Knowledge is Power

By Dr. Charles Gerson

One of the things we notice with our IBS patients at the MBDC is that they may start to feel better just from gaining a better understanding of their condition. Because IBS does not fit the usual definition of disease that doctors are comfortable with (do the test, find the abnormality, make the diagnosis), the IBS patient often has the experience of being told they are “ok” because their tests were normal. But of course, they are not “ok” and are left with the feeling that their doctor doesn’t quite know what is wrong with them.

At the Mind-Body Digestive Center, we gave IBS patients a questionnaire that determines to what degree they believed that their condition was “mysterious.” When we correlated their belief with the severity of their abdominal pain, we found that the more that patients found IBS mysterious, the worse was their pain.

While tests such as colonoscopy can be normal, patients should understand that other tests have shown definite abnormalities of the colon in IBS. These tests are not readily available and many doctors are not aware of them. Research reports have shown that in patients with IBS the colon does not function normally (too fast, too slow), the lining of the colon is too sensitive to pain, and the brain and the colon interact with each other differently. We explain this to our patients and this often brings a sense of relief, taking some of the mystery out of their illness experience and making them feel better.