The Gut of What Matters

Published in Dickson Medical Associates Quarterly Newsletter – Summer 2017

Dickson Medical Associates is proud to welcome Dr. Chad Potteiger as its new gastroenterologist to their Crestview Park office. Dr. Potteiger has practiced gastroenterology and nutritional wellness for the past 11 years.

Potteiger comes to DMA from Tennova Medical Group at their West Knoxville Gastroenterology clinic. He specializes in gastrointestinal wellness and nutrition, as well as the treatment of autoimmune digestive disorders with a special interest in celiac disease.

Potteiger received top accolades from his undergraduate and medical schools in Pennsylvania including Penn State, Shippensburg University and the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. He, along with his wife and three children, moved to East Tennessee in 2010.

“There is a different sense of community in the South that my wife and I fell in love with,” said Potteiger. “There tends to be less skepticism and a more welcoming community. When I trained in my fellowship, it was two months of summer and 10 months of winter. Here it’s the reverse and we’ve just fallen in love with it.”

The son of a roofing contractor, Potteiger received mentorship from his hometown’s general surgeon. He was attracted by the idea of a specialty where one can physically lay hands on a patient and fix something.

“During my residency, I fell in love with my rotation on gastroenterology because the diseases that specialty deals with day-to-day are very similar to the diseases and pathology a surgeon deals with,” said Potteiger. “The only difference between a gastroenterologist and a surgeon is that a gastroenterologist does more non-invasive procedures with the goal of trying to minimize the need for general surgery.”

Potteiger sees his practice as a means to save patients surgery through procedures like colonoscopies, polyp and lesion removals, upper endoscopes, ulcer treatments and colon cancer screenings. A bigger thrill Potteiger finds in his work comes from practicing GI wellness.

“My primary goal in serving the Dickson community is to reduce the risk of unnecessary colon cancers,” said Potteiger. “The second goal is to educate the community in such a fashion that we can reduce GI related symptoms.”

For the past six years, Potteiger has educated his patients on the belief that health truly begins in the gut. For him, there is no question a healthy gastrointestinal system, combined with a healthy practice of good sleep hygiene and appropriate amounts of exercise, will strengthen the gut and improve one’s overall health.

“I don’t think there is anything more debilitating than an upset stomach, disruptive bowel habits or abdominal cramps,” said Potteiger. “It’s overwhelming. You can’t enjoy yourself.”

One common challenge Potteiger sees in patients is the ability to find and adhere to a plan for GI wellness.

“It’s one thing to say, ‘I want to lose 30 pounds this year.’ That’s a great aspiration, but I am more impressed to know someone’s thoughts about how are you going to lose those 30 pounds,” said Potteiger. “What is your plan of action? I find that many people trip up over the plan.”

He tends to notice people will automatically adopt the concept of ‘I’m going to do more of something.’ Potteiger finds the opposite approach of ‘I’m not doing this,’ to be more realistic in achieving proper GI health.

“Someone says, ‘I’m going to eat more vegetables.’ That’s hard because you are now setting an expectation that you may not have done before,” said Potteiger. “This is a major life change. You’ve got to go to the grocery store more, buy fresh produce more, prep the produce more and so on.

“What happens on the day when you wake up and realize you forgot to go to the grocery store? In these situations, people tend to give themselves an out for not eating their required vegetables for the day and will substitute for something less healthy. I would be more impressed if you were to say your plan was, for one year, you give up alcohol. That’s an easier method for people to maintain. Every day you only have to focus on, ‘I’m not consuming any alcohol today,’ versus the process and prep of eating more vegetables as a new lifestyle.”

Those patients, who apply themselves to the daily practices of proper nutrition, sleep hygiene, and appropriate amounts of exercise have come back to Potteiger and report they are 75 to 100 percent better after years of dealing with GI issues. “To see them be happy, able to do things and not worry about all those little inconveniences is the greatest success for me,” Potteiger said.

As to making a plan for better nutrition and wellness, Potteiger believes it starts with one’s character.

“I think people need to have 3-5 core values and then derive a plan as to how you are going to maintain those at your core,” said Potteiger. “Who are you as a person? Who do you see yourself as and what is your plan of action to make that happen?”

Potteiger is no stranger to walking his talk. Over the past five years, he has participated in competitive CrossFit events earning upper tier ranks on state, regional, national and international levels. Per CrossFit rankings, in a 45 – 49 age category, Potteiger is currently the 4th fittest man in Tennessee, 13th in the Central region, and 253rd in the world.

While Potteiger says competitive CrossFit may not be for all, CrossFit for general fitness is for everybody.

“When I finished my fellowship, I realized I was in horrific shape,” said Potteiger. “In spite of all my education and training, I was really ignorant as to what it genuinely meant to eat healthy and to exercise healthy.”

Potteiger began his change of health with cardio workouts, building up to the point where he was running 50-mile ultra marathons. He ultimately found this cardio-centric lifestyle to be unbalanced for optimal health and came to CrossFit. CrossFit is functional movements, performed at high-intensity over broad domains. These exercises are best combined with an appropriate nutritional diet to properly fuel one’s body.

For Potteiger, from medicine to health and fitness, his goals for patients are always about improving life.

“If we can make a 75-year-old grandmother squat better, we can improve her life,” said Potteiger. “If we can take a 50-year-old man and make him stronger, improve his ability to perform functional movements and have a good cardiovascular output, we can reduce his risk of western disease. It just works.”

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