|You Can Conquer IBS|
By Arden Moore
You beg off lunch dates. Say "no thanks" to weekend camping trips. Politely, reluctantly, decline invitations to go to the movies or a baseball game. All because you have a secret that's too embarrassing to tell even your best friend. And you don't want to explain why you keep excusing yourself to search for the nearest restroom. The reason? You have the nasty, chronic gastrointestinal disorder known as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
You're not alone. Nearly one out of every five Americans—about 50 million people—has IBS. It can cause any, or all, of the following symptoms, which vary in severity: abdominal cramps, diarrhea, bloating, gas, and, perversely, even constipation. For unknown reasons, IBS affects women more often than men.
Mark Stengler, ND, in private practice at Personal Physicians, an integrated medical practice in San Diego, became a naturopathic physician partly to find solutions to his own severe abdominal cramps, bloating, and gas symptoms. Dr. Stengler, author of The Natural Physician (Alive Books, 1997), joins a growing legion of people with IBS who are stepping forward to bring attention to this disorder that was once too taboo to discuss publicly.
Is it IBS?
Leading medical experts are convinced that there is a powerful connection between the mind and the gut, which "talk" to one another through nerve transmissions between the brain and the nerves lining the walls of the intestines. One theory is that people with IBS have sensitive gastrointestinal tracts that can be activated—painfully so—by certain triggers, including stress, caffeine, hormones, and some foods and medications.
"I hold to the theory that stress affects the weakest part of the body," says Dr. Hirschenbein. "When people who have IBS are under stress, it seems to set their symptoms off. When other people are under stress, they may complain of headaches, backaches, or chest pains—wherever their individual weak spots are."
In a recent study, Lin Chang, MD, assistant professor of medicine and codirector of the UCLA/CURE Neuroenteric Disease Program, tested patients with IBS by inflating balloons in their intestines. She measured pain sensitivity levels and the amount of tension in the muscles of the intestines before and after the balloon treatment.
Interestingly, she discovered altered responses by both the brain and the gut to balloon inflation in the intestines. The brain responses were measured using an imaging technique called positron emission tomography, or PET. "In IBS patients, the brain responds to stresses or stimuli in the gut differently than in healthy individuals, confirming that there is a definite brain/gut connection with IBS," says Dr. Chang.
In another study at the University of Washington in Seattle, researchers in the department of biobehavioral nursing and health systems found that psychological distress was a key factor in at least 40% of the women with IBS who were tested. Continued below..
Promising New Prescriptions
Meanwhile, a study of more than 600 people with IBS found that taking alosetron daily for 12 weeks reduced IBS-related abdominal pain and discomfort by 15 to 20%, urgency by 20%, and diarrhea by 20%. FDA approval for tegaserod is expected sometime in late 2000.
Fight stress with relaxation techniques. Consider deep breathing or meditation. Or try hypnosis, which has been shown to be very effective in reducing abdominal pain.
Avoid foods and substances that can irritate the digestive tract. Topping the list: caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, and refined sugars.
Reduce your intake of fatty and fried foods. They are more difficult to break down, causing more gas and indigestion. Watch out for french fries, hamburgers, cheese, and butter.
Battle your spastic colon with cramp bark, chamomile, or valerian. All three herbs relax the muscle cramps that are at the root of the alternating bouts of constipation and diarrhea, says Douglas Schar, DipPhyt, MCPP, a medical herbalist practicing in London and Washington, DC.
Valerian is especially useful when the condition is stress related; it seems to block the transmission of stressful nerve impulses to the bowel.
Choose soluble-fiber supplements over bran. Some IBS sufferers who eat bran and other insoluble fiber-rich foods experience a worsening of their symptoms.
In fact, in a study conducted by researchers at the University Hospital of South Manchester in England, more than half of the people questioned about their response to various high-fiber foods said that bran didn't agree with them. If you're one of them, switch to a soluble-fiber supplement such as psyllium.
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|Last Updated on Sunday, 23 January 2011 19:01|