Digestive Disorders

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is not a new disease, having been well-described by the great physicians of the late 19th century. Initially termed "mucus colitis" because of one prominent clinical presentation, it soon became apparent that other common gastrointestinal symptoms were also part of this disorder. IBS represents a major health problem today. Between 10% and 20% of US citizens have experienced IBS symptoms, with 80% of these being women. Approximately 3.5 million physician visits in the US each year are due to IBS, resulting in 2.2 million prescriptions, 35,000 hospitalizations, and $1.6 billion in direct medical costs. Studies have shown that it is the single most common reason to seek consultation from a GI physician. Obviously, these figures represent only those individuals who seek medical attention, and a fair percentage with only mild or infrequent symptoms tend to "tough it out" on their own.

The main symptom characterizing IBS is abdominal discomfort associated with a disordered bowel habit or pain relieved by defecation. Associated symptoms include bloating, constipation, diarrhea, urgency to defecate, increased gas, or passage of mucus. The symptoms are chronic, can be worsened by stress, and long-term remissions are unusual. IBS can co-exist with other diseases, including fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic headaches, inflammatory bowel disease, and others. The frequent association between IBS symptoms and the menstrual cycle may require collaboration between the GI physician and the gynecologist. IBS patients have a higher than normal risk of undergoing abdominal surgery (perhaps due to misdiagnosis).

Since there is no single test that confirms a diagnosis of IBS, it has been termed a "disease of exclusion". This requires a series of diagnostic studies to exclude other specific GI diseases. These studies may include: blood tests, scopes (upper endoscopy or colonoscopy), X-ray studies, food allergy testing, and others. Sadly, because many clinicians poorly understand the various causes of IBS, patients have often been told, "Itís all in your head". Many individuals with IBS, experiencing frustration over lack of success in getting their symptoms under control, have turned to alternative practitioners for help. Newer research has shown that IBS may represent a constellation of symptoms with different, but identifiable, causes in different individuals.

In the last 15 years, gastrointestinal experts have formulated specific symptom criteria to define who does and who does not have IBS. The current classification used for this is the "Rome II" criteria, recently refined (Rome III will be published in the Fall of í06). Having a specific set of guidelines for diagnosing IBS has helped not only in assessing the response to therapy of this condition, but also in guiding research into new mechanisms of this disease and its treatment.

It has been wisely observed that there is a danger in conferring a single title to a diverse group of perhaps unrelated disorders, since a single name implies a single cause. IBS may have numerous causes. Some of these may be interrelated. These include: hypersensitivity of the intestinal lining; alterations in the rate of peristalsis or movement of the intestine (controlled by "serotonin" levels); bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine; abnormal proportions of "good" vs. "bad" bacteria; abnormal function persisting long after an acute attack of travelerís diarrhea or food poisoning; or food allergy or sensitivity.

The goal of the health care professionals at Digestique is to methodically determine the specific cause of a given clientís symptoms and to customize a treatment approach which has the highest chance of success. These therapeutic modalities may include: nutritional advice, medications, stress reduction counseling, as well as alternative approaches incorporating probiotics and/or colonic hydrotherapy.