Are your bowels bothering you?

We tend to forget about our bowels so much of the time and often abuse them until they act up.

Of course when we have pain, gas, bad diarrhea, constipation, belching, bloating, nausea, indigestion or vomiting our GI tract gets our full attention.

Irritable bowel syndrome is one of the commonest things people experience. Travelers to foreign countries of course will often get diarrhea as do many of us when a stomach flu is going around. Other serious conditions including cancer, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, and polyps must be ruled out in the diagnostic phase.

Evaluating your bowel starts with listening to the history, reviewing what you eat and analyzing the medicines and supplements you take. Samples of stool may be sent to the laboratory for evaluation. Checking for food allergies and food intolerances, and sometimes looking inside with fiber-optic endoscopy or CT scanning can also be important.

A large number of bowel complaints we see can be corrected by getting additives and preservatives out of the diet, controlling for food allergies and intolerances, and taking probiotics and digestive enzymes. Further interventions are sometimes needed. Remember, gluten may be a problem for you even if you do not have celiac disease.