MEN’S HEALTH: Are Your Pipes Getting Too Clean?

mh-11.jpgApril is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Awareness Month. IBS adversely affects the physical health of over 30 million Americans, so it helps to know the current theories and natural therapies available.

Bowel problems are not a common topic for polite conversation, but Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a widespread disorder that affects millions of women’s and men’s health.

IBS symptoms vary from constipation to bouts of diarrhea, or an alternating combination of the two. There’s usually intestinal cramping, gas, indigestion and heartburn.

New research suggests there may be bacterial overgrowth in the small intestines, since 84% of IBS sufferers had bacteria, normally limited to the colon, that had migrated into the small bowel. Those treated with antibiotics reported a 75% reduction in symptoms. But bacteria alone doesn’t give the full picture.

Typical IBS sufferers have high levels of stress and anxiety. Although it affects women more than men, both sexes tend to push themselves toward perfectionism, refusing to rest in spite of their illness.

Some experts believe there’s an allergic component, since certain foods stimulate flair-ups. IBS is 2½ times more likely to be seen with those who suffer with allergic rhinitis, and nearly 4X more common in people with allergic eczema.

Although new drugs have been approved for treating IBS, at least one medication is associated with a three-fold increase in the rate of ovarian cysts.

Are there natural health options? Address each aspect of IBS to counter the diverse symptoms and possible etiology:

  • Avoid common allergens like wheat gluten and dairy products, and stimulating substances like caffeine (coffee and chocolate). Gluten can cause serious intestinal inflammation in sensitive individuals.
  • Avoid refined flour and sugar, alcohol, soda, deep-fried foods, hydrogenated fats and acidic, tomato-based foods that can cause diarrhea in many. Discover what specific foods you may be hypersensitive to (so-called ‘food allergies’) and restrict their intake.
  • For constipation, 2000 mg of vitamin C and 200-600 mg of magnesium daily can help. Soluble fiber, taken with 8-10 glasses of water can also assist in elimination problems.
  • For diarrhea, avoid irritating foods and take L-glutamine (1/4 tsp., 2-3X per day), and small quantities of aloe vera juice, since both heal the mucosal lining of the GI tract. L-glutamine induces water reabsorption from the bowel, reducing frequency of bowel movements.
  • Peppermint oil can reduce pain and bloating is often helpful for IBS. (Don’t use this if you’re on cyclosporine drugs.)
  • Probiotics (for good gut flora) are essential for re-establishing normal functioning of the GI tract and suppressing harmful bacteria.

Awareness of IBS is more than a men’s health issue. If someone you know is suffering, pass on this valuable information.

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