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Coming to grips with IBS and GERD

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IBS/GERD image Hurt woman touch belly stomach ache painfulMillions of people across the globe struggle with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) and seek relief from its persistent and often debilitating symptoms. This article sheds some light on these conditions and the best ways of handling IBS and GERD, focusing on managing the symptoms and reducing the discomfort levels.

Understanding IBS and GERD

There is not yet any understanding of why there seems to be a co-incidence of Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease since they occur in two separate and distinct parts of the anatomy. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) affects the large intestine, resulting in symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and altered bowel habits. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), on the other hand, is caused by the regurgitation of acids from the stomach up into the esophagus, causing reflux heartburn. Even though they are different in terms of symptoms and regions of the gut that they are affecting, statistics show that almost two-thirds of people diagnosed with IBS also have GERD, and nearly one-half of people suffering from GERD also have IBS. Another investigation found that more than four times as many people with IBS will also suffer gastro reflux than those without the condition.

The main theory that tries to explain the co-incidence of these conditions proposes that a person suffering from either IBS or GERD has an issue with gastrointestinal motility, which deals with the movement of food through the digestive system. Proper motility is required to ensure efficient digestion and the elimination of waste. Disruptions can lead to the varied and uncomfortable symptoms of either IBS or GERD.

It’s a given that if you experience persistent symptoms that could be signs of either IBS or GERD, you should check with your doctor right away. This is especially necessary because no specific tests can clearly identify that a person has one of these conditions or rule them out. Another reason is that some double-blind studies have shown that people with IBS and GERD have a statistically higher chance of developing Parkinson’s Disease later. Doctors must be aware of this and start treating Parkinson’s sooner.

Having established the reason why we are dealing in a single blog with two seemingly unrelated conditions, let’s now get into a closed examination of them individually.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common condition that affects the digestive system, mainly the lower bowel. The primary symptoms are abdominal pain, excess gas causing bloating and wind, altered bowel habits like diarrhea or constipation, and sometimes bouts of each of these in turn. In people with IBS, motility is either insufficient or overactive, and this causes discomfort because the food reaching the intestines has not been processed properly. The muscles propelling food through the lower bowel may contract irregularly or forcefully in people with IBS. If the waste material moves too quickly, it may result in diarrhea, but when it moves slowly, it can cause constipation.

Some recognized triggers for IBS include sensitivities to specific chemicals in foods; bacterial infection inside the bowel; small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO); and inheritability. If a member of your family suffers from IBS, it is more likely that this condition will occur. Still, the degree of inheritability is low, so before jumping to conclusions, it’s essential to seek a qualified professional diagnosis. The same goes for other recognized emotional triggers such as stress, depression, memories of childhood trauma or anxiety. 

There are currently no known cures for IBS, and it can be a lifelong problem, having a major impact on a person’s quality of life. These symptoms are frequently misdiagnosed, and patients may have been advised to try many types of treatment that address completely different conditions. It can take years before a proper diagnosis is reached.

GERD

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is caused by the backflow of stomach acids into the esophagus, resulting in heartburn and discomfort. Stomach acid rises up to the esophagus, causing irritation and heartburn. These symptoms are chronic for people diagnosed with GERD and can be associated with high blood pressure, especially at night when lying down.

The stomach acid of humans is extremely strong, having a pH lower than 2.0, which makes it more than twice as strong as in most other mammals. As a result, if the acid reaches tissues in passageways not specifically built to handle such high acidity (like the stomach and small intestines), it can quickly burn them away. Reflux, when the acid rises up from the stomach and starts to burn the gullet and esophagus, is a warning that damage is being done to the linings of the esophagus that could potentially cause irreparable harm.

GERD can be the result of excess acid production in the stomach, of some metabolic dysfunction in the processing of foods that are in the stomach, or due to some anatomical factors such as where the valve that controls the flow of foods from the esophagus into the stomach (lower esophageal sphincter) is not functioning properly, and this allows acid to flow back into the esophagus. 

Diet plays a big part in the production of acids for digestion. High-fat, salty and highly-spiced foods can all trigger acid reflux. People can also have specific sensitivities, such as mints, tomatoes, and chocolate. High-acid citrus fruits are also a frequent trigger. Even carbonated drinks can have a physical effect of causing acid regurgitation when the gas is released.

Treating IBS and GERD

There are several treatments available that can be used separately when patients don’t suffer from both IBS and GERD. We will deal with these in a future blog. In this one, we are concentrating on the cases where the patient shows symptoms of both conditions. For this, we can recommend a medication called Motilium that addresses both.

A closer look at Motilium

Motilium (generic name domperidone) treats both IBS and GERD thanks to the special effects that its key ingredient, dopamine, has on how the mind-body complex works. The mind-body connection is a two-way interdependent relationship where each one has influences over the other. The release of neurotransmitters like dopamine (which is a feel-good molecule) produced by the pituitary gland controls how the brain sends messages to the rest of the body. The brain sends dopamine and serotonin to the stomach to control the process of digestion. When dopamine is released, typically as a meal is taken, it reduces gastrointestinal motility, promoting full digestion of the food. 

Motilium is known as a dopamine antagonist. The effectiveness of domperidone comes from its ability to block dopamine receptors in the gut. This action helps to move food more smoothly through the stomach, easing symptoms of both IBS and GERD. Dopamine’s normal function in a healthy person is to reduce gastrointestinal motility, but in individuals with IBS or GERD, enhancing movement within the digestive tract can relieve symptoms. 

Motilium is not currently FDA-approved and can’t be purchased in the US. The reasons for the lack of FDA approval have nothing to do with its effectiveness as a treatment for IBS and GERD but go back to a problem that relates to its use to promote breast milk production in lactating women. In Israel, Motilium is part of our tightly controlled list of approved drugs in the national health basket and is available to patients. Motilium is also available under prescription in many other advanced countries, including the EU, the UK, and Australia. People in the USA can buy Motilium from us, provided a registered healthcare provider has prescribed it.

You need to talk to your doctor or go to a hospital immediately if there are side effects like swelling of hands, feet, ankles, face, lips, or throat, which may cause difficulty swallowing or breathing. If you also notice rash itching, it could mean you are allergic to Motilium or have inadvertently taken a double dose.

Living more comfortably with IBS and GERD

Treating nausea and vomiting can be the main demands of people with IBS since these significantly impact their quality of life. Combining Motilium, dietary changes, and lifestyle adjustments is the key to finding relief, helping the stomach to empty more quickly, and reducing feelings of sickness.

The most important changes to eating habits involve identifying trigger foods and eliminating them from the diet. It also helps to change eating patterns by moving to smaller, more frequent meals. Adequate non-carbonated, non-acidic fluid intake is also a common move that supports digestive health.

Lifestyle changes for people with emotional or stress-related triggers are just as important as dietary adjustments. Consultations with trained behavioral therapists and using techniques such as meditation or yoga can be beneficial.

Conclusion

Improving your life if you suffer from IBS and GERD requires a structured approach, blending medication like Motilium with lifestyle and dietary adjustments to manage symptoms effectively.

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