IBS — Understanding Why It Exists and Why It Is Prevelant Today

Ah once again a post on IBS. 

 To those millions whose suffer from its annoying and debilitating  symptoms there may be very little interest in why it exists, merely how to deal with it.

Still an awareness of why IBS exists and why it so prevalent might just make it a bit more bearable.

From the perspective of evolutionary biology it actually makes sense.  How did our protohuman ancestors deal with a threatening tribe or saber tooth tiger?

 When confronted with "flight or fight" experience in which our very survival might be at stake, emptying the gastrointestinal tract quickly would allow our blood supply to be directed  towards muscles needed for immediate escape or self-defense.

Vomiting and diarrhea, therefore, represent the body's wisdom. Extreme cramping abdominal pain would initiate such a sequence.  Unload the load that is not necessary.  Our body's sympathetic nervous system, powerfully activated with associated neurohormones such as serotonin are released in enormous quantities.

So, you may ask, what does this have to do with me?  I'm living a typical stress filled 21st century life but hardly facing live or death situations on a daily basis.  Right?

Well, unfortunately, our body/mind may still be reacting as if we were escaping from a rival tribe or a large predatory cat.

It may be that our daily lives, constantly bombarded by stress, still reacts as if each and everyone were a "fight or flight" encounter.  Economic and personal problems, the 24 hour news cycle with constant exposure to worldwide violence and suffering, cell phones, Black Berries, I phones, I pads etc.  

The levels of stress which we take for granted as "normal" may still take its toll on our body/minds.

Welcome to the modern world of IBS.

IBS 2010–Brains, Bugs & Berries (Blackberries and real ones)

This is a follow up to last July's posting on IBS in which wrote about probiotics and bacterial flora.  My experience nearly a year later merely confirms my impressions from last year–bugs clearly affect how patients describe their gastrointestinal functioning.

I am even more convinced that the bacterial flora which inhabit our colon modifies, modulates, attenuates the effects of our brains on the enteric nervous system of the GI tract.  I continue to be amazed at the clinical response of my patients to bifidobacterium infantis (traded under the name Align).

 The "brainin-the-gut" which represents neural plexi and which contain as much serotonin and other neuromodulators as our spinal cord are clearly intimately connected with our emotional lives.  Individuals with IBS appear to have hypersensitive systems which often function on a subconscious level.

But somehow the composition of our colonic bacteria alters the effects of our neuroendocrine systems.  I assume the exact mechanism will someday be elucidated.

The promise of using xifaxin, rifampicin,  the nonabsorbable antibiotic for a select group of patients with IBS fits into this same concept.  Again, altering the gut flora seems to help.

When it comes to berries I am facetiously referring to both the dietary fiber component of therapy which is clearly beneficial and the obsessive attachment many of us have to our personal information technological gadgets, such as Blackberries, I Phone, I Pads  etc.

Our addiction to instant communication and being able to reach others in a likewise fashion adds an enormous intensity and obsessive quality to our daily lives.  We are constantly "wired" not just in the telecommunications sense but in our own inability to relax and disconnect from the stresses around us.

For most of human history we dealt with our personal and family problems and learned about local, national and international news (usually tragic) once or twice a day via newspapers or television.

Now we are bombarded by 24 hour news–again most tragic, anxiety-producing, completely negative and depressing.  Is there any question that such a constant bombardment of negative energy has deleterious effects on our mental, emotional, physical and spiritual well-being?

Is IBS more prevalent than ever?  In over 30 years as a practicing gastroenterologist I would say definitely yes. 

I have offered ways of addressing these issues previously and will continue to do so.  A multi-pronged approach is necessary, one that address all components of the mind/body/spiritual being that comprises humanity.


the air hangs still

too still

a dark mass creeps across

the bright blue of the northern sky

moving out from the land

like a black glacier

out to sea

the gulls seem to sense

swing wildly crying

to the south


I listen


the wind jumps

suddenly cool against

my cheek

to the northeast

sky and sea merge

to gray

NON-ATTACHMENT (a personal commentary)

The Buddhist notion of non-attachment is a basic principle of belief.  If I understand it correctly (and it is possible I don't) it calls upon the individual to detach from material possessions, striving for acclaim and fame, and not being concerned with success or failure. 

There is also an understanding that attachments to other individuals can only bring ultimate suffering.  Life is temporary. Everyone we know and love will die and we will suffer deeply because of this.  Non-attachment offers us an opportunity to move through this lifetime with a pleasant sense of happiness, yet without the extremes of joy and deep sadness which afflicts most mortal beings.

This attitude seems quite plausible if one considers the monastic life to be the preferred one.  Non-attachment is much easier and understandable when one has no spouse or offspring.  Unfortunately for most of us this is not how we live our lives.

We cannot be other than attached to those we love.  To attempt to hold back our feelings and connections is to be other than the human beings that we are.

Now I do agree that obsessive connections can occur with loved-ones.  Many people "live through" the lives of their children, spouses or parents.  This is clearly not a desirable situation.  Allowing our loved ones to make their own choices (which they will do regardless of our opinions) is part of their own soul's journey, their own karmic path.

Clearly possessive attachment to material goods is often tied to un fulfillment and despair as well.  Competition to have the biggest, most expensive, most opulent lifestyle is clearly absurd and irrational.

Yet to us "householders" attachment is who we are.  If understood in terms of balance–of expressions of love/concern with recognition of individual choices–than it will continue to be an essential part of our lives.


I was able to attend an appearance of the Dalai Lama at Radio City Music Hall this past Sunday with my daughter.

It was fascinating to me on many levels.  His presence was both intensively inspirational because of his history and what he represents–the leader of Tibetan Buddhism.  I am quite familiar with many of his writings and, like others, have been left with a feeling of profound respect for his beliefs.

