There’s no known cause or cure for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which affects more than 15 million Americans, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The disorder involves the large intestine (colon). It causes symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, cramping, excessive gas, mucus in the stool, and changes in bowel habits (constipation and/or diarrhea).
No single treatment is effective in all IBS patients, so there’s a need to develop new therapies for the condition, said Dr. Tara Altepeter. Altepeter, an FDA gastroenterologist, noted that the agency is working to make more treatments available to patients. “There’s a lot of new research about the role of carbohydrates, and specifically a nutrient called polyols, in triggering the irritable bowel syndrome in some patients,” Altepeter said in an FDA news release.
Current treatments for IBS include changes in diet and nutrition, and exercise. Some patients take medications to manage their symptoms, but there are no medications to cure IBS.
“IBS is not like other chronic conditions, such as hypertension, which is constant. IBS is a variable condition. Even without treatment, the problem might go away in some patients. But the symptoms might return after a few months,” Altepeter said.
IBS symptoms can be triggered by certain foods, including those high in carbohydrates, spicy or fatty foods, milk products, coffee, alcohol and caffeine.
“Drugs are a last option. Patients should try dietary modifications, relaxation techniques, and other lifestyle changes, such as exercise, before resorting to medication,” Altepeter said.
Many people with IBS also have to deal with depression, anxiety and other mental health problems. “Some people suffer from depression and IBS. The question is what’s primary or secondary – what came first?” Altepeter said. “Either way, antidepressants are not a cure for IBS.”
IBS is a default diagnosis – when an inflamed bowel cannot be classified as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis or some other specific diagnosis, it is called IBS. It is a group of conditions rather than one disease. Therefore, there is variety in the triggers and treatment.
Current treatments are quite effective – diet, nutrition and exercise. However, modern medicine most have a drug rather than lifestyle changes.
I agree with much of what Dr. Altepeter says, but IBS is a lot like other chronic conditions. Hypertension is variable as is the pain from degenerative arthritis or the angina from cardiovascular disease. It’s the lack of diagnostic testing that is as bothersome to Western Medicine as the lack of drugs.
The Bottom Line:
IBS and most gut syndromes respond extremely well to the alternative treatments of diet, nutrition, and exercise. These treatments have minimal side effects and support general health and longevity while treating disease.
Source: April 17, 2017 National Institutes of Health