I recently met with a patient named Catherine who came to Parsley Health after being told by several different gastroenterologists that she had acid reflux and IBS.
She had been placed on almost a years-worth of a medication called a PPI, or proton pump inhibitor, called Nexium, which blocks acid secretion in the stomach. For Catherine, this seemed to worsen her GI distress instead of alleviating it. The label of this medication explicitly notes that it should not be used for more than 3 months at a time. But regardless, multiple doctors are prescribing it for multiple years without the blink of an eye.
After a few months of working with Catherine our doctors and health coaches discovered the cause of Catherine’s gastrointestinal symptoms was food sensitivities, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, and anxiety. At Parsley Health, in contrast to the conventional care that she previously received, Catherine was weaned off of the acid blocking medication (which was not helping her IBS symptoms anyway). She was placed on pharmaceutical grade, quality controlled and research-verified supplement and a personally catered nutrition plan which she discussed in detail with her health coach.
Over a matter of months, she achieved complete resolution of her gastrointestinal symptoms.
We see patients every day with some kind of gastrointestinal disturbance. Many of these people have already been evaluated by their primary care doctor. They have been to multiple specialists like gastroenterologists without much to show for it.
My patients are often frustrated because they have been diagnosed with a “functional gastrointestinal disorder” like Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS.This means that no actual cause could be found for their symptoms. They are sent off with palliative medication to control symptoms without addressing the root cause.
According to the International Foundation of Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, IBS affects between 25 and 45 million people in the United States. About 2/3 of these people are female. IBS affects people of all ages, but mostly under the age of 50.
How Do You Know if You Have IBS?
Diagnosing someone with IBS can be a problem. The problem is that once this diagnosis is given, the search for the cause of the symptoms just ends. That sadly becomes the conclusion of treatment for most doctors.
It shouldn’t end there.
One of the main differences at Parsley Health is that we look at the root cause of problems and then work to address them.
The causes of symptoms can be a number of underlying issues. These include yeast or candida overgrowth, fructose malabsorption, food sensitivities, parasite infections, gut-brain axis disturbances, hormonal imbalances, or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. If we don’t consider these as options and start searching for answers, our patients could stay on symptom-managing medications forever.
If the digestive system is not functioning properly, then all other systems in the body can be harmed. That includes the mind and brain, immune system, hormones, nerves, muscles, bones, etc. This is because the digestive tract is where we assimilate and interact with the outside world. The one-cell-layer-thick lining of our gastrointestinal tract determines what gets absorbed into our bodies and what gets eliminated. This is a very important and intricate task. If you are suffering symptoms associated with IBS, then I can assume that this imperative role is not being conducted properly.
When I see a patient who has been diagnosed with IBS, I consider the many possible issues that could be causing their symptoms. In the 75-minute initial visit I get to know my patients. I have ample time to ask provoking questions. This can lead us in a direction toward discovery. At the end of the initial visit, we may choose to do testing on breath, blood, saliva, or stool that can also aid in our investigation. Depending on patient preference and the specific situation, I may start the patient on treatment at the initial visit without the usage of testing.
How Do You Treat IBS?
My approach to treatment is always holistic and integrative. Meaning it will involve modalities which address the mind, body, and spirit. We know that the brain is intricately involved in the ecology of the gut, and visa versa. Therefore, a gastrointestinal disorder cannot be addressed without looking at what is going on in the brain and mind. Depending on the causes of IBS symptoms that are found or speculated to be involved, I might treat the patient with pharmaceutical medications, supplements, exercise modalities, meditation recommendations, or some combination of these.
The search for the solution is not always definitive, and the remedies do not always work immediately. The path toward optimal health is generally a windy and sometimes bumpy one. But one that my patients know that I will walk with them. It requires a lot of patience and diligence. But to heal your gut, the center of your body’s health, it will all be worth it.