TAG | gastroenterologist
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a functional bowel disorder that involves abdominal pain and discomfort along with abnormal bowel habits of constipation, diarrhea, or an alternation between the two. Symptoms outside the digestive tract are also common in IBS. An estimated 15 to 20 percent of people are affected by IBS, though only a small proportion of them see a gastroenterologist for the condition. That said, half of all gastroenterologist outpatient visits are for IBS, and it is also one of the most common gastrointestinal conditions diagnosed by general practitioners. IBS is more common among women, with a female/male ratio of about 2:1.
IBS treatment is based on addressing individual symptoms, but because of the range of symptoms involved in IBS, pharmacological treatment is not always effective. Dietary changes and supplements can be very helpful for people with IBS. Certain psychological treatments have also been found to benefit IBS patients, including cognitive behavioral therapy, relaxation therapy, stress management, and gut-directed hypnotherapy.
In a recent study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, gut-directed hypnotherapy was evaluated by utilizing hypnotherapy in the hospital and psychology private practice settings as opposed to specialized hypnotherapy centers in order to more closely reflect a widely available treatment option. The study found that gut-directed hypnotherapy, which is based on muscular and mental relaxation, and general hypnotic suggestions used to either focus on symptoms or distract from them, resulted in a significant reduction in IBS symptoms, especially sensory symptoms like pain and bloating.
When comparing the response rate to hypnotherapy against the response rate of other new IBS drugs on the market, the researchers stated, “hypnotherapy seems to be at least as effective and without any known side effects.”
In 2008 a gastroenterologist in Minnesota discovered that he was able to cure one of his patients of a destructive Clostridium difficile infection by transplanting healthy bacteria from her husband’s gut into hers. Clostridium difficile, more commonly known as C. diff, is a bacterial infection that can cause severe diarrhea and inflammation of the colon, but within hours after the beneficial bacteria was transplanted into her colon, the woman’s C. diff infection disappeared—along with her symptoms.
No, it’s not science fiction, just an emerging field of real science that continues to amaze doctors, scientists, and just about everyone in the health care community. And at the heart of it all is something that can’t even be seen with the naked eye—the trillions of microscopic bacteria that have been living in your gut since the day you were born.
The human digestive tract is where more than 70 percent of the body’s natural immune defenses are found. That means it plays a vital role in preserving overall health, and study after study has shown that the good bacteria (called probiotics) can help prevent everything from digestive problems such as irritable bowel and constipation to inflammation-related conditions such as asthma and allergies. Not only that, but the variations between one person’s gut environment and the next can make a big difference when it comes to whether or not they are more prone to certain diseases or conditions throughout life.
While this comes as no surprise to natural health experts—who have been touting the benefits of probiotics and a balanced gut for years—their hope is that it will increase awareness about the benefits of taking a daily probiotic supplement at every age in order to promote lifelong health.