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(Whirlpool's American Family, March 14,2007)

Irritable bowel most common cause of bloat

By Lauren Streicher

Chicago Sun Times, January 26, 2007

Q. Lately it seems like I am really bloated. I'm 40 years old but don't have a regular doctor. Frankly, I'm terrified that I have something really bad.

A. The dreaded bloat. For some women it is monthly, others, daily. In addition to the misery of not being able to zip your jeans, there is often the unspoken fear ... could this mean ovarian cancer? In reality, more often than not, women who experience abdominal bloating do not have ovarian cancer, but far less serious conditions. While many women attribute their symptoms to a potential gynecologic problem, abdominal distention and discomfort is often an indication of gastrointestinal, not gynecologic issues.

Dr. Steven Stryker, colorectal surgeon and medical director of Digestique (, a center specializing in the treatment of digestive disorders in women, comments that bloating is sometimes due to serious problems, such as tumors (cancerous or noncancerous), ulcers or scar tissue from inflammatory disorders such as Chroen's disease or diverticulitis that obstruct the stomach or intestines.

The most common cause of lower abdominal bloating in young women, however, is irritable bowel syndrome. IBS is three to five times more common in women than in men, with symptoms often beginning before age 30. In addition to bloating, diarrhea and/or constipation are typical of this disease. Years ago, IBS was thought to be stress-related or psychosomatic. Now it is recognized that irritable bowel is often due to localized areas of abnormal bacterial concentrations ("segmental bacterial overgrowth"). In these cases most symptoms can be eliminated with a course of antibiotics. According to Stryker, an alternative approach showing increasing promise is treatment with combinations of probiotic strains, including bifidobacteria and lactobacilli.

Dr. Lauren Streicher practices at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Her column appears every other Friday. E-mail

Digestive Problems ? A New Women-Only Clinic Offers Help

By Kelly Rehan

Todayís Chicago Woman July 2006

Itís fairly common for many women to experience gastrointestinal problems such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation and cramps. "Because gastrointestinal disorders arenít life threatening, women tend to get short-changed when they try to see advice", observes Steven J. Stryker, M.D. "But the conditions can cause trouble for years. Their quality of life is threatened." As a professor of clinical surgery with over 20 years of experience in gastrointestinal surgery at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, not much stumps Dr. Stryker in matters of digestion. However, he has been struck by the large numbers of women who seek his advice on non-surgical means to deal with digestive ailments.

"You realize after awhile, that there are people looking for relief, but they have limited options," Dr. Stryker says. "This portion of the population is seriously underserved."

Not any longer.

In late June, Dr. Stryker opened Digestique, a clinic at 680 Lake Shore Drive that caters specifically to women with disabling or chronic gastrointestinal conditions. As medical director for the clinic, Dr. Stryker explains that Digestique will provide a comfort zone for patients to discuss their personal, and often, embarrassing issues that accompany digestive illnesses.

Though Digestique is among the first of its kind, a clinic that only serves women with digestive disorders in not such a wild idea. Women, especially during and following pregnancy, are more prone to gastrointestinal illnesses than men. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is the most common digestive disorder in the U.S., affecting 10 to 15% of the population, with 80% of IBS sufferers being women.

Dr. Strykerís "dream team" of specialists includes a gastroenterologist, a gastrointestinal nurse clinician and a dietician to treat and diagnose patients individually. "Weíre not necessarily looking at providing high volume, assembly line diagnoses and treatment, but rather more personal, focused treatment for each patient," he explains.

But perhaps whatís most innovative about Digestique is its diagnostic approach of blending sound traditional practices with some less mainstream methods that include diet regulation, supplements and colonic hydrotherapy- an increasingly popular treatment.

"Usually you either see physicians who are sole practitioners of traditional medicine, or those who completely ignore the sound traditional approaches," Dr. Stryker says. "To truly be holistic practitioners, we must blend them together."

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