- Barrett's Esophagus
- Celiac Disease
- Colon Cancer
- Crohn's Disease
- Diverticular Disease
- E. coli Infections/Traveler's Diarrhea
- Esophageal Cancer
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Lactose Intolerance
- Peptic Ulcers
- Ulcerative Colitis
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
IBS is a common chronic gastrointestinal disorder that involves problems with motility (how the bowel moves contents through our intestines) and sensitivity (how the brain interprets sensations in the bowel). Those affected by IBS may experience recurrent abdominal pain and irregular bowel patterns that are often painful. Symptoms are often chronic and intermittent and may last for months or years.
The most common symptoms of IBS are abdominal pain and irregular bowel patterns that result in constipation, diarrhea, or alternating periods of both.
Canada has one of the highest rates of IBS in the world with five million Canadians currently suffering. IBS affects significantly more women than men and is one of the most common causes for work and school absenteeism.
Understanding Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
IBS is a common chronic gastrointestinal disorder that involves problems with motility (how the bowel moves contents through our intestines) and sensitivity (how the brain interprets sensations in the bowel).► View Guide
Understanding Irritable Bowel Syndrome with Constipation (IBS-C)
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common chronic gastrointestinal disorder that involves problems with motility (how the bowel moves contents through our intestines) and sensitivity (how the brain interprets pain sensations in the bowel).
Are there any tests that I should have?
Sometimes it's a good idea to do a blood test. This can indicate low blood count which indicates anemia and it may reflect bleeding or malabsorption from the gastrointestinal tract. There are other blood tests that let us rule out other diseases like diabetes, abnormal thyroid function or changes in the calcium level that can affect the gastrointestinal tract. There is a blood test for celiac disease that reflects gluten allergy.
Sometimes stool cultures are ordered to rule out infection. Stool samples looking for blood may also be necessary. However, not every patient needs these lab tests and your doctor will order them if they he or she feels it is appropriate.
Some tests allow physicians to see inside the colon and make sure that there is no underlying problem. These include:
- An air contrast barium enema is an x-ray. Before the test, you will be asked to take laxatives to clean out your bowel. At the x-ray facility, barium is introduced through a small tube placed in the anus and rectum. X-rays of the bowel are then taken.
- Virtual colonoscopy involves using a radiological technique to visualize the colon. This can involve either CT or MRI. Computerized reconstructions of the colon are obtained. The patient may require laxatives to clean the bowel out before the x-ray. Air is introduced to open the colon up before x-rays are taken. This technique is primarily used to detect polyps and colon cancer.
- A sigmoidoscopy is another type of scope that visualizes the lower end of the bowel which includes the rectum and sigmoid colon.
- A colonoscopy is where a scope or a flexible tube with a video camera at the end is used to directly visualize the entire colon. The patient is required to take laxatives to clean the bowel out. They may go to the hospital or an outpatient facility where often they may receive intravenous sedation. This is not a general anesthetic. It is called conscious sedation in that the patient is able to breathe by themselves. Often the patients may sleep through the procedure. Some patients actually watch the screen during the procedure.
In addition to being a more sensitive test than an air contrast barium enema in detecting abnormalities in the colon such as polyps, cancer, ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, colonoscopy also allows doctors to obtain biopsies and remove polyps through a technique called snare polypectomy. This technique involves a metal loop wire being placed around a polyp and an electrical current being applied to cut the polyp off and seal the base to prevent bleeding.
Why would I have these tests done?
These tests allow us to rule out colon cancer, polyps, or inflammatory bowel disease. Not all patients need these tests and your doctor will order them if they feel it is appropriate.
Proper Bowel Prep Can Save Your Life
Too many people skip potentially life-saving procedures because of misunderstandings and misconceptions about the bowel prep. However, most people who have had colonoscopies, will tell you it isn't nearly as bad as you think and that the benefits far outweigh the risks. Robbie, Anne and Laurie, who range in age from 11 to 80 years, openly share their experiences with you in this video.â–º Watch Video
The symptoms people living with IBS experience vary from person to person but may include:
- Gas, bloating, cramps, abdominal pain related to bowel movements
- Irregular bowel patterns
- Diarrhea or constipation or alternating between both
- Mucus present around or within the stools
- Heartburn, nausea
Living With Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
The reassuring aspect is that IBS does not lead to cancer or any other major illness. However even though we cannot demonstrate an organic problem many individuals have significant problems that interfere with their quality of life. We take this problem seriously and hopefully some of the suggestions are helpful to you.
