Q: My grandfather had colorectal cancer in his 60s (and survived it) and polyps are common in many of my other relatives. I am 45, should I get my first screening colonoscopy earlier than the standard age of 50? David N., Dearborn
A: Yes. Take the route of caution and get screened early. Although you do not have a first degree relative with colorectal cancer, the combination of both colorectal cancer and polyps in relatives could possibly bring forward increased risk for you. Insurances allow a screening colonoscopy before the age of 50 when your family history is documented by your physician.
Q: I just quit smoking and am already gaining weight. What should I do to keep the added pounds at a minimum? Linda P., Riverview
A: Kudos to you for quitting smoking. To curb your appetite, resolve to drink plenty of fluids, snack on fruits and vegetables (as opposed to chocolates and candies) and don’t allow any foods or beverages with artificial sugars enter your pantry or refrigerator. Artificial sugars will increase your appetite. Also, do not shop for groceries when you are hungry.
Q: It seems like I have a harder time digesting certain foods and have uncomfortable gas and irregular bowel movements. When women reach middle-age, do their digestive systems change? What is the cause? What should I do to calm things down? Jamillah H., Romulus
A: Yes, when women reach middle-age, there are noticeable changes that happen in the gastrointestinal tract. Hormonal changes, underlying irritable bowel disease (aka IBD) or possibly changes in your enteric system — the GI tract’s own, intrinsic nervous system — could be causing your digestive troubles. Other diseases should be ruled out — H. pylori of the stomach or celiac disease for example. The most important thing is to get evaluated by a qualified physician. In the interim, to minimize bloating and keep your symptoms at bay, take over-the-counter chewable Pepto Bismol or GasX. Caffeine hinders normal digestion and artificial sweeteners found in sugar-free products (gum, beverages, desserts) produce a lot of gas—removing all of these from your diet will help.
Rana Sabbagh, M.D., is board-certified in internal medicine, gastroenterology and nutrition. She is the founder of GastroCenter of Michigan and Experior Weight Loss Clinic, 23500 Park St., Suite 2B in Dearborn. Do you have a health question for Dr. Sabbagh? Submit it by email to: [email protected]