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Serotonin Imbalance and IBS

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic condition of the digestive system, affecting up to 20% of the general population. The most commonly diagnosed gastrointestinal condition, IBS is second only to the common cold for lost work days. Those suffering from IBS most commonly experience abdominal pain in association with changes in their bowel habits and are more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression, stress and physical ailments and increased economic burden than their peers without IBS.

While no single cause of IBS has been identified, contributing factors may be physiological, social or biological in nature and include infection, food intolerances, stress and neurotransmitter imbalance - serotonin in particular. Commonly thought of as the main mood-regulating neurotransmitter, the majority of the body's serotonin is actually found in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, rather than the central nervous system.

Serotonin acts within the intestine, triggering nausea and vomiting as well as altering motility which can result in diarrhea or constipation. Thus, some medications used to treat IBS work at the serotonin receptor level and are chosen based on the patient's main symptoms and the actions they exert in the intestine itself.   Some of these medications tend to be constipating and, as such, are not used when constipation is a significant part of the symptom picture. While their actions may be beneficial in alleviating symptoms, for some individuals with IBS, these medications do not address the underlying cause.

Testing for infections, bacterial or yeast overgrowth, food intolerance and lack of digestive enzymes can help in focusing treatments to the underlying cause and not just treating the symptoms.  Providers at Carolina Integrative Medicine can evaluate the symptoms, offer the appropriate testing and guide the treatment to alleviate this debilitating syndrome.

For those individuals with neurotransmitter imbalance, assessing and addressing neurotransmitter levels can offer valuable insight into treatment approaches for addressing a primary contributing factor of IBS. Urinary neurotransmitter testing is an easy, accurate tool that can help you determine if neurotransmitter imbalance is contributing to IBS symptoms in your situation.

Ask us about the specialized tests as part of your comprehensive health management.

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