Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a challenging problem for patients and their doctors.
It is a health problem that has no test to prove the diagnosis.
This makes many people question the diagnosis despite the fact that it affects the quality of life of so many people.
Did you know that at least 15% of the world suffers from IBS?
These symptoms can be intermittent or daily.
Often a patient has had these symptoms for many months or even years before seeking help.
The brain-gut interaction is the connection between our brain, the enteric nervous system and the intestinal bacteria. We are still in the infancy of understanding this complex interaction.
The enteric nervous system is the "brain" of our digestive system. Just like a brain, it controls how the digestive system moves or contracts and how it feels and senses stimuli.
The bacteria in our colon can influence how the enteric nervous system behaves. The field of gut microbiome research is trying to understand the role bacteria play in heath and disease but we still have so much to learn.
Our brains receive messages from our digestive system to let us know if things are working properly but it can also change how the digestive system is working.
Once I suspect that the patient has IBS, the only tests I perform outside of a physical exam are:
If any of these tests are positive, I would proceed with further tests such as a colonoscopy or x-ray imaging.
Treatment focuses on 3 different levels
Remember that each patient has different symptoms and needs so treatment has to be individualized for each patient
Educating a you about IBS helps you understand the symptoms you are experiencing and decreases the worry and anxiety associated.