Irritable Bowel Syndrome: The Medications Doctors Often Prescribe

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Filed Under: IBS, Digestive Health
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

Irritable Bowel Syndrome: The Medications Doctors Often Prescribe

Learn more about the drugs used for irritable bowel syndrome treatment

Conventional treatment for irritable bowel syndrome has been any medication that gives symptomatic relief. Examples have ranged from antacids to drugs that slow the movement of the intestinal tract to antidepressants. And the role of antibiotics as one of the preferred irritable bowel syndrome treatment solutions is a relatively recent—and misguided—development.

Generally, there aren't many bacteria that reside in the small intestine. The major colonies of bacteria reside in the large intestine. The antibiotic theory is that these bacteria back up into the small intestine and set up residence there. The fermentation created by these misplaced bacteria then causes the wide range of irritable bowel syndrome symptoms. This overgrowth of bacteria supposedly must be eliminated through the use of antibiotics.

The Science Behind the Theory

The antibiotic theory and proposed "cure" for irritable bowel syndrome are largely based on a study performed at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in California. Subjects were given special sugar syrup, which the body can't digest but bacteria break down to produce hydrogen. The amount of hydrogen produced was then measured with a breathalyzer test, to determine just how many bacteria were present.

Of the 202 individuals tested, 157 had an overload of bacteria based on this testing procedure. These people were treated with a 10-day course of antibiotics and 47 came back for follow-up care. Of the 47, further testing indicated that the bacteria had been eradicated in 25, whose irritable bowel syndrome symptoms had either disappeared or improved. In the remaining 22 individuals, the antibiotics apparently killed only a portion of the bacteria. However, many of these people felt that their irritable bowel syndrome symptoms had improved also.

This study has been hailed in several medical journals as having uncovered the latest irritable bowel syndrome treatment. But, obviously, there are numerous questions that need to be resolved before 10 to 20 percent of the entire population of the U.S. (the estimated number of those who suffer with irritable bowel syndrome) is put on antibiotics. As a side note, I've learned that several of the subjects who initially experienced dramatic improvement suffered irritable bowel syndrome relapses within a few months of their initial treatment.

My Take on the Antibiotic Theory

I can't help but believe that treating chronic digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome by eradicating this or that strain of bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract will always result in only temporary relief. This latest therapy is just another case of treating the symptoms of the problem and not the underlying cause. For a much more effective approach to treating irritable bowel syndrome, see my complete, all-natural irritable bowel syndrome treatment program.

More Dr. Williams Advice on Irritable Bowel Syndrome

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