Living with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) can be a silent struggle. For many people, the symptoms are mild enough that they do not talk about it with friends or family. They deal with the pain and discomfort in silence. Others feel too embarrassed or ashamed to talk about their bowels, and many others have been to see a doctor and told to ‘just live with it’.
One major reason the NHS does not treat IBS effectively is because it is regarded by most doctors as a ‘dustbin diagnosis’, which means that they do not see it as a real illness but simply a collection of symptoms that can be given the label of IBS only when more serious illnesses have been ruled out.
I explain more about why IBS is a dustbin diagnosis in this video.
When a patient goes to their GP with symptoms such as bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, acid reflux, painful, trapped wind and abdominal cramps, they are often first told to take an over-the-counter medicine or a prescribed drug to see if things improve.
By the time they have seen their GP two or three times, they will probably get a referral to a gastroenterologist who may order a colonoscopy, gastroscopy, and other tests to rule out either cancer, particularly bowel and gynaecological cancers, as well as coeliac disease, ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. If these tests are negative, then the patient will most probably be sent back to their GP and told they probably have IBS and to take the drugs, try ‘talking therapies, try the FODMAP diet, and if they don’t help, just ‘learn to live with it’.
Drawbacks of NHS tests
IBS is a vague diagnosis that doesn’t help the patient at all in trying to ascertain what is causing their symptoms. There are no definitive tests to diagnose the condition and it just doesn’t fit into other categories of organic digestive and bowel diseases. It is a functional disorder, but the medics don’t really understand what has gone wrong with the function of the digestive system, so can’t fix it!
The tests used by the NHS include cameras that look for inflammation in the stomach and gut wall by means of a camera being sent down your throat in the case of a gastroscopy or up the backside in the case of a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy.
Even though tests carried out by the NHS can rule out certain diseases, the tests are not fully conclusive, as camera tests look solely at inside of the gut; they are not looking at the contents of the bowel and cannot determine if there is an imbalance in gut bacteria or a parasite or bug that has taken up residence. Gastroscopy and colonoscopy cannot look inside the loops and coils of the 16ft or so of the small intestine, where many symptoms of IBS can manifest. The fact that they are not looking at what is swimming around in the gut means that these tests can miss three of the major causes of IBS:
- Additional pathogenic disease-causing bacteria
- Intestinal yeast overgrowth
What causes IBS in one person is different to what causes it in another. The symptoms may be very similar, but the causes can be very different, and this is what GPs, with a consultation time of only seven minutes, cannot get to grips with and cannot really understand.
Whenever I talk to a person struggling with IBS symptoms, my approach is very different. I have the luxury of time to spend communicating with people, something GPs do not have. I can get to know these people; I can ask them a lot of questions and take a deep dive into their medical history. By doing this, I can ensure that we cover each and every one of the possible causes of a person’s symptoms.
If you don’t know what is causing your symptoms, how can you possibly work out what the solutions are? Maybe you have been down the NHS route, and been offered drugs by your GP, told to restrict your diet or try talking therapies.
While some of this might have a short-term effect, no IBS healing programme can possibly be complete without targeted supplements, especially if you’ve had multiple courses of antibiotics and/or a gut infection like food poisoning. My recommended IBS protocol is to first give the stomach and gut a good ‘deep-clean’ by carrying out my tried and tested 5-day Charcoal cleanse, followed by taking the supplements in my 30-day Perfect Balance Kit, which I put together to help rebalance and heal the gut. You can read more about why Charcoal is such a great supplement for IBS symptoms and how to carry out the cleanse here.
Louise is a great example of someone who has struggled with symptoms for years and been down the NHS route with limited success…then she tried my Perfect Balance Kit:
If you have any questions about a digestive and gut health issue, or would like to know more about our supplements, please get in touch. We are happy to advise!