Nearly 37.2 million physician office visits stem around digestive system diagnoses. Emergency room visits for digestive issues encompass 7.9 million!
IBS is a gut or intestinal disorder that impacts millions of Americans, limiting participation in social events, hobbies, work, and more. If you or a loved one has dealt with a gut disorder, you may wonder what the best treatment for IBS is.
When searching the internet, you will likely see various advertisements and marketing highlighting medication and a one-size-fits-all solution. Unfortunately, this is not how IBS works, and many patients need individualized care plans for the best outcomes.
Luckily, we have put together a complete guide highlighting key characteristics of IBS and how to get started with customizable treatments today, so keep reading for more information!
Irritable bowel syndrome, simply known as IBS, is a chronic intestinal disorder that causes gut discomfort and impacts upwards of 15% of Americans. Women are twice as likely to have IBS compared to men, and research shows promising evidence that infections may be one of the triggers.
Unfortunately, since IBS is a chronic condition, there is no cure. On a positive note, it is not life-threatening, and with the right tools, you can find IBS treatments that work for managing your symptoms.
At its core, IBS is a change in bowel function that mainly causes abdominal pain. IBS symptoms don’t usually stop there and also include:
- Mucus in stools
Experts break down IBS into two categories: IBS-D and IBS-C, which stand for IBS with diarrhea and IBS with constipation. In some cases, patients may have both and fall under a mixed category.
IBS typically presents with flare-ups and remission. During flare-ups, symptoms worsen, which often occurs after eating a meal.
What Are IBS Causes?
There are five primary causes of IBS, and some patients may have multiple factors that initiate onset:
- Microbial imbalances
Some speculate that hormones, heightened sensitivity, medication response, muscle malfunctions, and the central nervous system could play a role in IBS. More evidence is amounting that IBS is multi-causal and gut microbiota are a prominent player (more on that below).
Is There IBS Testing?
There is not a singular test for IBS, and most testing is to help providers rule out other diagnoses. Common labs and exams include blood work and imaging that can detect signs of IBD, cancers, or other gastrointestinal diseases.
Your practitioner will also review your symptoms, and it is useful if you keep a food journal or diary and document when and how often you have symptoms. Suppose your symptoms match some of the ones listed above, and other diagnostic tools come back without indicators. In that case, your physician will likely ask the following questions based on the Rome IV criteria:
- Are symptoms present at least one day weekly?
- Have you had symptoms for at least three months?
- Do you have pain with bowel movements?
- Do you have pain with changes in stool?
During testing, a clinician might recommend food allergy and intolerance testing. Sometimes, food allergies present with similar symptoms or pinpoint IBS causes.
IBS vs. IBD
One area of confusion for patients is IBS versus irritable bowel disease (IBD). The two are not the same, and IBS does not show any physical changes in the intestinal tract lining. IBD is an autoimmune disease where cells attack the intestinal wall, causing chronic inflammation, pain, and other debilitating symptoms.
Some of the most common diseases under IBD are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. A few additional medical risks with IBD are not typically found in IBS patients, such as loss of appetite, weight loss, fever, and colon cancer.
Additionally, the main treatments for IBD include medication management or surgery that removes damaged intestinal portions.
Best Treatment for IBS
IBS is mainly treated through medication, diet, and lifestyle changes. Diet and lifestyle treatments are the best treatments for IBS based on expert opinion, but let’s address the first tier: medication.
The downside of medication is costly prescriptions, side effects, and long-term use. Some of the more common prescriptions used for IBS include Metamucil, Imodium, Lotronex, Linzess, and Trulance. Medication management will differ depending on whether you have IBS-D or IBS -C.
Since IBS is a chronic condition, your physician will likely recommend a multi-faceted approach to treat IBS, which brings in the next two treatment options. Diet and lifestyle changes help promote overall health and wellness while managing IBS symptoms.
Functional Medicine and Your IBS Symptoms
At its core – functional medicine is a holistic and natural approach to treating diseases, illnesses, and health. Traditional medicine treats symptoms and manages chronic conditions versus functional medicine, which looks at the entire human body and attempts to find the cause of disease and illness.
