Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) continued...
To restore balance: Paxil, a drug designed to treat anxiety and
depression by upping serotonin levels in the brain, can also help relieve IBS
for patients with tough-to-treat symptoms — even when they're not depressed,
according to a study of 110 IBS sufferers conducted by Arnold. "Considering
the amount of serotonin being produced in the intestine, we think Paxil must be
doing something to the nerves in the gastrointestinal tract," he says. More
than 60 percent of Paxil-takers in his study had fewer IBS symptoms — and a
brighter outlook on life — compared with 26 percent of placebo-takers.
But before you call your doctor for a prescription, try increasing the fiber
in your diet. In phase one of Arnold's study, one in four IBS sufferers reduced
pain and bloating and felt much better after simply eating 25 grams of fiber a
day, which is the USDA-recommended dose. Although fiber may or may not
influence the hormones in the gut (no one knows for sure), it does help expand
the diameter of the large and small intestines, which eases painful muscle
contractions, according to Arnold. Try adding oatmeal and other whole grains,
plus raw fruits and vegetables, to your daily diet.
Sure, we all have those days when we'd give anything for a midday nap — even
if it meant crawling under our desks. But if you struggle daily with feeling
sluggish and having zero energy — particularly if you've gained 10 to 20 pounds
that you just can't shake no matter how little you eat — you could be suffering
from a lack of thyroid hormone, a condition called hypothyroidism. Thyroid
hormones control the body's metabolism, and when supplies are short, all
systems slow down, including heart rate, mental functioning, and digestion.
That's why hypothyroidism can leave a person feeling exhausted, drained,
mentally foggy, even constipated. It's thought to affect at least 15 million
adults nationwide, targeting 10 times more women than men, according to
psychiatrist Louann Brizendine, M.D., director of the Women's and Teen Girl's
Mood & Hormone Clinic at the University of California, San Francisco. And
up to two thirds of cases go undiagnosed for several years because the symptoms
are often dismissed as a side effect of stress.
To restore balance: Ask your doctor about getting your thyroid
hormone levels checked, and be proactive about getting thyroid hormone
replacement therapy if you need it. "There is some disagreement among
doctors about treating subclinical hypothyroidism, since in past generations
thyroid hormone was overprescribed, and too much of it can aggravate any
underlying heart conditions," says Brizendine. "But in my experience,
if you have symptoms of fatigue, depression, and anxiety that coincide with
abnormal thyroid levels, you should seek treatment." Finding a doctor who
will take these (and any other) mysterious symptoms seriously can deliver