IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)

IBS is perhaps the most common digestive disease problem that we deal with.  It affects children, women and men.  It is common with school children, and is the most common reason for recurrent stomach aches.  The name is misleading, since it is not only the bowel that is affected.  The esophagus, stomach, small bowel and large bowel can be affected, either singularly or in any combination.  The symptoms associated with IBS are often confused with other diseases.  These may include: chest pains, belching, tightness in the chest, pressure in the neck area, bloating, excess gas, nausea, fecal urgency, diarrhea, constipation, or a combination of both.

IBS is quite real, as it is a condition that affects the nerves and muscles of the enteric nervous system.  The symptoms are exacerbated by stress, which is being held inside the body.  This could be the stress relating to life conditions and circumstances, i.e. children, spouse, co-workers, jobs, relatives, etc.  Everyone experiences stress in their lives, but only those with a predisposition for IBS will get symptoms.  It usually affects young people under age 30, but is increasingly seen for the first time in those over age 70.  It is often missed as the diagnosis, because of the tendency to look first for organic pathology.  However, in young people under age 40, since the risks of cancer or other serious illness is small, IBS should be considered promptly if the scenario is correct.  This is a treatable disease, which seriously affects one’s quality of life primarily, and never shortens one’s lifespan.  It is worse with concomitant depression and fibromyalgia, in fact, as long as depression is a dominant factor, IBS will not resolve, so it needs to be treated at the same time.

Therapy is quite effective, and knowledge of the diagnosis is very reassuring and actually decreases stress.  There are many different medications that can be used, usually free of any significant side effects or interference with other medications.  There is also a tendency for IBS to run in families, hence, this information should be brought to your doctor’s attention.

Once again, IBS is real, it is exacerbated by stress, and it is treatable.

IBS PART II (Update)

As stated before, IBS is a common, chronic, functional GI disorder characterized by recurrent abdominal pain, alterations in bowel habits, and possibly gas, bloating, burping, nausea, and urgent bowel movements. Symptoms are often exacerbated after meals or with increased stressful situations.

The prevalence of IBS in the USA is about 15% (or up to 45 million patients). They are mostly females, miss an average of 6.5 days of work per year, spend over $1.7 billion in health care costs, and cost over $20 billion in lost productivity due to an inability to work. They also have a higher frequency of many other symptoms including: feeling tired, experiencing low energy, and severe painful symptoms with flares lasting longer than 24 hours. Many people also complain of feeling tense and nervous, feeling hopeless, having difficulty sleeping, and low sexual interest.

In simpler terms, it is very important to realize how stress and anxiety exacerbate and bring on IBS attacks. Depression often accompanies ongoing stress and anxiety, and that can be the cause of many of the symptoms listed above.

Treating the person as a “whole” is necessary for getting good results with the bowel related problems of IBS. Once the problem is identified and understood, action can be taken. Aside from medically treating the bowel musculature and nerves, employing stress coping mechanisms and relaxation techniques (many books available in the library and in stores), help people adopt healthier lifestyles. By modifying diet, increasing exercise, stopping smoking or too much alcohol, there will be much improvement in overall well-being. As the spirit and body are increasingly free of stress and anxiety, the nervous system functions better and many of the symptoms listed above are resolved. The IBS symptoms will also diminish, and with proper medical therapy, the person can usually have excellent control of their symptoms most of the time. That is the ultimate goal of treating IBS: For the individual to have control and not for the illness to control the person! All of these ideas and treatments that we employ are quite old and time-worn, but if the treatments and recommendations are not followed and employed by the patients, the results are often substandard. Getting excellent results is hard work, but in our hands, success is attained in most cases.