Here’s what we’re going to cover
We see a lot of IBS, and a lot of multigenerational family members with IBS. And what I’ve learned about the inheritance of IBS over the last 23 years should give you lots of hope.
People often think of inheriting a risk for disease as fate dealing you a set of bad cards. But they forget that they control half of the equation and can turn those cards in for different cards. Let me give you a personal example.
Is IBS Genetic?
My grandparents had heart disease and high blood pressure and diabetes and colon cancer. Do I worry about me or my kids getting those things because they did? Not for a second. Why not? Because I don’t live like they did. I don’t eat the same way that they ate. And I don’t treat my body the same way that they did. They were wonderful people and I loved them and miss them, but our bodies have existed in two very different nutritional environments.
I’m approaching 60 and I don’t suffer from any of those conditions, or any other chronic diseases. And I don’t ever plan to. That’s not bragging, I just want to give you a different perspective on inheriting disease. I’m pretty sure that my grandpa had IBS too, but he never talked about it. We just noticed his bathroom habits.
Is IBS Preventable?
And the same is true for IBS as it is about heart disease and blood pressure and diabetes, etc. But you probably think that those are mostly about weight. Weight can be involved, but those conditions are about all kinds of things other than just weight. There are tons of people on medications for chronic disease who are not overweight.
What Causes IBS?
So, for example, if your IBS is triggered by gluten, and you choose to eat gluten-free, then you don’t have to suffer from IBS. But that’s the tricky part, figuring out what the trigger is for your IBS. Because if it were just gluten, many of you would have already figured that out. But IBS can be due to literally hundreds of things. Gluten is just a well-known example. And interestingly, the cause might not be exactly the same combination of things in you that it is in your relative. Some things that you inherit are from your mom, and some from your dad, and some from grandma, etc. Right?
And it’s not just food reactions that you inherit, but you also inherit your microbiome. Keep that in mind. But the good news is that too can be changed and improved.
So don’t lose hope. In fact, you can be the one to spread hope. Because people can get better, both the older and the younger generation. Just know that the treatment is not always identical. But if people are willing to change and to get better, they can. I’ve seen it over and over again, in thousands of patients.
Dr. Wangen is the founder and medical director of the IBS Treatment Center, the award winning author of two books, and a nationally recognized speaker on digestive disorders. He has been on ABC, NBC, and Fox as well as public radio, and was named one of Seattle’s Top Doctors by Seattle Magazine.