I’ve helped many people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome in my office in Chapel Hill. But what does the name IBS actually tell us? Less than you’d probably realize.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS for short, is the classic diagnosis of exclusion. What that means is that when we diagnose IBS, we’re saying “you DON’T have X, Y, or Z.” This is different than other diagnoses where the name tells us something about what is going on (“you DO have rheumatoid arthritis”). The reason for this, of course, is because IBS isn’t real. Not in the classical sense, at least. Rather than being a specific, known disease process, IBS is a way we categorize people based on their symptoms.

“IBS” can look completely different for different people. For one person, they may be labeled with IBS when in fact they have leaky gut syndrome, food sensitivities, and a lack of protective bacteria in the colon. Another person may receive the exact same diagnosis of IBS and have dysmotility, SIBO, and SIFO/candida overgrowth. The result is that both of these people will have “irritable” guts that are gassy, distended, and unable to digest food well, but they need radically different treatment.

This is why functional medicine/integrative medicine/holistic healthcare (whatever you want to call it these days) is so helpful for people with IBS. Holistic providers don’t get stuck on the labels you’ve been given- we focus on you. We acknowledge that it’s more valuable to talk about the things that got you to a dysfunctional state, rather than letting our left brains go crazy trying to make sense of the dysfunctional state you’re in.

Polyphenols: prebiotics for your microbiota

To be fair, IBS isn’t the only diagnosis of exclusion. Depression and Fibromyalgia are two other great examples of this- those names tell us nothing about why the person has their symptoms. In truth a lot of diseases can be seen through a similar lens, though. No two patients with RA are alike, and the same is true of Ulcerative Colitis, and so forth.

If you’d like to take a more holistic approach to your healthcare and healing, please feel free to call my office at 919-238-4094.

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