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Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Naturopathic Medicine Treatment
Interview with Dr. Tamara Trebilcock, ND

IBS is a diagnosis of exclusion, which means that it’s diagnosed for what you do not have. This is diagnosed by finding out if you do not have Crohn’s Disease, ovarian cysts, ulcerative colitis, diabetic changes, motion sickness, anxiety, thyroid concerns, and other medical concerns that need to be ruled out prior to a diagnosis of IBS. Symptoms of IBS are chronic abdominal pain, constipation and diarrhea, or an alternating of chronic constipation and diarrhea, gas and bloating, and other digestive concerns. There may be dysfunction in your digestive tract when you're not creating enough enzymes to digest your food properly, or there may be infection or dysbiosis. Dysbiosis is a condition in the digestive tract associated with an imbalance of your beneficial bacteria or an increase in number of other types of bacteria or yeasts that, in large amounts, can cause dysfunction.

Symptoms of IBS Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome is a chronic condition associated with chronic abdominal pain and abdominal dysfunction. This dysfunction may be due to several causes. This may be due to eating your food too quickly, not eating the right kinds of food, or eating the wrong kinds of food or not eating frequently enough. This can also be due to a dysfunction of your brain’s chemical messengers, which are called your neurotransmitters that regulate how your nervous system works in your digestive tract. It may also be due to hormonal imbalances.

Conventional Medical Treatment for IBS Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Conventional treatment for IBS involves the prescription of laxatives, anti-diarrheal medications, or SSRIs. SSRIs increase one’s production of serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter, which is one’s brain chemical messengers, that causes relaxation in the digestive tract. Some of the common side effects of SSRIs are dry mouth, nausea, insomnia, changes in your libido or sexual function, as well as increases in depression or suicide thoughts.

IBS Irritable Bowel Syndrome Drug Side Effects
Common side effects of laxatives include chronic constipation, habituation, meaning that you will continue to need the laxative for a proper bowel movement, abdominal pain, and cramping. Anti-diarrheal medications cause an increase in water absorption into the colon from the stool. This causes a harder and thicker stool and decreases diarrhea. Common side effects of anti-diarrheal medications are a hard and difficult to pass stool, chronic constipation, and abdominal cramping.

Causes of IBS Irritable Bowel Syndrome
So there can be many causes of IBS. This includes sleep disturbances; food sensitivities; changes in your brain’s chemical messengers, known as your neurotransmitters; stress – stress can decrease the amount of hydrochloric acid that you produce in your stomach, decreasing your ability to digest foods, and when they go into your intestines, they are undigested, which can cause gas and bloating – hormonal imbalances; low amounts of progesterone or estrogen can cause a decrease in your ability to digest your foods properly, causing gas and bloating.

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Wrong Diet and Wrong Food as Causes of IBS Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Another cause of IBS is the way we eat our food. Eating food too infrequently can cause an imbalance in blood sugar. This can lead to an imbalance in digestion and cause gas and bloating. Eating the wrong kinds of foods too frequently can also cause symptoms. This includes foods that contain pesticides, added hormones, or other chemicals like Aspartame that can lead to irritation and inflammation in the digestive tract.

Antibiotics and Antacids as Causes of IBS Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Another cause of IBS is chronic antibiotic use. The chronic use of antibiotics causes a decrease in your beneficial bacteria in your gut. Another cause of IBS is antacid use. The chronic use of antacids decreases the amount of stomach acid one produces. This leads to undigested food entering the intestines and causes gas and bloating.

Naturopathic Medicine Diagnosis of IBS Irritable Bowel Syndrome
As a Naturopathic Doctor (an alternative medicine doctor), when someone comes to see me with IBS, I do a comprehensive intake. This includes asking questions about their hormones, about their heart, their skin, and in particular, their digestive tract. I then do a very comprehensive lifestyle questionnaire. This includes exactly what they’ve been eating every day, how long they’ve been going without meals, what type of protein or carbohydrates are in those meals, and what kinds of foods they're eating. I also take a look at social support and stress – if there’s any recent stress or if there’s a current accumulation in minor stresses.

Naturopathic Medicine Blood Test for IBS Irritable Bowel Syndrome
I will also order some blood tests. This includes glucose, to see if there are any blood sugar imbalances; a thyroid panel to see if there are any imbalances in the thyroid gland, as well as a comprehensive metabolic panel and a complete blood count to rule out infection.

