Irritable Bowel Syndrome

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Description – chronic abdominal pain with altered bowel habits (loose or constipation), patients can often have indigestion, reflux, nausea, chest pains, bloating and gas.
Usually no physical cause can be found, but the patient is often worried about a severe underlying disease, and this anxiety often makes the symptoms worse. In many cases anxiety and psychological stresses can make it worse, as can changes in the gut flora (bacteria), antibiotics and maybe some allergies.

What the doctors can do

Investigations – it is important to make certain there is no underlying diseases, and blood tests, faecal culture, and gastroscopy/colonoscopy and other investigations are frequently performed but are nearly always normal.

Drugs – there are a number of drugs which are given to specifically address some of the symptoms. These just treat the symptoms, but mostly do not go to the possible cause – antispasm drugs (hyoscine), anti-depressants, anti-diarrhoea (loperamide), tranquilisers and sometimes antibiotics.

What you can do

Diet and lifestyle – this is possibly the most important approach to treatment:

  • Eliminate gluten (grains – wheat, barley, oats and rye) and lactose (milk products). In many cases just doing this can eliminate the disease which is caused by an allergic type response to these. If effective, then you can try milk products again and see if they are playing a part.
  • Watch the diet and see if there are any foods or groups of foods which seem to aggravate the symptoms. Obviously, try to eliminate them from the diet as well.
  • Fibre in the diet – fibre helps cleanse the bowel and gives the intestine something to work on, and is frequently helpful. Fibre preparations or drinks are available, also plenty of fruit and vegetables – so long as they don’t aggravate the symptoms.
  • Probiotics – often a change in the bacteria in the gut can aggravate many bowel symptoms, especially after antibiotic treatment (or inadvertently eating food that contains antibiotics). A regular course of probiotics (eating good bacteria) can often make a huge difference.
  • Check stools for parasites – often gut parasites like giardia can cause diarrhoea – a fresh sample of motion needs to be studied to check for these.
  • Exercise – regular exercise is beneficial for IBS – as well as many other conditions.
  • Emotion can play an important role and needs to be addressed. Fear of a more serious condition needs to be addressed and the patient needs to be convinced that there is nothing serious going on. in addition anxiety, stress, depression can also affect IBS.

Supplements – Many patients with IBS eat poorly and their intestines do not absorb as well as they should, so supplements do seem logical in this condition to make sure the body cells have all the nutrients they need to work as well as they should, and help the patient feel well.

  • A good multivitamin and mineral – to make sure the cells have all the nutrients they require
  • Calcium and magnesium – especially the magnesium may help with bowel function and can reduce bowel spasm.  NB too much magnesium can cause diarrhoea.
  • Vitamin D – IBS can be worsened by low Vitamin D levels, so it seems logical to take a reasonable daily dose of this very important vitamin (5-8,000iu/day)
  • Oils – fish oils and evening primrose have been suggested in some people to help, but in others the symptoms, especially the diarrhoea can worsen. They can be tried and stopped if they give no benefit.
  • Digestive enzymes taken just before meals may help in some people and can again be tried and discarded if of no benefit.

This can be a distressing condition, and by approaching it with the suggestions above, most patients will either eliminate the condition completely or find it a great deal less debilitating.

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For my IBS patients I recommend

USANA – Cellsentials *, Biomega, Active Calcium plus,Vitamin D, Probiotics, digestive enzymes, the USANA low glycaemic shakes, fibre drinks and bars –

Other therapies

There are a number of other therapies which you might like to look at.  They have not been specifically included with this disease because some are a form of treatment which is applicable to most diseases and many focus on the mind, body, spirit, and the universe. These include - acupuncture, Ayurvedic medicine, energy healing, homeopathy, naturopathy, prayer, visualisation and some people with this condition might like to look at these topics (I have described them more fully on another page on this website click here .) With my personal experience and reading, I do not think that I can comment of whether one or a number of these might help.    They fit well with most conventional and complementary treatments and I suspect some or even all of them can be extremely powerful - if performed by an experienced practitioner.    My only caveat is that if in the course of one of these therapies, you are given potions or herbs, do check with your health practitioner that they will not interfere with other treatments or drugs you are receiving.

Nutritional supplements

I believe in today's world that nutritional supplements are so necessary as to be an essential component of any form of both prevention and treatment. Not only is today's food lacking in nutrients because of the way it was grown and processed, but also most of us make the wrong choices in diet. It is virtually impossible to obtain optimal levels of most of the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients although many people try to do so, and even then fresh produce is not available all year round. *There are many quality supplements available on the market, including –Thorne, NFS, Douglas Labs, Xtend Life, True Star Health, USANA, and Metagenics. There are others, but do your due diligence before choosing one. USANA Health Sciences has added a new adjunct to its multivitamin and multi mineral called CellSentials. These are a patented blend of phyto-nutrients which they believe affects cell signaling and growth, and increases the production of preventative antioxidants within the cell. These should add to the value of the multi, so these are the multivitamin/mineral preparation I recommend.