What is it?

A common functional bowel disorder characterized by abdominal pain and frequent changes in bowel habits, IBS can affect one’s quality of life in a negative fashion. Irritable bowel syndrome must be differentiated from inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis. But, in the presence of persistent symptoms and negative diagnostic testing, IBS is the most common diagnosis in the gastroenterologist’s office. Symptoms generally tend to include a combination of diarrhea and constipation, gas, bloating, and/or cramps. While the common complaints associated with IBS usually remit and relapse over the course of the condition, they do not generally lead to more serious gastrointestinal disease. Genetics may play a role, as IBS does tend to run in families.

Key Points:

• Affects 5-24% of adults in the US
• Psychological stressors may increase symptoms
• Either constipation or diarrhea can occur along with abdominal pain
• Patients may experience a higher rate of anxiety, depression, migraine headaches, urinary dysfunction or sleep disturbances than the general population
• Blood in the stool is not common with IBS, and may indicate a different condition
• 10 times more likely to occur after a bout of infectious diarrhea
• Abdominal bloating is common

How do we treat it?

While IBS can be a debilitating condition, it is not the underlying problem. Its categorization as a “functional” disease means that in a patient with IBS the digestive tract does not function properly. All of the enzymes are present and no inflammatory processes can be identified, but something is not working. So, what might that be? As noted in the book The Second Brain by Michael D. Gershon, the abdomen houses a large amount of nervous tissue and produces serotonin at levels akin to the brain. So, stress level and your body’s response to stress provides a key to understanding this disorder as it relates to you specifically. In addition, irritable bowel syndrome can be related to a food you are eating, your hormonal balance or the integrity of your digestive lining. We will work with you to find a combination of treatments that will not only resolve your IBS symptoms, but will also tune your nervous system so that you do not respond physically to emotional and mental stressors anymore. In addition, dietary and lifestyle changes will be a part of your treatment plan, to minimize relapses and improve your overall wellbeing.

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