Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS, is a problem that affects a staggering 3million people, or more, in Australia and about 20% of people world-wide. It is a condition that has baffled doctors for years. There is no single cause, no specific treatment and, as yet, no cure.
But first let’s look at some general information on IBS.
IBS is more common in women than in men and occurs more often in younger people. IBS is usually ongoing, and there are some times when symptoms are worse than other times. Having IBS does not mean you are more likely to develop colon cancer later in life.
Symptoms of IBS
Some people with IBS mainly have constipation, others have diarrhoea. Many people with IBS alternate between periods of constipation and diarrhoea.
- Cramps and bloating in your lower abdomen, which usually get better after having a bowel motion or passing wind
- Pain that can be a sharp or dull feeling
- Constipation: feeling that you have not managed to empty your bowels completely, having bowel motions less often, straining to pass a motion or passing small, hard stools
- Diarrhoea: having bowel motions too often and passing loose stools
- Flatulence, or wind, and/or rumbling noises from your abdomen
- Needing to rush to the toilet
- Mucus in your stools
Some of these symptoms can also be from other inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohns disease and Ulcerative Colitis, which sometimes get categories as IBS.
But some of the symptoms above can also be part of having endometriosis and many women who are diagnosis with IBS, in fact have endometriosis. They then have all the testing for IBS, Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis etc (colonoscopy etc) as these don’t find anything and then these women are often told by doctors they are at a loss to what is happening. This is why endometriosis often takes up to 12 years for definitive diagnosis, which is terrible.
The cause of IBS is not known, but certain things can trigger its symptoms, including:
- Depressed mood
- Food poisoning
- Tummy bug
- Certain foods and drinks
- Some medication
- Some people find avoiding alcohol, caffeine and nicotine can reduce their IBS symptoms
As said before some women suffer more acutely from symptoms of IBS just before, or during, their menstrual cycle. IBS symptoms can also mean that they have a condition called Endometriosis. Many times these conditions can be overlooked and they can be present at the same time, along with bladder issues as well.
Lactose and wheat intolerance and wheat may be a cause and needs to be assessed before permanent changes to diet are made. Wheat grains are inflammatory to the bowel anyway and they should be removed if anyone does have inflammatory bowel issues.
There are a few medical treatments available but results can be varying. Many people with severe IBS end up on steroids to settle inflammation in the bowel. There are also other medications to slow bowel motility and reduce inflammation as well.
Dietary and lifestyle changes are a must for the treatment of IBS. See my post on what real nutrition should be food what a good diet should be like.
There is, however complementary therapies that can bring great results.
The complementary medicine unit at the University of Western Sydney ran a randomised, double blind, placebo controlled trial to determine whether Chinese Herbal medicine was of any benefit in the treatment of IBS. Chinese medicine has traditionally been used for thousands of years to treat many disease states, including inflammatory bowel conditions.
The results were stunning. More than 70% of patients taking the Chinese herbs improved. The results were published in the Journal of the American Medicine Association.
There are also other complementary therapies and treatments that may be assistance and combined with medical interventions, or other interventions mentioned above.
Studies have shown that strain specific probiotic bacteria have induced remission in inflammatory bowel conditions such as ulcerative colitis and IBS. But, this needs consultation with a qualified healthcare professional to treat disease properly. Self-prescribing is not an option for this disease that affects over 3 million people here in Australia alone.
With any disease state such as IBS, there needs to be an individualised approach, not a one treatment fix all approach, because everyone is uniquely difference in their symptoms they experience and what their triggers are. There also needs to be a multimodality approach because many times IBS overlaps with conditions such as endometriosis for women, and other inflammatory conditions in men.
If you have IBS or inflammatory bowel disease and need help and assistance in managing your symptoms better, please give my friendly staff a call and they will explain how I may be able to assist you.
-No Stone Left Unturned
-Women’s and Men’s Health Advocate
- Treatment of IBs with chinese herbal medicine -Alan Bensoussan, MSc; Nick J. Talley, MD; Michael Hing, MBBS, FRACP; Robert Menzies, PhD; Anna Guo, PhD; Meng Ngu, PhD http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=188145
- VSL#3 Probiotic-Mixture Induces Remission in Patients with Active Ulcerative Colitis- (American Journal of Gastroenterology 2005;100:1-8)
- Investigations and treatment of Endometriosis- Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists 2008
- Bensoussan A, Myers SP. Towards a Safer Choice: The Practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Australia . Sydney, Australia: University of Western Sydney Macarthur; 1996.
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