April is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Awareness Month and because IBS affects so may people, I have decided to write a little bit about the topic.  To date, there is not a full understanding of what causes IBS.  Researchers are continually trying to figure out the cause as well as the best way to treat it.  In the past, patients suffering from IBS were just patted on the head and told they would have to live with it.  As more and more research is being done, we know that IBS is real and that there must be a way in which to “cure” it.  There are basically three schools of thought on treating IBS; Psychotherapy, Complementary and Alternative Medicines, and Pharmaceuticals.

The psychotherapy approach is a fairly recent discovery.  The underlying principle is that even though IBS does not stem from mental dysfunction, there is evidence that early psychological intervention can help to relieve IBS symptoms.    Many tests have been done on subjects suffering from IBS and the recurrent theme is that IBS patients may have abnormal processing of emotional and cognitive information which influences pain perception.  This would stand to prove, that changing the way a person thinks about their condition and the way they behave when having symptoms can drastically improve symptoms if given the right coaching and training.   The most recent example is the push for mindfulness based stress reduction which has been proven to help IBS symptoms.

Complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) are becoming more widely used because current treatments for IBS don’t address all of the symptoms associated with it.  About 38% of the people in the United States incorporate CAM into their daily routine.  These treatments include acupuncture, peppermint oil, herbal remedies, and probiotics.  Although there may be some relief of IBS symptoms, these treatments have never been proven to work in large-scale studies and the potential side effects have yet to be determined.  Because of this, the efficacy of these types of treatments is inconclusive and the safety is not regulated.

Pharmaceutical treatments have been known to act more as a Band-Aid; covering up the symptoms temporarily, but not treating the actual cause.  Those medicines currently used, such as antidepressants, have also been known to cause as much harm as good; making GI doctors reluctant to prescribe conventional medicines.  However, new research is being done on the use of antibiotics in treating IBS.  The theory behind this research is that IBS is driven by bacterial overgrowth in the gut.  Therefore, it stands to reason that if the accumulation of bacteria can be treated with an antibiotic, then the IBS symptoms will be “cured”.   This was proven in a study on Rifaximin in which patients were relieved of bloating, pain, and watery stools.  Now there is further research being done, to determine the long term efficacy and success of re-treatment.

Some of my IBS patients were able to participate in the original study we did on bacterial overgrowth treatment.  From my experience, it seems as though this is a safe and fairly effective treatment for people with IBS-Diarrhea.  I am interested to see what treatments you have found effective in treating IBS, whether conventional or alternative.  Because this is such a wide-open topic, it could benefit everyone to know what treatments are out there, so write in and tell me what has worked for you.

Source: Gastroenterology & Endoscopy News April 2012

Disclaimer: The information presented on this website is not intended to take the place of your personal physician’s advice and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.  Discuss this information with your healthcare provider to determine what is right for you.  All information is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical condition