causes of IBS

Dr. Stephen WangenParasites are a known cause of IBS.

Symptoms include diarrhea, constipation, gas, bloating, cramps, nausea, poor digestion, fatigue, muscle aches, bleeding, rectal itching, abdominal pain.

Parasites cannot live without you. You provide them living space and food, but unlike friendly bacteria, parasites do nothing for you in return. They only act against you.

They vary in size from the very tiny, which can be seen only under a microscope, to inches long. Some can find their way into just about any area of the body, but most are found only in the digestive tract. The severity of your symptoms and the amount of damage they cause varies depending on the parasite involved, the number of parasites, and the level of resistance your body has.

Parasites damage the body in a number of ways, by absorbing nutrients that you need and by directly damaging your digestive tract; and, if they are capable of migrating, possibly damaging other areas of your body as well. They often reproduce rapidly and by the thousands, and are easily spread to other people. Unfortunately, a strong population of good bacteria does little to protect you from parasites.

Parasites are more common than generally believed. Although most Americans consider them to be a Third-World problem, they infect millions of Americans – even those who never leave the country or drink from mountain streams (a common source of the parasite Giardia). We live in a global community. Parasites enter this country every day through the importation of contaminated foods and seemingly innocent products such as clay pottery. It is true that many common parasites are native to the tropics, where it is warm and humid. But the fruits and vegetables we import from these warm countries can be a source of parasitic contamination, affecting every area of the United States. However, because of the misperception that parasites are not an American problem, they have often been overlooked as a possible cause of digestive illnesses.

Entamoeba hystolytica, a relatively common parasite, infects up to 50 million people worldwide each year, and results in up to 100,000 deaths. In Dhaka, Bangladesh, approximately 50% of children have signs of exposure to this parasite by age five.

Closer to home, one of the largest recorded outbreaks of a waterborne parasitic infestation occurred in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1993. The city’s water supply became contaminated with the parasite Cryptosporidium, which causes diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and nausea. Over 400,000 people became ill; 4,000 were hospitalized and over 100 died. Although Milwaukee’s water was treated with chlorine, chlorine doesn’t kill Cryptosporidium.

The possibility of parasites must be considered when assessing the cause of your IBS. A parasite infection can usually be diagnosed by specialized testing, and is usually readily treatable.

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staff2I always had a nervous stomach my whole life, but it was nothing serious until part-way through college when I started having some major digestive problems.

I was beginning to feel like I was falling apart, and my anxiety worsened as my symptoms worsened. But most of the time I thought the anxiety was causing the symptoms and I was just trying to live with it. I always had an escape route to the nearest bathroom scouted out.

I saw several conventional doctors [who couldn’t help me], so I decided to see a gastroenterologist. He told me that there’s not much that can be done about it. He told me to reduce my stress, and gave me a list of foods to eat that are rich in fiber. I tried these things, but it hardly made any difference. So I turned to alternative medicine and tried homeopathy, supplements, acupuncture, and an elimination diet…but none of those worked either.

I did some more research and found the IBS Treatment Center online. I decided to take the chance, and I am so glad I did. I’ve been telling people that it was the best money I’ve ever spent! I was so impressed with the whole operation.

Amanda McLean

Stress Reduction

It’s a common belief that you carry your stress in your abdomen. If you have been diagnosed with IBS, it is likely that you have been advised to reduce your stress level. You may have been told to get regular exercise and adequate sleep, and to practice stress reduction techniques such as yoga, meditation, tai chi, deep breathing, journal writing, relaxation therapy, biofeedback, hypnotherapy, or psychotherapy.

All of these practices can indeed improve physical, mental, and emotional health. They provide a host of benefits, from improved personal relationships to enhanced productivity to increased energy and mental clarity, and they just might help with your IBS symptoms.
But chances are they won’t cure your IBS.

Most physicians are trained to think of IBS as stress induced or as a type of psychosomatic disorder. Because there has not been an easy medication cure for IBS, it has been framed in a way that suggests that it is more your problem than the physicians. Although some cases of IBS are no doubt related to mental or emotional issues, and stress and anxiety can aggravate IBS (as well as most other medical conditions), they are not the predominant causes of IBS. More often, IBS causes you stress rather than the other way around.

