Too many people suffer day-in and day-out with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) for one very poor reason:
They do not want to discuss topics like the colon, constipation, diarrhea, or gas. There is a cultural taboo about discussing such private matters, and so people are reluctant to bring the subject up, sometimes even with their health professionals. They suffer through bouts of IBS, wondering if they will ever be able to enjoy a meal or a social event without worrying about or experiencing digestive problems. Unfortunately, many IBS sufferers have used antibiotics for a long time, in the belief that it would cure whatever was causing the problem, but instead were making the condition worse by killing intestinal bacteria.
Drugs are seldom the answer to IBS for just one simple reason – medical researchers do not know the specific source of IBS, so drugs could not be developed to target a specific issue. As a result, the drugs currently used are ineffective. A much better solution is treating IBS with a natural holistic approach because everything in the body is related. In fact, there are a number of natural treatments that extend to dietary changes, supplementation, psychological treatments, muscle relaxation techniques, exercise, herbal treatments, and homeopathic dosages.
The complexity of IBS is such that there is no single natural treatment recommended. The ideal treatment program is a blend of alternative foods and dietary exclusions, activities and choices that promote a healthy colon. The ideal treatment program is unique to each person because each individual experiences a different set of symptoms. The specific symptoms must be addressed in order to achieve the maximum benefits.
Other lifestyle changes include learning and practicing relaxation techniques for the mind and the body. Exercise will also play an important role in IBS treatment programs. Learning to manage stress and ease the tension in the body will promote healthy digestion.
he cause of my plight is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) a disorder where the brain and the gut don’t communicate as they should. It’s a functional disorder which means that it comes from a problem with the way a normal body function is carried out, instead of something foreign, like a virus. And unlike other illnesses that don’t involve foreign assassins cancer, for example IBS will not show up on any tests or examinations IBS’s issue is abnormal colon motility the contraction of muscles in the intestines and just how food moves through them where in fact the colon is extra sensitive and tends to spasm when stimulated by things like food or stress. These spasms can cause food to move too quickly through the digestive tract (diarrhea) or get stuck (constipation). People with IBS can also be extra-sensitive to the goings-on in their gut, and feel pain from small pockets of gas, for instance, when others would feel nothing.
The disorder is common, affecting 10 to 15 percent of adults, and twice as many women as men. Since the cause of the disorder is unknown, treatments are often aimed at the symptoms: laxatives, stool hardeners, changes in diet, supplements, and even psychotherapy. Psychotherapy often addresses stress management, but also deals with the emotional side effects of having a persistent, incurable, mostly invisible, and dinner-conversation-taboo disorder.
I learned that I had IBS as a sophomore in college, a few weeks before winter finals. The first step in treating it, I was told, was to keep a food log: For a few months, I had to write down everything I ate, every day, and how I felt afterward. I also had to reduce stress. I lasted about three days before giving up the log who has time for that? and reducing stress as a college student with looming finals was not an option.
Some researchers believe that the issue in IBS lies in the brain-gut connection, a mysterious link whereby the goings-on in a person’s gut are believed to influence not only mood, but some of the core facets of personality. The connection is why people feel nauseated, for instance, before giving a significant speech. The brain sends signals to the gut, such as, what if I mess up, and all my great auntie’s prophecies of failure and depravity come true? To which the gut responds with butterflies or violent, vomitous stage fright. Or instead, the gut might signal food poisoning! to the brain, to that your brain responds with, that hurts, and, quick find a bathroom!
Scientists have suspected this connection as far back as 1902, when a study showed that food moved differently through cats’ digestive tracts when dogs were growling at them. In 1921, the physician John Newport Langley laid the foundation for our understanding of the enteric nervous system (ENS), a collection of neurons some 100 million that spans from the esophagus to the rectum and sends signals, like those butterflies, to the mind. But it wasn’t until later, in 1996, when Michael Gershon, a pioneer in the field of neurogastroenterology at Columbia University, dubbed the ENS as the human body’s “second brain” that the extent, and eeriness, of the connection took hold.
The ENS is thought to use some of the same neurotransmitters, like serotonin, as the big brain in our heads. Researchers have long believed that imbalances in serotonin in the brain influence mood and cause depression, and the same can be said for the gut. The gut produces serotonin as well, and an imbalance there could be considered a kind of depression of the second brain But the result isn’t a gut that feels sad instead, it’s a person who could develop severe, and lifelong, depression.
One emerging theory for IBS is that there is, in fact, an imbalance of serotonin in the gut Those with diarrhea have too much, those with constipation have too little, and both run the risk of serotonin-induced mood swings.
At a particularly low point, I Googled “IBS symptoms” and discovered some forums dedicated to IBS sufferers and others with gastrointestinal disorders. On one, an anonymous person wrote: “It seems that my whole life is dominated by my bowel to the extent that some days I am afraid to leave the house.” Another person lamented the disorder’s invisibility: “This disease does not ‘show’ on the outside, so even good friends are not always understanding. I am aware of this so I keep it to myself.” IBS is not a life-threatening disorder, however, many people become incapacitated by it. They quit work, stop traveling, and withdraw completely. Some fall into a deep depression that exacerbates the brain-gut feedback loop and intensifies their symptoms.
Like me, many people with IBS are too embarrassed to talk openly about it, or think that because it’s invisible or not serious that somehow their symptoms don’t matter. They also try to shove their lives right into a neat little box in hopes of keeping their disorder from bothering anybody else.