When food enters your stomach, your stomach releases acids and enzymes to break down the food. Your stomach muscles contract to churn the food for further digestion. A valve at the base of the stomach, called the pyloric sphincter, opens to allow food to pass from the stomach into the small intestine.
Common stomach problems, such as indigestion and heartburn, generally can be resolved with over-the-counter medications. More severe symptoms — such as acute abdominal pain, blood with a bowel movement, heartburn not relieved by antacids, unintended weight loss, or chronic vomiting or diarrhea — should be evaluated by a doctor.
At El Camino Health, our digestive health specialists take the time to get to know you and thoroughly evaluate your condition. Our specialists are fellowship trained in digestive disorders and many participate in clinical trials to give you better access to new treatments. Our specialists have the most advanced technology at their disposal to diagnose your condition and develop a personalized treatment plan.
Our digestive health team provides you with the level of care you’d expect from an academic center, combined with the friendly, personalized care of a community hospital. An Oncology coordinator coordinates your care, answers questions and schedules appointments for you.
We treat a full range of stomach conditions at El Camino Health.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
Heartburn, or acid indigestion, is the most common symptom of GERD, which affects about 20 percent of Americans. GERD typically occurs when acid in the stomach backs up into the esophagus. El Camino Health’s gastroenterologists can help you manage this condition with medications, and dietary and lifestyle changes.
We have highly trained, nationally renowned neurogastroenterologists who use cutting-edge technology to diagnose and treat motility disorders like gastroparesis.
Gastroparesis is a condition in which the vagus nerve, which controls the movement of food through the digestive tract, is damaged or stops working. As a result, the movement of food slows down or stops completely.
- Nausea, vomiting and heartburn.
- Feeling full early when eating.
- Unintended weight loss.
- Abdominal bloating or discomfort.
To diagnose gastroparesis, your doctor may use tests such as an electrogastrogram to measure muscle and nerve function, and pyloric sphincter manometry and gastric barostat to measure muscle pressure.
We use several medications to treat gastroparesis and relieve symptoms. Dietary changes, such as eating smaller meals more frequently, may help with stomach function.
When initial treatments don’t resolve your condition, we have advanced treatments for more complex cases. These treatments include new medications and electrical stimulation of the nerve that controls the stomach’s digestive process.
Peptic Ulcer Disease
A peptic ulcer is an open sore in the lining of the stomach (gastric ulcer) or upper small intestine (duodenal ulcer). The primary cause of 80 to 90 percent of peptic ulcers is a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori). Long-term use of anti-inflammatory medication, excessive acids in the stomach, excessive alcohol, smoking and chewing tobacco also may contribute to ulcer development.
The most common symptom of an ulcer is a dull or burning pain in your stomach.
At El Camino Health, we use blood tests, breath tests, endoscopy and X-rays to diagnose an ulcer and its cause.
First-line treatments to promote healing include:
- Antibiotics to attack the H. pylori infection.
- Medications that reduce acid production and coat the stomach or small intestine to allow healing.
- Stopping the use of medications that can irritate the stomach, such as aspirin and ibuprofen.
- Avoiding alcohol and smoking.
In severe cases, when these measures have failed or complications occur, our doctors may perform minimally invasive surgery to interrupt signals from the brain to the stomach to reduce acid production. Other surgical options include removing parts of the stomach that contribute to digestive juice secretion, or widening the opening between your stomach and small intestine to allow food to pass more easily.
Nearly 25,000 Americans are diagnosed with stomach cancer each year, according to the American Cancer Society. Sixty percent of those are 65 or older. At El Camino Health, we offer a full range of advanced treatments to treat stomach cancer.
A stomach polyp is a mass of cells that forms on the lining of your stomach. It causes few, if any, symptoms and is generally detected while your doctor is examining you for something else. We diagnose polyps using endoscopy to look inside the stomach and sometimes remove a tissue sample for further study.
Generally, stomach polyps are harmless. Sometimes an ulcer can form on the polyp, and, occasionally, polyps may increase your risk for stomach cancer. Symptoms may include pain or discomfort when you press on your stomach, bleeding, nausea, vomiting and anemia. In these cases, doctors at El Camino Health may remove the polyp using minimally invasive interventional endoscopy.