Medicine has a long history of blaming medical conditions with no straightforward, obvious organic cause on some form of psychological disturbance, such as stress – only to discover later the organic cause of the problem.

It is true that stress can make the symptoms of IBS worse, and that your digestive system depends on relaxation to function properly. Occasionally stress is the sole cause of IBS. But far more often it is due to something else. If you still have symptoms when you know that there isn’t much stress, then there is more to the problem than stress!

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(img via commons.wikimedia)
(img via commons.wikimedia)

From a recent patient at the IBS Treatment Center.

I am a 43 year old female and I have been having stomach/digestive trouble since I was a baby. My mother used to say I had a “nervous stomach.”

Well, things reached a peak when I was 39. I got to the point where I couldn’t eat or drink anything (even water) after 2:00 in the afternoon or I would be very nauseous and throw up. I spent a year going to the doctors. First my primary care doctor, then a gastroenterologist. They ran repeated tests and only determined that I had GERD.

After a year of throwing up 4 or 5 days out of every week (I lost 65 pounds), the gastroenterologist finally said, “I can’t do anything more for you. This is just what you have to live with.” Well, no way was I going to put up with that answer!!!

I made an appointment with the IBS Treatment Center. Within 2 weeks I stopped being nauseous!!! I was poisoning my body every day without realizing it!

It has been 3 years and I am so much better! No more Tums! No more Pepsid! No more drugs!!!!

I really feel that the IBS Treatment Center has saved my life; I no longer have to cancel vacations or invitations from friends because I am not feeling up to it. (You should have seen me on my honeymoon; I know every bathroom at Disneyland!)

I would (and do!) recommend them to anyone who is tired of having their MD just prescribe drugs to fix a symptom instead of trying to find out what is behind the symptom and treating the cause.

Sincerely,

Terri Coon

Read more patient testimonials here.

photo: commons.wikimedia

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(commons.wikimedia
(commons.wikimedia

As discussed in part one, food allergies can cause many more problems than you or your doctor probably realize. After having worked with thousands of patients with food allergies, we know this to be true.

Symptoms list continued from Part 1:

Acne

Yes, acne really does have a lot do with your diet. If you suffer from acne then you need to consider food allergies as a cause.

Heartburn

Heartburn isn’t just about spicy food. And it isn’t about overproducing stomach acid. Heartburn is about inflammation. Many of our patients tell us that their heartburn has resolved after having worked with us. You could be the next.

Reflux in infants

Infants reflux and throw up food because their little bodies are rejecting something, and they are rejecting it for a good reason. We can help you understand that reason and find the diet appropriate for your infant that will help your little one thrive.

Colic

Babies cry incessantly and fail to sleep because they are uncomfortable. And of course, they are uncomfortable for a reason. Let us help you figure out why. The results will speak volumes, and you’ll both sleep much better.
(more…)

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Dr. Stephen Wangen of the IBS Treatment Center.
Dr. Stephen Wangen of the IBS Treatment Center.

Patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other digestive problems such as constipation, diarrhea or abdominal pain often wonder if they have a problem with their gallbladder.

Problems with the gallbladder can indeed cause IBS symptoms. However, many people find that having their gallbladder removed did little or nothing to help their IBS, or even made it worse.

What Does the Gallbladder Do?


The gallbladder does exactly what its name describes; it is a small bladder that stores gall. Gall is more commonly known as bile. Bile is produced by the liver and piped over to the gallbladder via the bile duct.

What is Bile?


Bile is a highly concentrated yellow green fluid that contains bile acids. Bile acids are important for digesting fats. When you eat, your gallbladder contracts and secretes bile into the small intestine to help you digest your food. If your gallbladder has been removed then it will be more difficult for you to digest fats. In such cases, eating too much fat may cause loose stools.

When Does That Gallbladder Need to be Removed?


In some people, stones develop inside of the gallbladder. These stones, when small, can become lodged in the bile duct, which can cause severe pain and be very dangerous if they also clog the pancreatic duct. Larger stones are not able to pass into the bile duct, but their presence can cause severe pain. Sometimes this is worse when the gallbladder is contracting. In either case, removing the gallbladder usually relieves the pain and you feel much better.

When is it Questionable to Remove the Gallbladder?


