The symptoms for irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, can range from mildly annoying to severely life-altering. And according to Justin Brandler, M.D., a gastroenterology fellow at Michigan Medicine, the disease truly is a spectrum.
“From mapping out every bathroom location on your travel itinerary, to hiding your diarrhea and incapacitating abdominal cramping from your colleagues, IBS can include many different things,” says Brandler. “As the pandemic continues, many patients with IBS have experienced improved symptoms as they stay closer to home. However, others have had to deal with a significant worsening of symptoms due to unexpected uncertainties, like job loss, disrupted child care and social isolation.”
Brandler adds that this range in symptoms and severity can be especially challenging for both providers and patients, even outside of a pandemic. But as a physician, he finds this diversity both challenging and rewarding.
“In order to properly care for patients with IBS, a healthy blend of art and science is required, as well as a partnership with our patients to develop evidence-based and personalized treatment plans that revolve around a trusting clinician-patient relationship,” he says.
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And because the tools for “beating the battle of the bowels” can be so diverse, Brandler weighed in on several treatment options to best empower individuals with IBS to use medical data when deciding on their care.
Here’s what he had to say:
Natural and herbal supplements
The majority of natural and herbal medications have not been studied in