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What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome

posted on 1:10 PM, July 31, 2012

There is a strong relationship between our emotions and our gastrointestinal tract.  Anger, anxiety, sadness and elation all send signals to the stomach that can cause symptoms.  The brain and gut are so intimately connected that often these causes of stomach upsets can be unrecognized and the symptoms severe.  This isn't to say that the problems are psychological, but that stress and other emotional issues can be significant factors.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a difficult condition to treat because it is not well understood.  Symptoms vary considerably from diarrhea to constipation to painful cramps to bloating.  Now, a European study is supporting the theory that an overgrowth of gut bacteria is at the root of this condition.  This clearer understanding of the cause can help lead to more effective treatments aimed at curing rather than ameliorating.

Anyone who has ever had a colonoscopy will appreciate some new technology being developed.  The new "virtual colonoscopy" uses a CT scanner and eliminates the need for probes and laxative solutions.  This method of screening is not as effective in catching the smallest polyps, but these are less likely to cause cancer.  In fact, it may reduce the rate of cancers missed due to people avoiding the standard colonoscopy procedure.

Gas, bloating, cramps – so many causes but here's one you may not have considered.  It is possible to drink too much water, especially with a meal.  The water can dilute the stomach acids, making them less effective at digestion and causing gas.  Other causes:  eating too quickly, carbonated beverages, gulping foods.  Try drinking water an hour before eating and consider taking probiotics to aid your digestion processes.

Many minor, everyday health problems may not be life-threatening, but still affect quality of life.  Our pharmacists have tips to help you manage better.


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