It is often tempting for physicians to blame the gallbladder for abdominal pain and digestive problems even when there is little or no evidence that the gallbladder is the culprit. It’s a relatively simple procedure, and most people don’t miss it too much. If stones are present, then the decision is easy to make.

However, in some cases physicians recommended that the gallbladder be removed even when stones are not apparent on any exams. The recommendation is based primarily on symptoms and a lack of any other visible problem. Gallbladder function tests also may indicate that the gallbladder is not functioning at 100%. However, that does not mean that it is the cause of the problem. If the gallbladder is functioning at a below normal level, removing it will only guarantee that it will not function at all.

Studies have shown that patients with IBS symptoms and/or abdominal pain are more likely than others to have gall bladder removal surgery (cholecycstectomy) when they do not have gall stones. This exposes the patient to the increased (though small) risks of surgery and to further digestive problems caused by the abscence of a gall bladder. Testing for food allergies and other causes of IBS symptoms, and treating those conditions can enable patients to avoid unnecessary surgery and achieve good digestive health.

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(photo: creativecommons)
(photo: creativecommons)

Our intestines are a rich and thriving ecosystem…when we are healthy.

The massive surface of our intestines (about the same as a tennis court) provides everything needed for life – space, moisture, and nutrients. Given the ubiquity of anti-bacterial products in our society, many people are surprised to learn that they have about 10 trillion bacteria living in their intestines. But not only do we have bacteria lining our digestive tract, we desperately need them.

There are basically three types of micro-organisms living in our intestines:

  • Good bacteria;
  • Bad bacteria/microorganisms; and
  • Disease organisms

The good bacteria include species and strains that we evolved with, like acidopholus and bifidobacterium. These are an essential part of our digestive systems and we would not survive without them. They help us to digest food by producing enzymes, manufacture some of the essential nutrients that we need to live, assist in the development of our immune system, and prevent infection by occupying the space in the intestines that unwelcome organisms would thrive in, if they could.
(more…)

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(photo: commons.wikimedia)
(photo: commons.wikimedia)

Food allergies can cause many more problems than you (or your doctor) probably realize.

After having worked with thousands of patients with food allergies, we know this to be true.

Although there is plenty of published research on the symptoms of food allergies, there is also a lot of misunderstanding due to conflicting definitions of allergies; some testing methods that are scientifically invalid; and the length of time between exposure to a food and the reaction.

The following are a few of the more common conditions that we regularly see cured by avoiding a food allergen.

Headaches, including Migraines

Headaches are about inflammation. And food allergies are also about inflammation. It is not at all unusual for our patients to report that their headaches have disappeared once they know how to stop triggering them with their diet.

Ear Infections

If your child suffers from more than just the very infrequent ear infection, then they probably have a food allergy.

Kids should not get ear infections. Proper testing can reveal whether a child has a food allergy that is contributing to their susceptibility to ear infections.
(more…)

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Scientific American: Do Air Pollutants Play a Role in Bowel Disease?

(photo: commons.wikimedia)
(photo: commons.wikimedia)

It’s nice to see that some researchers are noticing the connection between the air we breath and our digestive health. This recent article from the Scientific American indicates that air pollution may play a role in digestive health and the immune system. 

Yes. That seems obvious.

Of course it effects our entire health, not just the health of our lungs. However, it would be nice if they spent more time looking at what people put in their mouths. There is no comparison when it comes the impact that has on your digestive tract. But we’ll take what we can get!

Excerpt:

The impacts of air pollution on the lungs and the heart have been widely documented for decades. But until now, few researchers have paid attention to the gastrointestinal tract.

“We tend to think about air pollution in terms of lung health, but the GI tract is also being bathed in it continuously. Fine pollution particles are cleared from the respiratory tract by mucous that makes its way to the gut,” said Karen Madsen, a gastroenterological scientist from the University of Alberta in Edmonton.

Some evidence suggests inhaling fine particles, or soot, may disrupt the immune system and trigger inflammation in the gut by making it more permeable and altering its normal bacteria.

Read the full article at Scientific American.

(photo: commons.wikimedia)

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IBD is diagnosed as ulcerative colitis if it is restricted to the colon and Crohn’s disease if it is also found in the small intestine.

