Dr. Joseph Salhab is Helping Millions Embrace Gut Health Education through Social Media


May 21, 2024

The Stomach Doc’s Social Media Videos Now Tally over 50 Million Views 

Just over two years ago Joseph Salhab, DO, noticed an uptick of people on various social media channels looking for gut health advice. He became concerned by the inaccurate information being posted as responses to questions, mainly because physicians weren’t part of the conversations.  

“Obviously as a gastroenterologist, I felt I could lend a credible voice, so I started doing response videos in my car and posting them on my social media channels, and it exploded from there! People just started watching and commenting and spreading the videos – so I just kept doing it,” he recalls.

Dr. Salhab is a gastroenterologist providing services to Advent Health hospitals in Davenport and Lake Wales, both located in central Florida. While many of the hospital’s patients are over 50, he said he’s beginning to see younger people coming in more often with concerning GI issues.  

People are increasingly turning to social media as an interactive way to learn, and for Dr. Salhab he’s found that it’s a great way to simplify discussions on gut health. “We're discovering more each day about the gut microbiome, and it's still in its infancy. We've learned more about it in the last five years than ever before,” he says. “We're starting to figure out that a lot of things going on in the body are directly related to what happens in the gut. We know that there are certain diseases that are directly linked to the gut microbiome.”


From Computers to Colonoscopies: Dr. Salhab Combines Tech Talent with his Passion for GI Health

“I was obsessed with computers when I was young,” Dr. Salhab says. At age 16 he taught himself computer programming and then began designing websites. Years later, during his gastroenterology fellowship, he created an app to calculate GI scores for specific diseases and created treatment algorithms for conditions like hepatitis.  

During his undergraduate years, Dr. Salhab initially intended to pursue medical school but found himself questioning his path. It wasn't until he shadowed a local osteopathic physician that he found his calling. The experience of seeing patients' genuine appreciation for their doctor's care left an indelible mark on him.

"I went on a medical mission trip to Jamaica," Dr. Salhab recalls. "We treated patients for dermatological conditions and provided primary care services. The camaraderie among the osteopathic physicians was inspiring."

It was this exposure to osteopathic philosophy, focusing on the holistic well-being of patients, that solidified Dr. Salhab's decision to pursue osteopathic internal medicine. He ultimately chose to attend Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM), drawn by its innovative approach to education. "LECOM was one of the first schools to introduce problem-based learning," Dr. Salhab explains. "It was like being thrown into the fire, but in the best possible way. We learned by doing, by solving real-world medical cases."

Having joined the ACOI as a resident, it was during his residency at Larkin Community Hospital in South Florida when he discovered a deep affinity for gastroenterology. "There was just something about it that clicked with me," he says. "The complexities of liver disease, the diagnostic challenges—it all made sense to me."

During his fellowship, Dr. Salhab delved into research and projects, forging relationships with his mentors and colleagues. His dedication and enthusiasm for the field earned him the role of chief fellow in gastroenterology, a position he embraced with fervor.

Bringing Gut Health to the Masses

Dr. Salhab's TikTok @thestomachdoc is a valuable resource for those seeking reliable gut health information.

Two decades ago, as social media was emerging, the idea that physicians would one day use these platforms to provide health information and become “influencers” was far from anyone's mind. Yet, the evolution of the internet to create a personal brand, starting with the early days of MySpace, to the explosion of today's platforms, has brought about a new era of connection and information dissemination.

Today his hobby of posting response videos has now launched him into the realm of social media influencer as “The Stomach Doc.” With over three million followers across platforms including Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and YouTube, Dr. Salhab's success has taken him by surprise. Thanks to his innate creativity and tech savviness, he produces a constant flow of new gut health topics and information that helps both educate and engage his audience. As a result, his influence and reach continue to grow with each new video he posts.  

Dr. Salhab’s presence on social media has become a valuable resource for individuals seeking reliable information about gut health, a topic often shrouded in mystery and misinformation. Through his short videos, he aims to demystify complex medical concepts and make complicated topics simple and practical for his audience. He shares his own experiences and provides practical advice that viewers can implement in their daily lives.  

Having posted over 200 videos, no gastrointestinal topic is off limits. From constipation to colon cancer, from diverticulitis to diarrhea, he provides education and awareness on various gut health topics. His most viewed video is a topic that took him by surprise. “There's actually a phenomenon where people have to use the restroom as soon as they enter stores like Marshall’s, TJ Maxx, Barnes and Noble, etc., so I made a video about that topic. As of now, it's my highest viewed video of all time. It has gotten 25 million views on Instagram alone!”

Another video that became popular and catapulted him into the realm of “social media stardom,” is a video he posted about the three things that he eats for breakfast -- blueberries, walnuts and, coffee. “It sounds so simple, but I talk about the science of what each of these foods offer the body in the morning. A lot of people reposted it and it soon spread as people sent it to their friends and family.” He said when it garnered the interest of news reporters his accounts went from gaining hundreds of followers to thousands of followers within weeks.

While he attracts the attention of millions of people, he has invested little more than his own time in making his video productions. “I do everything myself. Everything has been organic; I have never paid for advertising or any promotion.”

Making the videos is all done from his smartphone. “I use my phone camera and a video editing program that I have downloaded. I subscribe to some services that have nice stock photos and videos and that’s pretty much it! Then I post.”

“Through my videos, I’m not trying to get into the nitty gritty; I am looking to make things simple and practical. That's what really resonates with my audience,” he said. “There are many things that people just don't know when it comes to gut health and that's what I am trying to bring to light.” 


Note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of ACOI.

Stay True to Why You Pursued Medicine.