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This week, City Connect has interviewed Dr. Sebastian Müller (Ph.D.) about Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Chronic Fatigue – something that plagues many people in our society these days in one form or another. He has been collating information from the literature and from health experts and has interesting suggestions, which might be able to help people.
Chronic fatigue, stress and pain in your belly?
The medical profession has advanced quite far these days and doctors usually have a solution or a suggestion to help or cure you when you are feeling ill. But what happens if modern medicine falls short or when even your doctor may have to google the answers? What if you feel gross for some inexplicable reason but nobody can assist?
Humans are very complex individuals and every person is different. The life style most people lead today can be very demanding and exhausting. Furthermore, the life most of us lead in big cities nowadays is completely unnatural. You might be in trouble if you see your GP and s/he tells you that you have a Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). This week, I would like to draw the attention to chronic fatigue that can be connected to Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
When your GP uses the word syndrome you might be in trouble
Often, people talk about syndromes when they have no explanation for the cause of an illness. Diagnosis is a difficult job and not everyone can rely on Dr. House to pinpoint obscure causes as to why we are feeling unwell. So what is chronic fatigue? It is not particularly helpful to tell a patient that he is chronically fatigued if s/he feels tired. You may not necessarily need a doctor for that. Equally, if you have a pain in your belly but no common tests can detect anything abnormal, it may not be helpful to have someone tell you that you have an irritated belly (i.e. suffer from IBS). What are you supposed to do with this information?
What causes IBS?
An irritated and painful bowel can have many causes and I would urge you to try and see a doctor to go through all the standard tests. Cancer in the bowel region as well as some parasites have to be treated quickly in most cases to increase success rates of the treatment. Don’t hesitate to go and see your GP. But what if all this is fine and you are left with questions and don’t know what is wrong? One reason why your bowel hurts or is irritated can be because your gallbladder or liver is malfunctioning, or, especially after successful treatment of intestinal parasites, your intestines (in particular the small intestine) is damaged. If you had a parasitic infection, you have to make sure the parasite is gone. Many parasites can nest themselves into the gut lining and thus be undetectable in stool samples. Hence, most parasitic infections of the bowel should be treated symptomatically and not by exclusion. If in particular your small intestine, gallbladder and/or liver are malfunctioning, this will have a huge effect on your life.
If I have IBS, what else happens in the body?
An irritated bowl is dangerous. If your body cannot take up all the necessary nutrients, in particular vitamins (such as the vital vitamin B12) and minerals, your entire body will suffer. First of all your hormone system will be malfunctioning, often making patients moody and unpredictable. Secondly, the effect on the brain can be deleterious over a long time, causing depression, irritability, and insomnia and in long-term sensitivity to noise and light. These symptoms often make the patient believe something is “wrong in their heads”. Actually, the people are perfectly sane, but the brain is deprived of certain substances for so long, that horrific symptoms can occur. At this stage, often medications for head symptoms are being prescribed, amongst them antidepressants. These can make symptoms worse and slow down healing of the body.
How is IBS coupled to CFS?
As iterated above, if your bowel is not working properly and you lack nutrients, your central nervous system gets affected. This will ultimately tire you out and make everyday stresses unbearable. If the cause of your CFS is not found and the reason lies in your belly, even resting can actually worsen the situation and symptoms as you are loosing valuable time. So maybe in this case it would be good to act and not procrastinate. The different parts of your body are connected and the symptoms in one part of the body may stem from a malfunction in another part.
What test should one do if all the standard tests fail?
First of all it is important to get a total blood count as well as getting your liver and kidneys checked. Be cautious, often the values can come back as normal, as often GPs only look at a range of values normalising them to the population rather than comparing them with one another. Thus, it is important to compare your values. Some substances in the blood have very subtle levels and an abnormality is often not detected. I also advice you to make an allergy test, as some allergic reactions can have a very damaging effect on your body (in particular food allergies such as nut and gluten allergies). Make sure that you monitor your stool. If it has a weird and oily consistency and small yellow or white spots, there might be something wrong with your liver and/or gall bladder. Also, make sure you see an expert in the field. As brilliant as most GPs are, they not necessarily do have the specialised knowledge to help you here. Also, as head symptoms caused by bowel issues are often more severe than the symptoms you experience in your belly, doctors can misdiagnose, simply because they do not know.
What is your advice on treatments?
There is no such thing as a generic treatment for irritated bowels. This is highly individual and many avenues may have to be exploited in order to help the patient. A change in diet catered to the individual is generally the best starting point. Cutting out highly allergenic nutrients such as eggs, dairy, bread (gluten) and cane sugar usually helps patients a lot. (This regiment has to be followed through without exceptions!)
However, a generically very helpful treatment which is not very wide-spread, is visceral osteopathy. There are of course many other treatments, but this method is highly successful and tackles the problem at its roots, rather than trying to battle some of the symptoms. Visceral Osteopathy is a technique which tries to re-establish normal organ function by stimulating the organs using a specialised massage therapy. It thus supports organ function and can trigger self-healing of the organs. It can help re-establishing the normal flow of the digestive system and thus help fix the organs without invasive techniques. This technique can in particular help problems with the gall-bladder, liver, the kidneys, the intestines and also the adrenals.
If you want to know more about this topic or about visceral osteopathy, please get in touch with Dr. Sebastian Müller directly.
Image reproduced from http://www.irritable-bowel-syndrome-cure.org, http://img.ehowcdn.com and http://jenniferdarkeosteopathy.com
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About the Author: Sebastian Müller was born and raised in Leipzig/Germany and moved to England as an adolescent. He is a trained research chemist and geneticist and is currently working as a postdoctoral researcher at the Institut Curie in Paris/ France working in cancer research. He obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge and is still actively involved at the university today. He is fluent in English, German and French and has many fortés and interests including science, philosophy, linguistics, history, competitive sports such as rowing, fitness and nutrition. He is one of the co-founders of City Connect. He is a freelance writer also drawing from his experience as an author in peer-reviewed scientific journals. "I love writing and putting my thoughts down on paper. The written word to me is one of the most powerful ways of conveying thoughts and initiating discussions."