Monday, November 14, 2011

Are your bowels irritable?

     Have you ever heard of a nervous stomach or a spastic colon? They’re funny names to give your organs, but the condition—not so funny.

     Both terms describe irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).  It’s not an easy condition to talk about because of symptoms like bloating, gas, cramping, abdominal pain, diarrhea, even constipation. Let’s say you hold down a stressful job and have had three bouts of diarrhea during the last three months – those are some signs that you may have IBS. Your doctor will first rule out serious conditions like celiac or Crohn’s disease before possibly diagnosing you with IBS.

     The good news is that IBS doesn’t lead to colon cancer, but the bad news is you could become a prisoner in your own home. That’s because stuff like spices, tomatoes, corn, onions, and garlic can trigger IBS. So, you have to know what’s being put into your food—and the location of the closest bathroom! And both can be tricky when you’re dining out.

     No one really knows what causes IBS, but internist Mary Money, MD, says in 50-75% of her patients, there’s a genetic connection. She also says that if the pancreas isn’t making enough enzymes to help digest food, the food is forced through your system more quickly. Once diagnosed, you can manage IBS by watching your diet and taking medication. Keep in mind that IBS occurs more often in women than men, and typically becomes an issue before you hit your thirties. 

     Well, I’m glad we talked about this hush-hush condition. And you know what? I didn’t even use my quiet voice.

By Anne Gill

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