Hello -

I was a happy, healthy little kid. Until suddenly I wasn't.

I was playing in a neighbor's garden on a beautiful summer day and out of nowhere I was paralyzed with pain. I couldn't move. I couldn't breathe. And then the world went gray. I woke up face down in the carrot patch.

My parents took me to my pediatrician and I told her I had blacked out from the pain. She told me to quit whining.

I was so humiliated...

I didn't even mention the problem to another doctor for the next six years. And I wasn't accurately diagnosed until twenty years later.

This was my first IBS attack. I was 9 years old.

I've had many thousands of people tell me their IBS stories. Many of them have gone through the same hell I did. I know that you have your own story as well. Please hang in there.

Right now, let's make sure you've been properly diagnosed.

Most doctors - 58% percent of U.S. physicians - think IBS is easy to diagnose. In reality, women with IBS see an average of three physicians over a three year period before they receive a clear diagnosis.

That's not what I'd call easy.

Even worse, less than one-third of people with IBS see a health care provider for diagnosis at all.

So, how do you know that you have IBS?

Step one, make sure your doctor has followed the Rome Criteria.

In a nutshell, the Rome Criteria require lower abdominal pain in association with bowel dysfunction. This can mean diarrhea, constipation, or both. Bloating and gas are common supporting symptoms of IBS.

Symptoms must be chronic but intermittent. In other words, they come and go. And then come back again.

Step two, it's critical that a doctor rules out disorders that can mimic IBS.

Inflammatory bowel diseases, Crohn's, colitis, celiac, diverticulosis, cancers, endometriosis, and other diseases can cause the same symptoms as IBS.

Structural abnormalities like a redundant, tortuous, or short colon should also be excluded. Anything inflammatory and infectious needs to be ruled out.

There are also some common mis-steps along the way to an IBS diagnosis.

If you've had your gallbladder out, and chronic diarrhea or constipation ever since, your doctor needs to rule out bile acid malabsorption.

Did you go gluten free before you were tested for celiac? This could cause a false negative.

The bloodwork for celiac checks for antibodies to gluten. You must be eating gluten for at least 4-6 weeks prior to the test or you won't have the antibodies.

This means you could have celiac but test negative for the disorder if you were gluten free before you were tested.

Day in and day out, I feel like every other person I talk to has never been told they have to eat wheat before they get tested for celiac.

And I hear from just as many people who are not told that having their gallbladder removed can cause chronic diarrhea. They are never told that their gallbladder stores bile, and without it that bile dumps directly into the small intestines. This causes chronic irritation, and needs to be resolved with something that binds the bile acids, such as cholestyramine.

Personally, even though I hear it first hand, I cannot fathom how this is true. How can so many people seek help and not be told these simple things that are common knowledge in the medical community?

Only after excluding these other possibilities, and IF your symptoms fit the Rome Criteria, can you be diagnosed with IBS.

The good news? IBS is a bowel dysfunction, not a disease. That means if you can control the symptoms, you can live free of the disorder.

So have you been properly diagnosed?

Read on for the full Rome Criteria.

Once you are confident you have a proper IBS diagnosis, it's time to get your symptoms under control.

You are not alone!

P.S. If you have questions or comments I'd love to hear them - just reply to this email to reach me directly. I am overwhelmed with requests but try to answer everyone. For help today please join my private IBS coaching.

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To taming your tummy,

Heather Van Vorous
Heather Van Vorous
Over 40 years dealing with IBS
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