When there is a new onset or change in symptoms without an obvious precipitating factor, it is time to see the doctor. If you have a change in appetite and weight loss, rectal bleeding with dark red blood mixed in with the stool, fever, symptoms that wake you from sleep or persistent severe abdominal pain, there is a problem and you should take note of your symptoms and make an appointment to see your physician
Managing Your Symptoms
Take comfort in knowing that Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a common and chronic problem and that you may be able to reduce your symptoms with the following strategies:
- Improve your diet by eating a high-fibre, low-fat diet and trying the dietary elimination trials.
- Avoid "junk foods", excessive caffeine and pop.
- When you have the urge to have a bowel movement, follow through on this if at all possible.
- Exercising can be very beneficial. It is a great stress reducer and promotes movement of the colon. Exercise can take many forms but 20 to 30 minutes three times a week as a minimum can be helpful.
- Get enough rest. Not getting enough sleep can exaggerate the symptoms of IBS.
- Keeping a diary can help identify specific triggering dietary and emotional factors.
- Minimize stress and tension – both are big factors that affect irritable bowel syndrome. Our stress is reflected physically and plays a large role in IBS. Becoming involved with yoga and meditation can be helpful. Our breath can also be a great help in helping to promote relaxation. When we become tense, we start to breathe shallowly and may even hold our breath. Emphasizing exhalation in the breath cycle is a physiological way to enhance relaxation. When one is experiencing abdominal pain consciously bring one's attention to one's breath. Breathe in and out slowly, evenly and continuously. Exaggerate the exhalation phase. Continue to breathe in this fashion until the pain has subsided.
Understanding FODMAPs - This small group of small carbohydrate (sugar) molecules found in everyday foods may trigger digestive symptoms in people with digestive disorders such as IBS.
In addition to the strategies listed in our Managing Your Symptoms section, there are some drugs available that can help the pain and spasm of IBS that your doctor can prescribe. Anti-diarrheal medications can be helpful in patients suffering from predominantly diarrhea symptoms. Certain antidepressants have been used to help with the pain by altering the way the brain perceives pain.
Frequently Asked Questions
How is IBD different than IBS?
Although both illnesses can be seriously debilitating, there are several primary differences between Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). IBD is an autoimmune disorder that causes swelling and ulcerations (sores) in the bowel. IBS involves problems with motility (how the bowel moves contents through our intestines) and sensitivity (how the brain interprets sensations in the bowel). Symptoms of IBS may wax and wane and possibly disappear altogether whereas IBD is a chronic condition.
What is the cause of excessive flatulence and burping? What tests are required to confirm the cause and remedies (either food or medication) are available to help me?
This is a common problem! We all pass gas and or experience burping but for some people, these symptoms can be really bothersome. It is important to recognize that everyone has gas in the digestive tract. When there is some gas and fluid in the intestines, movements (contractions) of the intestines to propel the contents onwards may cause rumblings.
There two major causes of excessive gas:
First, subconscious swallowing of air can result in excessive burping. Eating slowly, avoiding gum chewing and smoking, rectifying problems that lead to phlegm accumulation in the back of the throat (such as postnasal drip), and correcting a habit of clearing the throat and swallowing can help minimize air swallowing. Belching often induces instinctive reflex swallowing with further gas accumulation so you need to make a conscious effort not to swallow after each belch.
And second, gas can form as a result of the breakdown of certain dietary items, especially carbohydrates, by bacteria normally present in the large intestine. Foods that cause gas include beans, broccoli, cabbage, fruit drinks, carbonated drinks, and dairy products. Beano (obtainable over-the-counter) may help to reduce gas formation when you have a lot of vegetables and fruits at any meal.
