Expert gastrointestinal care in Salt Lake City, Utah

The gastrointestinal (GI) doctors at St. Mark’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah know it’s not easy living with digestive issues. Although most digestive diseases are not curable, they are treatable. Our gastroenterologists and gastrologists will develop an individualized treatment plan to restore your quality of life.

For more information about our gastrointestinal services, please call (801) 263-3041.

If you or a loved one find that coping with symptoms of a digestive disease is interfering with a comfortable lifestyle, then it’s time to seek the services of our experts who can fully assess the problem.

Gastrointestinal conditions treated

Digestive disorders are the most prevalent problems affecting millions of people every year. Our Salt Lake City GI doctors are experienced at treating:

  • Colon polyps
  • Colon cancer
  • Inflammatory bowel diseases
  • Obstructions

We also treat the following GI conditions:

Acid reflux—GERD

If your lower esophageal sphincter (LES, a valve between your esophagus and stomach) does not close all the way or opens too often, stomach acid can escape, or “reflux,” into your esophagus. This acid causes heartburn and other symptoms related to acid reflux, like vomiting or the sensation of feeling like food being stuck in your throat.

  • Voice and Acid Reflux

  • Acid Reflux and GERD

Peptic ulcers

Peptic ulcers are caused by stomach acid breaking down the mucus lining of the stomach or esophagus. This can be due to anti-inflammatory drugs, acidic foods or alcohol consumption. If left untreated, peptic ulcers can create other medical issues. Patients undergoing treatment for peptic ulcers will need to avoid tobacco and alcohol use to help the body heal effectively.

Lactose intolerance

Lactose intolerance, the inability to digest the main sugar in dairy products, can usually be resolved by changing your diet or taking over-the-counter medication. Lactose intolerance should be diagnosed by a gastroenterologist to ensure the symptoms aren’t indicative of a more serious condition.

Gastrointestinal bleeding

Gastrointestinal bleeding is detected by blood in vomit or stool. GI bleeding can be scary, though the cause of the bleeding may not be serious. You should always see a GI doctor if bleeding occurs.

GI bleeding can be caused by many different problems. Some of the more common causes include:

  • Hemorrhoids (swollen veins in the anus)
  • Varices (swollen veins in the esophagus)
  • Ulcer (sore on the lining of the GI tract)
  • Cuts or scrapes in the mouth or throat
  • Infection (bacteria or parasites)
  • Food allergies, such as gluten
  • Medications
  • Inflammation (swelling or irritation of the lining of the GI tract, such as gastritis or esophagitis)
  • Colitis (Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis)
  • Cancer (tumors or polyps)
  • Diverticula (abnormal pouches in the colon)
  • Tears in the esophagus or anus
  • Nosebleed
  • Angiodysplasia, abnormal blood vessels in the GI tract

Gastroparesis

Gastroparesis, also known as delayed gastric emptying, means the stomach takes longer to empty food contents. This is caused by a motility problem, or how the muscles move within the digestive tract.

In most cases, gastroparesis is a lifelong condition, however, treatment options can prevent complications and relieve symptoms.

Gastroparesis symptoms include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • High and low blood sugar levels (in people with diabetes)
  • Abdominal pain
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Weight loss
  • Heartburn
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Feeling full quickly when eating

After being diagnosed with gastroparesis, your gastroenterologist may suggest dietary changes, medications, surgery gastric and/or electrical stimulation.

Gastroparesis can make it harder to manage your blood sugar level if you have diabetes. Talk to you doctor about extra steps you can take to care for your diabetes and gastroparesis.

