With approximately 120,000 new cases diagnosed in Canada every year, Irritable Bowel Syndrome has become the most common diagnosis handed out by Gastroenterologists. But just as the condition is becoming more and more common, so are the misconceptions about this elusive condition.
HERE ARE THE 4 MOST COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT IBS.
MISCONCEPTION #1: IBS DEFINES A SPECIFIC CONDITION
By definition, IBS is a chronic functional disorder of the colon that is of unknown etiology. It is often associated with abnormal intestinal motility and increased sensitivity to visceral pain that is characterized by symptoms of bloating, passage of mucous in stools, abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation or both. Because the etiology is unknown, a diagnosis of IBS is a diagnosis of the symptoms, not the cause. Being diagnosed with ISB should be viewed as a starting point as it requires further investigation into the root cause of the symptoms in order to determine the proper course of treatment.
MISCONCEPTION #2: THERE IS ONE SPECIFIC CAUSE OF IBS
There are many and often multiple issues that contribute to the symptoms of IBS. Some examples include SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), food sensitivities, infections, medications and visceral hypersensitivity. These factors can disrupt the gastrointestinal tract and cause very similar symptoms. Because of these overlapping symptoms, pinpointing the root cause can be difficult and often requires multiple tests and the support of a qualified health practitioner.
MISCONCEPTION #3: THERE’S A TEST FOR THAT
Just as there is no single cause, there is no single test for IBS. Because there are no physical signs to definitively diagnose IBS, diagnosis typically occurs through the process of elimination and a checklist of symptoms. With IBS, the bowels appear normal but do not function normally, leaving biopsies and imagery tests, such as colonoscopies or ultrasounds, useful only in ruling out conditions with visual distinctions such as Celiac disease, polyps or tumors. Each patient’s IBS is as unique as his or her fingerprints, requiring a very personalized approach to testing based on symptoms and triggers.
MISCONCEPTION #4: THERE’S A DIET FOR THAT
This common misconception is actually partially true. There is a diet for those suffering from IBS but there is not a single diet for everyone. Foods commonly known to trigger IBS symptoms include dairy, gluten, legumes and foods high in fermentable carbohydrates called FODMAPs. Much promise has been shown in those who have eliminated these common triggers, but what works for one person, may not work for others. Each individual must cater to their unique situation and determine which foods work best for them through elimination and provocation or food sensitivity testing.
It can all seem pretty frustrating but there is good news. Working with a qualified health practitioner who will take the time to evaluate your unique health history, can help you determine the root cause of YOUR IBS and create a customized treatment plan to help you get your life back. In recent years, nutritional research has grown leaps and bounds to support those suffering from IBS and help them not only in managing their symptoms but also in healing their digestive system.