IBS is a the most common gut condition in the US, affecting almost 20% of the population. Nearly $30 billion dollars a year are spent on IBS treatment, in direct medical costs and indirect costs, such as absentism from work. Women are affected by IBS 3x more than men.
IBS is defined as a “functional GI disorder characterized by abdominal pain and altered bowel habits in the absence of specific and unique organic pathology”. It consists of chronic constipation, chronic diarrhea or a mixture of the two; abdominal pain; abdominal gas and bloating; and may include other additional symptoms such as nausea, heartburn, menstrual disorder. “Stress” that is, mental/emotional imbalances do not actually cause IBS, but they are certainly able to worsen IBS symptoms.
The formal diagnosis consists of having recurrent abdominal pain/discomfort at least 3 days a month during the past 3 months, and patient has also experienced two of the below:
1. Symptoms are better defecation
2. Onset was associated with changes in stool frequency
3. Onset was associated with changes in stool form/appearance
4. Mucuous in the stool
5. Abdominal bloating/gas
There are certain “red flag” warning signs associated with developing IBS that a physician should enquire about: occurred in middle age or in a senior; sudden onset of symptoms; symptoms continuing to worsen; anorexia or weight loss; episodes of fever; diarrhea contains blood, fat, undigested food and/or rectal bleeding. If any of those are occurring a person should get an immediate medical evaluation.
IBS is kind of a medical “garbage can” type diagnosis which does not clarify where the illness is or what is going wrong with the function of the gut. A patient usually is seen by a gastroenterologist. Standard care thus analyzes IBS with basic blood work; an “EGD”, or complete endoscopy, where a tube is inserted to view the esophagus, stomach and duodenum; a colonic; perhaps an abdominal ultrasound. With IBS, these tests, both expensive and invasive are invariably negative for any noticeable anatomical defect. When these are negative, patients are generally recommended to take extra fiber, or a probiotic (typically “Align”, which is a seriously inferior product in my opinion), and are perhaps recommended a medicine to help either speed things up (for constipation patients) or slow them down (for diarrhea patients); and if the patient is still not well, then antidepressants may be prescribed. Patients are oftentimes forced to continue to live with a lower quality of life and a lot of chronic gastrointestinal daily discomfort.
This is where a naturopathic physician who specializes in alternative gastroenterology comes in! With naturopathic medicine, our docs probe a lot deeper to uncover the Obstacles to Cure, the reasons your gut is unhealthy.
We will check your medicines: Metformin can cause IBS symptoms; opiods can cause constipation; a large history of antibiotics suggests dysbiosis (imbalanced bacteria levels in the gut).
We will do alternative testing:
1. Comprehensive 1.5 hour intake to study the entirety of the condition
2. Food Allergy Testing through the blood which best uncovers chronic delayed food reactions
3. Comprehensive Stool Analysis to uncover the specifics of imbalanced bacteria level or fungal overgrowth
4. Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth–which is the cause of 60% of IBS
5. Diet diary to ensure we know the exact nature of a patient’s dietary intake
6. Celiac, thyroid panels, and other blood work labs and perhaps even salivary cortisol and DHEA if long-term “stress” has occurred in the patient’s life.
The treatment of a patient with IBS is very effective. Once the Ostacles are uncovered, patients are taught how best to eat, how to remove food allergies, and how to heal up their gut. Treatments include:
1. Proper diet (which may be different patient to patient)–good naturoapthic gastroenterology physicians treat individuals and do not place patients on a one treatment conveyer belt.
2. Remove Obstacles found (+) in any testing
3. Heal the gut: we may use anything from nutrients, glutamine, probiotics, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, digestive enzymes, demulcents (botanicals which soothe, calm and allow gut healing), constitutional homeopathy, hydrotherapy (working with water), stress relaxation, acupunture, exercise, and anything else that seems pertinent to a patients healing requirements.
4. Heal the adrenals–high cortisol ruins the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, so helping the patient work with their adrenals, and ensure the cortisol is not too high is important for some patients.
An expert is necessary–for example, some probiotics are good for non-SIBO IBS, but entirely different ones are needed when SIBO is causing it.
The physicians at AIMS are specialists in alternative gastroenterology and welcome seeing patients who have IBS to help remove the reasons why and then heal up the gut. Patients can recover from IBS; it’s time patients who have IBS get good care.
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Arizona Integrative Medical Solutions
4657 S. Lakeshore Drive, Suite 1
Tempe, AZ 85282
Mon-Fri: 8:30-5:30 pm
Our office is located near Baseline Road and Rural Road in Tempe, Arizona