Herbs For Health: Bowel Conditions

Your body waste removal system is crucial to overall health, but what do you do when it breaks down?

| November/December 2000

You have a waste removal system in your house; you also have one in your car. Chances are, they work pretty well most of the time. But it’s also a pretty sure bet that the waste disposal system in your body doesn’t always work the way it’s supposed to. Nothing’s ever simple, is it?

Bowel problems trouble most people from time to time. But if your stomach starts to ache after almost every meal, if you have gas that’s painful, frequent, and/or uncontrollable, and you either have diarrhea or are constipated, you may have a bowel disease. Bowel diseases, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease, are responsible for nearly half of the visits to digestive tract specialists in the United States.

Functional versus chronic bowel disorders

IBS is a functional disorder—meaning that it’s defined by dysfunction, not by signs of disease or damage to organs themselves. In layman’s terms, IBS means your bowels aren’t working properly (no news flash for people who have the condition). In contrast, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis form a cluster of chronic disorders that are characterized by inflammation or ulceration in the small and large intestines. These two conditions are also sometimes referred to as colitis, enteritis, ileitis, or proctitis, depending on the location of the symptoms. The term colitis simply means inflammation of the colon and is another term for inflammatory bowel disease.

More than five million Americans have IBS, and more than three and a half million office visits per year are devoted to it. Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis affect more than a million people in the United States and are responsible for more than 700,000 doctor’s office visits per year.

Together, three bowel diseases–irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease–affect up to six million people in the United States alone. 

Interestingly, most bowel diseases are found to the greatest degree in developed countries; the higher the standard of living, the greater the occurrence of the disease. Ulcerative colitis is almost nonexistent in sub-Saharan African populations that consume a largely traditional diet. The few recorded cases were among urban individuals who ate a more typical Western diet. A 1998 Dutch study demonstrated that bowel disease is highly associated with a modern lifestyle.

7/29/2016 4:06:59 AM

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