There is no one answer or diagnosis that applies to all people. I suggest that you contact your family doctor and discuss your symptoms and the tests he or she might want to do.
Do you recommend colon hydrotherapy or enemas in support of colon health?
There is no scientific basis that colonic hydrotherapy or enemas benefit a person's health. On the contrary, if a person has undiagnosed colonic symptoms and tries this approach, it can be associated with significant adverse consequences in the presence of underlying disease.
Piecing the Puzzle Together
When a bout of diarrhea and stomach pains assailed Madeleine Auger (a pseudonym) ten years ago, she shrugged it off as indigestion. It was only when the symptoms continued for six months, waxing and waning unpredictably, that Auger, 33, grew concerned.► Read Full article ►
Proper Bowel Prep Can Save Your Life
Too many people skip potentially life-saving procedures because of misunderstandings and misconceptions about the bowel prep. However, most people who have had colonoscopies, will tell you it isn't nearly as bad as you think and that the benefits far outweigh the risks. Robbie, Anne and Laurie, who range in age from 11 to 80 years, openly share their experiences with you in this video.► Watch Video
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Millions of Canadians suffer from IBS. Dr. Steve Somerton offers a series of options to help you get the diagnosis you need, understand the tests you may be sent to have and options for relieving symptoms.► Watch Video
Gi BodyGuard App Preview
Gi BodyGuard, developed by experts at the Canadian Digestive Health Foundation, is a free, easy to use app that allows you to track information about your health, symptoms, medications, food and exercise.► Watch Video
Living Positively with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
IBS is a common chronic digestive disorder that affects more than 5 million Canadians. Gastroenterologist, Dr. Stephen Vanner, helps you to better understand IBS: its symptoms, what IBS is not, factors that affect IBS, tests you may need to have, and how to manage your symptoms.► Watch Video
Constipation with Dr. David Armstrong
At the 2012 CDHF Digestive Health Public Education Forum, Dr. David Armstrong gave an interesting and educational presentation on Constipation to a capacity crowd.► Watch Video
Dr. Alan Barkun clearly explains what to expect if you are referred for a colonoscopy. This test allows doctors to examine the lining of the colon to evaluate and diagnose or treat abnormalities of the large intestine. It is a safe and effective way of detecting and removing polyps, treating rectal bleeding, offering early diagnosis and possibly providing therapy. Dr. Barkun clearly describes how to prepare, what to expect during and after the colonoscopy, highlights the benefits or the procedure and, suggests who should have a colonoscopy.► Watch Video
IBS: Important Information From Canada's Experts
Canada has one of the highest rates of IBS in the world. This syndrome impacts work, school, family and quality of life. This video features heartfelt discussions from people like you who are living with IBS and important information from Canada's experts.► Watch Video
IBS: The Mind-Gut Connection
IBS is a common chronic digestive disorder that affects more than 5 million Canadians. It can be painful, debilitating and frustrating. IBS involves problems with motility (how we move contents through our intestines) and sensitivity (how the brain interprets sensations in the bowel). Gastroenterologist, Dr. Stephen Vanner, helps you to better understand IBS: its symptoms, what IBS is not, factors that affect IBS, tests you may need to have, and how to manage your symptoms.► Watch Video
Canada has one of the highest rates of IBS in the world.
5 million Canadians suffer from IBS with 120,000 Canadians developing IBS each year
Each year, the economic and health care burden of IBS is in excess of $6.5 billion. This does not include monies spent on either over-the-counter drugs or prescriptions.
A patient with IBS misses an average of 13 work days a year. At $72.60, this indirect cost represents $8 billion of lost productivity each year.
About 40% of IBS sufferers seek medical attention. Those with milder symptoms typically end up self-treating through life style changes, food avoidance, and non-prescription remedies.
Patients with IBS represent the majority of referrals to gastroenterologists.
IBS affects more women than men.
Maritime provinces have the highest rates of IBS in Canada with Newfoundland coming in first place.
Acute care inpatient costs for IBS are ranked as the 4th most expensive digestive disease in Canada.
Obesity enhances the severity of IBS symptoms