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If you enjoy your irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), skip this article. I say
that because, for many of us, IBS is a choice. If you've chosen to
accept yours, I'll bet I know where you're sitting as you read this. Would
you like to remove this computer from your bathroom, permanently? You can, if
you choose to stop having IBS.
You know the IBS routine: A week or two of constipation and cramps, then days
of diarrhea. Then a week or two of constipation and cramps and days of
diarrhea. Then a week or two of constipation and cramps and days of diarrhea.
And so it goes until you die of old age.
That's the good part -- IBS won't kill you. The bad part is ... that's the
only good part. When your IBS is acting up, you want to switch physicians --
to Dr. Kevorkian. The only thing worse than not doing Number 2 for two weeks
is making up for those weeks in a couple of jet-propelled days. And again the
next day. And the next. Then, finally, some relief; no more diarrhea.
Then another day of relief. Then ... wait a minute ... this isn't relief --
it's constipation again. Isn't it a crock that your best bowel days are those
first couple of days of constipation? Oh, well, at least you have no cramps
this time. Oops ... WRONG! We'll pay no attention while you curl into a ball,
roll on the floor and groan in agony ... and we'll tell the maitre d' to just
walk around you.
What a way to live. Not only is IBS not directly diagnosable, but most
doctors tell us it's essentially incurable: "Congratulations; it's not
Crohn's disease, VD, sprue, cancer, or ulcerative colitis -- it's just IBS.
Lucky you! You'll live another 50 years ... with chronic diarrhea and
The usual treatment is simple: just swallow fiber and fluids until you sprout
toadstools or burst, and you may reduce your symptoms by 10%. Wow; you may
spend only 45 of those 50 years in the smallest room of your home.
Fortunately you'll want to start drinking an extra quart or two of
water daily just to wash all that psyllium hydrophilic mucilloid down.
Pisillium hydrowhat? You know -- Metamucil. (Ah, now I see recognition --
and a little fear -- in your eyes.) Both are euphemisms for vacuum cleaner
dust. Its purpose is to put back into your life -- and your gut -- the fiber
man removed in the name of progress.
The stuff helps, is harmless, and forms stools rather than a habit. But it
ruins a perfectly good glass of "water or other liquid" if taken as directed.
There's a better way to take it, and an even better way to break the IBS
First, the better way to take your Metamucil, especially the cheap kind your
HMO pays for. You know -- the brands you can buy at Home Depot, such as Stand
Back, Super Pooper, The Incredible Bulk, Outtamyway, Metamucil Helper, and
Sea Mint (say it out loud). These dissolve best in citrus fruit juice, but
don't ruin a whole glass of OJ. Instead, pour just a few ounces of OJ into a
5-oz paper cup. Stir in your teaspoon of dust, take a deep breath, and chug
it down. Then drink a nice, big, refreshing, full glass of untarnished "water
or other liquid" to wash it down.
Or use the more expensive silky smooth version. Why, it's almost as good as
Tang, the orange colored drink developed by NASA -- the people who brought us
the Challenger disaster. Its flavor may be pure imitation synthetic
artificial crayon, but at least they've screened the gravel out of it, and
its color was inspired by a fruit.
But realize there's actually an IBS cure for many of us. Some
physicians are convinced that we cause the vast majority of our
constipation/diarrhea cycles ourselves, and can prevent them as simply as we
cause them. The best-known proponent of breaking the IBS cycle is Dr. Gabe
Mirkin, who claims to have almost eliminated (I guess that's the appropriate
word) IBS in many of his patients. His claim to fame and credibility includes
his nationally syndicated medical radio talk show and magazine column, his
busy private practice, and his extensive, ongoing research of thousands of
medical journal reports for the latest research results.
Come back next month for a more detailed description (whoopie!) of the IBS
cycle, its causes, and how to transform our stop and go bowel traffic to a
smooth traffic pattern. You may be surprised to learn that one of the most
common foods we all eat can cause our IBS.