Irritable Bowel Syndrome, often abbreviated as IBS, is a medical condition that is rapidly growing in prevalence in industrialized nations, but there is no real consensus on the actual cause.

bathroomWhile comedic depictions of IBS show people in a constant desperate need to find a bathroom in order to relieve their distress through explosive diarrhea, the reality is that IBS can also manifest as severe constipation. There are three categories of IBS, diarrhea, constipation, and alternating and there are called IBS-D, IBS-C, and IBS-A respectively.

Because the symptoms are so broad, and the cause unknown, diagnosis is very difficult. In fact, it is also very difficult to determine exactly how many people actually have IBS because many people don’t seek medical help and self-medicate and thus are absent from the statistics. It is estimated that anywhere from 2%-22% of the population has some form of IBS. As you can see, even this statistic has little certainty. There are a few aspects of IBS that are well known and documented, and they lead to interesting hypothesis and, thankfully, effective treatment options.

Even though the number of people with IBS is unclear, it is obvious that the condition affects women more often, twice as often to be more precise. Also, it seems that the condition targets more young people than older ones, which seems to insinuate that the longer in life you go without IBS symptoms the less likely you are to develop any later in life, which is rarely the case with age and medical conditions.

It is difficult to speak with any amount of certainty about IBS simply because it is often a diagnosis made by practitioners who simply cannot figure out the cause of the patient’s bowel disorder. The condition should almost be called, Idiopathic Bowel Disorder, but then that would have the same abbreviation as Inflammatory Bowel Disease and everyone would still be confused.

The most commonly used method to diagnose IBS is to first rule out a number of possible imitators like celiac disease, parasitic infection, lactose intolerance, thyroid disorders, colon cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, and others. Once other conditions have been ruled out, then an algorithm is used to interpret the symptoms and gauge the severity and type of IBS the patient has. The newest and possibly the most commonly applied algorithm is the ROME 3 Process. ROME is a non-profit organization that works with international organizations to help improve diagnostic processes for function gastrointestinal disorders including IBS.

Even though the cause of IBS is not conclusively known, this does not stop many from proposing theories. One of the leading theories since the late 1950s, when the condition first emerged, was that it was a mental disorder. While for some this may appear true since a number of therapies that target sources of psychological stress and anxiety often reduce IBS symptoms. Even some of the common medications prescribed for IBS are off-label use anti-depressants and Selective-Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors or SSRIs. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is present in two regions of the body, the brain and the gastrointestinal tract. In the brain it is related to mood states and in the gastrointestinal tract it is used to stimulate the intestinal muscles to create motility. Using antidepressants is based on the hypothesis that a defect or abnormality in the central nervous system is causing impairment in the digestive tract.

While these theories are very scientific and the medications provide some with relief, the truth is that these approaches have very limited efficacy and there is serious risk of side effects.brain and gut

An alarming fact about IBS is that because some of the possible causes of the diarrhea and abdominal pain are costly to test for and numerous, IBS can be a mis-diagnosis of a treatable condition. It is not uncommon for celiac disease, where the small intestinal lining has become damaged due to gluten sensitivity, to be mistaken for IBS.

Another possibility is that a not-yet-identified infectious organism causes IBS. Or it could be caused by a known and rarely tested for infectious parasite. International medical researchers have found that people diagnosed with IBS are anywhere from 2-6 times as likely to be infected with Blastocystis, a single-celled intestinal parasite that is notoriously difficult to eliminate and sometimes difficult to detect in the human body and has been known to cause diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal pain in patients.

Regardless of the source of the condition, the only thing that truly matters is getting rid of it! Since the cause is unknown, and standard medications are often ineffective, IBS is considered incurable.

What one can do, however, is observe those factors that trigger or exacerbate symptoms and avoid those triggers. Some of the common triggers of IBS symptoms include:

  • Stress, anxiety, and depression
  • Major life events that cause stress, anxiety, or depression.
  • Food allergies
  • Onset of maturity

  • While stopping maturity is not really and option, and we can’t always prevent major life events like car accidents, job loss, etc. We can control our emotional responses and use relaxation methods to improve our emotional health.

    As for food allergies and dietary sensitivities, these are a hotly disputed topic in the entire field of gastrointestinal disorders. The fact is that there is a vast ocean of empirical and documented evidence that proves that food, food allergies, and food intolerances are a major source of gastrointestinal distress and disease and that by removing these substances from the person’s diet the severity and frequency of symptoms is greatly affected.

    If one were to follow this dietary approach, the simplest approach would be to remove the most common food allergens from the diet, especially dairy, gluten, sugar, peanuts, nightshade vegetables, shellfish, coffee, and nuts.

    New research conducted in the last few years has found a number of complimentary and alternative therapies that have been found to be effective in reducing the severity and frequency of IBS symptoms significantly without the risk of side effects.

    peppermintOne of the most promising of these natural therapies is enteric-coated peppermint oil. A randomized double-blind placebo-controlled study on 90 patients with IBS by Merat et al. in 2010 showed that 187mg of peppermint oil taken 30 min before meals for 8 weeks significantly reduced IBS symptoms and improved quality of life versus the placebo group. Peppermint oil has also been used safely to treat children with IBS

    Another substance that has a long history as a traditional home remedy for indigestion, bloating, and abdominal pain is turmeric. Often used as a spice to flavor exotic food, it has also demonstrated significant results in a number of studies to improve the symptoms of IBS.

    For the past 10 years, we at the Wellness Center have been using a dynamic program for IBS that has an incredible track record of success.

    It’s a multi-stage process that utilizes very advanced testing. Stool testing, hormone testing, as well as genetic testing to allow us to determine what your specific triggers are. Each person’s triggers are unique and very specific. This in-depth testing is critical in order to determine if the condition is being caused or exacerbated by bacterial infections, hormonal imbalances, toxins, food or environmental allergens.

    This approach is unique because even though environmental toxins and heavy metals are known factors in bowel disease, they are classically never tested in patients, and in the infrequent cases where they are tested they are not measured correctly. Understanding how to test for these substances is critical in order to create an accurate picture of the patient’s medical condition and point a clear course for proper treatment.

    Using the results from the testing, a very specific individualized program is developed. Some of the more common elements of such a program may include:

  • Anti-inflammatory diet
  • Allergy elimination diet
  • Detoxification
  • Probiotics, bacteria of the intestines
  • Essential fatty acids
  • Gastro-intestinal balancing
  • Hormone balancing

  • Not every element above is appropriate for each person. Because of each person’s unique genetics and lifestyle, each program is equally unique in order to address each person’s exact needs.

    Our method is very successful simply because it utilizes information that the conventional therapies ignore, namely individuality. The efficacy of our program is evidenced by our track record, which speaks for itself.gut