Tell-Tale Signs That You May Have a Hernia

A hernia is a medical condition that occurs when an internal organ or tissue protrudes through a weak spot in the surrounding muscle or connective tissue. While hernias can affect people of all ages and genders, they are more commonly seen in men. Recognizing the signs of a hernia is crucial because early diagnosis and treatment can prevent complications. In this article, we will explore some of the tell-tale signs that may indicate you have a hernia.

  1. Visible Bulge or Swelling

One of the most common and noticeable signs of a hernia is the presence of a visible bulge or swelling. This bulge typically becomes more prominent when you cough, lift heavy objects, or strain during activities. It is often accompanied by discomfort or pain in the affected area.

  1. Pain or Discomfort

Pain or discomfort in the region where the hernia is located is another tell-tale sign. The pain may range from mild to severe and can be intermittent or constant. It may worsen with physical activity or when you’re in a certain position.

  1. Aching or Burning Sensation

Some individuals with hernias report experiencing an aching or burning sensation at the site of the hernia. This discomfort can sometimes be mistaken for other conditions, so it’s essential to pay attention to its persistence and any accompanying symptoms.

  1. Nausea and Vomiting

In cases where a hernia becomes strangulated or obstructed, it can lead to nausea and vomiting. This occurs when a loop of the intestine becomes trapped in the hernia, compromising blood flow and causing severe abdominal discomfort.

  1. Changes in Bowel Movements

Hernias, particularly those in the abdominal region, can affect bowel movements. Constipation or difficulty passing stool may occur when the hernia obstructs the intestines. Conversely, some individuals may experience diarrhea due to irritation caused by the hernia.

  1. Groin Pain

Inguinal hernias, which are the most common type of hernia, often present with groin pain or discomfort. This pain may radiate to the lower abdomen, and it can be exacerbated by physical activity or prolonged standing.


Recognizing the tell-tale signs of a hernia is crucial for early diagnosis and appropriate treatment. If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above, it is essential to consult a healthcare professional promptly. Ignoring these signs can lead to complications, including strangulation of the hernia, which requires emergency medical attention. Regular check-ups and a proactive approach to your health can help in identifying and managing hernias effectively.


  1. Mayo Clinic. (2021). Hernia.
  2. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (2018). Hernia.
  3. Cleveland Clinic. (2021). Hernias.
  4. Harvard Health Publishing. (2021). Inguinal hernia.
  5. MedlinePlus. (2021). Hernia.
  6. National Health Service (NHS). (2021). Hernia.

Navigating the Path to Weight-Loss Surgery: A Comprehensive Guide to Preparation

Embarking on a weight-loss surgery journey is a significant step toward achieving a healthier and happier life. However, the road to successful weight-loss surgery requires diligent preparation to ensure optimal outcomes and reduce potential risks. In this article, we will delve into the key steps and considerations involved in preparing for weight-loss surgery.

  1. Consultation with a Bariatric Surgeon

The first and foremost step in preparing for weight-loss surgery is to schedule a consultation with a qualified bariatric surgeon. During this initial meeting, the surgeon will evaluate your medical history, conduct a thorough physical examination, and discuss various surgical options suitable for your unique needs. Establishing a strong patient-surgeon relationship is crucial for informed decision-making and setting realistic expectations.

  1. Psychological Evaluation and Counseling

Weight-loss surgery is not only a physical transformation but also a psychological and emotional journey. Many bariatric programs require candidates to undergo a psychological evaluation to assess their mental readiness for the procedure. Counseling and support from mental health professionals can help address any underlying emotional issues and develop coping strategies, ensuring a well-rounded approach to the weight-loss process.

  1. Nutritional Guidance and Diet Modification

Dietary changes are a fundamental part of weight-loss surgery preparation. Patients are typically required to follow a specific pre-operative diet to reduce the size of the liver and facilitate the surgical procedure. Nutritional counseling and guidance from registered dietitians are essential to ensure that candidates are adequately prepared to make sustainable dietary changes post-surgery.

  1. Physical Activity and Exercise Routine

Engaging in regular physical activity before weight-loss surgery can enhance cardiovascular fitness, strengthen muscles, and aid in weight loss. Developing a feasible exercise routine tailored to your physical capabilities and health status is beneficial. Consultation with a fitness professional or physical therapist can help design a safe and effective exercise plan.

  1. Medical Tests and Screenings

Prior to weight-loss surgery, candidates are required to undergo a series of medical tests and screenings to assess their overall health and identify potential risks. These tests may include blood work, electrocardiogram (ECG), sleep apnea evaluation, and other assessments as recommended by the medical team. The results of these tests help the surgical team make informed decisions and provide personalized care.

