IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME
Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome include a frustrating constellation of gastrointestinal problems including abdominal bloating and distension, excess gas, abdominal pain, nausea, changes in bowel habits (diarrhea, constipation, or a combination of both) and other gastrointestinal symptoms. Often patients have undergone colonoscopy and been told “everything is normal.” Yet their symptoms persist.
People with IBS suffer pain and a greatly reduced quality of life. But what really hurts is when family, friends and doctors don’t think their suffering is legitimate.
What Causes IBS?
IBS is a functional gastrointestinal disorder. There are no structural abnormalities associated with irritable bowel syndrome, causing many people to dismiss it as “all in your head.” It is estimated that 10 to 15% of people in the developed world are affected by IBS.
The causes of IBS are not clear. Diagnosis is based on signs and symptoms in the absence of worrisome features such as weight loss, blood in the stool, or family history of inflammatory bowel disease (such as Crohn’s disease or Ulcerative colitis). Theories about this puzzling disorder abound and include combinations of gut-brain axis problems, gut motility disorders, pain sensitivity, infections including small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), neurotransmitter imbalance, genetic factors, and food sensitivities. Onset may be triggered by an intestinal infection or a stressful life event.
Is There Testing for IBS?
Evaluation for patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome should include basic laboratory testing and examination of the GI tract – usually by colonoscopy. Once this has all been found to be normal, as it generally is, Dr. Taylor recommends functional testing – such as a Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis. This type of testing will evaluate the four pillars of GI health: Inflammation, Infection, Insufficiency, and Imbalance.
Results may also point to a problem with fungal dysbiosis, in other words yeast overgrowth. Why are we seeing so much fungal dysbiosis in today’s world?
The top reasons:
- The enormous increase of simple sugar in our diet – at least a 100-fold upsurge over the past 100 years.
- Dramatic decreases in dietary fiber and fluids which slow down fecal transport through the colon. This in turn allows more time for putrefaction.
- The widespread and repetitive use of broad-spectrum antibiotics wipes out beneficial bacteria in the intestinal tract, allowing the yeast to proliferate and take over.
Depending on your personal test results, a plan can be devised to heal your GI issues and resolve your symptoms. This will likely include recommendations for diet changes, the addition of healing supplements to let your gut repair, plus botanical or prescription antibiotics for any pathogens.
What about SIBO?
It is estimated that between 50 and 80% of persons with IBS also have SIBO – small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. The majority of our gut bacteria should be in the colon. When bacteria migrate backwards into the small intestine or when there is low stomach acid or poor pancreatic enzyme production, bacteria in the small bowel can overgrow and cause symptoms such as diarrhea, gas, and bloating. The leading symptoms of SIBO include:
- Abdominal bloating and distension, especially right after eating.
- Constipation and/or diarrhea.
- Abdominal pain or discomfort.
- Acid reflux or heartburn.
- Excessive gas or belching.
- Other puzzling symptoms may include the fact that you notice fiber actually worsens your constipation.
Diagnosis of SIBO may be made on clinical presentation and symptoms, or Dr. Taylor may order a breath test. Treatment will be tailored to your particular situation and treatment may include dietary modifications, botanicals for gut healing and support, and/or prescription antibiotics.
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