In order to continue to provide the best standard of medicine to our patients, two providers have joined the West Chester division of U.S. Digestive Health, Dr. Nasir Akhtar and Dr. Austin Hwang.

Find out more about their experience, what brings them to our community, and what you can expect when meeting them.


Has medicine always been your career goal? What led you to ultimately choose gastroenterology?

Dr. Nasir Akhtar: Growing up, I always enjoyed math and science. In college, I majored in biomedical engineering. Over time, I wanted a career that would allow me to build relationships with people, and medicine allows that opportunity. However, my fascination with technology and equipment/machines led me to gastroenterology, where I can use technology to diagnose and treat patients firsthand.

Dr. Austin Hwang: I was always interested in medicine – was always curious of how the body works and the actions we can do to improve it. Gastroenterology interested me the most of all the internal medicine fields in that it seemed to incorporate so many of the other fields in its disease processes.


Do you have any personal experiences that keep you passionate about gastroenterology?

Dr. Nasir Akhtar: My passion for gastroenterology originates from a collection of experiences ranging from listening to a patient’s perspective in the office to acutely providing patient relief in emergent situations via endoscopic procedure.

Dr. Austin Hwang: I try to help at least one patient each day. Luckily, at the end of the day when I reflect on how the day has gone, I find that I have helped more than just one person – but I feel that is a good place to start.


How would you describe your bedside manner or your relationship with patients? What’s something you’d like your patients to know about you?

Dr. Nasir Akhtar: I would describe my bedside manner as someone who is interested in listening to a patient, to understand their discomfort and struggles, and to provide empathy.

Dr. Austin Hwang: I attempt to establish a rapport with each of the patients I see – find a common ground. I find that once that is done, it frees up the conversation and strengthens the physician-patient relationship and helps with the healing process.

 

What is one of the biggest highlights of your career so far?

Dr. Nasir Akhtar: I do not have a single moment I can identify in my career, but to see a patient be provided relief and improvement in their health brings me a lot of joy.

Dr. Austin Hwang: The opportunities that I have had to work in so many different healthcare systems. It really gives you a lot of perspective.

 

What are you looking forward to most about being a provider at U.S. Digestive Health?

Dr. Nasir Akhtar: At U.S. Digestive Health, I am fortunate to work with a spectacular team of physicians, providers, and staff to focus on patient care. I look forward to continuing to implement this team-focused philosophy.

Dr. Austin Hwang: Providing care that is patient-forward.

 

What’s one strategy or piece of advice you learned over the years that you always keep with you?

Dr. Nasir Akhtar: Some advice I have leaned back on includes that we are human – it is impossible to know everything, but possible to try our very best.

Dr. Austin Hwang: A wise mentor once told me –  “the definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome.” This has taught me to adapt more to multiple situations and to think more outside the box.

 

What are some of your interests outside of medicine? What’s a typical day off like for you?

Dr. Nasir Akhtar: My interests outside of medicine include spending time with my wife, twin boys, watching sports, and leisure reading.

Dr. Austin Hwang: Golf, tennis, basketball, and cooking. I really enjoy putting my AirPods on and shooting hoops in my driveway.

 

Can you give us an idea of your favorite music, band, concert? Or your favorite guilty pleasure on tv?

Dr. Nasir Akhtar: I enjoy watching reruns of Friends.

Dr. Austin Hwang: I can really listen to any type of music. I have favorite songs from all different genres.

 

We’re pleased to welcome these esteemed physicians to our community. Call us today at 610-431-3122 to schedule your appointment or click here.

It’s a cliché that “you are what you eat,” but it’s actually very true! Your digestive health is key to the well-being of your whole body, and many common health complaints can be linked to digestive issues.

To safeguard the health of your digestive system (and your entire body), it’s important to eat healthful foods that nurture your body and promote healing from within.

Promoting Digestive Health

If every day digestive issues plague you, there are a few things you can try.

With the OK of your doctor, try taking over-the-counter probiotics that contain various cultures your digestive tract needs to stay healthy. If pills aren’t your thing, many of these cultures are also present in yogurt; just make sure to watch how much sugar you’re eating in popular yogurt brands. Calories and grams of sugar can add up quickly! Try buying unsweetened plain yogurt and adding flavor yourself with fresh fruit, cinnamon, and honey. You’ll save on calories and high-glycemic sugars.

