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IBS: An Emotional or Physical Disorder?
By Michael Jurgelewicz, DC, DACBN, DCBCN

New research published in Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics demonstrated that there is a distinct brain-gut pathway (psychological symptoms begin first) as well as a separate gut-brain pathway (gut symptoms begin first) as seen in patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). IBS can be a debilitating condition consisting of cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea, and constipation. It also can have a negative affect on one's work, sleep, and relationships.

IBS is associated with the enteric nervous system, which is considered to be the body's 'second brain,' as it is the nervous system that controls the gastrointestinal tract. The enteric nervous system is made up of a self-contained, complex network of neurons, neurotransmitters, and proteins embedded in the lining of the GI system. It is responsible for all aspects of the digestive process, from the esophagus to the stomach as well as the small and large intestines. In this new study, higher levels of anxiety and depression were significant predictors of developing IBS within one year. In addition, individuals who did not have elevated levels of anxiety and depression at the start of the study, but had documented IBS had significantly higher levels of anxiety and depression after one year.

The researchers determined that in 1/3 of patients, a mood disorder precedes IBS while in the other 2/3 of patients, the situation is reversed and IBS precedes the mood disorder. These results reveal how some patients with IBS have a gastrointestinal disorder that may not only explain their gut symptoms, but their psychological symptoms as well.

It is common knowledge that diet is the most effective way to return balance within the gastrointestinal system. Certain diagnostic tests may also be extremely helpful tools, including stool testing and food antibody testing.

Patients may also benefit from a combination of botanicals, enzymes, and probiotics to optimize the gastrointestinal environment. Perilla frutescens is an herb native to Eastern Asia that demonstrates antispasmodic, prokinetic, and antiinflammatory effects, which help normalize and promote healthy bowel function as well as provide relief from GI symptoms. In addition, there are some specific researched strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae that have been shown to reduce digestive discomfort and abdominal pain in individuals with IBS. Also, 5-HTP is a dominant neurotransmitter in the enteric nervous system. It plays a significant role in pain perception, regulating sleep patterns, and is important for digestion. In addition, 5-HTP is beneficial in helping to reduce anxiety. Saccharomyces boulardii is also a great addition to this regimen. S. boulardii has been tested for clinical efficacy in numerous gastrointestinal conditions, including antibioticassociated diarrhea, Clostridium difficile infection, acute diarrhea, traveler's diarrhea, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, Helicobacter pylori infections, and IBS.

Although there is currently no cure for IBS, there are many ways to improve your symptoms and manage the disorder. Some people can control their symptoms by managing diet, lifestyle, and stress, while other may need to look into alternative remedies to help alleviate their symptoms. A combination of botanicals, enzymes, and probiotics, such as Perilla frutescens, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, 5-HTP, and Saccharomyces boulardii have all been shown to help manage the affects of IBS. So if you have been struggling with IBS, educate yourself about the disorder, know your specific symptoms and triggers, and consider some of these many options to help get your digestive system back on track.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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