Is Coffee the Answer to your Colon Conundrum?

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A recent study, which occurred at the University Hospital Heidelberg in Germany, found that drinking coffee significantly reduces the time needed to recover from bowel obstruction following abdominal surgery. The study lead by Dr. Sascha Müller looked at more than 80 patients’ recoveries from surgery and divided them into two groups. One group was given 100mL of water 3 times a day while the other group was given 100mL of caffeinated coffee 3 times a day. The patients all faced surgery for a variety of reasons with the majority (56 percent) suffering from colon cancer. Another 28 percent of patients suffered from diverticular disease, a type of condition wherein there are structural problems with the colon; 13 suffered from inflammatory bowel disease and the remainder had various conditions. The patients were of comparable health, age 61 on average and were 56 percent male. These conditions allowed for the trial to look at a variety of responses by patients.

According to the study, those who received the caffeine treatment had their first bowel movement a full 14 hours before those who had only water. The first bowel movement occurred at 60 hours for those on caffeine versus those who did not have caffeine who had their first bowel movement at 74 hours. Similarly, those who had caffeine were able to have solid food at around 49 hours while those who had only water were only able to keep solid food at 56 hours.

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Price of Sight Infographics

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Via: King Lasik

Laxative-Free Colon Examinations Making Slow Progress

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Doctors recommend all those 50 year of age or older to be screened preventatively for colon cancer. There are three distinct ways of doing this: colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy and ‘virtual colonoscopy.’ The first method is the most involved and still appears to be the most sensitive approach. Sigmoidoscopy is simpler but only surveys the last one-third of the colon (large intestine); however, over half of all colon cancers are in this area, so it is still considered a valuable exam. Both these methods involve the insertion of a flexible viewing scope past the anus and into the colon.

Computed Tomography

The ‘virtual colonoscopy,’ however, is non-invasive: pictures are taken from the outside. It is actually the technique called computed tomography (CT) applied to the colon. Computed tomography – sometimes called computer assisted tomography, CAT – can be described simply as a more accurate version of traditional X-rays, though there are various technical differences. So far, the CT method seems to be somewhat less sensitive than a real colonoscopy, yet can be a partial substitute for it in patients who are too sick or weak to tolerate a colonoscopy and the sedation it requires.

Abdomen Computed Tomography

Both colonoscopy and it’s virtual counterpart require a patient to not have solid food the day before the procedure, and also to drink literally a gallon of a laxative solution. This thoroughly cleans out the intestines and makes for the best visibility of any potential tumors or pre-tumors, which are called polyps. Unfortunately, a minority yet substantial portion of people find they just can’t stand getting through this preparation routine. The sigmoidoscopy, on the other hand, is usually done without any laxative – but isn’t as thorough as the other two techniques.

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More Flat Polyps Now Being Found In Colonoscopies

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For decades now, doctors have urged patients hitting their fifties to get a colonoscopy once every five to ten years to check for colon cancer – a tumor in the large intestine. These are done by gastroenterologists, doctors who specialize in diseases of the digestive tract. In this procedure, a long, flexible viewing scope is inserted at the anus and is extended out progressively longer – further up into the colon – during the exam. Patients are under mild sedation, waking a short while later with no recollection of discomfort, perhaps just slightly sore. A simpler procedure for such a check is the sigmoidoscopy, which uses a shorter scope; sedation isn’t necessary for this exam. Although not seeing beyond the first third of the colon, the majority of colon tumors occur in that portion. Hence a sigmoidoscopy is still a valuable exam, but is not as thorough as a colonoscopy.

Flat Polyps

During either procedure, the doctor is looking for tumors but also for less serious growths called polyps. These are outgrowths of cells that may be precancerous or may be benign (non cancerous). The most common shape for a polyp is a bit like a mushroom, with a ‘stalk’ coming out of the intestinal wall and a roundish growth at the end of it. There are also flat polyps that bulge up slightly but are wider and have no stalk, hence being harder to see. To a doctor doing a colonoscopy, a stalked polyp sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb compared to flat ones. Whenever found and whenever possible, polyps are removed, since some will be precancerous. This isn’t known until after a pathologist looks at a sample under the microscope. Patients with a precancerous polyp will be recommended to have another procedure in three years, rather than the five to ten for those with no polyps or only a benign polyp.

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Early Signs of Parkinson’s Disease Found In Unlikely Spot

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It’s not the most obvious thought: Look for early symptoms of a brain disease in the large intestine. Yet growing evidence shows this is exactly where to look for Parkinson’s disease, finding signs of it there years before the terrible trembling symptoms of the disease first appear. How did this come about?

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is named after British doctor James Parkinson who first described the condition in 1817. PD has been understood since the late 1800s as a disease of the central nervous system. Autopsies of persons with PD have for decades been known to contain distinct abnormalities in parts of the brain producing the important neurotransmitter called dopamine. These oddities are called Lewy bodies, for the doctor who first described them in 1913. But how to detect these abnormal signs of PD before the time of an autopsy?

MRI Equipment

Logically enough, doctors have used various kinds of medical imaging of the brain, attempting to capture a picture of Parkinson’s early warning signs. Unfortunately, computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of PD patients’ brains appear normal. One type of brain imaging may aid in diagnosing PD if an abnormality is seen, but this is not an exclusive association. So, brain scans are mainly used to rule out other disorders that could cause similar symptoms but do show up in imaging, such as tumors and vascular abnormalities.

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Sigmoidoscopy – Simpler than Colonoscopy, Still Finds Most Cancers

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Doctors urge all persons ages 55 – 75 to be screened for colon cancer by colonoscopy once every ten years. Only around 60% comply with this recommendation, and the main reason given is patient dread of the preparation for the test. The colonoscopy itself is performed under anesthesia so it isn’t an unpleasant experience itself. However the preparation for a colonoscopy involves a “liquid fast” the day before – nothing but clear liquids. Perhaps worse than that, one must also drink a gallon (4L) of a slippery solution of polyethylene glycol (PEG), to completely cleanse the digestive tract. Although the PEG comes with flavoring, it doesn’t make drinking that amount of a laxative a pleasant experience. A person should also stay close to a bathroom all that day, because what goes in will come out, and surprisingly quickly. Less severe preparations have given acceptable results in preliminary tests, but the American Society of Gastroenterologists continues to recommend the full routine as the best colonoscopy preparation.

Sigmoidoscopy

So is there a screening alternative for the more reluctant patients? Yes there is, and it’s the sigmoidoscopy, referring to the term for the lower third of the large intestine, the “sigmoid colon.” Although this procedure doesn’t see as far up into the colon, at least 50% of all tumors occur in this last stretch of our digestive tracts. A study published in May by the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) concluded that sigmoidoscopies can still significantly lower the rate of colon cancer. A large patient group receiving only sigmoidoscopy was followed for many years and compared to people who had not been screened. Patients receiving sigmoidoscopies had 21%, lower rates of colon cancer, and 26%, fewer deaths from colon cancer than the non-screened group. Clearly these patients had benefited from the simpler screening method.

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