Do you have problems with abdominal cramping? What about bloating or constipation that has been going on for at least three months? If so, you may be one of the 10 percent to 20 percent of Americans who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS.
There are many theories as to the cause of IBS, but it appears that there may be many different underlying mechanisms that can lead to the set of symptoms. For many, the conventional treatment of medication does not provide adequate relief, and patients continue to suffer with symptoms that, for some, may be quite debilitating.
As an integrative doctor, I use the “4 R” program — remove, replace, re-inoculate and repair — to address IBS.
First, I look to remove any potential foods that may be causing a problem (dairy and gluten are common culprits). I also test for harmful bacteria, yeast overgrowth or parasites that may be present. If necessary, I use targeted therapies to address these imbalances.
In some IBS patients, issues of low stomach acid or inadequate digestive enzymes may be a factor. In such cases, supplements can replace these items.
Our digestive tract contains trillions of bacteria that play an important role in how we digest food. Poor diet and antibiotic use can cause shifts in these bacteria, altering the way our digestive tract works and, possibly, leading to IBS symptoms. It is therefore important to use probiotics to re-inoculate the digestive tract.
Lastly, to help restore normal digestive function, I look to repair the intestinal lining with nutrients such as glutamine and fish oil.
For many of my patients, following the 4 Rs helps IBS symptoms go away. It is definitely worth taking a broader look into what is going on in the digestive system when IBS symptoms are present.
• Heidi Rula, M.D., is a physician at Integrative Care for Women in Mesa. Reach her at (480) 699-2508 or www.IntegrativeCareForWomen.com