IBS — Irritable Bowel Syndrome — is uncomfortable, but it’s not fatal, Dr. Ihor Zakaluzny told Senior Circle members at a Lunch and Learn earlier this month.
Zakaluzny, with Payson Surgery Associates, is a board certified general surgeon with extensive experience in gastrointestinal endoscopy and diseases, general gynecology, minimally invasive laparoscopic surgeries, as well as interest in surgical nutrition and surgical infection.
He said the syndrome presents with a constellation and symptoms and complaints and has an array of different names — IBS, spastic bowel, spastic colon, etc.
“The intestine is a complex organ and digestion is a controlled and precise process,” he said.
IBS can affect both the small and large intestine and affects at least 20 percent of the population at some point. Patients spend $20 billion to $30 billion annually to deal with it.
“It is seen in women under 45 more than men and older adults,” he observed.
Symptoms include pain, change in bowel habits, change in consistency of bowel movement, more mucus in bowels, bloating, incomplete evacuation, straining or urgency.
Sometimes, the condition stems from levels of serotonin in the system, a hormone produced by the pineal gland, the digestive system, the central nervous system and blood platelets that’s mostly in the intestinal tract. Most of the serotonin the body produces is stored in the digestive tract. Zakaluzny said the hormone is also a neurotransmitter and controls the movement of food through the digestive tract.
Other causes include hypersensitivity; a communication problem between the brain and gut, infection, mental health, or food intolerance.
“Every patient is unique,” he said. Other conditions can contribute to the disorder, including Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis,
infection, celiac disease, tumors, medications, hormones and partial obstruction.
Zakaluzny said he first reassures patients that despite the discomfort of IBS, it won’t shorten a patient’s life.
He also relies on a series of tests to rule out other contributing issues including blood tests, scoping the intestines, X-rays, CAT scans, or a capsule camera.
He and the patient explore what triggers the incidents — eating complex carbohydrates, gassy foods such as beans and cabbage, caffeine or alcohol, or fructose. If he can identify the triggers, the patient can eliminate those items from the diet.
If that doesn’t make a difference, mild medications might, including fiber supplements and stool softeners if the IBS manifests as constipation or anti-diarrheals if the IBS results in loose bowels. Additionally, pain medication and antidepressants can help.
Zakaluzny said adding probiotics and/or peppermint oil can help maintain regularity. He said exercise also often helps a lot.
“Simple things are the best way to go. We are what we eat,” Zakaluzny said.