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Complex but treatable – irritable bowel syndrome

Intestinal awareness campaign

In Germany, around 16 percent of women and up to 8 percent of men are diagnosed each year with irritable bowel syndrome. Many of those affected have only mild symptoms, but some are plagued by strong chronic stomach pain that greatly detracts from their quality of life.


Stomach aches and flatulence can have many causes. In people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome or functional dyspepsia, abdominal complaints can occur without a manifest pathological cause. To make a diagnosis, the symptoms must have lasted for longer than 3 months and lead to reduced quality of life. In addition, any potential organic diseases must be reliably ruled out. In the case of functional dyspepsia, the complaints are experienced mainly in the upper abdomen, i.e., in the region underneath the ribs.

Typical symptoms of functional dyspepsia are:

  • Pain in the upper abdomen (frequently an feeling of pressure in the epigastric region)
  • Sensation of premature fullness (postprandial bloating)
  • Frequent burping
  • Nausea, sick feeling
  • Reflux-like symptoms

In irritable bowel syndrome, complaints are localized mainly in the lower abdomen. Typical symptoms include:

  • Stomach ache with or without cramping, experienced mostly in the region around or below the navel
  • Flatulence
  • Irregular stool with constipation and/or diarrhea
  • Feeling of incomplete emptying of the colon, mucus in the stool


What are the causes of irritable bowel syndrome and functional dyspepsia?

According to current opinion and the latest research, the causes of irritable bowel syndrome can be traced to the intestinal nervous system. This is a complex neuronal network with more than one hundred million nerve cells – in a certain sense a small second brain. This network regulates the diverse tasks of the gastrointestinal tract. Any disruptions within this nerve network can lead for example to problems in the coordinated muscular activity of the intestines that is necessary for the transport of digested food and stool through the intestinal tract. These disturbances can also affect glandular activity, the mucous membrane barrier and pain perception, which explains why irritable bowel syndrome can lead to pain even when there is no objective threat to the gastrointestinal tract.


What treatment options are available for irritable bowel syndrome?

The treatment of irritable bowel syndrome and other functional gastrointestinal illnesses is based on three cornerstones.

General measures: These are the basic treatment, consisting of detailed individualized information for the patient on the benign nature of the illness.

Medication: Prescribing medication is sometimes difficult because it must be based solely on the symptoms. There is not one distinct cause of irritable bowel syndrome that can be identified and treated accordingly. For this reason, a symptom-oriented analysis is first carried out of which medications would potentially be helpful, which are then often prescribed one after the other (sequentially), depending on individual response. They include on the one hand substances that influence the motor function of the intestines and/or lower the pain threshold there. Complaints can also be addressed by medications that alter the intestinal flora as well as taking aim specifically at diarrhea and constipation.

Nutritional therapy and psychological “primary care”: The third cornerstone of treatment is made up of specific nutritional therapy approaches and psychological interventions. The latter might include for example anti-stress therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and biofeedback training as well as the strengthening of personal resources, hobbies and social contacts. It is sometimes beneficial to analyze eating habits in order to identify foods that may worsen the symptoms, with dietary recommendations designed to afford relief.

At Preventicum we take a holistic approach to treating irritable bowel syndrome, starting by following guidelines for ruling out any structural diseases that may be causing the symptoms. This is followed by a consultation and analysis by gastroenterological specialists whom we call in as needed for treatment, or by psychologists or physicians trained in psychosomatic medicine, as well as nutritionists.

To conclude our week-long campaign, we are devoting a lecture to this topic. Anyone interested is most welcome to attend. See you there!


Friday, 17 March 2017, 3:00 p.m.


“Intestinal awareness – the importance of a healthy intestinal tract”
Prof. Dr. med. Baumgart I Prof. Dr. med. Hilgard I Prof. Dr. med. Gassel
Please register by email to:


#colon cancer month #irritable bowel syndrome #Felix Burda Foundation #healthy life #modern medicine #Preventicum #facharztzentrum-bredeney

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