According to the Canadian Digestive Health Foundation (CDHF), irritable bowel syndrome is a common chronic gastrointestinal disorder that involves problems with motility (how the bowel moves contents through our intestines) and sensitivity (how the brain interprets sensations in the bowel). (1)
Canada has one of the highest rates of irritable bowel syndrome in the world with an estimated number of five million Canadians currently suffering. Said another way, that’s one in seven Canadians affected with IBS and only 40% of them will seek medical attention. (2)
The estimated cost to the Canadian healthcare system exceeds $6.5 billion each year. (3) Irritable bowel syndrome is a frequent cause of work and school absenteeism. Canadian’s suffering from IBS will miss (on average) thirteen days of work each year, representing another $8 billion of lost productivity. (4) Needless to say, finding a solution to IBS is a worthy endeavor.
Irritable bowel is a syndrome, not a disease. To learn more about the difference between syndromes and diseases, please see my previous post.
What are the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome?
The general symptoms of IBS include:
- Abdominal pain and/or cramping
- Constipation (passing three or fewer stools in a week or passing hard, dry stools and/or straining during a bowel movement)
- Diarrhea (passing three or more stools per day, and/or urgent need to have a bowel movement)
- Feeling of incomplete emptying of the bowels
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is generally classified into one of three categories based on the common symptom.
- IBS-C is characterized by constipation.
- IBS-D is characterized by loose stools or diarrhea.
- IBS-M will have alternating or mixed loose stools and constipation.
What causes IBS?
This remains a mystery. As a medical community, we’re not entirely sure what the exact cause is. With that said, irritable bowel is often (but not always) triggered by:
- A gut infection
- A course of antibiotics
- Food poisoning
How should IBS be treated?
Conventional treatment for IBS will depend on the type of irritable bowel syndrome you have. For IBS-C, stool softeners and laxatives are often prescribed. For IBS-D, antidiarrheals from the opioid family are prescribed. Medications used to ease muscle spasms (antispasmodics) will often be recommended for abdominal discomfort. While there is not a lot of evidence, low doses of antidepressants are also sometimes prescribed.
The key piece to keep in mind is that the conventional treatment of irritable bowel syndrome is not addressing the root cause of the disease. When the root cause is alleviated, you should no longer be dependent on continuous medical intervention.
At flourish clinic, we always begin the treatment of irritable bowel with changes in nutrition. This includes either lab testing or a reset diet to determine what foods are best tolerated.
Now, I want to hear from you.
What have you done to alleviate your IBS?
Originally published at Flourish Clinic.