Despite having no direct effect on life expectancy, irritable bowel syndrome comes with a high social cost, leading to extreme, often suicidal, depression. This is to say nothing of the chronic pain, fatigue and other syndromes that can make one miss out on the important things in life.
Therefore, this disease is very serious. Yet, while there are no known causes, there are several key indicators that researchers consistently look for. The first and most important potential cause is infection. After a gastrointestinal infection, the risk for developing IBS increases six times. Other risk factors include prolonged anxiety, food allergies, debilitating depression, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, extended bouts of fever, as well as being at a young age. However, the most prevalent theory postulates IBS is caused by a disorder between the brain and the gastrointestinal tract, sometimes with additional abnormalities in the immune system and gut flora.
It may sound confusing, but there is a connection between all these symptoms. Doctors that gloss over this area seem to have a poor understanding of complete digestive health. The enteric nervous system has been called the “second brain,” because it consists of a nine-meter long line of more than 100 million neurons that stretches from the anus to the esophagus. The nerves are embedded in sheaths along the gut or alimentary canal, which has more neurons than either the spinal cord or the peripheral nervous system. So, understanding this system really gives us a bigger picture to better treating IBS.
Let’s look at all the symptoms:
- Cramps or lower abdominal pain.
- Altered bowel habits in volume, frequency and consistency, as well as an increase in frequency and urgency to urinate.
- Gastroesophageal reflux (heart burn.)
- Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing.)
- Nausea and dyspepsia (indigestion.)
- Impaired sexual function.
- Dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation.)
These other symptoms may suggest autoimmune involvement seen in inflammatory bowel disease:
- Joint pain and arthritis.
- Arthralgia (painful inflammation and stiffness of the joints.)
- Pericarditis (a condition in which the sac-like covering around the heart [pericardium] becomes inflamed.)
- Pyoderma gangernosum (ulcers and tissue becomes necrotic with chronic ulcerative wounds within the colon.)
- Erythema Nodosum (inflammation of the fat cells under the skin with red nodules.)
- Ocular inflammation (general term for inflammation affecting any part of the eye or surrounding tissue.)
- Pericholangitis (inflammation of the bile ducts.)
- Pharyngeal ulceration (ulcers in the throat.)
- Venous thrombosis (increased blood clot formations and risk of clots.)
Many biofeedback studies have proven that addressing this heightened nerve sensitivity improves patient results. Therefore, how you approach this disease is pivotal. You must address the various coinfections, hormonal and neurotransmitter imbalances, chemical toxicity, allergic reactions and food sensitivity and overall digestive health. The conventional model merely wants to mask symptoms, whereas our integrative model is designed right from the start to truly treat the causes.