IBS? It May Be Something Else . . .

SIBOPeople often come to my office saying they’ve been diagnosed with IBS. They may complain of intestinal pain, constipation, diarrhea, or all of the above, yet all of their test results come back “normal”, so they are prescribed anti-spasmodic medications to manage their symptoms, and sent on their way. In my experience, IBS is merely a symptom of other underlying causes, rather than  a definitive diagnosis. Whether it’s food intolerances, poor eating habits, or restoring optimal production of stomach acid and digestive enzymes, naturopathic medicine has a lot to offer when it comes to identifying and treating the underlying cause of IBS.

One cause in particular that’s often overlooked is small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).  It’s thought that SIBO is responsible for over 50% of IBS cases, and possibly as much as 84%.  SIBO occurs when bacteria that normally live in the bowels (E. coli, Bacteroides, etc.) are allowed to replicate to excessive levels.  This can occur for a number of reasons, but poor gastric motility (especially due to the use of proton pump inhibitors) is usually the main underlying cause.  The main symptoms of SIBO include: Bloating, gas, abdominal pain, cramping, nausea, heartburn, joint pain, and/or fatigue.

Testing for SIBO can be easily performed using breath tests that detect abnormal levels of hydrogen or methane gas that are produced by excess levels of bacteria.  Once detected, it can be effectively treated with either naturopathic or pharmaceutical interventions.  Eradication of SIBO usually leads to a 75% reduction in IBS symptoms, and is even more effective when combined with dietary interventions (especially low carbohydrates) and motility agents.  Once treated effectively, preventive measures can be taken to reduce the risk of recurrence, which can be high if measures aren’t taken to correct the underlying imbalances that led to SIBO in the first place.

So, if you’ve suffered from IBS for years, see to it that your medical doctor or naturopath test for SIBO, especially since the testing is simple and affordable.  If there’s roughly a 75% chance of your symptoms resolving, your years of waiting for relief are hopefully over!

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