You plan your trips based on the nearest washroom. You’ve limited what you eat because you’re constantly feeling bloated, gassy, or your tummy aches. You have diarrhea or constipation, or both! Your energy is down the drain from constantly dealing with your digestive issues. If you’re a woman, you may notice worse symptoms around the time of your period. You might be anxious or depressed because this is taking such a toll on you and nothing you do seems to work. You’ve limited your social life because you don’t feel energetic or you can’t eat out without feeling horrible afterwards... If you have IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), then you can probably relate!
If you’re at your wits’ end and you’re about to give up, don’t! There’s a lot we can do to help you feel better! And, contrary to what you may have been told, it’s not all in your head.
Irritable bowel syndrome – it sounds harmless enough, but for those that deal with it on a daily basis, it has a serious impact on their quality of life. So many people have it (2.1-22% of the population, that’s almost a ¼ of the population!), yet most people have no clue what they can do about it and think they just have to “live with it”. It’s one of the most common conditions that I treat in my Nepean and Orleans practices. You may have been diagnosed with IBS, or you may be struggling with chronic digestive issues and be one of the 75% of people that goes undiagnosed. If you’re a woman, you’re 1.5-2x more likely to have it!
While a diagnosis is helpful to give your digestive troubles a name, unfortunately it doesn’t give your healthcare professionals a clear-cut answer to treating it. Why? Because a diagnosis of IBS doesn’t tell you anything about what’s actually causing it!
You might have chronic digestive issues, but you haven’t been diagnosed with IBS by your doctor. Could you still have IBS? Yes you could! IBS describes a group of symptoms commonly found together that are going on for a period of time, at least 3 months to be exact.
If you have these symptoms, you likely have IBS (Rome III criteria):
-For at least the past 3 months, you have had recurrent abdominal pain (it is often described as discomfort, not necessarily pain)
-These abdominal symptoms have to be present at least 3 days a week during the past 3 months
-These abdominal symptoms have to be accompanied by at least 2 of these 3 criteria:
That means that, if you’ve gotten a diagnosis through your medical doctor, your doctor has probably ruled out more serious conditions, such as Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or colon cancer. You may have had a scope done to have a closer look at your bowels (likely a colonoscopy and possibly an endoscopy), but nothing abnormal could be found, except perhaps some spasticity in the muscles surrounding the digestive tract. You can breathe a sigh of relief that these more serious conditions are not likely playing a role in your symptoms. But that doesn’t change the fact that your symptoms are still with you!
So, what a diagnosis of IBS tells you is that you have to dig deeper to find out what’s causing it if you want to get better for good. The good news is that I can help you with that! In the next few blogs, I’ll be discussing what the possible causes of IBS are, common testing that I run with patients to guide their treatment, and things you can start doing to feel better.
If you want to start feeling better now, make sure to book an initial visit here with me. As I mentioned earlier, helping patients with IBS is a huge part of my Ottawa practice, and it would be a privilege to help you too!
Image from 123RF.com
Yoon, S.L., Grundmann, O, Koepp, L, and Farrell, L. (2011). Management of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in adults: conventional and complementary/alternative approaches. Altern Med Rev, 2011 Jun; 16(2): 134-51. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21649455
Dr. Tamar Ferreira is a Naturopathic Doctor in Brampton, Ontario. Her areas of focus include digestive health, hormone balance, and skin conditions.