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.

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