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Millions of patients have been left undiagnosed due to these 'hard to spot' gut problems


(NaturalNews) It's become something of a catch-all diagnosis for all sorts of gut conditions of inexplicable origin. But what's commonly referred to as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is actually a variety of different gut conditions that are being inadequately or improperly diagnosed, says a leading gastroenterologist who worries that millions of people are needlessly suffering for lack of proper treatment.

In his new book What's Up With Your Gut?, Professor Julian Walters from Imperial College Healthcare in London looks at a number of health conditions that are commonly misdiagnosed as IBS. These "hard to spot" gut problems afflict millions of people, but because many doctors aren't familiar with them, and the science behind them, they often go unnoticed, which means they also go untreated -- or worse, they're mistreated and consequently exacerbated.

Gluten intolerance. Many people who suffer from chronic abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhea, as well as corresponding brain "fog," depression, and muscle and joint pain are likely intolerant to gluten. Similar to Celiac disease, gluten intolerance is a type of autoimmune condition in which gluten proteins damage the gut rather than provide nourishment to the body.

Patients with gluten intolerance who are misdiagnosed with IBS and told to consume more fiber, for instance, could end up developing worse symptoms as the condition is often exacerbated by other substances besides gluten, including the fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols (FODMAPs) found in foods like onions, garlic, pears, apples, honey, wheat, and in some cases dairy.

Transit constipation. This on-and-off constipation issue is another condition that many doctors will simply treat by telling a patient to consume more fiber or take laxatives. But like with gluten intolerance, fiber can make the problem worse, in some cases, resulting in more pain, more bloating, and more constipation.

Treatments include drug regimens of 5-HT4 receptor agonists, which stimulate cells in the intestine responsible for moving food and waste more efficiently through the digestive tract. Biofeedback is another treatment option that involves a combination of diet and exercise to help better move things along.

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). When bacteria grow in the wrong places throughout the gut, the result can be bloating, fatigue, weight loss, and in some cases anemia--not to mention fatty stools and diarrhea. As many as 80 percent of people diagnosed with IBS suffer from SIBO, which requires careful treatment with antibiotics to help "reset the gut's microbial diversity."

Bile acid malabsorption (BAD). IBS marked by excessive and frequent diarrhea may be a sign of bile acid malabsorption, which is when the liver produces too much bile acid in response to fat consumption. Excess bile is normally recycled by the body, but BAD sufferers experience bile being deposited into the colon, which stimulates the production of salt and water, which results in diarrhea.

There are three varieties of BAD, but most people suffer from the type that's marked by a deficiency in hormone fibroblast growth factor 19, which is responsible for telling the body to stop producing bile. Again, simply advising people with BAD to consume more fiber won't get the job done, and may make the problem worse.

Identifying BAD can be as simple as getting a SeHCAT test, which involves taking a drug called selenium-labeled synthetic bile salt. This salt contains a radioactive tracer substance that's retained by the body and used to track how well bile is reabsorbed by the body. Someone with normal bile function will show at least 15 percent of SeHCAT after seven days, while someone with BAD will only show about 1 to 5 percent SeHCAT.

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