Irritable Bowel Syndrome, IBS

Waters Of Life Cleansing & Renewal has a solid reputation for excellence in colon hydrotherapy & life-changing cleansing programs in Orange County, CA. Under the guidance of Jeanne Martin, Advanced I-ACT Colon Hydrotherapist, Waters Of Life specializes in the Vitratox Cleansing Program, an 8 Day Cleanse with an accompanying liver & gallbladder flush. Since 2001, Waters of Life has been assisting clients with health challenges that range from constipation & IBS to asthma, high blood pressure & auto-immune issues & beyond.

What is it?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome ( IBS ), not to be confused with the more serious IBD ( Inflammatory Bowel Disease ), is considered a “functional disorder” of the colon, which is to say that the large intestine is not functioning properly, although there is no evidence of any organic structural abnormality. Over the years, IBS has been known by a variety of different names: spastic colon, intestinal neurosis, irritable colon, mucous colon, nervous colon, laxative colon, cathartic colon, nervous diarrhea, spastic colitis, mucous colitis, functional colitis and colitis. Reference to the disorder as any type of colitis is technically incorrect, for with it there is no inflammation, no ulceration or other tissue changes. Use of the words “neurosis” and “nervous” imply that IBS is a psychological disorder – another inaccuracy. It is a very real physiological disorder, not a psychosomatic ailment, as once believed,1 although not one that is entirely understood at present. In truth, more is known about what IBS isn’t than what it is. Some think that IBS is a disorder of the enteric nervous system; that is to say that the nerve supply in the ‘brain in the gut’ alters normal pain perception,2 so that the bowel becomes oversensitive to normal stimuli.

What Causes it?

The cause of IBS is uncertain, although the following factors may well play a causative role:

  • Irregularities in intestinal hormones and nerves responsible for bowel motility (muscle contraction)
  • Bacterial, fungal or parasitic involvement
  • Stress
  • Dietary inadequacies
  • Food intolerances (allergies and sensitivities)
  • Inadequate enzyme production
  • Dysbiosis (imbalance in intestinal flora – too many bad bacteria, not enough good ones)
  • Reaction to medications (such as destruction of intestinal flora by antibiotics)
  • Undiagnosed lactose intolerance

IBS is at least partially a disorder of colon motility. In it, the normal rhythmic muscular contractions of the digestive tract become irregular and uncoordinated. This interferes with the normal movement of food and waste material and leads to the accumulation of mucus and toxins in the intestine. This accumulated material sets up a partial obstruction of the digestive tract, trapping gas and stools, which in turn causes bloating, distention and constipation.3

The colon of the IBS sufferer seems to be more sensitive and reactive to stimulation than that of most people. Intestinal spasms may result from ingestion of certain foods or medicines and from abdominal distention caused by gas. While these factors would not cause undue gastrointestinal stress for the average person, for the IBS sufferer, they can be triggers of painful abdominal spasms.

It is normal for eating to cause contractions in the colon. Normally, these contractions would result in the urge to defecate within an hour after eating. For the person with IBS however, the urge may come sooner, accompanied often with cramps and diarrhea. This is especially true if the meal is large and/or contains a high percentage of fat. Fatty foods such as meat, dairy products, oils and avocados provide a strong stimulus for the colonic contractions after a meal for the person with IBS. Stress has the same effect.

There is evidence that food sensitivities and allergies may play a major causative role in IBS, for they are found in ½ to 2/3 of those afflicted with the disorder.4 The most common allergens are dairy products and grains (especially wheat and corn). Other foods that often trigger episodes of IBS are coffee, tea, citrus and chocolate.5 Caffeine in any form may serve as a gut irritant, as may nicotine. Over-consumption of alcohol may also trigger intestinal spasms in the person with IBS. Meals high in sugar can also contribute to IBS by decreasing intestinal motility.6 A high percentage of people with IBS are intolerant not only to sucrose (table sugar), but also to other forms of sugar like manitol, sorbitol and fructose.7 Foods from the cabbage family (broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower) may be irritating to the IBS sufferer because of their tendency to cause gas.

Other factors that appear to play a role in IBS include hormonal changes (women tend to have flare-ups around the time of their menstrual cycle), low-fiber diets and infection. Many patients have reported onset of symptoms during or soon after recovery from gastrointestinal infection (such as an episode of food poisoning), abdominal surgery or treatment with antibiotics.

