About Digestive Diseases
What is a Functional Gastrointestinal Disorder?
Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders are a group of disorders, which include Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS, dyspepsia, GERD, and chronic constipation or diarrhea. These diseases are all characterized by chronic or recurrent gastrointestinal symptoms that appear for at least 12 weeks within a year, with the weeks not necessarily being consecutive, and for which no structural or biochemical causes are found. The only way you can learn if you have a functional disorder is by visiting a qualified medical professional and through a patient history and various medical tests, more serious conditions are ruled out.
Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
Are the Symptoms of IBS?
Since IBS is considered mainly to be a disorder of the lower gastrointestinal tract, the symptoms tend to remain located below the navel. However, several symptoms of the upper gastrointestinal tract have also been shown to be common in those with IBS, including: difficulty swallowing, a sensation of a lump in the throat or a closing of the throat, heartburn or acid indigestion, nausea (with or without vomiting), and chest pain.
Colon motility (contraction of intestinal muscles and movement of its contents) is controlled by nerves and hormones and by electrical activity in the colon muscle. The electrical activity serves as a "pacemaker" similar to the mechanism that controls heart function.
Movements of the colon propel the contents slowly back and forth but mainly toward the rectum. A few times each day strong muscle contractions move down the colon pushing fecal material ahead of them. Some of these strong contractions result in a bowel movement.
Because doctors have been unable to find an organic cause, IBS has often been thought to be caused by emotional conflict or stress. While stress may in fact worsen IBS symptoms, or cause symptoms of IBS in those who do not have the disorder, research suggests that other factors are also important. Researchers have found that women with IBS may have more symptoms during their menstrual periods, suggesting that reproductive hormones can increase IBS symptoms. Researchers at CNS/WH have found that the colon muscle of a person with IBS begins to spasm after only mild stimulation. We have also found that pressure in the colon affects the brain of a person with IBS differently than a person without IBS. The person with IBS seems to have a colon that is more sensitive and reactive than usual, so it responds strongly to stimuli that would not bother most people.
Can I Do to Help My IBS Symptoms?
Eating, stress, gas, depression, and anxiety can cause the colon to overreact and increase IBS symptoms in some people. Foods such as milk products in lactose-intolerant people, chocolate, alcohol, dietary fats, corn, gas forming vegetables and wheat, are known to provoke symptoms. Excessive use of artificial sweeteners such as sorbital or mannitol should be avoided as well.
What We Are Doing at CNS/WH
Classes: CNS/WH regularly offers classes that help patients understand and manage their IBS condition more effectively. Click here for further information.
Research Studies: Clinical research is essential in advancing our understanding of biological and psychological mechanisms underlying functional GI disorders and IBS. The only way these studies can be performed is when affected patients are willing to participate in them. If you are interested in these studies, you can either participate in clinical trials in which the effectiveness of novel therapies on IBS symptoms is being evaluated.
Alternatively, you can participate in research studies aimed at characterizing mechanisms underlying symptoms in IBS. Click here for further information.
and Information on IBS:
Center for East-West Medicine: The mission of the Center for East-West