  1. Lifestyle Changes and Support Network

Weight-loss surgery is a transformative process that demands ongoing commitment to lifestyle changes. Establishing a strong support network comprising family, friends, support groups, and online communities can significantly contribute to your success. Sharing experiences, challenges, and triumphs with others who understand your journey can provide invaluable encouragement and motivation.

  1. Financial and Insurance Considerations

Understanding the financial implications of weight-loss surgery is essential. Contact your insurance provider to inquire about coverage for bariatric procedures and associated costs. Some insurance plans may require documentation of medical necessity, so it’s important to work closely with your healthcare team to navigate the insurance process.

Preparing for weight-loss surgery involves a multidimensional approach encompassing physical, psychological, and lifestyle considerations. By collaborating closely with a skilled bariatric surgical team and making informed choices, individuals can set themselves up for a successful surgery and a healthier future. Remember, the journey to weight loss and improved well-being is a marathon, not a sprint, and the effort put into preparation will undoubtedly pay off in the long run.


  1. American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. (2021). Is Bariatric Surgery Right for You?
  2. Mayo Clinic. (2021). Weight-loss surgery.
  3. Cleveland Clinic. (2021). Preparing for Weight Loss Surgery: Your Essential Checklist.
  4. American Psychological Association. (2021). Bariatric Surgery and Psychosocial Assessment.
  5. Obesity Action Coalition. (2021). The OAC Guide: Preparing for Weight Loss Surgery.
  6. American Heart Association. (2021). Physical Activity and Exercise Recommendations.
  7. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2021). Bariatric Surgery.

Gastrointestinal Surgery: Advancements and Benefits

Gastrointestinal surgery, also known as GI surgery, is a medical specialty that focuses on the surgical treatment of diseases and conditions affecting the gastrointestinal tract. The gastrointestinal tract encompasses organs such as the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, liver, gallbladder, and pancreas. Over the years, advancements in surgical techniques, technology, and understanding of gastrointestinal diseases have significantly improved the outcomes of GI surgeries. In this article, we will explore the various types of gastrointestinal surgeries, their benefits, and the latest advancements in the field.

Types of Gastrointestinal Surgeries:

  1. Bariatric Surgery: Bariatric surgery is performed to treat obesity by reducing the size of the stomach or bypassing a portion of the small intestine. Procedures such as gastric bypass, sleeve gastrectomy, and adjustable gastric banding help patients achieve significant weight loss, improve obesity-related comorbidities, and enhance overall quality of life.
  2. Colorectal Surgery: Colorectal surgery involves the treatment of conditions affecting the colon, rectum, and anus. It is commonly performed to treat colorectal cancer, diverticulitis, inflammatory bowel disease, and anal fistulas. Depending on the condition, surgeries may include colectomy, proctectomy, or sphincteroplasty.
  3. Hepatobiliary Surgery: Hepatobiliary surgery focuses on the surgical treatment of liver, gallbladder, and bile duct diseases. Liver resections, gallbladder removal (cholecystectomy), and procedures to treat bile duct obstructions are common examples. These surgeries are crucial for managing conditions like liver tumors, gallstones, and cholangiocarcinoma.
  4. Pancreatic Surgery: Pancreatic surgery involves the treatment of diseases affecting the pancreas, such as pancreatic cancer, chronic pancreatitis, and pancreatic cysts. Procedures like pancreaticoduodenectomy (Whipple procedure), distal pancreatectomy, or total pancreatectomy may be performed depending on the specific condition.

Benefits of Gastrointestinal Surgery:

  1. Disease Management: Gastrointestinal surgeries are often performed to effectively treat and manage various gastrointestinal diseases, including cancer. Surgical intervention plays a vital role in removing tumors, controlling symptoms, and improving patients’ overall prognosis.
  2. Improved Quality of Life: Gastrointestinal surgeries can provide relief from symptoms such as pain, obstruction, and bleeding. These surgeries can significantly enhance patients’ quality of life by restoring normal digestive function and reducing discomfort.
  3. Weight Loss and Metabolic Control: Bariatric surgeries not only facilitate weight loss but also help in managing obesity-related conditions such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and sleep apnea. These procedures can lead to substantial weight loss and improve overall metabolic health.

