Acid reflux, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), is an unpleasant condition in and of itself, as you know. Now imagine being afflicted with that AND irritable bowel syndrome - being sick at both ends, as it were.
It seems too cruel even for a capricious being like Mother Nature, but it’s true. Many people find themselves suffering from both conditions at once, and there may be a link between them.
One theory is that when things are off-kilter in the stomach - too much acid, for example - the body tries to get rid of whatever’s in the stomach as fast as possible. This means sending half-digested food down south, and extra acid up north. Presto: IBS and acid reflux, all at once.
Another reason for the dual diagnosis could be obesity, at least indirectly. Obesity can cause acid reflux because the bloated stomach and gut area stretches the muscle that separates the stomach from the esophagus, thus allowing acid to bubble up. Furthermore, many obese people have a diet that puts them at risk of IBS through the nature of the foods they eat.
One theory holds that sometimes IBS manifests itself in a dilation of the transverse colon. The colon being stretched in this way could cause it to press against your stomach when it’s full of food, which could push acid up the other way.
A slightly weaker connection: Some researchers believe IBS can be brought on by stress, and while stress alone won’t cause GERD, it can cause people to drink, smoke and eat improperly, all of which can cause acid reflux.
However, some doctors believe that though some people do suffer from both IBS and GERT, the two are not necessarily linked. Someone may have hemorrhoids and tonsillitis, too, but that doesn’t mean they have the same cause.
Doctors point out that GERD’s cause is known - a change in the barrier between the esophagus and the stomach, causing stomach acid to bubble up - while the cause of IBS is a mystery. In fact, IBS may be caused by a variety of things, and effective treatment can differ from one patient to the next. Acid reflux, on the other hand, has fairly uniform treatments that work for most people.
The kicker is that some people’s methods of treating one make the other worse. For example, some people fear fiber-rich foods will exacerbate the acid reflux (which is true in some cases). But fiber will usually HELP with irritable bowel syndrome. For those unlucky patients, it may be a matter of choosing which disease is more tolerable and treating the other one.
Fortunately, this lesser-of-two-evils treatment isn’t usually necessary. In most cases, IBS and GERT can be treated without interfering with one another. And in some lucky instances, the same treatment will cure them both. For instance, many patients have reported that losing weight alleviated both conditions. Others have reported that an allergy to gluten turned out to be the reason for IBS and acid reflux, and eliminating it from the diet cleared everything up. If you find yourself with both ailments at once, trying an elimination diet may be the way forward.
Kathryn Whittaker has an interest in Acid Reflux. For further information on Acid Reflux please visit Acid Reflux or Acid Reflux Symptoms