To improve digestion, try eating 4 to 5 smaller, more frequent meals per day without increasing your overall caloric intake. Make sure you’re consuming a healthy level of fiber (found in raw fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and beans), and try eating more lean protein (like omega-3-rich fish, or lean cuts of chicken, turkey, or pork).

Also make sure you’re drinking plenty of fluids! The average adult should drink no fewer than eight 8-ounce glasses of fluid a day to stay hydrated and flush toxins from the body.

Healthy Cooking for the Whole Family!

It’s simply a myth that eating well has to be more costly and time intensive.

Despite what the advertising budgets of fast food restaurants and unhealthy, frozen, heavily processed food brands will tell you, some of the easiest, most affordable, and most readily available foods are the healthiest choices — just think of all the fresh fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole-grain options at your local grocery store or market.

Instead of taking the time to stop at a fast food chain or to heat up a processed entree full of empty calories and bad fats, make a quick meal of brightly colored vegetables (hint: brighter colors generally mean more nutrients), fiber-rich whole grains, and lean protein. Just remember to keep an eye on your portions! A serving might be less than you think it is; use this handy serving size guide as a reminder of how much you should be eating and serving your family.

Healthy Recipes

Need some easy, family-friendly, healthful recipes? Look no further! These quick, affordable meals are rich in vitamins, antioxidants, fiber, protein, and all the other nutrients you need to keep yourself (and your digestive system) well.

  • Love mac n’ cheese? Try this healthy and yummy alternative with broccoli and white beans.
  • Craving French fries? This higher fiber alternative uses sweet potatoes for a healthier take on the classic.
  • Try adding a banana to your kid’s favorite PB & J sandwich for an added hit of potassium and fiber.
  • Instead of just loading up on cheese and carbs, try adding chicken and black beans for a healthy and more flavorful sandwich.

Regular Exercise And Activity

As we age, maintaining our weight begins to be a bigger and more daunting challenge. Our metabolism slows, and it’s up to us to maintain a healthy level of toned, lean muscle to help us burn calories.

Simply adding some free weights or other resistance training to our everyday routines can help keep those extra pounds at bay. It can be as easy as changing the track of your daily dog walk to include a hill or two, or using a 5 lb (or less) jar or can at home to do a quick workout. Parents of small children know — you can even get a great workout with your child!

Regular cardiovascular exercise is also important to our health, as it keeps our hearts and lungs in tip top shape so they can provide our bodies with a healthy supply of oxygen-rich blood. Increasing your daily cardio workout can be simple. Walk to the further restroom in your office, park 5-10 spaces back from where you normally would in the parking lot, and take your dog on an extra-long walk. Invest in a pedometer to see how many steps you’re currently taking, and make a goal of where you’d like to be. Use this helpful fitness site as a guide.

More Health Information

Check our Helpful Resources page for additional information about health issues, conditions, and local hospitals.

 

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a term used for disorders that trigger an inflammatory response in the digestive tract. The two most common IBDs are ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Over two million Americans suffer from inflammatory bowel disease. There is no known cure for IBD, however, symptoms can be successfully managed so there is less effect on the quality of life.

The goal of inflammatory bowel disease treatment is to suppress the inflammatory response and control symptoms. For instance, pain and diarrhea symptoms should be managed using medications that allow you to achieve remission. Fortunately, there are a lot of effective treatments available for IBD.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease Treatment

Treatment for bowel disease depends on the severity of the condition, which means treatment will vary from patient to patient. Here are some effective treatments:

  •  Anti-inflammatory Medications: Most patients with mild to moderate IBD respond well to anti-inflammatory medications. These medications can help reduce the symptoms of flareups. Examples of anti-inflammatory medications include aminosalicylates, mesalamine, and corticosteroids.
  • Antibiotics: There are certain complications with Crohn’s disease, such as pus formation, abscesses, and anal fistulae. Crohn’s sufferers are prone to infection caused by the C. difficile bacteria which causes symptoms like abdominal pain and bloody stools. Antibiotics are usually recommended for patients with mild to moderate Crohn’s disease.
  • Immunomodulators and Immunosuppressants: Inflammatory diseases are caused by an abnormal inflammatory response from the body. Immunomodulators and immunosuppressants are prescribed for long-term treatment of IBD patients. Both types of medication work to calm your immune system and control its response. These are recommended to patients with moderate to severe IBD symptoms when anti-inflammatory and other medications have failed to work.
  • Dietary changes: Any inflammatory bowel disease treatment plan will include dietary changes. This is especially true when you’re experiencing a flareup. Specialized diets for IBD sufferers are semi-vegetarian, low carbohydrate, and low-fiber. Making these changes can greatly reduce the frequency and intensity of flareups and can reduce your dependency on medications.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease Treatment in Carlisle, PA