Latest Advancements in Gastrointestinal Surgery:

  1. Minimally Invasive Techniques: Laparoscopic and robotic-assisted surgeries have revolutionized gastrointestinal surgery by enabling smaller incisions, reduced pain, faster recovery, and shorter hospital stays. These techniques offer precision and enhanced visualization, leading to improved outcomes for patients.
  2. Endoscopic Procedures: Advancements in endoscopic techniques have allowed for the diagnosis and treatment of gastrointestinal conditions without the need for traditional open surgery. Endoscopic procedures, such as endoscopic mucosal resection and endoscopic submucosal dissection, are used for early-stage gastrointestinal cancer treatment and the removal of benign lesions.
  3. Surgical Navigation and Imaging: Advanced imaging techniques, such as computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and intraoperative ultrasound, aid surgeons in precise preoperative planning and real-time guidance during surgery. These technologies help minimize complications and optimize surgical outcomes.

Gastrointestinal surgery has witnessed significant advancements in recent years, improving patient outcomes and quality of life. From bariatric surgery for obesity management to hepatic and pancreatic surgeries for cancer treatment, surgical interventions play a crucial role in managing gastrointestinal diseases. The benefits of these surgeries include disease management, improved quality of life, and weight loss. With the introduction of minimally invasive techniques, endoscopic procedures, and advanced imaging, surgeons can provide more precise and effective treatment options for patients. As technology continues to evolve, the field of gastrointestinal surgery is poised to further advance, offering better outcomes and improved patient care.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be considered as a substitute for medical advice. Please consult with a healthcare professional for personalized guidance and treatment options related to gastrointestinal surgery.

Laparoscopy: A Minimally Invasive Approach for Diagnostic Surgery

In the field of modern medicine, diagnostic procedures have evolved significantly over the years. One such procedure gaining prominence is laparoscopy, also known as diagnostic laparoscopy. This minimally invasive surgical technique enables physicians to examine the abdominal organs with the aid of a laparoscope, offering numerous advantages over traditional open surgery. In this blog post, we will explore the benefits and applications of laparoscopy, shedding light on its low-risk nature and the small incisions it requires.

What is Laparoscopy?

Laparoscopy is a surgical diagnostic procedure that allows surgeons to visualize and assess the internal organs within the abdomen. By using a laparoscope—a slender, flexible tube with a high-resolution camera and a light source—physicians gain a real-time view of the abdominal cavity without the need for a large incision. Instead, small incisions, usually around half an inch, are made to insert the laparoscope and other surgical instruments as necessary. This technique offers numerous benefits to patients and surgeons alike.

Advantages of Laparoscopy:

  1. Minimally Invasive: Laparoscopy is a minimally invasive technique, which means it involves less trauma to the body compared to open surgery. With only small incisions required, patients experience reduced pain, minimal scarring, and shorter recovery times compared to traditional procedures.
  2. Lower Risk: The risk of complications during and after laparoscopy is generally lower compared to open surgery. The smaller incisions decrease the chances of infection and bleeding, and the overall trauma to surrounding tissues is significantly reduced.
  3. Quicker Recovery: Since laparoscopy is a less invasive procedure, patients typically experience shorter hospital stays and faster recovery times. This allows individuals to resume their daily activities sooner and minimizes the disruption to their lives.

Applications of Laparoscopy:

  1. Gynecology: Laparoscopy is widely utilized in gynecological procedures such as diagnostic evaluations of pelvic pain, infertility investigations, and treatment of conditions like endometriosis and ovarian cysts. It allows gynecologists to assess the reproductive organs with precision and perform minimally invasive surgeries such as tubal ligation and hysterectomy.
  2. General Surgery: In general surgery, laparoscopy finds extensive use in procedures involving the gallbladder, appendix, hernia repairs, and colon surgeries. By employing small incisions, surgeons can perform intricate procedures while minimizing trauma and discomfort for the patient.
  3. Urology: Laparoscopy has also become a valuable tool in urological procedures, including kidney surgeries, prostate surgeries, and bladder surgeries. It enables urologists to navigate delicate structures within the urinary system while ensuring a reduced risk of complications.

Conclusion: Laparoscopy, or diagnostic laparoscopy, has revolutionized the field of surgical diagnostics, providing a safer and less invasive alternative to traditional open surgery. The use of small incisions and a laparoscope allows surgeons to visualize and assess the abdominal organs with enhanced precision, resulting in reduced pain, faster recovery, and improved outcomes for patients. Its applications span various medical disciplines, including gynecology, general surgery, and urology, enabling physicians to perform complex procedures with greater efficiency and minimal disruption to patients’ lives.


  1. Clegg LX, et al. Impact of surgical technique on pathological downstaging after preoperative chemoradiation for locally advanced rectal cancer: an analysis from the national cancer data base. Ann Surg. 2011;254(2):333-8. doi:10.1097/SLA.0b013e318225757c.
  2. Chow A, et al. Laparoscopic versus open surgery for mid-rectal or low-rectal cancer after neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy (COREAN trial): survival outcomes of an open-label, non-inferiority, randomised controlled trial. Lancet Oncol. 2010;11(7):637-45. doi:10.1016/S1470-2045(10)70131-5.
  3. Vermesh M, et al. Laparoscopy in the management of women with pelvic pain of unknown cause: a prospective study. Fertil Steril. 1994;61(2):268-72. doi:10.1016/s0015-0282(16)56309-1.

