Patients Who Suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) are Especially Prone to Allergies
Up to 20% of the adult population have symptoms compatible with irritable bowel syndrome. Most of those people, however, never seek medical attention.
Irritable bowel syndrome is a chronic lifelong condition. It starts usually in the late teens to early 20’s, however, it can affect any age group. Most of the time it consists of: (1) abdominal pain, (2) altered or fluctuating bowel frequency or stool consistency, (3) abdominal distention or bloating, and (4) varying degrees of anxiety or depression.
Patients may have additional symptoms of indigestion, heartburn, chest pain, fatigue, problems with urination, and many of those patients are evaluated for a variety of problems, including cardiac evaluation, abdominal x-rays, colonoscopies or gastroscopies, which are all normal despite the patient having constant problems.
For some people, irritable bowel syndrome may be disabling causing difficulty at work, with their social life, and sometimes even with traveling short distances. It occurs more often in women than men.
What are the Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
The symptoms can vary from patient to patient, with some being relatively mild, and some disabling. Patients may complain of a bloated feeling, gas, abdominal pain or cramps. There may be diarrhea or constipation. Sometimes those symptoms can alternate. There may be variable amounts of mucus in the stool. Patients with diarrhea frequently feel an uncontrollable and urgent need to have a bowel movement.
What is the Cause of IBS?
At this point there is no clear established cause of IBS. There are several theories, including:
- Lack of normal movement of the bowel. Food either moves through the bowel too quickly for the colon to absorb fluid, thus, causing diarrhea or moves too slowly, so that much of the fluid is absorbed, thus causing constipation.
- The person’s bowels respond adversely to foods or stress that would not bother other people.
- Recent studies have found a correlation between many patients with IBS, suffering from allergies as well. In one of those studies, it was found that up to 80% of people with IBS, also suffer seasonal allergic rhinitis. The same study revealed that 49% of patients with IBS reported that one or multiple foods caused abdominal symptoms. These foods include: milk and milk products, grains such as wheat, barley, oats, rye, corn, soy, meat, egg, nuts, shrimp, and legumes.
- Researchers have reported that very mild Celiac disease might also present itself with symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
- Regardless of allergies, certain foods can adversely affect some people with IBS. For instance, chocolate, alcohol and milk causing constipation or diarrhea. Also, carbonated beverages and some fruits and vegetables may lead to bloating discomfort and diarrhea.
Tests, Diagnosis and Treatment
Irritable bowel syndrome diagnosis depends mostly on a thorough medical history and physical exam. Most of the patients coming to our office have already had an extensive evaluation by a primary care physician and gastroenterologist, and have performed frequent colonoscopies, CAT scans, and gastroscopies.
We are concentrating on trying to evaluate the patient’s bowel problems in correlation to possible food allergies. We want to find the cause of the bowel problems, and if possible eliminate the offending foods, which frequently improves the patient’s symptoms dramatically. We are helping our patients to devise diets, which help reduce symptoms and increase control of their irritable bowel.