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Irritable Bowel Syndrome Relief Treatments » 2006 » October

Archive for October, 2006

Menstruation and IBS

Posted in Irritable Bowel Syndrome on October 17th, 2006

The connection or lack there of, of IBS and menstruation is a subject of much controversy. Many women report an intensification of symptoms in their IBS during their period, but the exact cause is still up for debate.

The connection between stress and IBS is essentially agreed upon my medical professionals. Stress is an important factor in IBS because of the myriad of connections between the brain and the intestines. Although doctors don’t claim to fully understand this connection yet, there is a link between mild digestive upsets and IBS. Just as stress can cause an upset stomach in healthy people, those with IBS feel the same thing but to a much greater degree. It’s believed that the added stress related to menstruation can also be a trigger to additional symptoms.

The female reproductive hormones are also considered to be a likely trigger for IBS symptoms. A disproportionate number of IBS patients are female, so an obvious connection can be made. The role of hormones and IBS is not yet fully understood. Menstruation has a high likelihood of worsening symptoms, while pregnancy or menopause can either makes symptoms worse or improve them. Studies that have looked at hormone replacement therapy and IBS show a link of increased case development.

Most women, IBS sufferers or not, report a change in bowel habit throughout their menstrual cycle. As with essentially every other aspect of IBS, these changes vary from women to woman. It appears as if the changing levels of the sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone result in changes to the speed of movement of contents through the intestinal tract.

During the menstrual cycle there are two phases. The follicular phase between days 6 and 11 during which time ovulation happens is noted for rising levels of oestrogen and low levels of progesterone. And the luteal phase between days16-21, just before menstruation during which there is a measurable rise in progesterone levels.

Research has shown that the time it takes for food to digest and pass through the body is more or less the same during both these phases. Making it unlikely that women, on the whole, will report any notable change in transit time or bowel habits leading up to or just before their period.

During actual menstruation, however, things change. Many women, especially those that are constipated, experience more frequent bowel habit during menstruation. Many different studies have shown that menstruation does have a negative effect on IBS symptoms and show that almost 50% of IBS sufferers report that their symptoms get worse during their periods.

The most common complaints during the period is an increase in gas, abdominal pain and diarrhoea. It was once strongly believed that this might be purely psychological, but the sheer amount of objective studies that have been done have disproved that belief.

You can find plenty of information on managing IBS in my downloadable ebook Irritable Bowel Syndrome Relief Treatments.

When you find one of our blog posts interesting and useful why not buy me a herbal tea to fund further work.

IBS Medication vs Your Health

Posted in Irritable Bowel Syndrome on October 10th, 2006

Because irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a condition that almost defies diagnosis due to the unusually wide range of symptoms and treatments, the most common sense way of dealing with it is with laxatives. A laxative can be easily defined as a medication that increases bowel function. Laxatives can be broken down into four major categories: fiber, osmotic laxatives, stimulant laxatives and emollients. Since there is no known cure for IBS and treatment for the disease is aimed solely at treating symptoms, many sufferers have to combine two or more forms of treatment.

A steep increase in dietary fiber in a patient’s diet is the most common prescription for dealing with IBS-C. As stated above, however, this doesn’t work for everyone. For those who do experience relief with the use of fiber, studies have shown that fiber helps IBS-C sufferers by helping to ease stool passage and increasing overall satisfaction with bowel movements, but does not help in the ease of pain.

Fiber is not without it’s side effects, either. Increases of flatulence, distension and bloating can lead to a low number of suffers agreeing to fiber treatment, especially during the first few weeks when side effects are at their highest. Studies of IBS patients have shown that the minimum increase in a patients diet for effective use is 12 grams of fiber per day.

As treatment continues, the amount of fiber prescribed increases to 20 or even 25 grams per day over several weeks. To start with, foods rich in dietary fiber should be increased. For patients that do not respond to natural increases in fiber, a second option is the introduction of over the counter fiber supplements into the diet is recommended. If your doctor has decided that an increase in fiber isn’t right for you, other options such as osmotic laxatives and then later stimulant laxatives can be tried. Stimulant laxatives are seen as a last resort because they have the potential for abuse.