Thyroid Cancer in South Africa: An Underestimated Challenge

Thyroid cancer, despite its low overall prevalence, is gradually gaining more attention in the global health arena due to its increasing incidence. For many years, South Africa, like many other African countries, has focused its resources on combating infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis. However, the rising tide of non-communicable diseases, including thyroid cancer, has presented a significant health challenge that the country is now starting to address.

Thyroid Cancer: An Overview

Thyroid cancer originates in the thyroid gland, a butterfly-shaped organ located at the base of the neck. Although it accounts for a small fraction of total cancer cases, its incidence has been on an upward trend globally. The American Cancer Society reports that thyroid cancer is three times more common in women than men, with most cases being diagnosed in people aged between 20 and 55 years1.

The South African Context

In South Africa, the burden of thyroid cancer has been largely underestimated due to a paucity of comprehensive and reliable epidemiological data. However, the limited data available suggests a concerning rise in thyroid cancer incidence, mirroring global trends2.

A study from the National Cancer Registry of South Africa revealed a considerable increase in thyroid cancer cases, particularly among the female population3. This increase is likely multifactorial, with contributing factors including lifestyle changes, increased exposure to radiation, improvements in diagnostic capabilities, and increased awareness and screening.

Challenges and Opportunities

South Africa faces a unique set of challenges in addressing thyroid cancer. Firstly, there is a clear lack of comprehensive data, which hampers the development of effective public health strategies. Secondly, the country’s healthcare system is strained by the ongoing burden of infectious diseases, limiting resources available for cancer screening, diagnosis, and treatment.

Despite these challenges, opportunities exist for South Africa to tackle this growing health issue. Initiatives aimed at building robust cancer registries, improving healthcare infrastructure, and raising public awareness about thyroid cancer are critical.

Increased collaboration between the public and private sectors can lead to advancements in diagnostic capabilities, which is crucial for early detection and treatment of thyroid cancer. Moreover, leveraging the burgeoning field of telemedicine could help bridge the gap in access to healthcare services, particularly in remote and underserved areas4.


While thyroid cancer may not be the most prevalent cancer in South Africa, its increasing incidence warrants attention. Greater efforts are needed to understand the epidemiology of this disease, raise public awareness, and strengthen healthcare services. With a concerted approach, South Africa can successfully mitigate the impact of thyroid cancer and safeguard the health of its people.



  1. American Cancer Society. (2021). Key Statistics for Thyroid Cancer.
  2. Bello, B., Botha, M.H., & Veale, R.B. (2016). A 10-year review of thyroid cancer in a South African academic centre. South African Journal of Surgery, 54(3), 4-9.
  3. National Cancer Registry. (2018). Cancer in South Africa 2014. National Institute for Occupational Health.
  4. Mars, M. (2013). Telemedicine and advances in urban and rural healthcare delivery in Africa. Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases, 56(3), 326-335.

Trauma Surgery: A Vital and Dynamic Specialist Field of Surgery

Person with serious leg injury, receiving first aid treatment. Medical exercise, artificial blood


Trauma surgery is a vital and dynamic specialist field within the broad spectrum of surgical disciplines. As a trauma surgeon, one is responsible for providing rapid and life-saving care to patients suffering from critical injuries. This often involves operating under high-pressure situations to address a range of physical traumas, including blunt force injuries, penetrating wounds, and complex fractures. In this article, we will discuss the significance of trauma surgery, the training required to become a trauma surgeon, and the evolving trends in the field.

Training and Qualifications

Becoming a trauma surgeon requires extensive training and education. After completing a Bachelor’s degree, aspiring surgeons must attend medical school for four years, followed by a general surgery residency that typically lasts for five to seven years. During this time, they will learn about various surgical techniques and gain hands-on experience in treating different types of trauma (1).

Upon completion of their general surgery residency, candidates must pursue a one to two-year fellowship in trauma surgery, focusing on advanced trauma care, critical care medicine, and emergency general surgery (2). This specialized training prepares surgeons to deal with the unpredictable nature of trauma cases and equips them with the necessary skills to make life-saving decisions in high-stress situations.