Two of the most impressive aspects of his teachings include his admiration and respect for other religious and spiritual traditions and his respect for scientific inquiry. 

 He actively reaches out to engage other traditions.  He desires to understand what these beliefs are and what motivates individuals to believe what they do.  He does not encourage conversion to Buddhism.  Rather, he says, an individual can find deep meaning within their own tradition.

That perspective alone is deserving of another Nobel Peace prize.  How refreshing and rational!  Such an attitude is so deeply needed in a world divided by  fanatical religious beliefs which promote and justify  murder of nonbelievers.

The Dalai Lama deeply respects the findings of scientific inquiry.  He recognizes that science deals with the physical world while religion should address the spiritual.  When either one crosses over the line, beyond its field of expertise, problems ensue.

The Dalai Lama spoke simple truths–about family, compassion, nonviolence, feminine energy.  He laughed easily and the audience could not help but join with him in those moments of simple joy.

And while observing him, listening to him speak words of simple wisdom, what is most inspiring is his simple humanity. 

I would suggest that anyone who shares my regard for this man seek to be present at some future venue.  You will not be disappointed.

SACRED SEXUALITY–a Metaphysical Inquiry

I'm looking forward to my audience with the Dalai Lama (along with a few thousand others on May 23).  I am a tremendous admirer of his spiritual openness to other faiths, his genuine compassion for all beings and his great respect for science.

Unfortunately, he believes that celibacy is the spiritual path to follow and that sex is dangerous.

I must part ways with him in this regard.  Clearly sexuality offers challenges. Yet I regard it as a deeply spiritual gift. 

From a Kabbalistic perspective the "original sin" of Adam and Eve was not sexual intercourse but disobeying God.  We are not born sinners.  Rather we have the power of free will to choose our actions in this world.  Our own actions determine our spiritual state of being.

From a biological perspective it is an inherent quality of being alive.  If we regard respiration, circulation, digestion, excretion as natural  functioning, then we should regard sexuality in the same light.

In fact from an evolutionary perspective, we are the descendants of the most sexually active beings on the planet.  Low libido celibates do make produce offspring so their genes fade away.  That's just Darwinian forces in play.

Sexual feelings need not be viewed as inherently sinful either.  That is the perspective of certain religious groups.  Sex is neutral when it comes to morality.  It is how one deals with these feelings and drives that results in behavior that celebrates love and connection, or domination and control.

It is not very different from other basic human drives such as eating.  Compulsive behavior of any kind can be dangerous and damaging to one physically as well as spiritually.

Denying an inherently natural process leads to repression, guilt, shame and perhaps aggression and sexual predation.

Try this approach the next time you have a sexual feeling or are attracted to another individual.  Rather than feel guilty or suppress the feeling, thank God or Spirit for this spiritual gift.  Exercise respect and discretion for the feelings of the other individual.  Action is not always needed. 

Sexuality is a  gift and like any beautiful experience can be transformed into a spiritual encounter with the universe.  It is one more reason to be grateful for being alive.


Don't be put off my the neuroanatomical terms mentioned above.  I'm not actually concerned with "exactly" where feelings originate within the brain but more with the relationship between our attempts to come up with rational arguments or thoughts to explain our feelings.

There is no question that we are drawn to certain individuals and repulsed by others.  The factors that go into these reactions are often not immediately obvious to us.

Certainly, there is a level of physical attractiveness or lack there of which draws us to or away from someone.  We also speak about "personality" and multiple factors are at play here as well.

Sometimes someone will remind us of an individual you either like or dislike.  This may immediately impact on how we regard them.

Then there are individuals whose voice, mannerisms, degree of animation or demeanor appeals to us.  Perhaps there are smells, even pheromones as well that appeal to us on a subliminal basis.

Sense of humor, aggressive tendencies, the attention that they pay to our thoughts and comments all play into this emotional reaction–the world of feelings–that combine to our opinion of another human being.

If someone we "like" touches us, this often re-enforces our positive feelings towards them.  While we might be repelled by a similar touch from someone who "turns us off".

What occurs after wards is an attempt to explain why we like or dislike someone.  We begin to create pros and cons, offer logical arguments for or against specific traits of that individual.

But in many ways, these attempts to analyze with our frontal cortex are secondary to feelings which are pre-verbal.  Our emotional reactions are often difficult to put into words but that doesn't stop us from attempting to do so.

So next time you meet someone for the first time or are with a group of others, try to examine what it is that you find appealing or not about them.  You may take notice that it is harder to put your reasons into words than you might think. 

In any case, your feelings often precede your thoughts.


There are individuals who possess knowledge of the personal lives of strangers.  They call themselves mediums and claim that they obtain such information from the deceased.

Although there is no absolute proof that consciousness survives bodily death, the authenticity and accuracy of such medium readings is highly suggestive of such an assertion.

I have offered many examples in this blog as well as my book META-PHYSICIAN ON CALL FOR BETTER HEALTH.

The following comes from a woman Carol I know personally and whose credibility is beyond question.  She describes her reading with a medium I'll call Jane who provided me with deeply personal information which she had no way of knowing, last year.

Jane provided her with at least a dozen highly specific, astounding  bits of information about her present loved-ones as well as deceased loved-ones.  There is no way that Jane could have obtained such information from any sort of prior research.  Especially telling is the relatively inexpensive cost of a reading {about $ 50} which would preclude her paying someone to investigate this case.

Of note is that Carol's father died ten days after his 50th birthday more than 25 years ago.  Jane, claiming to be in communication with him stated to her,
"I died ten days after a major birthday".

Carol was totally taken aback by this statement.

I will leave it to the reader to make their own judgment as to its significance.  To me it provides more evidence that consciousness survives physical death.