The Gut Trust is listening
On Tuesday and Thursday evening, I answer calls on the Gut Trust’s telephone helpline. The topics are extremely variable. All human life is there. Many callers are desperate and so often it can seem that their IBS is associated with what has been happening in their lives. Larry was a case in point.
It was a quiet night on the helpline. Just two calls to begin with. Then at just gone 8, Larry rang up.
‘Is confusion a symptom of IBS?’
I was hesitant. ‘It can be’.
‘Oh good. That makes me feel better. My doctor said it’s impossible.’
I didn’t respond. Instead I said, ‘Well, tell me what happens?’
‘Every time I eat something, I can’t think properly, I can’t focus, I can’t even drive my car. All foods seem to affect it, but recently I have found that if I mash up some potato with a bit of water, it is not so bad.’ .
There was no time to go into detail, so I told him that his symptoms reminded me of dumping. He knew what I was talking about. ‘When I had a barium meal a few years ago, they said they had never seen a stomach empty so quickly.’
‘So if a proper meal emptied that quickly, the rapid distension of the small intestine and the surge of insulin caused by rapid arrival of food could both result in faintness and confusion.’
‘But what can I do about it?’ he asked.
‘Try something to slow stomach emptying; a viscous polysaccharide like Guar Gum can make the food contents sticky and slow the rate at which they leave the stomach and are absorbed. Some drugs such as the anticholinergic, ProBanthine can also slow gastric emptying’
I felt satisfied, but he was cautious.
‘But my doctor doesn’t think it’s dumping.’
‘And you’re confused.’
‘Well, how long have you had the IBS?’
‘About 10 years.’
‘And it came on about the same time as the confusion?’
‘So was there anything that happened 10 years ago.’
‘The only thing was that my son got ME? He’s still living at home.’
‘I wonder if there’s a connection.’
I am Dr Nick Read and I am a gastroenterologist and a psychotherapist and use both sets of skills to try to get behind the symptom to find out what is going on. I recall the old adage, ‘It is as important to understand the patient with the illness as it is to understand the illness in the patient. Irritable Bowel Syndrome is an illness that does not have a specific cause or a definitive cure. Diet, lifestyle, infection, gut bacteria and stress, particularly stress, may all play a role in generating the symptoms. IBS is a holistic condition that requires a holistic remedy. Only by understanding both the patient and the illness can my caller and I find the most appropriate way of dealing with it.
The Gut Trust is the National Charity for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. It works alongside the health service to inform, support and advise patients with IBS, their family and carers. The helpline is open every Tuesday and Thursday night from 7.30pm to 9.30pm on 0872 300 4537.
In addition to a free consultation on the helpline, members of The Gut Trust advice the helpline, members have access to our unique, fully comprehensive self management programme, a telephone helpline, free medical consultation, our magazine ‘Gut Reaction’, What’s New, our national network of self help groups, a can’t wait card and much more. To join The Gut Trust, visit our website (www.theguttrust.org) or call 0114 2723253 during office hours (9.30am to 4.30pm weekdays).
The Gut Trust is a partner of ‘Love your Gut’.