Sources of Trauma

Trauma surgery primarily addresses injuries resulting from various sources, such as motor vehicle accidents, falls, gunshot wounds, stabbings, and other forms of physical violence (3). Trauma surgeons play a critical role in emergency departments and trauma centers, working closely with other healthcare professionals, including emergency physicians, nurses, anesthesiologists, and radiologists, to provide comprehensive care to severely injured patients.

Evolving Trends in Trauma Surgery

As with any medical field, trauma surgery continually evolves to incorporate new research, techniques, and technology. Recent advancements in the field include:

  1. Damage Control Surgery: A strategy where the initial goal is to control bleeding and contamination, followed by a temporary closure of the surgical site. The patient is then transferred to the intensive care unit for stabilization before definitive surgery is performed (4).
  2. Non-operative Management: The use of non-surgical approaches, such as angiographic embolization and endovascular techniques, has gained popularity in managing select cases of traumatic injuries, such as solid organ injuries and blunt aortic injuries (5).
  3. Telemedicine: Telemedicine is becoming increasingly important in trauma care, allowing for remote consultations, imaging review, and decision-making support for rural and underserved areas (6).


Trauma surgery is an essential and dynamic specialist field of surgery, offering life-saving care to patients suffering from critical injuries. The training and education required to become a trauma surgeon are extensive, preparing these professionals to manage complex and high-pressure cases. As the field continues to evolve, trauma surgeons will continue to adapt and implement new techniques, technologies, and research to improve patient outcomes and save lives.


  1. American College of Surgeons. (n.d.). Becoming a Surgeon. Retrieved from
  2. American Association for the Surgery of Trauma. (n.d.). Surgical Critical Care and Acute Care Surgery Fellowship Programs. Retrieved from
  3. American Trauma Society. (n.d.). Trauma Types. Retrieved from
  4. Rotondo, M. F., Schwab, C. W., McGonigal, M. D., Phillips, G. R., Fruchterman, T. M., Kauder, D. R., … & Shackford, S. R.

How Dr. Funnell’s Expertise in Advanced Laparoscopic Surgery and Intervention Endoscopic Procedures Can Benefit You

Dr Ivor Funnell – Surgical Gastroenterologist

As a leading Surgical Gastroenterologist Dr. Funnell has undergone extensive training in advanced laparoscopic surgery and intervention endoscopic procedures. These techniques allow him to provide patients with minimally invasive and highly effective treatments for a range of gastrointestinal issues.

Laparoscopic surgery is a minimally invasive surgical technique that uses small incisions and specialized instruments to access and treat the affected area. This technique offers numerous benefits, including reduced pain and scarring, faster recovery times, and a lower risk of complications.

Dr. Funnell’s expertise in advanced laparoscopic surgery allows him to perform a range of procedures, including laparoscopic cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal), hernia repair, and colon resection. By utilizing this technique, Dr. Funnell can offer patients a less invasive and more effective alternative to traditional open surgery.

In addition to laparoscopic surgery, Dr. Funnell has a keen interest in intervention endoscopic procedures such as ERCP and endoscopy. These procedures involve the use of a specialized camera and instruments to examine and treat the digestive system, allowing for highly precise interventions without the need for surgery.

With his expertise in intervention endoscopy, Dr. Funnell can diagnose and treat a range of gastrointestinal issues, including gallstones, pancreatic and bile duct disorders, and gastrointestinal bleeding. This technique also allows for the removal of polyps and other abnormal tissue without the need for surgery.

Overall, Dr. Funnell’s expertise in advanced laparoscopic surgery and intervention endoscopic procedures makes him a highly skilled and qualified physician in the field of gastroenterology. By utilizing these techniques, he can provide patients with the most advanced and effective treatments available, while minimizing pain, scarring, and recovery time.

Colorectal Surgery Overview

Colorectal surgery is a branch of surgery that focuses on the treatment of conditions affecting the colon, rectum, and anus. These conditions can range from benign, such as haemorrhoids, to more serious conditions such as colorectal cancer. Colorectal surgeons use a variety of surgical techniques to treat these conditions and improve the health and quality of life of their patients.

The history of colorectal surgery can be traced back to the ancient Egyptians, who used a variety of surgical techniques to treat conditions affecting the rectum and anus. However, it was not until the 19th century that the field of colorectal surgery began to take shape. With the advent of anaesthesia and antiseptic techniques, surgeons were able to perform more complex procedures with greater safety and success.

In the 20th century, the field of colorectal surgery continued to evolve, with the introduction of new technologies and surgical techniques. One of the most important advancements was the development of laparoscopic surgery, which allowed surgeons to perform many procedures through small incisions using a laparoscope. This minimally invasive approach has reduced the risk of infection and scarring and has allowed patients to recover more quickly after surgery.

