Gastroenterologists urged to take leadership role in battle against obesity

We continually strive at Gastrointestinal Associates to achieve the best possible outcomes for our patients and to pioneer gastrointestinal health care. Towards that goal, we launched GIA 180, a comprehensive weight loss program designed to work with patients to reach a healthy weight in a healthy way.

As a member of the American Board of Obesity Medicine and a certified physician nutrition specialist by the National Board of Physician Nutrition Specialists, I am encouraged by the results we’re seeing at GIA 180 and proud of the work we’re doing. Led by our trusted physicians and team, GIA 180 uses a balanced, multifaceted and surgery-free approach to weight loss and better health.

GIA 180 evolved from the belief that we were uniquely qualified to tackle the complicated issue of obesity due to our extended knowledge of the digestive system and our expertise in the field of endoscopy. As it turns out, the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) shares our belief and is urging gastroenterologists to take a leadership role in the fight against obesity, which has reached epidemic proportions in the United States.

Dr. Sarah Streett, a clinical associate professor at the Stanford School of Medicine in California, addressed the issue when speaking at the AGA Presidential Plenary’s Digestive Disease Week in 2016, saying: “We believe that gastroenterologists are uniquely suited for the care of the obese patient. Why should GIs dive in? Dietary, metabolism and nutrition are integral to gastroenterology. As gastroenterologists, we are internists first, specialists in digestive disorders and we are endoscopists, and this field is moving increasingly into the field of endoscopy.”

GIA 180 includes several options for patients embarking on a weight loss journey. These include but are not limited to intragastric balloons, which fill space in a patient’s stomach to reinforce proper dietary portion control. The balloon is placed in the stomach during endoscopy, a nonsurgical procedure taking 30 minutes or less and requiring only a mild sedative. GIA became the country’s first licensed and Medicare-certified endoscopic ambulatory surgery center in 1986, and we currently perform thousands of endoscopic procedures each year, making us uniquely qualified to treat patients using intragastric balloons.

Patients who have enrolled in our GIA 180 program are now reaping the rewards.

  • Ramona, a 54-year-old, lost 54 pounds in seven months. Ramona said that her accountability to GIA 180 team leaders helps tremendously. “I am blessed to have this team walk with me on my journey to better health.”
  • John, age 69, dropped 40 pounds in seven months and greatly increased his lean muscle mass. A Type 2 diabetic who was on two types of medication and facing the prospect of insulin shots, John is now taking half the medication he was before, and his blood sugar levels are in the normal range. “I attribute my success to three things: the ORBERA balloon, which helps with portion control; GIA’s dynamic team approach that includes doctors, a nutritionist, exercise physiologist and group meetings; and my own determination.”
  • Donna, age 55, started our program wishing us “good luck” because she knew she would offer us a challenge. She is Italian and loves pasta. She also said she was addicted to cookies. She never exercised and had no energy. It took a bit of convincing, but with our dedicated team and constant encouragement, six months later she was down 50 pounds and 20.5 inches. Donna now enjoys eating healthy and being active. Her family calls her the Energizer bunny! Before GIA 180, she never wanted pictures taken, but now she is confident and looks forward to dressing up and being photographed.

We are so pleased with early results of GIA 180 that we have added another tool to our arsenal against obesity. We are now an independent clinic approved to sell Ideal Protein meal replacement and supplement products. Ideal Protein is a medically developed weight loss program designed to help clients lose 2-4 pounds per week. Our dedicated GIA 180 coaches will provide weekly support sessions and ongoing education to keep clients accountable and motivated to reach their goals.

If anyone has noticed the scale numbers creeping up over the last few years and needs to deal with the extra weight, we can help. Perhaps you’ve had a recent diagnosis of diabetes, high blood pressure or other obesity-related issue and know that losing weight is the best way to improve your health.

Whatever the motivation for change, we hope you will take the important first step to success by contacting GIA 180 for more information and get started with your individualized weight loss program. If you’d like to learn more about GIA 180, visit our website at or call 865-622-3442. To learn more about Ideal Protein, visit

Dr. Altawil is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine, the American Board of Gastroenterology and the American Board of Obesity Medicine. He also is a certified Physician Nutrition Specialist by the National Board of Physician Nutrition Specialists.