Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Taking Aim at a Painful, Often Embarrassing Condition
If you think you have IBS, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Santa Rosa chiropractor Dr. David Anderson may be able to help.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is the most common diagnosis given to people who visit gastroenterologists. It reportedly affects about 45 million people in the United States, or a little over 7% of the entire population.
Overview of the Condition
IBS is an intestinal disorder that can severely impact every aspect of a patient’s life. The underlying fear patients have is that they will not be able to control their bowel movements. This lack of control, along with severe abdominal pain, can also complicate other chronic health conditions, such as clinical depression, hemorrhoids and generalized anxiety disorder.
What makes Irritable Bowel Syndrome even more troubling is that it is a mysterious condition. IBS often serves as a catch-all phrase for many types of long-term digestive problems, such as spastic colon and colitis.
The world-renowned medical center Mayo Clinic notes that there are no diagnostic tests for IBS. This means a doctor may have to run checks in order to eliminate more severe problems like cancer before making a diagnosis.
IBS symptoms are also almost identical to Crohn’s disease, or ulcerative colitis, so there is a likelihood of misdiagnosis.
While each person affected with Irritable Bowel Syndrome experiences his/her own set of symptoms, the most common complaints include:
- Severe abdominal pain
- Rectal bleeding
- Excessive flatulence
- Mucus-coated stools
- Lack of bowel control
Some less common IBS symptoms also include fever, nausea, vomiting and weight loss. In order for IBS to be diagnosed, the patient must have exhibited IBS symptoms for at least 12 weeks in the past 12 months. Although many patients wait until conditions are extreme before seeking help, many patients may not be diagnosed with IBS only because they are in the early stages of the disorder.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Women
It has been reported that about 60% to 65% of IBS patients are women. It is unknown why women are more susceptible to IBS than men. The typical IBS patient is not only a woman, but one who has a relative with IBS and is under 35 years of age. Again, it is unknown why younger women are more prone to IBS than older women.
There are some hypotheses that younger women may be subject to greater stress than older women or that older women may have learned greater stress management skills than their younger counterparts.
It is also unknown just how much of a role genetics plays in developing Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Another hypothesis is that hormones such as estrogen and progesterone may play a huge role in IBS. Of course, this does not explain why men are diagnosed with IBS. There is a lot that needs to be learned about why women suffer from IBS more than men. But one thing is clear – IBS is treatable in a majority of cases.
IBS treatment involves dietary changes and learning how to cope with stress. IBS patients have more frequent attacks if they consume large meals, so they are encouraged to have small, frequent meals every day rather than two or three large meals.
Patients are also encouraged to keep a journal of all food and beverages consumed to determine which foods trigger attacks. This makes it easier to target which foods or beverages the patient should avoid or reduce consumption.
Prescription medications have also been used in IBS treatment, but none are regarded as a cure. Some drugs, such as laxatives, should only be used short-term because the body becomes reliant upon them to move stool through the colon. If the body becomes dependent on laxatives, the digestive muscles can grow weak from under-use.
Other medications such as muscle-relaxants may cause bladder incontinence or excessive flatulence. Anti-depressants and antibiotics are often prescribed off-label for IBS. (Off-label means the medication is used in a manner not specified in the FDA’s approved packaging label.)
The Dangers of Self-Medication
Many patients with IBS delay visits to the doctor for IBS treatment. It is unknown how many attempt to self-medicate, but IBS symptoms can lead to sufficient anxiety that a patient will quite literally try anything in an effort to gain relief from their symptoms. Medications can include over the counter laxatives, anti-diarrhea medication or alcoholic beverages. Alcohol may act as both a painkiller and a muscle relaxant, but long-term use not only leads to addiction but also worsens the IBS symptoms.
Natural IBS Treatment
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is not something to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. IBS treatment and advice should be sought as soon as the disorder presents itself. If you want to avoid taking medications that may have unpleasant or even dangerous side effects, consider a consultation with Santa Rosa Chiropractor Dr. David Anderson.
A 2015 narrative review of research points to chiropractic as demonstrating “mild to moderate improvements in presenting symptoms” with no adverse side effects. Dr. Anderson offers natural treatments for IBS that may help you better cope with IBS and mitigate the effect that the disorder has on your everyday life.
Not every patient suffering from IBS will respond to chiropractic care. To see if chiropractic may be an appropriate approach for IBS, please contact Dr. Anderson for a consultation.