Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) affects as many as 20% of individuals worldwide and has a significant impact on quality of life.
IBS symptoms range from diarrhea to constipation, or a combination of the two, with abdominal pain or discomfort and gas or bloating. The severity of symptoms varies in different patients from tolerable to severe.
Diagnosis of IBS is based on assessment of symptoms and ruling out other GI conditions since there are no definitive biomarkers for IBS.
IBS is divided into subtypes, diarrhea-predominant IBS (IBS-D), constipation-predominant IBS (IBS-C) and mixed diarrhea and constipation-predominant IBS (IBS-M).
Current conventional treatment uses a wide range of medications, focused on managing the symptoms of IBS such as diarrhea or constipation.
There is no effective cure for this condition.
Functional Medicine Management of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
A thorough evaluation of the patient’s signs and symptoms related to the dysfunction in the intestinal tract is necessary and referral to a medical specialist may be needed.
Functional Medicine assessment may include some or all of the following:
- Comprehensive stool analysis and stool microbiology assay to rule out pathogenic bacterial, fungal or parasitic infection
- Assessing for inflammatory gut conditions such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease without undergoing intestinal biopsy
- Assessment of related gut conditions, such as intestinal permeability and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) in conditions involving gas and bloating
- Routine blood chemistry to assess inflammatory markers and other organ functions that impact the gut (such as thyroid function)
- Food sensitivity testing and nutritional analysis to assess for nutrient deficiencies
Functional Medicine management of IBS is focused on the following:
- Decreasing inflammation and promoting normal immune responses
- Balancing the gut flora
- Improving gut barrier function
- Improving digestion and absorption of food with intestinal enzyme support
- Normalizing motility/movement of the intestines
A number of specific probiotic strains have been shown to be helpful in relieving symptoms of IBS and can be helpful to restore balance to the gut flora.
Digestive enzymes are often used to support proper digestion of nutrients in order to minimize incomplete digestion and malabsorption, which can aggravate IBS.
Nutrients to regenerate the epithelial lining
There are a range of plant compounds, vitamins and minerals that have been shown to have a restorative effect on a damaged intestinal barrier and a proper selection and regime can be very effective.
Various herbal compounds can be effective in reducing intestinal spasm and the proper choice can be helpful with this condition.
Anti-inflammatory and immune-modulating compounds
Anti-inflammatory and immune-modulating herbs and nutritional compounds to decrease excessive immune responses can be very helpful.
Nutrients to decrease food sensitivities
Food sensitivities are often associated with IBS and decreasing specific immune responses in the gut related to food sensitivity is often helpful.