Saturday, December 06, 2008

Irritable bowel syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome or IBS is a diagnosis of exclusion. In order to conclude that a patient suffers from IBS--a cluster of unpleasant abdominal symptoms including pain, bloating, gas, constipation, and/or diarrhea--we first must exclude other possible reasons that they may be suffering so.

There's a lot to be said about IBS and the many ways that it can seriously affect quality of life even if it does not result in serious illness. The pain can be quite debilitating and result in frequent absences from work or school. An article in last month's British Medical Journal discussed three simple strategies that significantly decrease the discomfort of IBS.

In a meta-analysis (a study of studies that combines results of multiple trials to amplify the significance of results) researchers found that fiber, anti-spasmodics, and peppermint oil all performed significantly better than placebo in relieving the pain and screwy bowel movements of IBS. They reported the number of patients needed to be treated for one to experience significant relief from the heartbreak of IBS were: 11 for fiber supplements (using psyllium compounds such as Metamucil) 5 for anti-spasmodics (hyoscyamine sold as Levsin, NuLev, Transderm Scop, and generically), and just 2 1/2 patients needed treatment with peppermint oil (187-225 mg. in water 2-4 times daily, available OTC) for 1 to feel better!


kenju said...

I take Metamucil daily and I wonder if peppermint oil would help even more? Can you buy it over the counter?

kenju said...

Sorry.....I didn't read well enough to see that it is OTC. I'll buy some.

Mauigirl said...

Great advice. I have a friend who has all kinds of intestinal problems and doctors can never find anything wrong with him. He probably has IBS.