Healthy people live in harmony with their “good” bacteria, or normal intestinal flora. This is called symbiosis.

We provide the bacteria with a home and food, and in return they do some great things for us. These bacteria are called “probiotics.”

Although there are thousands of different bacteria, the best-known friendly bacteria are Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium. Lactobacilli are also the bacteria that change milk into yogurt, and they are present in acidophilus milk. Bifidobacteria, which have been shown to provide many health benefits, are particularly high in the intestines of breast-fed newborns. A healthy intestinal system has more of both these friendly bacteria than other unfriendly bacteria.

One of the most important services good bacteria provide is preserving the correct balance of bacterial populations within the body. By their very presence they prevent the establishment and spread of “bad” bacteria and yeast, because harmful bacteria and yeast generally have no place to grow if friendly bacteria are thriving.
(more…)

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Your Medications May Be Causing Your Diarrhea

(img from commons.wikimedia.org)
(img from commons.wikimedia.org)

“Nearly all medications may cause diarrhea as a side effect.” This is a direct quote from the National Institute of Health’s MedlinePlus website.

“Nearly all medications.” That may be difficult to believe, but the point is clear: Do not underestimate the side effects of your medications. Even if your doctor tells you otherwise, check for yourself. Doctors often ignore the potential harmful impacts of the medications that they prescribe. If you have been put on a new medication and you suddenly develop symptoms that were never present before, trust your instinct. Something is very wrong.

Unfortunately, side-effects of medication are not always immediate. It may take several months or even years on a medication before you notice side-effects. This can make you lose sight of the cause of the problem. You may assume that because you have been on a medication for a long time that it couldn’t possibly be causing more recent problems.

Doctors tend to believe that side-effects from medications are rare. Therefore they assume that your symptoms are not related to our medications. Many times my patients have said, “I asked my doctor if my symptoms could be caused by my medication and he said no.” They asked us for a second opinion. We simply show them the known list of side-effects for the drug they are taking. More often than not, their symptoms are right there in black and white. This just happened with a patient of mine taking Metoprolol® for her high blood pressure.
(more…)

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CrohnsParasites are another common cause of IBS symptoms and should be discussed. These symptoms can include diarrhea, constipation, gas, bloating, cramps, nausea, poor digestion, fatigue, muscle aches, bleeding, rectal itching, and abdominal pain.

Parasites cannot live without you. You provide them living space and food, but unlike friendly bacteria, parasites do nothing for you in return. They only act against you. They vary in size from the very tiny, which can be seen only under a microscope, to inches long. Some can find their way into just about any area of the body, but most are found only in the digestive tract.

The severity of your symptoms and the amount of damage they cause varies depending on the parasite involved, the number of parasites, and the level of resistance your body has.

Parasites damage the body in a number of ways, by absorbing nutrients that you need and by directly damaging your digestive tract; and, if they are capable of migrating, possibly damaging other areas of your body as well. They often reproduce rapidly and by the thousands, and are easily spread to other people. Unfortunately, a strong population of good bacteria does little to protect you from parasites.

Parasites are more common than generally believed. Although most Americans consider them to be a Third-World problem, they infect millions of Americans – even those who never leave the country or drink from mountain streams (a common source of the parasite Giardia). We live in a global community. Parasites enter this country every day through the importation of contaminated foods and seemingly innocent products such as clay pottery. It is true that many common parasites are native to the tropics, where it is warm and humid. But the fruits and vegetables we import from these warm countries can be a source of parasitic contamination, affecting every area of the United States. However, because of the misperception that parasites are not an American problem, they have often been overlooked as a possible cause of digestive illnesses.
(more…)

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To summarize: Probiotics can be good for you. Stress always exacerbates underlying illness and weakness.

Probiotics do not cancel out stress, but they do help to regulate the immune system and therefore may help to mitigate some of the effects of stress on your IBS.  What they didn’t mention was that probiotics may help your IBS even without the involvement of stress. Or they may not help. And in some cases they can make your IBS worse. That is why you should see an expert in IBS.

Excerpt from ScienceDaily:

For those with irritable bowel syndrome who wonder if stress aggravates their intestinal disorder, a new University of Michigan Health System study shows it’s not all in their head.

