What is IBS and how is it diagnosed?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is considered a functional gastrointestinal disorder. It is a common diagnosis given to individuals when the cause to digestive symptoms is not apparent because there is nothing out of the ordinary structurally or biochemically. Tests such as blood work, endoscopy, and/or biopsy, are commonly done to rule out any other serious conditions such as colorectal cancer, Celiac disease, or Colitis. The results are often within normal limits. In some instances, symptoms of IBS follow an acute gastrointestinal infection such as stomach flu or food poisoning (gastritis or gastroenteritis), or even following a parasitic infection from traveling to exotic destinations. However, this may not be the case with many individuals, where no obvious factors have contributed to experiencing these concerns, and doctors frequently will attribute the symptoms to stress.
Common symptoms experienced by most people diagnosed with IBS are:
- Constipation which can lead to lack of bowel control
- Alternating diarrhea and constipation
- Abdominal discomfort, pain, or cramping
- Mucus in stool
- Feeling of incomplete evacuation
IBS can be a very debilitating condition affecting people chronically, in between periods of time where they may feel slightly better. Although the conventional medical system does not identify the particular cause to IBS, there are several factors that are often overlooked. In recent years, Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) has been recognized as one of the potential cause for most of the symptoms experienced by patients diagnosed with IBS. Other contributing factors can be food sensitivities that trigger an immunologic response creating an inflammatory reaction. Stress in the form of mental exhaustion or physical overexertion can also exacerbate symptoms of IBS.
The treatment specific to IBS is focused on addressing the following:
- Restore and rebuilt proper gut function for optimal nutrient absorption
- Address imbalances in the microbial gut flora
- Evaluate and optimize the digestive function by addressing stomach acidity, digestive enzyme function, bile acid secretion, and liver function
- Test for food sensitivities and provide a focused dietary plan
- Mindfulness based stress prevention addressing any triggers from physical, mental, or emotional realms
Digestive concerns are rarely an isolated issue, because the digestive track is part of the whole body that is made up of many other body systems that work together and overlap. For example, the immune system, the endocrine system, the gut-brain relationship, and the neurological system can all affect your digestive function and vice versa. The “holistic” model of care integrates all the aspects of the various body systems, in conjunction with the mental and emotional beings that we are.
Dr. Nora ND practices in an integrative model of care in collaboration with gastroenterologists. Her core belief is to treat people in an individualized manner, and although patients may present with similar digestive concerns, each individual is unique and therefore treatment will differ. A thorough investigative work-up, through interview and laboratory testing (if indicated) is done in efforts to identify the root cause of the concern.