Irritable Bowel Syndrome sufferers deal with a wide variety of symptoms related to digestion and the processing of waste material in the large colon. Patients report extreme bloating, gas, cramping, diarrhea and constipation during IBS flare-ups. It is unclear what causes irritable bowel syndrome and that makes managing it difficult. There is no cure for the condition but suffers can control it through diet and treatment.
One recent treatment approach that is showing some relief for sufferers is antibiotic therapy. A 2010 report in the Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology explains that the interest in using antibiotics as a treatment protocol for IBS evolved after scientists discovered some people had high levels of bacteria in their intestinal tract. This made antibiotics a natural approach to the treatment and control of IBS.
When Antibiotics Might Help
Antibiotic therapy has proven most effective for individuals diagnosed with diarrhea-predominant IBS. The name indicates the primary complaint of the patient, in this case diarrhea. This form of the syndrome shows the highest ratio of bacteria in the digestive tract. Other types such as constipation-predominant IBS may still benefit from antibiotics if a culture shows high levels of bacteria are present.
There are a number of drugs available for this treatment option. A doctor may perform a breath test to determine which is the best choice for the patient. The test helps measure the level of a synthetic sugar in the system, and gives the physician key information about the type of bacteria invading the intestine.
Rifaximin is an antibiotic prescribed for those with a normal lactulose breath test and who exhibit symptoms of either diarrhea-predominant or constipation-predominant IBS.
Rifaximin and Neomycin is an antibiotic combination for patients with constipation-predominant IBS who show high levels of methane on a lactulose breath test. The therapy may include a maintenance treatment of erythromycin as well.
Effectiveness of Antibiotics for IBS
The overall results for this treatment option for irritable bowel syndrome are favorable. Seventy percent of patients report a significant improvement in their condition after taking the drugs; however, there are some concerns about long-term benefits. Most people found their symptoms returned after just a few weeks.
Are Antibiotics the Best Treatment Option?
Antibiotics may help but most sufferers find that lifestyle changes are a proactive way to avoid IBS issues. Increasing fiber in the diet, for example, provides relief for some. Add the dietary fiber gradually to avoid side effects like gas and cramping.
Eliminating certain foods from your diet is another way to cope with the illness. Alcohol, chocolate and caffeine are all possible triggers. Drink water as opposed to other fluids like soda that may over stimulate the intestines.
IBS is a frustrating condition that can disrupt the life of someone unexpectedly. While the outlook is promising for the use of antibiotics as a treatment for the condition, it is hardly a cure. Ultimately, because IBS has such a broad range of symptoms, treatment is a matter of trial and error. The method that works for one person may not help the next. The most effective approach is likely to be a combination of treatment options customized to the individual.
Marion Smithson is a health and wellness blogger who has a specific interest in the health issues of adults. She shares more of her expertise at Masters in Public Health.