Advocates for Integrated and Holistic Health Choices

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IBS…is it Serious?


IBS, unlike IBD, is not generally considered a “serious” illness though to one experiencing IBS and the disruption in their lives, it is very serious!  Irritable Bowel Syndrome isn’t actually an illness at all, although in post-infectious cases it may be caused by one.  Instead, it is a group of symptoms and referred to as a “condition.”  IBS may make you more prone to digestive ailments, but won’t cause you to go on to develop cancer or inflammatory bowel disease or IBD (both serious diseases).  While IBS is generally not a serious condition, there can be exceptions to that rule.  The symptoms usually are mild to moderate, but for some people they can be severe and may reduce their quality of life.  There are also serious situations which can occur at the onset of post-infectious IBS which may require immediate medical attention.


This post was inspired by the recent tribulations of a friend who was in a great deal of abdominal pain.  She was experiencing vomiting and ongoing constipation.  She was unable to defecate effectively for several weeks.  The pain was so intense she thought at first that it was a kidney stone.  Since she had had several kidney stones in the past, she decided to simply wait to pass the stone.  Gradually, though, it dawned on her that this situation was different, and that something else had to be going on.  So she went to the ER.  Tests were run, and came up negative, which is what you’d expect with a diagnosis of IBS.  IBS is not a disease, so there would be no signs of infection.  She also came up clear for screenings for diseases like cancer or IBD.


The doctors concluded that she had a severe case of post-infectious IBS.  Post-infectious IBS can sometimes happen after a case of food poisoning.  Your body is able to kill the infection, but a “shadow” of the infection remains like a scar.  Your GI tract remains sensitive, reacting as though it still is infected even though it isn’t anymore.  These symptoms may last a few weeks, a few months, several years, or a lifetime.  Interestingly, for reasons unknown, many cases self-resolve around the three year mark.


This story about our friend is relevant because she was experiencing severe compaction as a result of her post-infectious IBS.  The pain she was experiencing was the result of her GI tract carrying 5-8 pounds of accumulated waste and impinging on her other organs.  This kind of compaction can actually kill a person within 10 days.  The waste not only presses on other organs, but is also poisonous if it remains in the body for too long.


The lesson here is that while IBS is usually not a grave condition, it can cause severe symptoms, particularly directly after an infection which spawns the IBS.  These symptoms require treatment and it is recommended to do some ‘repair’ work for your gut following.  If you’ve had a bad case of food poisoning and your symptoms are lingering, you may have post-infectious IBS.  If your body seems to be adapting and adjusting, you’ll probably be fine.  If however, you’re experiencing severe compaction (or ongoing diarrhea and difficulty holding down water), you should seek help immediately.


Even though IBS will not lead to cancer or IBD, a bad enough acute case can be just as lethal if it goes untreated.  After you receive treatment and your body has a chance to adjust (and your initial infection is wiped out), you should start feeling better, though it may be a long road to recovery.  Many have found healing botanicals, pre & probiotics and especially homeopathic help to be most advantages in speeding the recovery process.



Paula Tipton-Healy L.M, CiHom

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