Researchers revealed that while stress does not cause IBS, it does alter brain-gut interactions and induces the intestinal inflammation that often leads to severe or chronic belly pain, loss of appetite and diarrhea.

Stress has a way of suppressing an important component called an inflammasome which is needed to maintain normal gut microbiota, but probiotics reversed the effect in animal models, according to findings published online ahead of print in Gastroenterology.

“The effect of stress could be protected with probiotics which reversed the inhibition of the inflammasome,” says senior study author and gastroenterologist John Y. Kao, M.D., associate professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan. “This study reveals an important mechanism for explaining why treating IBS patients with probiotics makes sense.”

——

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For this study, you should understand that Gut microbiota is an assortment of microorganisms inhabiting the length and width of the mammalian gastrointestinal tract, including humans.

From the study itself:

“It is well established that diet influences the health of an individual and that a diet rich in plant-based foods has many advantages in relation to the health and well-being of an individual. … As well as providing basic nutritional requirements, the long-term diet of an animal modifies its gut microbiota. In adults, diets that have a high proportion of fruit and vegetables and a low consumption of meat are associated with a highly diverse microbiota.”

From National Institutes of Health:

Diet-microbiota interactions and their implications for healthy living.
Jeffery IB, O’Toole PW.

Source
Department of Microbiology, University College Cork, College Road, Cork, Ireland. i.jeffery@ucc.ie.

Abstract

It is well established that diet influences the health of an individual and that a diet rich in plant-based foods has many advantages in relation to the health and well-being of an individual.

What has been unclear until recently is the large contribution of the gut microbiota to this effect. As well as providing basic nutritional requirements, the long-term diet of an animal modifies its gut microbiota.

In adults, diets that have a high proportion of fruit and vegetables and a low consumption of meat are associated with a highly diverse microbiota and are defined by a greater abundance of Prevotella compared to Bacteroides, while the reverse is associated with a diet that contains a low proportion of plant-based foods. Furthermore, it is becoming increasingly clear that the effect of the microbial ecology of the gut goes beyond the local gut immune system and is implicated in immune-related disorders, such as IBS, diabetes and inflamm-ageing.

In this review, we investigate the evidence that a balanced diet leads to a balanced, diverse microbiota with significant consequences for healthy ageing by focusing on conditions of interest.

See study at National Institutes of Health here.

 

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Most physicians are trained to think of IBS as stress induced or as a type of psychosomatic disorder.

There has not been an easy medication cure for IBS, therefore it has been framed in a way that suggests that it is more your problem than the physicians. Although some cases of IBS are no doubt related to mental or emotional issues, and stress and anxiety can aggravate IBS (as well as most other medical conditions), they are not the predominant causes of IBS. More often, IBS causes you stress rather than the other way around.

Medicine has a long history of blaming medical conditions with no straightforward, obvious organic cause on some form of psychological disturbance, such as stress – only to discover later the organic cause of the problem.

One excellent recent example of this is stomach ulcers. While stomach ulcers were once thought to be a stress-induced disorder, it is now well accepted that the bacteria Helicobacter pylori cause them, and that they are treatable.  Interestingly H. pylori can also cause IBS symptoms, and now that we can test for it and treat it, there is one more reason to believe that stress is too often blamed.

It is true that stress can make the symptoms of IBS worse, and that your digestive system depends on relaxation to function properly. Occasionally stress is the sole cause of IBS. But far more often it is due to something else. If you still have symptoms when you know that there isn’t much stress, then there is more to the problem than stress!

—-

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The cause of IBS varies from person to person, which is what makes irritable bowel syndrome and the symptoms of diarrhea, constipation, gas, bloating and chronic abdominal pain so difficult for most doctors to treat.

However, through proper testing you will be able to identify the exact cause or causes of your symptoms and live a life free of digestive problems.

There are several hundred potential causes of IBS, but most cases result from issues that fit into two major categories:

  • Food Allergies and Intolerances
  • Microbial Issues  – including infections, bacterial imbalances, yeast, and parasites

There are other issues as well and since every patient is different it is essential to understand what is causing the IBS symptoms if you want to find an appropriate and ultimately successful treatment.  Click the “IBS” link in the navigation bar above to learn more about IBS causes and some of the testing for those causes.

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