Can you tell the difference between a gastro health myth and fact? Learn the truth about the most common gastro health myths from our team of experienced gastroenterologists.
We’ve broken down the myths vs. facts based on conditions and treatment types to make this blog simple to navigate.
Myth: There is no way to diagnose IBS
Fact: Diagnosing IBS consists of ruling out other conditions with a diagnostic process that examines conditions in which the bowel appears normal but does not function normally. Doctors will refer to the Rome criteria, a combination of common symptoms associated with IBS.
Myth: Successful treatment does not exist.
Fact: IBS can be managed and treated with the right combination of diet and medication, under the care of an experienced gastroenterologist. Making dietary changes by eliminating gluten, gas-producing foods and FODMAPs (stands for fermentable, oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols that are found in some grains, dairy, fruits and vegetables) are all good places to start.
Myth: All IBS cases are the same.
Fact: All IBS cases are not the same, so they shouldn’t be treated similarly. As listed above, depending on the severity of the case, there are many treatment options that can be combined in a way that works best for you. Eliminating gluten from the diet of an IBS patient may work for them, but it may not work for you. Working with your gastroenterologist to test the efficacy of various treatment options will help find the right treatment plan for you.
Myth: IBS pain is minor and temporary.
Fact: Though some describe their IBS symptoms as more of an annoyance, many report it as being debilitating enough to keep them from performing normal day-to-day activities. IBS may not be a life-threatening condition, but it can severely affect the quality of life for those who suffer from it. The chronic gas and bloating, constipation, diarrhea and abdominal pain that can last for days at a time affect a wide range of activities, including work, social engagements and sexual activity.
Myth: IBS is an uncommon condition.
Fact: IBS is a very common condition that currently affects between 25 and 45 million people in the United States, two-thirds of them female. It affects all ages, but mostly those under the age of 50.
Myth: I’m not at risk for colon cancer.
Fact: Everyone is at risk, one in eighteen American men and women will get colon cancer in their lifetime. Adults above age 50 need to have a colonoscopy because the great majority of colorectal polyps – which are the precursors of colon cancer – occur after age 50. By detecting and removing polyps, we can reduce the risk of developing cancer by 90%.
Myth: If I don’t have any symptoms, I don’t need a colonoscopy.
Fact: In nearly all cases, colon cancer starts as a precancerous growth in your colon, which usually doesn’t cause symptoms. A colonoscopy is a preventative test that can detect polyps and remove them before they turn into cancer.
Myth: The preparation for colonoscopies is the worst!
Fact: Drinking a bowel preparation is one of the leading deterrents to having a colonoscopy, but the good news is thanks to modern medicine it’s a lot easier than before. Instead of a full gallon which can feel like you’re drowning, there are half-gallon options or split dose prescriptions. available.
Myth: A colonoscopy isn’t accurate.
Fact: Recent studies confirm that experience really matters when you choose who performs your colonoscopies. For a high quality colonoscopy, make sure your physician has specialized training in performing colonoscopies and tracks his or her outcomes as part of performance improvement.
Myth: If I get colorectal cancer, then it was meant to be.
Fact: Not true. Colon cancer is preventable. Here’s how: Begin screening for colon cancer (colonoscopy is the preferred screening strategy) at age 50, or earlier if you have risk factors. Other things you can do: Improve your diet, maintain a normal body weight, exercise and avoid smoking.
Myth: Eating seeds and nuts can cause diverticulitis.
Fact: Not true! This most persistent myth actually contradicts advice we give for preventing the condition in the first place. A healthy, high-fiber diet is actually the best medicine against diverticulitis, and seeds and nuts certainly fit the bill.
Myth: Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are the same thing.
Fact: Crohn’s disease and IBS are completely different conditions. Crohn’s disease causes inflammation in the GI tract, but IBS doesn’t cause inflammation at all. (IBS affects muscle contractions in the colon.) Both have completely different treatments as well.
Myth: Bad eating habits caused your Crohn’s disease.
Fact: Not the case! There’s no evidence that what we eat causes Crohn’s disease. However, you may notice that certain foods or eating habits make your symptoms worse. Keep a food diary to share with your doctor and ask for suggestions. For some people, fiber, hot spices, alcohol, and caffeine may be problem foods. It may also help to eat smaller meals and drink plenty of water.
Myth: Crohn’s disease and smoking are unrelated.
Fact: It’s true that smoking, on its own, doesn’t cause Crohn’s disease, but it may increase your risk of developing it. If you’re living with Crohn’s disease, smoking may cause more flare-ups and make symptoms worse.
Myth: Gluten sensitivity is the same thing as celiac disease.
Fact: This is a biggie! Yes, they both involve reactions to gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and other foods and beverages that contain these grains. And it’s true that they often cause similar gastrointestinal, or GI, symptoms. But celiac disease (aka celiac sprue), which affects about 1 percent of the U.S. population, is an autoimmune disease, in which the consumption of gluten damages the villi (small hair-like structures) in the small intestine and interferes with the absorption of nutrients from food.
Myth: Celiac disease affects only the gastrointestinal tract.
Fact: What happens in the gut doesn’t stay in the gut – celiac is a systemic disease. Once gluten comes through, the immune cells can be programmed to leave the gastrointestinal tract and can start to fight against the body.
Myth: A gluten-free diet cures celiac disease.
Fact: There is no cure for celiac disease. But people with celiac disease should eliminate gluten from their diet for the rest of their lives to prevent symptoms and long-term complications.
Our team of professionals are always here to help you with your health needs, if you’re experiencing any signs or symptoms, don’t go undiagnosed. Schedule your appointment with us today!