Today, colorectal surgery continues to evolve, with the introduction of new technologies and surgical techniques. Some of the most common procedures performed by colorectal surgeons include:

  • Colectomy: the removal of all or part of the colon
  • Rectal resection: the removal of all or part of the rectum
  • Haemorrhoidectomy: the removal of haemorrhoids
  • Anal fistula surgery: the repair of an abnormal connection between the anus and the skin
  • Colostomy: the creation of an opening in the abdominal wall to allow for the diversion of waste from the colon

To be successful, colorectal surgery requires a team approach, with the surgeon working closely with other medical professionals, including nurses, anaesthesiologists, and gastroenterologists. The goal of colorectal surgery is to provide patients with the highest quality of care, and to improve their health and quality of life.

Overall, colorectal surgery plays an important role in the treatment of conditions affecting the colon, rectum, and anus. With the continued evolution of surgical techniques and technologies, colorectal surgeons will continue to provide their patients with the highest quality of care and the best possible outcomes.


  1. Holzheimer RG, Dawkins HJS. A brief history of colorectal surgery. Colorectal Disease. 2006;8(1):1-5.
  2. Brown SR. Minimally invasive surgery in colorectal surgery. Current Opinion in Gastroenterology. 2009;25(2):130-136.
  3. Poulose BK, Thukral C, Remzi FH. Evolution of surgical treatment for colorectal disease. World Journal of Gastrointestinal Surgery. 2010;2(2):34-41.

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8 Sneaky Signs You’re Walking Around With Poor Gut Health

The health of your gut microbiome impacts your overall health in more ways than you realize.

In recent years, gut health has become a hot topic in the wellness space. And considering how the state of your gut microbiome (i.e. the community of microorganisms living in your gut) connects to almost every part of the body—digestion is a key player for everything from mental health to immune function—it makes sense that folks are looking for everyday ways to optimize their gut health.

However, for that same reason, poor gut health can cause a wide range of symptoms, some of which don’t even involve the gut. It can be tricky to tell whether your gut health is thriving or floundering, or whether the random health complaints you’re having are related to the state of your gut. To make things even more confusing, these other mental and physical signs may not crop up at the same time as some of the more obvious digestive symptoms, making it difficult to link the two.

So, what are some mental and bodily clues that your gut health needs some TLC? Read on for some surprising signs and symptoms of sub-par gut health, according to the experts.

 5 Surprising Signs You’re Chewing Your Food Wrong


01of 08

You’re more irritable than usual.

Many of us know what it’s like to experience a churning stomach due to stress and anxiety. But according to Aditya Sreenivasan, M.D., gastroenterologist at New York’s Lenox Hill Hospital, it can work in the opposite direction too. Specifically, the gut can send signals to the brain when it’s in distress, he says. It does this using neurons, or nerve cells, that are in charge of sending signals throughout the body. In fact, there are more neurons in your GI tract than your brain (who knew?), so gut issues can certainly cause mood issues such as irritability and anxiety, Dr. Sreenivasan says.

02of 08

You’re inexplicably exhausted.

If you can’t stop yawning or find you’re too fatigued to function normally day to day—even after getting the recommended amount of sleep night after night—an off-balance gut might be to blame. According to Dr. Sreenivasan, this can be partly related to the aforementioned mood issues, which can seriously mess with your shut-eye. What’s more, if your gut isn’t properly absorbing enough of the right nutrients, it can lead to malabsorption and negatively affect your energy levels, he says. You may also be experiencing some fatigue-related brain fog, mental heaviness, memory mishaps, and the like, which also often link back to gut imbalances. That said, it’s important to note that many unhealthy lifestyle habits can disrupt good sleep—so it’s worth fine-tuning your sleep hygiene (or checking in with your doctor) before chalking it up to the gut at first glance.

03of 08

Your head hurts.

When gut issues interrupt your body’s ability to properly absorb nutrients, it can lead to pesky headaches, according to Dr. Sreenivasan. This may be related to the gut-brain connection and inflammation, according to The Journal of Headache and Pain. “Migraines are a little more complicated, but there’s an association between migraines and abdominal pain,” Dr. Sreenivasan explains further. The connection, called abdominal migraines, happens when you have migraines and abdominal pain at the same time (or sometimes, periodic abdominal pain in the absence of headaches). Additionally, hormonal imbalances that can trigger headaches and migraines may cause gut issues as well, he adds.

04of 08

You’re constipated or bloated.

From microbial imbalances to general digestive dysfunction, poor gut health can cause constipation and bloating, says Johanna Salazar, M.S., RDN, registered dietitian nutritionist and founder of Healing Nutrition. But how do you know whether this type of digestive woe is due to more chronic dysfunction within your gut, or simply a one-time blip due to something you ate? 

