tells viewers what to look out for when it comes to irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease. NY1's Jill Urban filed the following report.

We all get times of stomach upset. For some, it even happens regularly. If your regular upset becomes irregular, though, it could be a sign of a problem.

“Everybody has a pattern, the way they eat, their bowels, if I can be so frank," says Dr. James Marion, a gastroenterologist at Mount Sinai Hospital. "And if it changes, if there has been any change in that pattern or, more seriously, if you've lost your appetite, there's been abdominal pain where before you didn't have abdominal pain, you have to pay attention to that."

Marion says it could be a sign of a few things. One is Irritable Bowel Syndrome, often referred to as IBS.

"Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a very general term. It covers all of the bases," Marion says. "Basically, it's a functional problem. It's a change in the way your bowel is interacting with the environment, with your food and with your intestinal content."

That is often treated with fiber supplements, change in diet and anti-spasmodic drugs.

Then, there is the more serious issue known as Inflammatory Bowel Disease, namely Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis.

"Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Inflammatory Bowel Disease are often confused, even by physicians. They're completely different things," Marion says. "Irritable Bowel Syndrome is more functional. The choreography of the gut is off. Inflammatory Bowel Disease is in the very name: inflammation. The difference distinguishing the two is inflammation: swelling, ulceration."

Red flag symptoms include sudden onset of diarrhea, bleeding, fever, weight loss and severe abdominal pain.

Crohn's Disease can occur anywhere in the digestive system, but Ulcerative Colitis is only in the colon. Treatments include a variety of anti-inflammatory drugs, steroids and, in some cases, surgery.

The symptoms can become debilitating, but it doesn't always start that way. That's why Marion encourages patients to be aware if there is a change in your body. If you see the signs, don't dismiss them. Trust your gut and seek help.

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