From Black Doctors:
As many as 60 million people – that’s 20 percent of Americans – deal with it irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
IBS is a chronic condition that affects the lower gastrointestinal tract. It also causes the colon to be irritable and spastic, which causes the abdominal discomfort associated with changes in the consistency and/or frequency of bowel movements.
The causes of IBS are not fully known but are believed to be a result of a combination of factors, including bacterial imbalance, food allergies, and parasites. IBS has three subcategories:
- pain associated with diarrhea;
- pain associated with constipation;
- pain and diarrhea alternating with constipation
How does IBS affect people? People who suffer from IBS are plagued by uncomfortable and disabling symptoms like abdominal pain (the most commonly reported), bloating, and both diarrhea and constipation. These symptoms cause them to be affected in their daily life and they also miss approximately twice as many work days per year than non-sufferers. They also report more fatigue, lack of energy and also decreased physical functioning, and overall general health.
Although there are plenty of treatments for IBS, many do not address the underlying causes in the digestive system.
The lining of the colon, or the gut, is affected in IBS and when it breaks down it can cause a “leaky gut” syndrome that eventually exposes the immune system to bacteria. This lining can break down from toxic diets, too much sugar, not enough fiber and also stress.
When this happens, the immune system responds and causes changes in the body such as increased allergies, sensitivities, mood disorders and even depression.
In order to balance the gut’s ecosystem, it much be controlled and the overgrowth of bacteria managed to be in balance. This balance will help to resolve bloating and overall symptoms of IBS by clearing out the overgrowth of bacteria.
The best way to attack these symptoms is to repopulate your digestive tract with good bacteria. Probiotics are a great way to accomplish this, as they help to further normalize gut function.
Probiotics are live microorganisms which can be therapeutic for gastrointestinal diseases such as IBS. They help the bowel by suppressing the growth of bad bacteria, improves the leaky gut, and helps to alter of the immune system. The use of probiotics may also improve bowel motility.
You can also repopulate your digestive tract with good bacteria by increasing fiber and decreasing sugar in your diet. Soluble fiber in vegetables and fruit add healthy bulk to the diet. Another beneficial option is taking digestive enzymes with meals to help break down food faster as the gut heals.
Other nutrients that can help heal the lining of the gut include fish oil and the fatty acid Gamma linolenic acid (GLA) commonly found in evening primrose oil, zinc, vitamin A and glutamine.
Make sure to also drink plenty of water, exercise regularly and decrease your alcohol intake to promote regularity and minimize your IBS symptoms.
If you suspect that you may have IBS, consult with you doctor so they can do a careful physical examination with a complete history and an initial evaluation with lab work. For some patients, this may mean a colonoscopy if there is a family history of colon cancer.
Visiting your doctor as well eliminating certain foods to treat the underlying causes of IBS can dramatically improve your health and help you to overcome your digestive problems.
Dr. Jessica Shepherd is a women’s health expert and also the founder of Her Viewpoint, an online women’s health forum that focuses on addressing taboo topics in a comfortable setting. As an OB/GYN, she practices at the University of Illinois at Chicago and also serves as the Director of Minimally Invasive Gynecology. She treats women for obstetrics, pelvic health as well as pelvic and sexual dysfunction. Dr. Shepherd has written in various journals including Women’s Day, Women’s Health, Family Circle, Parents, LifeScript.com, Heart and Soul, Best Health and Essence. Follow her on Twitter @JShepherd_MD.