Gastritis

When acids damage the stomach lining, the stomach lining can become inflamed, also known as the condition gastritis. The inflammation can be caused by a number of things, such as anti-inflammatory medications, tobacco use, alcohol use, trauma, critical illnesses, certain bacteria or autoimmune disorders

Gastritis symptoms include:

  • Gas or bloat
  • Nausea with or without vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bleeding
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent belching
  • Pain that occurs after eating certain foods
  • A burning feeling in your upper abdomen

After being diagnosed with gastritis, your Salt Lake City gastroenterologist may recommend dietary changes, lifestyle changes and/or medications. They may also suggest you avoid anti-inflammatory medicines, spicy foods, caffeine, tobacco and alcohol. It’s also essential to reduce stress whenever possible, as stress can make gastritis symptoms worse.

Gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST)

A gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST) is a rare cancer within the GI tract. A GIST typically starts in the interstitial cells that are part of the nervous system. These cells deliver signals to your GI tract muscles to help move food and liquid through your GI tract.

In many cases, GIST is caused by an abnormal gene that causes cells in the gut to multiply, growing the tumor. GIST may run families with a history of neurofibromatosis type 1 diagnoses.

GIST symptoms include:

  • Vomiting
  • Blood in stools or vomit
  • Discomfort or pain in the stomach
  • Tiredness from low levels of red blood cells
  • Feeling full after only eating a small amount
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite

GIST treatment options will vary depending on each patient’s specific condition and if the tumor cells have metastasized (spread to other areas of the body). Your healthcare provider may suggest targeted therapy, surgery, or radiation therapy to treat your GIST.

Diagnosing gastrointestinal issues in Salt Lake City, Utah

Digestive health examinations may feel uncomfortable or be embarrassing for patients. At St. Mark’s Hospital, patients can always count on our GI doctors to give them the quality care they deserve in a respectful and inviting environment.

Your gastroenterologist or gastrologist in Salt Lake City, Utah may suggest any of the following exams to diagnose your GI condition:

Upper GI endoscopy

In an upper GI endoscopy, your doctor uses an endoscope (a thin, flexible tube) to view the upper GI tract—the esophagus, stomach and the first part of your small intestine.

Your St. Mark’s gastrointestinal team will provide preparatory instructions prior to the procedure. Your exam may be cancelled if you do not follow the instructions.

During the procedure, your throat may be numbed with spray or gargle; you may be given medication to help you relax; and you may be under anesthesia or awake. The endoscope will be inserted into your mouth and down your esophagus. Air will be inserted to expand your GI tract, and the endoscope relays video image of your GI tract to a monitor.

After an upper GI endoscopy, you will be asked to wait in the waiting area for 30 minutes to ensure there are no complications, as well as to have someone drive you home.

Upper GI series

An upper GI series consists of an X-ray of your upper digestive tract. This test can be helpful for finding ulcers, tumors and certain diseases.

Your St. Mark’s healthcare team will give you instructions prior to the exam. During the exam, you’ll be asked to drink a liquid to improve the X-ray images, as well as swallow “fizzies” to create air in your stomach. You may be asked to hold your breath and stand or lie down in different positions.

Following the exam, you may notice white stool or constipation. You can relieve constipation by taking an over the-counter laxative and drinking plenty of fluids.

Colonoscopy

Colonoscopy is used to view the inside of your lower digestive tract (colon and rectum). It can help screen for colon cancer and can help find the source of abdominal pain, bleeding and changes in bowel habits. The test is usually done in the hospital on an outpatient basis. During the exam, the doctor can remove a small tissue sample (a biopsy) for testing. Small growths, such as polyps, may also be removed during colonoscopy.

You will be sedated during the procedure. The doctor performs a digital rectal exam to check for anal and rectal problems. The rectum is lubricated and the scope inserted.

After the colonoscopy, try to pass any gas immediately to prevent bloating and cramping.

Sigmoidoscopy

During a sigmoidoscopy, a thin, flexible tube is inserted to view the rectum and lower colon. This test is helpful for finding the source of abdominal pain, changes in bowel habits and rectal bleeding.

Ask your doctor about risks associated with the procedure, such as bleeding or bowel puncture.

During the procedure, air and fluid will be inserted into the tube to help provide a better view of the rectum and colon. Try to pass all of the gas immediately following the procedure to avoid bloating and cramping. It’s normal to notice a yellow or green fluid in your stools due to the fluid that was used.

