My Doctor Said I Have IBS. I Think He Meant IDK.
By David L. Pollack, DC
One of the most common conditions I treat is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) typified by constipation and/or diarrhea. I see a lot of frustrated people on the edge of hopelessness because their endless symptoms have barely been helped by conventional medicine or diets. While these problems might seem impossible to figure out, they have real causes and there are fantastic strategies to deal with them.
Not a Bowel Problem?
Probably for insurance reasons, instead of calling these issues “chronic constipation” or “chronic diarrhea/loose stools,” we have this newer name, IBS, that means absolutely nothing. It’s just another way to describe what you already know: “I don't feel good, and my belly hurts.” “I can't go to the bathroom,” or, “I can't stop going to the bathroom.” Since the autoimmune signs are missing, this situation isn’t called inflammatory colitis or Crohn’s disease, but it’s barely different.
In the natural healthcare world, we always say, “Treat the person, not the disease,” and IBS is a great example of that. Even if we threw all the bowel formulas or medications at this situation, they would do little good. That’s because every sufferer of and reason for IBS is different. Let’s explore some common reasons.
If typical bowel nutraceuticals/supplements or medications don’t work for IBS, it’s logical to ask if it’s a bowel problem at all. Think about it this way: There’s the site of the problem and then there’s the source of the problem. If a bunch of soccer players from out of town get into a brawl on the field, it’s not the field’s fault—obviously the hooligans came from somewhere else. This can happen in our body too.
A simple and common scenario is that our primary digestive process is deficient, allowing undigested and poorly digested materials to enter the bowel. The bowel does not like that, and over time it becomes inflamed and reactionary. Heartburn, GERD, and gallbladder and liver dysfunction are among other issues can create this situation. This is what I see happening most often with IBS of all types.
For these situations, we first figure out which digestive organ(s) have functional compromise. Then we create a supplementation and nutritional program to help repair the problem. We often combine that approach with complementary treatment in the office, such as acupuncture, cold-laser therapy, gentle and safe organ-stimulating techniques, and other ancillary therapies to hasten healing and provide more comprehensive care.
The Role Hormones Play
The second-most common cause I see for IBS relates to stress—specifically the body’s stress-control and response systems. I’ve written many in-depth articles about this, but the gist of it is that hormone-neurotransmitter balance is most responsible for our feelings and reactions to stress. By the way, this does not mean that your symptoms aren’t real. They definitely are. It just means that the major underlying cause is hormonal.
Our hormones, including cortisol—the body’s naturally occurring equivalent of the steroid prednisone—can become out of balance (deficient or excessive). Many of our hormones have a significant impact on gastric motility, enzymatic secretions and immune response, among many other digestive-related issues. These types of functional problems require a supplementation program targeting the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis using safe herbal and nutritional therapies. We generally combine those therapies with acupuncture, emotional release techniques, gentle bodywork, moxibustion and other complementary techniques, to get the process moving as quickly as possible.
IBS is often a completely reversible problem that can be dealt with simply and safely. Using a combination of traditional, modern and ancient therapies speeds up the healing process and improves overall well-being. It is such a gift and honor to help those who have been having so much trouble finding relief. It really is one of my favorite conditions to help, as the outcomes are so very dramatic.
David L Pollack is a doctor of chiropractic medicine, a licensed acupuncturist and a certified functional medicine practitioner. He is owner of Pollack Wellness Institute, located at 66 Commack Rd., Ste. 204, Commack, NY. For more information, call 631-462-0801 or visit PollackWellness.com.