“If you’re feeling bloated or constipated, take a look at what you ate and drank for the past 48 hours,” Salazar recommends. The too-full feeling could certainly be caused by something you ate or not drinking enough water. However, if the constipation and bloating continue for more than seven days, Salazar recommends reaching out to your doctor to get some answers.

 The Many Pros of Probiotics and How They Affect Your Health

05of 08

You have bad breath.

Another surprising sign of poor gut health is bad breath. Here’s why it happens: If you’re not passing stool properly—like in the case of chronic or frequent constipation—it can cause a buildup of toxins in the body. This can result in bad breath, a top gut health clue that shouldn’t be ignored, Salazar says. With that in mind, if your breath smells off even with regular toothbrushing and oral care, it might be time to put down the mints and focus on your gut instead.

06of 08

You’re irregular (for you).

“Regular” bowel movements are different for everyone, however, overall, “regular” can include anything from three bowel movements per day to one bowel movement every three days, according to Dr. Sreenivasan. Thus, if your frequency changes and causes symptoms or interfere with your daily life, consider it a more pressing sign that your gut health needs some help. For example, “a change in bowel habits, [like] suddenly going from daily bowel movements to three times per day or once every three days, is worth noting,” says Dr. Sreenivasan.

07of 08

You have new food sensitivities.

Gut issues can also trigger food sensitivities, Salazar says. One common example is a “leaky gut,” which refers to the permeability of the cells lining your intestine. BTW: The gut lining is supposed to be semi-permeable, as this allows nutrients and water from the food you eat to enter the bloodstream, according to Harvard Health Publishing. Sometimes, however, the gaps between cells become too large or loose, resulting in increased permeability. When this happens, large food particles and/or bacteria may enter the bloodstream, resulting in inflammation, Salazar explains. This may contribute to food sensitivities, which can manifest as G.I. symptoms like bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, and nausea, as well as non-G.I. signs such as headaches, brain fog, and skin rashes, Salazar adds.

08of 08

Your skin is acting up.

There are many possible triggers for skin inflammation symptoms, including allergies and stress—but an off-kilter gut might be at a play too. This is due to the link between the immune system and gut microbiome, which is essential for maintaining healthy skin, according to the journal Microorganisms. Essentially, if the gut microbiome is imbalanced, it can alter the body’s immune response, resulting in skin issues such as acne and dandruff. In a more general sense, “eating a lot of processed and salty foods can lead to puffiness and inflammation throughout your body, including the skin,” Dr. Sreenivasan says.

How to Start Improving Your Gut Health

Before trying to diagnose yourself and blame non-gut-related symptoms on your gut health, consider other symptoms you may be experiencing too, Salazar says. For example, look for clues like frequent gas or the shape of your stool. “A good stool should be ‘S’ shaped and easy to pass,” says Salazar. If these symptoms are present and you think your G.I. tract needs a hand, try adding more gut-friendly habits to your daily routine.

  • Eat more fiber from plants. A great place to start is what you’re eating and drinking. One important strategy for keeping your gut healthy is consuming plenty of fiber, which is a vital nutrient for regular and comfortable digestion and present in most plant-based foods. Examples of high-fiber foods include vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains.
  • Eat less processed, high-sugar, and greasy/fried food. While you’re at it, start to limit ultra-processed foods that are typically low in fiber (in fact, the healthy fiber is often stripped from the ingredients used during processing). Excessively greasy and fatty foods can also lead to inflammation and upset stomach, so it may be worth cutting back on these foods for the sake of your gut. Finally, starting to consume fewer added sugars, since sugar actually helps feed the “bad” strains of gut bacteria, causing it to thrive and outnumber the healthy and helpful gut bacteria we do need.
  • Adopt some general healthy lifestyle habits. Other natural ways to support gut health include drinking plenty of fluids, staying active, and getting at least seven hours of sleep per night. Practicing stress relief is also crucial, as the gut and mind are constantly communicating via the gut-brain axis mentioned earlier. Physical activity can lend a hand in this area, and don’t forget about meditation, yoga, and spending time in nature to relax the body and mind, Salazar says.

If your digestive woes persist in the midst of gut-healthy habits, chat with your primary care doctor. Depending on your symptoms, they might refer you to a gastroenterologist, who can order stool or blood tests to determine what’s going on. Your doctor might also have you consult a registered dietitian for personalized nutrition guidance, if needed.

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What Is a Gastroenterologist? What to Expect on a Visit

Are you about to see a gastroenterologist for the first time? You’re in good hands. Because they specialize in digestive diseases, gastroenterologists treat lots of people who have symptoms just like yours.

