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How Functional Medicine Looks at Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
By Dr. Marianne Beck

Undoubtedly you’ve seen the rash of TV commercials that deal with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)and Inflammatory Bowel Disease(IBD) such as, a woman sitting at a table in a café has a sudden attack of diarrhea and needs to run to the restroom(actually what you see is a “ pink colored intestinal tract” running to the restroom!  Well, for millions of people, this is a very real problem. In fact, IBS/IBD affects between 25-45+ million people in the U.S. 2 in 3 IBS/IBD sufferers are female and about 1 in 3 are male. IBS/IBD affects people of all ages but most are under the age of 50 and even children can be affected. Up to 40% of all visits to the gastroenterologist are due to IBS/IBD symptoms.
What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a chronic gastrointestinal disorder affecting the large intestine that is characterized by abdominal pain, gas, bloating, indigestion, diarrhea, constipation, alternating diarrhea and constipation and the urgent need to defecate. Anxiety, depression and loss of appetite are also associated with IBS. Symptoms can be a mild inconvenience or severely debilitating and can control a person’s emotional, social or professional life. Mayo Clinic states that IBS is a “functional gastrointestinal disorder” of unknown cause, meaning your gastrointestinal tract is not working correctly and your doctor doesn’t know why! There is no cure, only medications, that may treat some of the symptoms. This is where Function Medicine differs. A Functional Medicine practitioner doesn’t want to cover up any symptoms but rather looks to uncover the root cause of WHY a patient has IBS. Since IBS is a collection of various symptoms as listed above, each individual can have a different root cause for their IBS! Leaving the underlying cause untreated could lead to more serious conditions.
What is Inflammatory Bowel Disease?
Inflammatory Bowel Disease involves chronic inflammation of all or part of your digestive tract.
IBD primarily includes Colitis and Crohn’s disease, which are classified as autoimmune. Symptoms are the same as in IBS however there can be rectal bleeding associated with IBD. This bleeding is caused by the inflammation in the GI tract that causes erosions, ulcers and destruction of the intestinal lining. Any inflammation in the GI tract is caused by an immune reaction that produces inflammatory chemicals that damage the intestinal lining. Mayo Clinic states that all Inflammatory Bowel Disease is “idiopathic”, meaning the cause is unknown!

The Main Causes of IBS/IBD:
A patient who presents with IBS/IBD symptoms may be found to have one or several of the following causes:
• Food Intolerances: Food intolerances can cause abdominal pain, gas, bloat and varying consistencies of bowel movements identical to IBS symptoms. Food intolerance symptoms can be delayed up to 72 hours making it difficult to connect foods with symptoms.  Gluten, dairy soy, egg and corn are some foods that patients may be intolerant to that cause IBS symptoms due to their irritation and inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. Functional Medicine doctors teach you how to eliminate all inflammatory foods from the diet and can help identify if this is a cause of your IBS/IBD.
• Leaky Gut: Your digestive tract acts as a barrier to keep parasites, yeast, pathogenic bacteria and toxins from getting into the blood stream. When this barrier system is damaged and the cells that line the digestive tract break apart, these yeast, fungi, bacteria and their toxic by-products can leak into the bloodstream where they do not belong.  Your immune system then mounts a defense trying to get rid of these “foreign invaders” which causes inflammation of the digestive tract lining. When this happens, inflammatory chemicals are produced that  get through the leaky gut lining into the blood stream and cause not only IBS/IBD symptoms but also joint pain, arthritis, liver disease, depression, anxiety and vertigo as the inflammatory chemicals cross the blood brain barrier and inflame the brain, as well as a host of other inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.  Functional Medicine doctors will use a Gut Restoration Program to help heal and seal up your leaky gut.
• SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth): SIBO occurs when bacteria from the large intestine, where 99% of our bacteria are found, migrate up into the small intestine where they do not belong. These bacteria, which eat the food we eat, start to ferment the different types of sugars that we eat from fruits and vegetables and grow in large numbers.  IBS is very often mistaken for SIBO. Hydrogen and methane breath testing can be done to see if a patient has SIBO. If a patient is found to have SIBO, Functional Medicine doctors recommend a special diet to remove fermentable sugars being eaten. In addition to the diet, large numbers of bacteria may be eradicated by natural antimicrobials. High doses of probiotics are also given to reestablish the healthy gut flora.
 Parasites and Yeasts: Parasites and yeast overgrowth is usually uncovered when a Functional Medicine doctor orders a Comprehensive 3 Day Stool Test. This is a highly specialized test and is nothing like a conventional stool test that your MD may do during an office visit. Yeast overgrowth by species of Candida can cause IBS symptoms like gas, bloat and diarrhea. Yeasts like Candida overgrow when our gut’s immune system is weakened, we eat too much sugar and when our normal gut flora are imbalanced. Good bacteria in our gut such as Lactobacillus can keep Candida under control. However, when our normal good gut flora are compromised, yeasts are sure to grow. Candida along with other yeasts, secrete toxins that can inflame the gut lining and contribute to Leaky Gut. Parasites can also grow in the gastrointestinal tract. Parasites such as Blastocystis hominus, Cryptosporidium, Ascaris and Giardia can be a common cause of inflammation and IBS that often goes undiagnosed. If Candida is found, specific natural anti-fungal supplements can be given along with a low carbohydrate diet and specific probiotics that help “crowd out” yeasts. When parasites are discovered in a stool test, specific anti parasitical nutraceuticals can be given along with probiotics.
Isn’t It Time You Finally Find the Root Cause of Your IBS/IBD?
Too many IBS/IBD sufferers are prescribed anti-inflammatory and steroidal medications for their symptoms instead of looking for the root cause of the inflammation in the first place! Functional Medicine has the tools to uncover probable root causes of your symptoms.  Testing and treating for Leaky Gut, food intolerances, SIBO, parasites, yeasts and immune system imbalances are all necessary to truly heal patients with IBS/IBD symptoms.

If you are finally tired of being "sick and tired", contact Dr. Marianne Beck at Women's BestHealth today. Call 954-782-4855 to to set up an appointment.

Women's BestHealth is a functional medicine and nutritional health center specializing in women's health issues and wellness. Dr. Marianne Beck, founder and director, provides natural treatment for menopause, perimenopause, adrenal fatigue/stress, thyroid problems, Hashimoto's, osteoporosis, gastrointestinal problems and autoimmune disease. We offer our services locally in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties.

Serving: South Florida (South Fl), Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Sunrise, Oakland park, Pompano Beach, Deerfield, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Miramar, Coral Springs, Cooper City, Pembroke Pines, Tamarac, Coconut Creek, Weston, Hollywood, Plantation, Wellington, Palm Beach Gardens. Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties.

Marianne Beck, D.C., Functional Medicine Practitioner and Director, Women's BestHealth