More than a handful of doctors – perhaps specialists in gastro-intestinal disorders – believe that the culprit for most diseases is a dirty bowel. Dr. Richard Schulze wrote in a wellness journal once, “by our retaining pounds of old, infected material in bowel pockets (diverticulosis), this material would be reabsorbed into the body and infect nearby organs, make the blood toxic, and cause disease”.
Unfortunately, Irritable bowel syndrome is not considered a disease in many medical circles, but it”s certainly an annoying source of embarrassment for those who suffer from it. Also called spastic colon, nervous bowel, mucous colitis, or functional bowel disorder, IBS affects one in five Americans
Symptoms of IBS
Irritable bowel syndrome is diagnosed when these symptoms are present (although bear in mind that other diseases or conditions mimic the same symptoms):
• Abdominal pain / cramps
• Loose bowel movement / constipation – some people could have both
• Mucus in the stool
Although not life-threatening, seeing a doctor is still encouraged so that he/she rules out other more disabling diseases, such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn”s diseases, or even colon cancer. The doctor may want to prescribe medication so that you don”t suffer from chronic diarrhea, which can dehydrate you.
The causes of IBS are not established. It seems to occur when muscles in the intestinal wall contract and relax while they transport food from the stomach to the rectum. These contracting and relaxing movements are supposed to function smoothly, but the muscles contract and relax either too slowly or too rapidly. As a result, when food is forced through the intestines more quickly, gas, diarrhea and bloating occur.
Certain foods can also aggravate IBS symptoms, and medical researchers have discovered that chocolate, milk and alcohol play a role in making symptoms.
Stress triggers IBS. In fact, experts agree that IBS is closely linked to feelings of uncertainty, tension, anxiety and depression. This is explained by the fact that cerebral nerve pathways control the colon; stress, therefore, can stimulate abnormal movements in the colon.
Living with IBS
Fortunately, thanks to some growing attention paid to IBS, individuals now have self-help tools to enable them to cope with this ailment. Most of these coping skills involve making changes to diet and lifestyle. Here are a few suggestions from the Mayo Clinic:
• increase intake of fiber – do this gradually, because too much fiber all of a sudden can induce cramps and diarrhea. Sources of fiber include: beans, whole grain cereals, oats, bran, apples, mangoes
• stay away from problem foods – if you find that eating chocolate and drinking coffee and alcohol make your symptoms worse, avoid them altogether, or reduce the amounts you take
• eat at regular times – don”t skip meals and then binge later in the day. Small but frequent meals are best
• exercise regularly – relieves depression, stress, and promotes normal contractions of the colon
Remember: talk to your doctor about your symptoms and discomforts, and together you can isolate the triggers for your IBS. Don”t be embarrassed to talk about this subject (as some men tend to be). It”s a serious problem, and a very common one. The more open you are with your health care professional, the more treatment options there are to choose from.