Have you been suffering with chronic diarrhea, constipation, or abdominal pain or cramping that affect your ability to do your daily activities? There are several digestive problems that can cause these symptoms; some can be as simple as changing your diet, but others can require more attention, including healing of the digestive tract. It is possible that you might have an intestinal or a colon problem that affects the cells of your digestive tract. Today I will look at irritable bowel syndrome and the difference between that and inflammatory bowel disease.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a characterized by inflammation of the small or large intestine. There are two major diseases that fall into that category: Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a not truly a disease, rather it is a group of symptoms that can be caused by different reasons. Doctors are not sure of the underlying cause of IBS; what is clear is that the intestines are not working properly and causing symptoms. The symptoms generally include abdominal pain sometimes with constipation, diarrhea or a combination of the two. Bloating or gas, stomach cramps, or mucus in your bowel movements can also occur. The important distinction for IBS is that it does not affect the cell layers of the intestines, so it will not get worse or more destructive over time. This is good news as we look at treatments.
As a naturopathic physician I always want to treat the underlying cause of the problem and since IBS doesn’t have a specific underlying cause we have to look at all the symptoms, eating habits, lifestyle habits, sleeping patterns to learn the main issues that affect the intestines. IBS is an example of a disease that a naturopathic physician can have great success with because of the way we address the patient as a whole instead of just giving meds for the symptoms. Contributing factors to IBS can be identifying any food allergies, too much high processed foods, or poorly managed stressed. Since IBS has a inflammatory component we have to look at reducing inflammation by eating a whole foods diet and drinking plenty of water.