The true cause of IBS symptoms in some cases may be undetected parasitic infection, especially giardiasis or amebiasis. Because of the similarity in symptoms, it is not uncommon for giardial infection to be mistaken for IBS.8 There also may be an underlying problem with overgrowth of the yeast Candida Albicans.

Who Gets it?

An estimated one out of five Americans suffers from Irritable Bowel Syndrome ( IBS ).9 The average age of onset is between 25 and 45, with prevalence of the disease declining with age. It is not uncommon for IBS symptoms to surface during teen years, though the disease may be present from infancy.10 At least twice as many women as men are diagnosed with it.11 More men may suffer from the desease than reported, however, for many with IBS (an estimated 90%) never consult a physician – at least in Western cultures. Interestingly, the incidence of IBS is reversed in India (twice as many men affected as women) where men are more apt than women to seek medical care.12 Although once thought to be a disease of the white middle class, recent studies have established that the prevalence of IBS seems to be independent of race, with Japanese, Chinese, African Americans and Hispanics having the same incidence of the disease as Caucasians.13

IBS is the most common gastrointestinal disorder seen by physicians and makes up 40% of all visits to gastroenterologists (GI disorder specialists).14 Three and a half million office visits are made to doctors every year for IBS in the United States, making it the 7th leading diagnosis overall.15

What are the Signs & Symptoms?

International conferences have actually been held to establish agreed-upon criteria by which function bowel disease can be recognized. These conferences have produced the “Manning criteria” (named after Adrian Manning who proposed one set of criteria) and the “Rome critieria” (named for the location of one of the conferences). The Manning criteria are:16

  • Stools that are more frequent and looser at the start of episodes of abdominal pain
  • Relief of pain after defecating
  • A sense of incomplete rectal evacuation
  • Passage of mucus with the stool
  • A sense of abdominal bloating

The Rome criteria added to the above:

  • Constant presence of abdominal pain and altered bowel habits
  • Presence of remaining symptoms 25% of the time

Although the above criteria are the “official” ones, in reality, patients presenting with variations of these symptoms may be diagnosed with IBS;17 these variations may include:

  • Constipation with or without pain
  • Pain associated with bowel movements
  • Painless diarrhea only
  • Alternating constipation and diarrhea

IBS sufferers may also experience other symptoms, including:

  • Flatulence
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Poor nutrient absorption (if diarrhea is severe)

The abdominal pain associated with IBS is often triggered by eating and accompanied by abdominal spasms. The person with IBS may feel an urgent need to move the bowels but be unable to do so.

Rectal bleeding is not a typical sign of IBS. If it is present in an IBS sufferer (who is correctly diagnosed), it will be due to a minor disorder such as hemorrhoids or a fissure (a crack in the lining where the rectum joins the skin around the anus).

 IBS Facts:

  • According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, irritable bowel syndrome ( IBS ) is one of the most frequently occurring gastrointestinal disorders and accounts for 41% of all visits to gastroenterology practices.
  • It is estimated today that one in five Americans has IBS symptoms, making it second only to the common cold as the most frequent cause of absenteeism from work and school.
  • Most people with IBS have such mild symptoms that they do not seek medical care for it, and those that do are seldom hospitalized.

Optional Nutritional Approaches

Depending upon their level of awareness, doctors may also advise their IBS patients to eat smaller meals, chew thoroughly, reduce fat intake, increase water consumption, eliminate gas-forming foods, refined foods and sugar. Some may recommend the use of digestive enzymes with meals, probiotics (to increase friendly bacteria), glutamine (to help heal the bowel wall) and peppermint oil (enteric-coated capsules have been used to help soothe and relax intestinal muscles21).

Complementary Mind/Body Therapies

Since stress can be a key trigger for IBS, the following can be very important in the management of this condition:

  • Meditation/Prayer
  • Massage therapy would be excellent in the management of IBS
  • Acupuncture has stress-reducing effects; ask your practitioner specifically about this
  • Yoga – good not only for exercise but also for stress reduction
  • Biofeedback can be helpful in teaching relaxation skills
  • Colon hydrotherapy / Colonics – If your IBS condition results from an imbalance in the GI tract, (due to such conditions as Candida or parasites), or you have the constipation IBS, colon hydrotherapy could be beneficial.
  • Chiropractic
  • Music therapy

For more info, read pages 137-146 in Gut Solutions by Brenda Watson, N.D. and Leonard Smith, M.D.

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