• Understanding the link between drinking and GI health

    Excessive alcohol consumption can affect your health in some surprising ways. For instance, people with alcohol use disorder are more likely to develop frequent infections and heart problems. Alcohol can even affect whole bodily systems, such as your digestive system. The accompanying video features a doctor at Southern Hills Hospital. He introduces the main ways in which alcohol affects your gastrointestinal health.

    How alcohol affects your liver
    Your body isn’t able to store alcohol; unlike the food you eat. When you drink alcohol, metabolizing it becomes your body’s top digestive priority. This places excessive strain on your liver, as this organ is responsible for processing the alcohol.

    As a result of excessive alcohol consumption, the liver cells become damaged and are replaced by scar tissue. This is called liver cirrhosis. The scar tissue isn’t able to function like normal liver tissue.

    Over time, the liver begins to fail. Liver failure affects the many other functions of the liver, including the following:

    • Blood clotting
    • Toxic waste processing
    • Hormone metabolism
    • Nutrient metabolism

    Liver cirrhosis can result in death. It also increases the risk of liver cancer.

    How alcohol affects your pancreas
    The pancreas, which is an organ in the abdomen, performs important digestive tasks. People with alcohol use disorder are at an increased risk of acute pancreatitis, which is the inflammation of the pancreas. This condition can sometimes be life-threatening.

    Acute pancreatitis requires emergency medical care, and often requires hospitalization. It can cause intense, long-lasting pain that begins in the upper abdomen, along with these symptoms:

    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Fever
    • Rapid pulse
    • Swollen, tender abdomen

    Pancreatitis interferes with your digestive system’s ability to digest food. Patients are at risk of severe malnutrition.

    How alcohol affects your stomach
    Another way alcohol endangers your GI health is its effects on the stomach. Alcohol irritates the stomach lining because it triggers the overproduction of acids. This can result in:

    • Stomach pain
    • Vomiting
    • Diarrhea
    • Acid reflux
    • Ulcers

    Additionally, heavy alcohol use increases the risk of stomach cancer.

    Gastroenterology Services at Southern Hills Hospital is committed to maintaining the highest standards of patient care and safety. Our team has specialized training and experience, and it’s important to us to give each patient the best possible health outcome. Call a registered nurse at our hospital in Las Vegas at (702) 916-5023.

  • How does your diet influence your colorectal cancer risk?

    What you eat can influence your energy level and mood. It can affect your sleep and the microbiome of your gut. And, of course, what you eat contributes to your health, including your risk of certain cancers. There isn’t a foolproof way of preventing cancer, but the choices you make can manage your risk. Individuals throughout the greater Las Vegas area are always welcome to discuss their healthcare concerns with a physician at Southern Hills Hospital. You can also request a preventive health screening, such as a routine colonoscopy .

    Risks of colorectal cancer
    Anything that might increase your risk of a certain disease or disorder is a risk factor. Be aware that having one or multiple risk factors doesn’t mean you’re definitely going to develop a certain health condition. Similarly, patients at a low risk of diseases may still develop them.

    Knowing your health risks is still important because it helps you make smart decisions with the guidance of your doctor.

    Foods to choose
    Researchers are still investigating why some foods seem to be associated with a lower risk of colorectal cancer. It’s generally thought that a high-fiber diet offers a protective effect, but more research is needed. Still, your doctor will likely recommend that you increase your consumption of vegetables, fruits and whole grains if you’re concerned about your risk of colon cancer.

    Foods to limit
    Although there is no definitive evidence, the research suggests that having a diet high in red meats and processed meats may increase the risk of colorectal cancer . These foods include the following:

    • Hot dogs
    • Corn dogs
    • Bacon
    • Sausages
    • Salami
    • Smoked meat
    • Dried meats
    • Beef jerky
    • Canned meat
    • Corned beef
    • Salted and cured meat
    • Processed luncheon meats

    Processed meats also tend to be high in sodium, so limiting these items is beneficial for your cardiovascular health as well as your risk of colorectal cancer.

    Other research studies have focused on the possible link between alcohol consumption and colorectal cancer. One or two drinks on an occasional basis aren’t likely to raise your risk, but regular or excessive alcohol consumption might.