If you are suffering from symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease, see a gastroenterologist to get diagnosed and treated. IBD may not be curable, but it is definitely manageable. With proper care from a qualified physician, you can take back control and live a life free of unpleasant symptoms.

At US Digestive Health in central Pennsylvania, we believe diagnosis is the first step in treating inflammatory bowel disease. Trust that with our skills and experience, we will determine the best treatment plan for you.

Our gastroenterology team specializes in the treatment of Upper GI Tract and Lower GI tract disorders. In our state-of-the-art endoscopy center, we offer the most advanced endoscopic procedures to provide the highest quality endoscopic care to our patients.

At US Digestive Health, we practice compassionate care. We listen to you and do our best to ensure you are comfortable with your treatment.

If you have any questions about our services or would like to make an appointment, please call (717) 245-2228 or request an appointment now. Our friendly team looks forward to serving you!

 

 

 

If you suffer from heartburn, frequent regurgitation or bloating, you may have gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), also known as acid reflux.

Acid reflux often is brought on by excess mid-section fat putting pressure on the stomach, forcing the backflow of acid back up the esophagus. Acid reflux usually presents as a burning sensation in the chest and/or throat and may be accompanied by regurgitation of acid into the throat or mouth. Bloody or dark stools are also symptoms of the condition.

For those who have acid reflux, life is about managing symptoms and trying to avoid episodes. Here are some ways to live with acid reflux or. Or, better yet, overcome it!

Reasons for Acid Reflux

  • Laying down the Law. Lying down just after you’ve eaten, especially after a large or rich meal just before bedtime, can bring on the uncomfortable symptoms. But it’s not always a large meal that signals symptoms. Just consuming a snack before napping or bedtime can be an issue. If you must eat later, try to eat light, not-too-spicy or rich fare and, while resting, prop yourself up with a pillow so you are not lying flat on your back.
  • Carrying Extra Weight. Obesity or carrying extra weight is also a factor that can contribute to frequent acid reflux. That’s because extra weight puts pressure on the stomach. The best way to avoid acid reflux if you are overweight is quite obviously to lose the weight. While often easier said than done, the results will improve all aspects of life, not just acid reflux.
  • Pregnancy for some women is a blissful time; for others, especially for those who experience frequent bouts of acid reflux, it can be draining and unforgiving. Many moms-to-be carry with them a bottle of antacid, such as Tums, which not only neutralizes the acid, but also contain calcium.
  • Stress is a major contributor to acid reflux, and while there is no conclusive medical proof that connects the two, many people who suffer from GERD say their episodes are brought on by stress or anxiety.

Avoiding Symptoms

The best way to avoid symptoms related to acid reflux is to alter your lifestyle in such a way as to eliminate the behaviors that trigger the condition.

  • Instead of eating three square meals per day, alter the pattern by eating smaller meals more often. Replace your three squares with four or five smartly portioned meals that are low in fat; remember, foods with high-fat content tend to take longer to digest, staying in the stomach longer than foods that have a lower fat content. Opt for a high-fiber diet.
  • If you smoke, quit. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. That includes e-cigs and vaping.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol in excess, especially around meals that are known to cause acid reflux. Avoid acidic drinks (e.g., orange juice and lemonade), as well as carbonated drinks, coffee and caffeinated tea.
  • Sleep and Nap Times. Don’t lie down after eating. Plan your meals two or three hours prior to bedtime.  When lying down, raise your head higher than you might normally be accustomed. Raising your head 4 to 6 inches can help.
  • Exercise and Weight Control. Don’t exercise immediately after you eat. This can exacerbate acid reflux symptoms. If you’re overweight, speak with your healthcare professional about a diet plan to help you to shed pounds.
  • Neutralize! Neutralize acids in your stomach by chewing gum after meals. (Be careful, however; peppermint gum can aggravate symptoms.) Carry with you antacids such as Tums or Rolaids; ask your doctor or pharmacists about over-the-counter medications such Omeprazole (i.e., Prevacid) or esomeprazole (i.e., Nexium) which offer strong, prescription-strength effective relief.

