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Causes of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

If you have belly cramps and alternating constipation and diarrhea, the odds are that you have irritable bowel syndrome, which is usually caused by a faulty diet and is curable by eating better.

Most people with irritable bowel syndrome think that eating worsens their symptoms. An interesting study in Digestion shows that they are correct because of the gastro colic reflex (1). Irritable bowel syndrome is caused by eating too much low-fiber food, such as bakery products and pastas. This forms hard stool that blocks the colon. Then gas, produced by bacteria in the colon, accumulates because it can't get by the hard stool. The gas stretches the colon, causing pain and cramping. Finally enough gas accumulates behind the hard stool to blow it out. The loose stool behind the gas is released rather quickly to cause diarrhea.

The report in Digestion (1) showed that when anything enters your stomach, it causes a reflex along nerves, called the gastro colic reflex. This causes your colon to contract, which squeezes the gas to cause terrible pain, but the contractions of the colon help move the stool along until it can be expelled. Obviously the cure is to stop hard stool from forming in the first place by avoiding flour and sugar, eating lots of high-fiber whole grains, beans, seeds, nuts, fruits and vegetables, and drinking lots of fluids.

A second study in the European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology showed that taking metronidazole kills the bacteria that cause the gas, and it takes around 50 days for the bacteria to return, so if you do not avoid refined carbohydrates, expect the irritable bowel syndrome to recur (2).

A third study in the American journal of Gastroenterology showed that milk has nothing to do with imitable bowel syndrome (3) although lactose intolerance can cause similar symptoms.

More on Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Constipation

1)Food-related gastrointestinal symptoms in the irritable bowel syndrome. , Simren, A Mansson, AM Langkilde, J Svedlund, H Abrahamsson, U Bengtsson, ES Bjornsson. Digestion, 2001, Vol 63, Iss 2, pp 108-115Address Simren M, Sahlgrens Univ Hosp, Dept Internal Med, Gastroenterol Sect, S-41345 Gothenburg, SWEDEN

2) Irritable bowel syndrome: is the search for lactose intolerance justified? TJ Parker, JT Woolner, AT Prevost, Q Tuffnell, M Shorthouse, JO Hunter. European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology, 2001, Vol 13, Iss 3, pp 219-225Address Hunter JO, Addenbrookes NHS Trust, Dept Gastroenterol, Unit E7, Box 201A, Cambridge CB2 2QQ, ENGLAND.

3) Pimental , et al. American Journal of Gastroenterology December, 2000.

Checked 3/29/10

June 1st, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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