Osmotic laxatives are defined as substances that cause an influx of water into the small intestine and colon, helping to clean you out. When used, they begin working in 1-2 days. The most commonly prescribed osmotics are magnesium and phosphate. When taken, the laxatives are only partially absorbed by the small intestine, the leftovers allow water to be pushed into the area and cleansing takes place. But these are not without side effects. Bloating, cramping and flatulence are common with the use of osmotics.

As is the case with every laxative, the concern that the user isn’t absorbing nutrients and is just passing them is valid. When used in excess, osmotics can cause severe diarrhoea and dehydration. Those patients that suffer from kidney or heart disease can suffer even more extreme side effects, such as water volume overload and electrolyte disorders.

Stimulant laxatives should be used only as a last resort. They directly stimulate the nerves in the large intestine and hamper absorption of water. They take effect within hours. The most well known stimulant laxative is castor oil, which can cause severe cramps and diarrhea.

Emollients can be broken down into two categories, docusates and mineral oil. Docusates allow extra water to enter the stool, thereby making is softer. Mineral oil coats the stool, therefore not allowing water to leave it. Both are effective ways to help IBS-C suffers who are helped by laxatives.

For more information on successfully managing IBS please visit Irritable Bowel Syndrome Relief.

When you find one of our blog posts interesting and useful why not buy me a herbal tea to fund further work.

Smoking vs IBS

Posted in Irritable Bowel Syndrome on October 3rd, 2006

Just as all stimulants seem to affect IBS sufferers harder than those without IBS, tobacco is one of the most extreme. Whether you smoke or chew, tobacco is a powerful gastro-intestinal stimulant, irritant and carcinogen. Because people with IBS have extremely sensitive intestinal tracts anyway, tobacco should be avoided at all costs. But even if you don’t have IBS, the effect tobacco has on your GI tract is severe.

Tobacco has shown to be harmful to the entire digestive system. Two of the most common ailments caused by smoking is heartburn and acid reflux, which are conditions that people with IBS are already more likely to suffer from. Tobacco weakens the sphincter in the oesophagus, therefore allowing stomach acid to flow upward into the oesophagus. Tobacco has also been known to double your chance of developing a peptic ulcer and chemicals in tobacco also hinder the healing of ulcers and make sufferers more likely to develop additional ulcers later in life. The exact increase is unknown but it’s thought to be as high as 10 times as likely. Doctors also believe that there is a link between the development of Crohn’s disease and the possible development of gallstones in tobacco users.

The addictive and poisonous part of tobacco, nicotine, can cause many health problems on its own. Additional weakening of the sphincter of the oesophagus, increased acid production in the stomach and a decrease in the pancreas making sodium bicarbonate, which neutralizes stomach acid. But nicotine isn’t the only problem with tobacco. There are over 400 toxins and at least 43 known carcinogens in tobacco, all of which will hit someone with IBS harder than they would hit a healthy person. A seldom considered side effect of smoking is increased air consumption, which can lead to bloating and flatulence.

And of course, the most common result in long-term cigarette smoking or tobacco chewing is the development of cancer, including cancer of the digestive tract, such as colon, bladder, pancreas, kidney and stomach cancer. It’s not known if IBS sufferers are at a higher risk to develop cancer of the digestive tract, but the additional irritation and stimuli to the body tends to not be favourable for IBS patients.

Tobacco irritates the lining of the intestines, which can cause diarrhoea, intestinal cramping, pain, bloating and gas in IBS patients. Nicotine has been reported to highly increase the frequency of stomach cramps in IBS sufferers. Tobacco use also decreases the efficiency of food digestion and it can also dramatically slow down the metabolism of those with IBS. This can alter bowel movements, which are already a huge problem for those with IBS, and cause bloating. Withdrawal from nicotine can cause both constipation and diarrhoea, again, already a big problem for those with IBS.

So for those people with IBS, sometimes just a small amount of stimuli to the digestive tract can be too much. The effects of tobacco use are universally negative for an average person and can be dramatic for those with IBS. There is no known cure for IBS and treatment options are not widely agreed upon, even by experts. But one treatment everyone can agree on is to reduce or eliminate tobacco use, even if you don’t have IBS!

If you are a smoker and suffer with IBS, now is the time to quit! But don’t worry, help is at hand Click Here For More Information.

When you find one of our blog posts interesting and useful why not buy me a herbal tea to fund further work.

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