An example of functional medicine is the increasing use of CBD to treat chronic pain, insomnia, and IBS. Other types of functional medicine treatments include:
- Dietary and nutrition advice
- Hormonal therapy
If you have concerns about the efficacy of function medicine, rest assured that many of these therapies are still founded on evidence-based practices that utilize comprehensive testing to see the bigger picture. A functional medicinal provider is ideal for managing your IBS symptoms by offering naturopathic and integrative treatments.
Naturopathic Care 101
Naturopathic care helps individuals dealing with IBS manage their symptoms without medication. Here are some common examples of what naturopathic treatments and therapies include:
- Nutritional support
- Dietary supplements
- IV nutrition
- Lifestyle recommendations
Naturopathic care considers initial physician consultations and on-site labs that assist practitioners in developing individualized care plans catered toward your symptoms, lifestyle, and wellness. After starting naturopathic therapies at Desert Wellness Center in Scottsdale, AZ, you will receive a follow-up appointment. During these aftercare appointments, you can consult with your practitioner on any adjustments needed and how you are responding to interventions.
Food Allergy Testing
The first step is food allergy and sensitivity testing. If you come back positive for food allergies, you could notice a drastic decrease in symptoms with proper treatments. Functional medicine focuses on accurate diagnostics and effective naturopathic methods, including sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT).
SLIT are drops placed under the tongue and assist in allergy management, including food sensitivities. Patients begin noticing symptom relief between two weeks and two months.
Nutritional IV Therapy
IBS can sometimes make it challenging to eat enough wholesome foods that your body needs. Maintaining optimal nutrients helps combat various diseases and boost immune system health. It is a critical component for IBS symptoms and other health conditions.
Nutritional IV therapy delivers nutrients through a needle and takes around an hour to complete. Vitamin injections are simple, easy, and deliver critical nutrients to your body within a few seconds.
The benefit of vitamin and nutritional IV therapy are improved immune system health, reduced signs of aging, improved metabolism, and gut health. This homeopathic therapy can be included with other treatment plans and facilitates long-term health goals.
How Diet Affects IBS Symptoms
Diet plays one of the most prominent roles in IBS flare-ups and symptoms. Many patients recognize a few food triggers that exacerbate symptoms, but a few may go unnoticed. Here are some common dietary triggers for IBS:
- Artificial sweeteners
- Dairy products
- Fried food
- Red meat
Food sensitivities are highly common amongst IBS patients, including sorbitol, fructose, and lactose. Increasing fiber through supplements or diet changes reduces constipation and helps stools pass more comfortably, while probiotics maintain gut homeostasis and promote healthy bacterial growth.
A healthy GI system contains 100 million nerve cells and encompasses 70% of your immune system. Gut microbiota and your metabolic pathways help with:
- Physiological functions
- Gut motility
- Inflammatory management
Predisposition or exacerbation of IBS symptoms is linked to diet in nearly 65% of patients. Food sensitivities and poor dieting can affect your microbiota, limiting variability, composition, and function. In literature reviews, researchers had subjects eliminate foods that increased immunoglobulin G levels (e.g., yeast, wheat).
After three months, a reduction in symptoms was noted, pointing to yeast as one variable in managing IBS symptoms. This study indicated that future research should target how manipulating gut microbiota through probiotics, prebiotics, and antibiotics affects long-term gut health.
Exercise helps gut motility and reduces anxiety and stress. You can also adopt mindfulness, yoga, or meditation that ease daily stressors and improve your symptoms. Consider joining a support group, either online or in-person, with individuals going through similar diagnoses.
Detecting IBS Signs and Seeking Help
After a long, stressful day, you may notice that your IBS symptoms are worse. Or maybe, you had a large meal at dinnertime, and now your stomach (and bathroom) are paying for it.
If these symptoms continue, you could have a larger problem at hand. The best treatment for IBS starts with a highly qualified and reputable clinic that focuses on your overall health and wellness, finding the underlying root of your symptoms.
Start the process of feeling better today by contacting us at Desert Wellness Center in Scottsdale, Arizona, and speak to one of our trained naturopathic clinicians.