Hiatal Hernias

A hiatus is a small opening in your diaphragm through which your esophagus passes before connecting to your stomach. Hiatal hernias occur when the stomach pushes up through that opening and into your chest. While the symptoms of a hiatal hernia include heartburn and acid reflux, it is not GERD. For small hiatal hernias, treatment usually involves eating smaller meals and taking either prescription or over-the-counter medications. For more severe cases, surgery is recommended, the most common of which are –

  • LINX Device. A ring called a LINX device is surgically implanted on the lower outside of the esophagus. The device prevents stomach contents from backing up. Because it is constructed of magnetic titanium, this device is not an option for those with metallic allergies.
  • An artificial valve is placed at the top of the stomach to eliminate acid reflux. The stomach is actually wrapped around the lower esophagus sphincter, thereby strengthening the stomach and repairing the hiatal hernia to prevent acid reflux. The surgeon completes the procedure by making an incision into the chest or abdomen or by inserting a lighted tube through an incision made in the abdomen.

While GERD and acid reflux for many seem like an inconvenience, left untreated, these conditions can lead to erosive esophagitis and cancer of the esophagus. Therefore, before you start to treat the condition at home, it’s best to get a proper diagnosis from a qualified medical professional like the experts at US Digestive Health, who will determine if your symptoms are aligned with acid reflux or another digestive issue. To request an appointment, call 717-245-2228.

 

 

If you are like the one if five Americans who suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), you know every bathroom along your well-traveled routes, and pretty much have given up on comfort food.

IBS – also known as spastic colon or spastic bowel – is a chronic disorder that affects the muscle contractions of the bowel but is not characterized by intestinal inflammation, ulcers or bowel damage. That’s because IBS is not a disease – patients with IBS show no clinical signs of disease and often have normal test results; it’s just that their digestive symptoms don’t function properly. However, that’s a moot point for anyone who suffers from IBS symptoms such as abdominal discomfort ranging from cramps and bloating to diarrhea and constipation.

Your digestive system is made up of complex parts, and the stomach is often times very sensitive. Therefore, what we put into our system is important. A healthy diet and good nutrition is what our body thrives on to function optimally. Our gut health depends on how we treat our bodies, one being IBS.  Potential causes of IBS may include bacteria, neurotransmission issues between digestive tract and brain, food sensitivities, stress, and hormones.

For people with gastrointestinal (GI) problems, IBS is sometimes called a “diagnosis of exclusion,” where the doctor rules out other conditions before diagnosing IBS.  Treatment may include certain medications such as intestinal antispasmodics like hyoscyamine (Levsin) or dicyclomine (Bentyl). Surgery is never prescribed for IBS as there is no physical damage to correct. Instead, treatments focus on reducing the symptoms themselves.  Here are ten diet tips for those who may be suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