Lower GI endoscopy

During a lower GI endoscopy, a thin, flexible tube (called an endoscope) is used to view your lower GI tract. This can be done by performing a colonoscopy to view the colon and rectum, or by performing a sigmoidoscopy to examine the rectum and sigmoid colon.

Depending on whether you have a colonoscopy or a sigmoidoscopy, you may or may not be sedated. The endoscope will be inserted into the rectum, and digital imaging of your lower GI tract is sent to video monitor.
After a lower GI endoscopy, you will be asked to rest for about 30 minutes to ensure there are no complications, as well as to have someone drive you home.

After a procedure to view your GI tract, always let your healthcare provider know if you experience any of the following:

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38.0°C) or higher
  • Shortness of breath
  • Vomiting blood, blood in stool or black stools
  • Coughing or hoarse voice that won’t go away
  • Nausea
  • Severe pain

Colon cancer prevention and screenings

Colorectal cancer (cancer in the colon or rectum) is a leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S., but it doesn’t have to be. When this cancer is found and removed early, the chances of a full recovery are very good.

Because colorectal cancer rarely causes symptoms in its early stages, screening for the disease is important. It’s even more crucial to have colon cancer screenings if you have risk factors for the disease.

A DRE can detect a growth in the rectum or anus

Risk factors for colorectal cancer

Your risk of having colorectal cancer increases if you:

  • Are 45 years of age or older
  • Have a family history or personal history of colorectal cancer or polyps
  • Have a personal history of type 2 diabetes, Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
  • Have an inherited genetic syndrome like Lynch syndrome (also known as HNPCC) or familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)
  • Are very overweight
  • Are not physically active
  • Smoke
  • Drink a lot of alcohol
  • Eat a lot of red or processed meat

How colon cancer develops

Polyps are growths that form on the inner lining of the colon or rectum. Most are benign, which means they aren’t cancerous. But over time, some polyps can become malignant (cancerous). This happens when cells in these polyps begin growing abnormally. In time, malignant cells invade more and more of the colon and rectum. The cancer may also spread to nearby organs or lymph nodes or to other parts of the body. Finding and removing polyps can help prevent cancer from ever forming.

Colon cancer screening

Screening means looking for a medical problem before you have symptoms. During a screening for colorectal cancer, your healthcare provider will ask about your medical history, examine you and do one or more tests.

During the digital rectal exam (DRE), the healthcare provider inserts a lubricated gloved finger into the rectum. The test is painless and takes less than a minute. However, healthcare providers agree that this test alone is not enough to screen for colorectal cancer.

Additional screening options

Because healthcare professionals agree that a DRE is not sufficient enough to be performed alone as a cancer screening, your doctor may suggest one of the following additional tests:

  • Fecal occult blood test (FOBT) or fecal immunochemical test (FIT)

These tests check for occult blood in stool (blood you can’t see). You will likely be given a kit to collect the stool sample at home. You might need to avoid certain foods and medicines before the test.

  • Barium enema with contrast (double-contrast barium enema)

This test uses X-rays to provide images of the entire colon and rectum.  The day before the test, you will need to do a bowel prep to clean out your colon, which your provider will explain.

At the start of the test, a radiologist places a soft tube into the rectum. The tube is used to fill the colon with a contrast liquid (barium) and air. The liquid helps the colon show up clearly on the X-rays.

  • Virtual colonoscopy (done in imaging)

This exam is called a CT colonography. It uses a series of X-ray photographs to create a 3D view of the colon and rectum. The day before the test, you will need to do a bowel prep to clean out your colon, which your provider will explain.

During the procedure, you will lie on a table that is part of a special X-ray machine called a computed tomography scanner (CT scan). A small tube will be placed into your rectum to fill the colon and rectum with air to make your colon and rectum more visible.

Contact us

For more information about our gastrointestinal services, please call (801) 263-3041.