Irritable Bowel Syndrome is the cause of significant ill health in the community in that approximately 20% of the population have symptoms of it and 50% of patients attending Gastroenterology Clinics are diagnosed with it. Common symptoms include bloating, flatulence, diarrhoea, constipation and pain.
Patients may also have a wide variety of other symptoms, including muscle pains, hormonal imbalance, increased premenstrual tension and poor overall energy and well being.
How is it diagnosed?
There is no diagnostic test of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. It is usually diagnosed by exclusion of other illnesses e.g. ulcers, gall bladder, bowel cancer, colitis and by the typical symptoms outlined above.
What is Conventional Treatment?
- When bowel investigations are normal, patients are generally reassured that there is “nothing serious”. This is welcome, but they are still left with the problem.
- Dietary Advice: Fibre rich diets have been traditionally recommended but approximately 50% of IBS patients are worse with this.
- Medication for symptomatic relief e.g. colofac, motilium, and immodium.
What causes Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
Common precipitating factors include a significant gastroenteritis, frequent antibiotics, stress and food allergy/intolerance. Causes vary in different individuals, but the work of Hunter (a Gastroenterologist in Cambridge) would suggest that 60% of patients with IBS obtain significant improvement with dietary elimination. Allergy testing is only one aspect of allergy management and this should always be combined with a comprehensive history and evaluation of response to elimination and challenge.
How long do I need to be on the diet to see a response?
The good news is that two weeks is often sufficient to clarify the role of diet in the condition. Re-challenging of the omitted foods should be systematic, both to confirm results and avoid strong allergic reactions.
Will I have to keep off these foods forever?
No, these intolerances are often temporary and different to highly allergic foods e.g. peanuts and seafood. Prolonged diets are difficult and other treatments are required to reduce the level of food sensitivity. These may include anti-fungal medications if indicated, Pancreatic enzymes and Nutritional Supplements to improve the leaky gut/imbalanced gut permeability, which contribute to IBS.
What is Gut Dyspiosis/Fermentation?
This can be a cause of IBS and broadly involves disturbance of the normal gut bacteria/flora. Diagnosis can be made from the history and sometimes allergy test.
Candida Syndrome is one cause of this condition. Symptoms of this include sugar craving, poor alcohol tolerance, fungal infections e.g. thrush, Athlete’s Foot, dandruff, poor energy and well being as well as irritable bowel symptoms particularly flatulence and bloating. This responds well to a combination of diet, Supplements and anti-fungal medication.
Is stress causing my Irritable Bowel?
Stress is undoubtedly an aggravating factor, but it is rarely the only factor. Stress has a greatly reduced impact when the underlying cause is corrected. If stress is a particularly strong feature, relaxation techniques, regular exercise and perhaps hypnosis can be of benefit.
Will I ever be rid of my IBS?
Yes. In general IBS is a condition that responds well to treatment. The natural history is for it to improve with age.
Can Acupuncture help?
Our digestion is very much under nervous system control. Not surprisingly, Acupuncture can be helpful either alone or in conjunction with other treatments.