Irritable Bowel Syndrome is Treatable
For many years, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) has been thought of as a condition that is stress related and can only be managed with drugs that reduce symptoms. But most cases of IBS are caused by an infection in your small intestine, known as Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO). This can be diagnosed with a Glucose or a Lactulose Hydrogen/Methane Breath Test that we can prescribe for you. Up to 84% of patients with IBS have been shown to test positive for SIBO with a lactulose breath test.(1)
However, IBS is usually treated as a condition with no known cause that can only be treated with drugs that reduce symptoms, like constipation or diarrhea. Medications for constipation are many and can include magnesium, MiraLax, stimulant laxatives like Senokot, and other medications like Linzess and Amatiza. Medications for diarrhea include calcium, charcoal, Imodium, Lomotil, bile acid binding agents like cholestyramine, and also Lotronex, among others. But these medications do not attempt to correct the underlying causes of the symptoms.
After carefully going through your health history and doing a breath test and a stool sample, we can hopefully find the underlying cause of your symptoms and correct that. Occasionally other testing, such as food sensitivity testing can be very helpful. If you test positive for SIBO/IBS, this can be effectively treated in many patients with a special dietary regimen, natural, herbal anti-microbials and a few other nutritional strategies, including specific probiotics. There are certain prescription antibiotics that can also be very effective, but some of the herbal anti-microbials that have been shown in studies to be as effective as the antibiotics, and these are usually safer.(2) If you choose to go with antibiotics, I will refer you to a gastroenterologist. For an effective treatment, we must also restore proper intestinal motility, which can be accomplished nutritionally as well, as long as there are no structural barriers. Unfortunately, not everyone is better after the first month of care. An additional round may be necessary, perhaps with a different choice of herbs. We may need to change the dietary approach as well. Sometimes another type of diet is necessary, such as a few weeks of the elemental diet.
After phase one of our treatment, which is to Remove the overgrown bacteria and restore the intestinal motility, we then need to Rebuild our intestinal health using certain other nutritional strategies. This Rebuild is the second phase and is necessary in reducing the likelihood that it will return. We also need to broaden our nutrition out from the specialized diet we have been following while trying to eradicate the SIBO. This should be done in a gradual manner, checking to see if any of these foods create a reaction. A percentage of patients continue to have some symptoms and may want to repeat the breath test and possibly repeat a cycle of care every so many months or may do well with a low dose of herbs on a daily basis. But there is a good chance that we will be able to identify the underlying cause of your discomfort and correct that, rather than just treating your symptoms.
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