    Southern Hills Hospital encourages patients in Las Vegas to be proactive about their health. Our compassionate physicians provide personalized guidance to each patient, including a review of individual risk factors, and recommendations for nutritional improvements. You can request a referral to a doctor at our state-of-the-art hospital by calling (702) 916-5023.

  • What are the signs of kidney disease?

    Millions of Americans are living with chronic kidney disease . This serious disease affects the ability of the kidneys to filter out waste products and excess fluids from the bloodstream. The kidneys are also essential for the regulation of acid, potassium and salt levels. When chronic kidney disease goes untreated, patients may develop kidney failure, which can lead to death. The doctors at Southern Hills Hospital encourage our neighbors in Las Vegas to learn about the potential signs of kidney disease, and to seek a medical evaluation right away if they develop.

    Changes in urination
    Let your physician know if you notice any abnormal changes with your urination. Kidney disease can affect the way the urine looks. For example, your urine may look bloody, bubbly or foamy.

    Additionally, kidney disease can cause:

    • Less frequent or more frequent urination
    • Smaller or greater amounts of urine
    • Difficult urination

    Pain
    Your two kidneys are located in your lower back, on either side of the spine. Some patients with chronic kidney disease develop pain in the back, although it’s also possible to have pain in the side or leg.

    Unusual taste
    As the kidneys sustain damage , they are less able to remove waste products effectively. This means waste products build up in the body, causing some unusual side effects.

    Patients may notice that food tastes differently, and they may experience a metallic taste in the mouth. Chronic kidney disease can also cause a loss of appetite and unintentional weight loss.

    Edema
    Edema is a medical term for the excess accumulation of fluid. Since kidney disease reduces the ability of these organs to remove fluid from the body, patients can develop edema. You may notice swelling in your:

    • Hands
    • Face
    • Feet
    • Ankles
    • Legs

    Respiratory distress
    Excess fluid can also accumulate in the lungs. This can cause unusual shortness of breath that can’t be attributed to physical exertion.

    Additionally, people with kidney disease may have anemia. Anemia reduces the oxygen in the body, which can also contribute to shortness of breath.

    Southern Hills Hospital is a widely acclaimed, state-of-the-art medical facility serving Las Vegas. We’re known for our highly trained and experienced specialists, and for our compassionate, patient-centered care. A registered nurse is available to take your call at (702) 916-5023.

  • Understanding how eating disorders affect older adults

    Eating disorders are not just a young person’s problem. Older adults—particularly older women—can and do suffer from eating disorders, and the impacts can be more extreme because of age-related changes in their bodies. Older women who suffer from eating disorders can often benefit from geriatric psych care .

    How common are eating disorders in older adults?
    Although the exact number of seniors suffering from eating disorders is unknown, the problem is significant. One survey of women over 50 had these findings:

    • 13% of women in this age group had symptoms of an eating disorder
    • 70% were trying lose weight
    • 62% felt that their weight had negatively impacted their lives

    These numbers are similar to findings about younger women. Some older women who have eating disorders had the disorder when they were younger and experience a relapse as they age. In other cases, older women are experiencing eating disorders for the first time.

    What are the symptoms?
    The symptoms of eating disorders in older people are similar to those in younger patients. Although some of the signs vary depending on the type of eating disorder, some common symptoms include:

    • Compulsive exercise
    • Rigid eating habits/Extreme calorie restriction
    • Vomiting or laxative use
    • Binge eating, with or without purging
    • Significant weight loss or weight fluctuations

    Older people are especially vulnerable to developing these symptoms after a major life change, such as divorce, retirement, menopause, or adult children leaving the home.

    What treatments are available?
    Therapy designed to treat younger patients is not usually helpful for older people with eating disorders. Instead, older patients can benefit from a geriatric psych program that has been created to meet the unique needs of seniors.

    It is also important for seniors with eating disorders to get help for underlying issues that could affect their appetites, such as medications and health conditions.

    Southern Hills Hospital & Medical Center offers geriatric psych in Las Vegas as part of our behavioral health unit. We offer outpatient care specifically designed for senior patients as well as a dedicated 14-bed inpatient unit. To learn more about our behavioral health services, call (702) 916-5023.