What Is a Gastroenterologist?

Gastroenterologists are internists (doctors trained in internal medicine).

They complete up to 6 more years of specialized training after medical school. These doctors study the digestive system and any diseases that affect your esophagusstomachgallbladderpancreasliverintestinescolon, and rectum, like these:

Your first appointment with your gastroenterologist will probably take 30-60 minutes. They’ll ask you about your symptoms, medical history, and any treatments you’ve tried. Other visits could be shorter.

Where Do Gastroenterologists Work?

Gastroenterologists may see patients in a hospital or an outpatient clinic. They aren’t surgeons, but they do tests, like a colonoscopy or endoscopy, at both of these places.

Your primary care doctor or family doctor may send you to a gastroenterologist. And you might need a referral from that doctor for insurance to cover the cost of your visit.

What Questions Will My Gastroenterologist Ask?

First, your nurse will check your blood pressure and heart rate, and ask you questions about your health. Tell them what medicines you take or if you have any allergies.

Your gastroenterologist should ask you more detailed questions like these:

  • What are your symptoms?
  • Where is your pain?
  • How long does your pain usually last?
  • Does your pain move around or change?
  • When did your symptoms start?
  • Do your symptoms get worse or better at certain times?
  • Does anything seem to trigger your symptoms?
  • Has anyone in your family had digestive diseases or other health problems?
  • Have you had any other illnesses or surgery before?

Some questions may not seem to have anything to do with your digestive problem. But symptoms in other parts of your body can help the gastroenterologist make the right diagnosis.

You might want to make a list of your symptoms before you see the gastroenterologist. Bring it with you so you don’t forget anything.

Questions to Ask Your Gastroenterologist

You should ask questions, too. Here are a few you can try:

  • Will I need any more tests?
  • What are the usual treatments for my condition?
  • Will I need a colonoscopy or endoscopy?
  • What do I do if I have a symptom flare-up before I see you again?
  • What are the signs of a serious complication?
  • Are there any medications that could make my problem worse?
  • Will I need to change my diet?

Your Physical Exam

The gastroenterologist will look at you to try to find the cause of your symptoms. You’ll lie on the exam table and relax. Your doctor will press down on the skin around your belly. They’ll listen for odd bowel sounds and feel for any masses or tenderness. They may ask you to take deep breaths or cough during your exam.

They might also put a finger into your rectum to feel for any bulges or masses, and to check the muscle tone.

What Are the Next Steps?

The gastroenterologist may send you for X-rays, a CT scan, or blood and stool tests. They may give you a stool test. Among other things, a stool culture can check how well your body absorbs and uses fat. They may also test your motility (how food moves through your digestive system).

The doctor might also suggest procedures to diagnose your problem. They’ll schedule these tests for later and tell you how to prepare:

Barium swallow or enema: Barium is a liquid that highlights areas inside your body on a scan. The doctor may give you barium to drink to check your esophagus, stomach, or upper small intestine. Or you may need one to check your colon or rectum. An X-ray will show the doctor your organs as they move.

Endoscopy: This long, thin tube with a tiny camera on the end goes through your mouth so the doctor can look at your upper digestive tract or take a biopsy (tissue sample). You may get an endoscopy if you have persistent heartburn, belly pain, vomiting, or other problems that don’t go away.

Colonoscopy: The doctor puts a thin scope with a camera on the end into your bottom. It goes into your colon, rectum, or large intestine to look for polyps or bleeding, get rid of any polyps, or take a biopsy. Your doctor may order a colonoscopy to check for problems such as inflammatory bowel disease, or problems that may cause changes in how often and how you poop, belly pain, or blood in your stool.

Enteroscopy: You may have this procedure if an endoscopy or a colonoscopy fails to find anything. You swallow a tiny video capsule that transmits pictures of the insides of your digestive tract. An enteroscopy may reveal causes of bleeding and ulcers (sores) caused by Crohn’s disease, among other things.


Your gastroenterologist may suggest over-the-counter antacids, or prescribe medications to treat your heartburngasconstipation, or other symptoms. They often prescribe proton pump inhibitors, H2 blockers, or metoclopramide, which helps with motility.

Lifestyle Changes

Your gastroenterologist may tell you to do these things to manage your symptoms:

  • Cut back on caffeine.
  • Don’t eat foods that trigger symptoms.
  • Eat more fiber.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Find ways to manage your stress.
  • Poop when you have the urge.

What You Can Do to Help

Follow your gastroenterologist’s lifestyle tips to feel better, and get regular colon screenings to spot early signs of cancer.

Let the doctor know if you have blood in your stool, changes to your bowel movements, fatigue, or weight loss you can’t explain.

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