The digestive system is a complex collection of processes. When it’s not working properly, physicians need to investigate why. They often use a procedure called endoscopy to identify and diagnose digestive issues.
Types of Endoscopy
One common procedure is the upper endoscopy which looks at the upper part of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. This includes the esophagus, stomach, and the first part of the small intestine.
“We commonly will do this for various reasons, to evaluate things like acid reflux, abdominal pain, look for things like inflammation or ulcers. Sometimes, if people are having gastrointestinal bleeding, then we will do an upper endoscopy to try to find out why and hopefully fix it,” states Dr. Neil Bhogal, interventional gastroenterologist with Dignity Health.
Colonoscopy serves as both a preventative and diagnostic procedure to identify pre-cancerous growths. If polyps are detected, they are typically removed right then and there.
Interventional endoscopy, which Dr. Bhogal specializes in, takes a look at the pancreas, bile ducts, liver, and gallbladder. This type of procedure is more complex and requires additional training.
“If people have problems with these organs such as stones, or cancers, we can identify them. We can take samples, and often we can treat those conditions as well,” he notes.
Another option is therapeutic endoscopic ultrasound. The primary benefit of this procedure is to reduce the number and invasiveness of surgeries patients undergo. For example, it’s possible to drain cysts, the gallbladder, and bile duct obstructions without requiring patients to “go under the knife.”
“It’s a field that is in its infancy but is rapidly expanding in the applications of therapeutic endoscopic ultrasound. The future is extremely bright for it,” shares Dr. Bhogal. He is excited to bring this technology and expertise to Bakersfield—a significant benefit for community members who previously had to travel far distances.
“We have great medical facilities here. We have great medical staff here. And now, hopefully, with some of the training I have, we can continue to perform these procedures here so they don't have to leave their home community,” he adds.
Diet Plays a Significant Role in GI Conditions
Individuals can take steps to avoid digestive issues by eating a clean, healthy diet. Dr. Bhogal attributes the dramatic rise in digestive conditions to our society’s reliance on processed foods. Unlike a century or more ago when everything was naturally “farm to table,” today’s diets contain far more gut-damaging components.
“A lot of these preservatives and other things impact our GI tract by causing inflammation and antibody formation. The more we eat these kinds of foods, we do see things like inflammatory bowel conditions.”
To learn more about the GI services available at Mercy and Memorial Hospitals, visit www.dignityhealth.org/bakersfield.
To listen to Dr. Bhogal’s Hello Healthy podcast on this topic or other related health topics, go to dignityhealth.org/bakersfield/podcasts.