Naturopathic Medicine Saliva, Stool, Urine Tests for IBS Irritable Bowel Syndrome
I would order a saliva test to understand if stress is playing a role in gas and bloating as well as a stool test. This stool test may involve a stool microbiology, a comprehensive parasitology, or a complete digestive stool analysis that would allow me to take a look at functionally what’s going on in the digestive tract. I will order a urine test to see if the nervous system is playing a role in digestive concerns.

Imagine Diagnosis for IBS Irritable Bowel Syndrome
After reviewing the labs and depending upon the patient’s symptoms, I may order imaging. This could include an ultrasound, a colonoscopy, an upper GI study or a lower GI study.

Naturopathic Treatment of IBS Irritable Bowel Syndrome
When I treat IBS, I look into treating the cause while addressing the acute symptoms. There are four phases of this treatment. The first phase is eliminating infection and inflammation, the second phase is healing the digestive tract, the third phase is supporting neurotransmitters and hormones, and the final phase is allowing the immune system to function properly.

Naturopathic Treatment of IBS Irritable Bowel Syndrome with Organic Food
You are what you eat. Every eyelash, every thought, every emotion, every digestive process comes from the food that you put into your mouth, so therefore, I recommend a nutrient-dense diet. The best way to get nutrient-dense foods into your diet is by eating whole organic foods and avoiding processed foods. Whole foods include foods that you might find on the produce aisle or whole grains, and processed foods are anything that comes in a can, a box, or a package, such as bread, pasta, crackers, canned soup, or chips or anything that comes in a box or a can.

Naturopathic Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome - Exercise & Sleep
Lifestyle recommendations I’ll make include exercise, sleep, and contrast hydrotherapy. For exercise, I recommend five days a week, 30 minutes, including some stress-reducing exercises like Pilates or yoga. For sleep, I definitely recommend seven to eight hours a night for optimal digestion. This is when you rest and digest. Contrast hydrotherapy is a shower of hot and cold water – three minutes hot and 30 seconds cold – and you repeat three times. This helps improve digestion, blood flow; it supports hormones, and it also supports the immune system.

Naturopathic Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome - Herbs and Supplements
For nutritional and botanical support, I’ll prescribe Probiotics to help replete the beneficial bacteria in your digestive tract. Fiber to help support a healthy stool formation; cod liver oil in order to soothe and heal the digestive tract and support your nervous system, digestive enzymes to help break down nutrients and foods for optimal absorption; 5-HTP to help support a healthy nervous system function; glutamine and glutarate in order to soothe and repair intestinal cells; NAG to help soothe and repair intestinal cells; botanicals like slippery elm and licorice to help encourage proper mucus production in the digestive tract, as well as support healing in the digestive tract; peppermint as a tea or a supplement in order to digest foods properly; MSM in order to support healthy cell development in the intestinal tract; quercetin, which is a bioflavonoid as an anti-inflammatory for the digestive tract; aloe may be taken either as a liquid form or in a capsule form to help soothe and heal, especially the upper portion of the digestive tract; and triphala, which is a great carminative herb, which helps to support all of these areas of healing in the digestive tract.

Naturopathic Treatment Stress Reduction for Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Anxiety and stress are two of the major causes of IBS, therefore I recommend certain breathing techniques and journaling to help reduce that stress.

Naturopathic Medicine Treatment Success for Irritable Bowel Syndrome
For patients who follow my protocol, I have a very high success rate. Within two to four months, most patients’ symptoms are resolved, and if they’ve been on any anti-anxiety medication, they’ve been able to go off of that, too.

Naturopathic Doctor Recommendations for IBS Irritable Bowel Syndrome
If you have IBS, I recommend taking supplements such as Probiotics, glutamine, and digestive enzymes. I also recommend eating a whole foods organic diet that is void of processed foods. I recommend an exercise like yoga or Pilates several times a week, as well as seven or eight hours of sleep every night.

Visit A Naturopathic Doctor if you have IBS Irritable Bowel Syndrome
And lastly, I recommend visiting a naturopathic doctor to uncover the causes of your IBS and to receive a treatment plan that is safe and effective and individualized to you.

Interview with Dr. Tamara Trebilcock, ND Naturopathic Doctor

Also See: Dr. Angela Agrios, ND Naturopathic Doctor Health Series