  1. Avoid eating so much in one sitting. Don’t let your eyes become bigger than your stomach. Smaller, more frequent meals make it easier for your digestive system to work slow and steady as it should, without overload.
  2. Eat slow and take your time, there is no race. Imagine putting too many ingredients into your blender. It will get clogged. The same is true with your digestive system. Eating slowly, with deliberate chewing and smaller bites, will keep that digestive motor running evenly and not allow for a jam.
  3. Watch out for high-fiber foods. Eating foods that are high in fiber is great for you, but if you have IBS, you already might be experiencing too many bowel movements and don’t need any extra help. Too much fiber, especially the insoluble kind you get in the skin of fruits and vegetables, is probably not a good route to go if you have IBS.
  4. Avoid fatty foods. Good fat, bad fat. Your body loves good fat like avocados and lean meats, but not gristle or fatty foods, which can be harder to digest. Stick to lean.
  5. Keep a log of what you eat. Write down everything you eat – how much and when, as well as your reactions (heartburn, diarrhea, cramping). After a while, you might begin to see patterns of what to avoid (and when to avoid it).
  6. Consider going lactose-free. You may or may not be lactose intolerant, but for many people suffering from IBS, lactose products are pretty reliable for wreaking havoc on the tummy. Consider going lactose-free, or at least cutting back so when you do have products that contain lactose, you can know for sure if there is a problem.
  7. Limit drinking alcohol, soda, and acidic drinks. Contrary to popular belief (and lots of advertising) our bodies can probably do a lot better without alcohol, sugary soda, and acidic drinks. Sugar and acid invite bacteria which can cause tummy problems. And they really are wasted calories as well.
  8. Don’t hold it in. If you don’t already, know your body and plan your day around it. If you have long commutes, know where the bathrooms are en route. Secure the back of the auditorium or plane to be close to the bathroom, and if you enjoy running or long bike rides, come to terms that you and nature may become very intimate. Just remember, don’t hold anything in – your body is doing the best it can so don’t go against Mother Nature.
  9. Have a regular meal pattern. As mentioned, consider having a number of smaller, healthier meals throughout the day, and try to do this at set times. This way you won’t be asking too much of your digestive system, and between eating healthy foods, eliminating the bad stuff, letting it all go and keeping a journal to analyze patterns and outcomes, you should be able to vector in on problem foods and triggers.
  10. Avoid refined flour: stick with whole grains and when having cereal, bread, and pasta.

If you have IBS, don’t stress. IBS happens. In fact, try not to stress about anything. Although it’s easier said than done, stress really does impact our digestive system and it’s not worth having a flare up only because something really is out of your control.

For more information about Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), schedule an appointment with one of our physicians by calling US Digestive Health at (717) 245-2228.

 

 

 

Iron is an essential component of hemoglobin, the substance contained in red blood cells that transports oxygen from the lungs to all of our organs. Yet, according to the World Health Organization, up to 80% of the world’s population is iron deficient. There are a host of reasons why one might be iron deficient, including an insufficient diet, pregnancy, blood loss, cancer, heavy menstrual cycles and kidney failure. However, the outcome is always the same – a lack of iron halts the production of oxygen-carrying red blood cells and can negatively affect our health.

Luckily, hemodialysis centers and certain hospitals offer what is known as iron infusion – a process by which a fluid solution containing iron is administered intravenously. Iron infusions are highly effective for increasing the levels of iron in the blood and can even cure anemia. Plus, it presents an alternative for those who need a rapid replenishment in these mineral levels, have experienced excessive blood loss, or aren’t properly absorbing iron. Additionally, some people prefer not to take iron supplements. Your physician will let you know if you’re a candidate for this mode of iron supplementation. If you doctor agrees, then how would you prepare for an iron infusion?

  • Block off Time. The whole process will take up to four hours, as introducing the mineral slowly is shown to have less adverse reactions in patients.
  • For anyone who gets anxious over any sort of medical procedure, the best advice is to relax and focus on making this a comfortable experience.  The process itself is similar to having any other IV, in that a needle is utilized to insert a catheter (tiny tube) into the patient’s arm or hand. Expect a small pinch and a bit of pressure, but the rest of the procedure is pretty painless.
  • Eat a healthy breakfast. Unlike when having blood drawn, there is no need to fast, and regulating your blood sugar is always a good thing.
  • Don’t forget your medication if you are prescribed, unless your doctors advises otherwise.
  • Keep your mind occupied. It always helps to bring something to keep your mind relaxed. So don’t forget your tablet to stream your favorite shows, your iPod to listen to music, or catch up on your reading.
  • Dress for the success, which in this case means loose-fitting clothing with sleeves that roll up easily. You’ll want to be as comfortable as possible, as you’ll be sitting down for several hours.
  • Test Dose. Discuss the procedure with your doctor ahead of the day. To ensure your safety, the medical professional will often perform a “test dose” to be sure you don’t have any allergic reactions to the drip.

In many cases, iron infusions aren’t a one-time “quick fix.” It may take several infusions to raise your iron levels to the appropriate amounts.  If you’re supplementing with iron pills – and making sure your menu is jam-packed with iron-rich foods such as tuna, eggs and beef, but are still deficient, it may be time to consider a different solution. In addition to treating disorders of the esophagus, stomach and small and large intestines, the board-certified and fellowship-trained specialists at US Digestive Health offer in-house iron infusions. For more information, call 717-245-2228.

 

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