A market to push SSRI/SNRIs–IBS or irritable bowel syndrome (and how I cured it)

probioticA study has now been completed showing that IBS or irritable bowel syndrome (or less clinically a wastebasket term for ANY gut problems that have no clear etiology) can be “effectively” treated “at least in the short term” with antidepressants. This is, of course, referring to SSRIs the popular antidepressants which have been shown to be only 2 points better than placebo when dealing with depression and have also now been shown to be contraindicated in bipolar depression completely as they seem to cause more instability rather than improve mood. That’s if you buy using drugs to treat these problems at all, which I do not. So as antidepressants get more and more of a bad rap pharma has to find new customer/victims with which to use their drugs.

Cymbalta for example is being used rather deleteriously for fibromyalgia and lots of other things too.

So yesterday when I saw this article on MedScape on a study for IBS, I, of course, groaned inwardly:

February 27, 2009 — Antidepressants and psychological therapies, particularly cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), appear to be effective in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome, at least in the short-term, according to a systematic review and meta-analysis of 32 randomized controlled trials.

“Antidepressants appeared to exert their effects independently of any improvement in co-existent depression,” Dr. Alex C. Ford, from McMaster University Medical Center, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, told Reuters Health.

“The take home message for clinicians,” he added, “should be to consider using antidepressants for people who fail first line therapy, and psychological therapies for those with resistant symptoms (i.e., failed more than 1 therapy).”

Of the 32 trials included in the analyses, 19 compared psychological therapies, such as CBT, relaxation therapy and hypnotherapy, with control therapy or usual care; 12 compared antidepressants with placebo; and 1 compared both psychological therapy and antidepressants with placebo.

I suffered from IBS for 20 over years. The first thing I did when I started looking for alternatives to psych meds for mental health issues was discover that in alternative circles the gut is often blamed for many of all the bodies ills including that of the mind. A healthy gut leads to general good health of body, mind and spirit.

Being that I’d had IBS for over 2 decades this fact jumped out at me and was a EUREKA moment for me. I needed to fix my gut first and foremost, this I knew. And what’s rather ironic, is that I had already noted that having come OFF my SSRIs my gut actually improved a tiny bit, so take note in the above article that one of the first things they say is that in the short term” these drugs may be helpful.

Granted I am only an anecdote of one mere human but I can attest that coming off SSRIs always improved my gut, and taking them never cured my problem either even “in the short term!!”

What I discovered instead was that rather than take other drugs that my gastro docs at the time recommended, which generally had bad side effects and never cured a thing, was that I stopped seeing gastro docs and started studying alternative gut health on the net.

I was lucky enough to figure out my problems through trial and error. I had bad gut flora I realized, that in retrospect was caused by long term use of antibiotics in high school. I was given Erythromycin for MILD acne for over a year. Antibiotics are now recognized as being very destabilizing to the gut, but still mainstream docs don’t in general address this. It is around this time in my life that I took the long-term course of anti-biotics that my IBS started, but western docs aren’t trained to actually understand what heals, they only learn how to give drugs that help loosen your stool, or harden it up without ever getting to the bottom of the cause of the problem. Drugs only maintain SYMPTOM CONTROL they do not heal. This goes pretty much across the board with many many chronic issues in western medicine. And pharma likes it this way. What better way to guarantee a constant source of income than to require patients to take maintenance meds for the rest of their lives. We see this everywhere in medicine. Not just psychiatry.

So once I figured out my gut flora was bad I started using probiotics. Besides causing unpleasant gut symptoms IBS is bad because is causes absorption problems. Absorption problems mean you don’t absorb nutrients and if you don’t absorb nutrients you can’t be healthy and that goes way beyond just your gut. And the flora of your gut is key to this. Taking antidepressants will not heal your flora. They may change your symptoms, but again that has nothing to do with healing.

When I started reading that this problem could lead to malabsorption of nutrients and hence mental health problems I knew it was the first thing I wanted to attend to. There were lots of potential problems the gut could have but the first and easiest thing to do was take probiotics to put the gut flora back in balance. I carefully researched brands and with the advice of a number of people I trusted including one of my best friends who is a naturopathic doctor and chiropractor I started taking Primal Defense.

I had a severe and serious gut problem so I was told to ignore the directions on the bottle which suggest two tablets a day. Instead I worked up one tablet a week until I got to 8 tablets a day. It’s important to do this slowly because if you take too much at once you run the risk of having a die-off reaction of bad bacteria that can make you sick. The good bacteria in the probiotic will make you well if titrated up slowly. I took 4 in the morning and 4 at night once I completed titration. I was cured in 6 months of 20 years of chronic diarrhea. Any way you look at it that’s a good thing. I’ve now recommended this course of treatment to many others who have all manner of gut problems including diarrhea AND constipation and many people have had similar results to my own. AND I don’t have to take the product anymore! I’m cured. No pharmaceutical will do that.

There are other issues that can cause gut problems. I for example also discovered that I’m sensitive to wheat and peppers. I cannot eat either without having a flair up and many people need to figure out if some of the foods they eat are causing gut problems as well. This can be done with an elimination diet, eliminating all possible offending foods. Milk and gluten are the most important ones to eliminate first, but there are a host of other potential foods that can be problematic.

I also pretty much eat an anti-candida diet and candida can cause all these symptoms too. A stool sample tested by a lab such as Genova Labs is a good idea. Your standard gastro doc WILL NOT look for all the right things. You need to go to an integrative or naturopathic doctor. Some chiropractors will do this kind of work too.

The thing is, one need not take yet another maintenance drug for these issues. You do not need to take the above SSRI antidepressant! Especially an antidepressant which has some chance of making you suicidal or manic even if you’ve never had either of those symptoms which will most likely lead your doctor to conclude you’re mentally ill. That has happened to too many people.

You can HEAL your gut and be healthy. You most likely DON’T need medication.

I also take digestive enzymes every time I eat and I believe that plays a part in keeping my gut healthy.

Peace.

2011 —Clearing up your IBS might just be the beginning. It was for me. I discovered I needed a deeper gut healing…even after I got rid of all obvious gut symptoms:  Nutrition and gut health

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About Monica Cassani

Author/Editor Beyond Meds: Everything Matters

33 Responses

  1. Mike

    Giannakali:

    I think this is good advice. I have had IBS for 10 years and wondered about the advantages of probiotics, even used some for a while – not regularly enough. I was wondering where you got your info for about malabsorption causing mental health problems. I am on SSRI’s right now and am intersted finding about more about the IBS-mental link. Very interesting and helpful I appreciate your devotion to help others.

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  2. Vinil

    I have been having IBS from last 5 months which I strongly believe due to side effects of medication called Isotetroin I was given for 40 days.

    I am trying everything from Homeopathy to Aurved to Yoga. Nothing seems to be working.

    I get incomplete evacuation and pass 2 bowels a day. Lots of rumbling sounds in stomach and have muscle twitching all over my body.

    Any advice to cure my IBS

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  3. has to be a reason

    So, I need some advice on something..i know you aren’t gastroenterologists or anything, but hear me out (hopefully there are a few chemistry majors in here will explain later).

    After reading this blog something occured to me about my wife’s recent symptoms (sp?) (which I just chalked it up to be IBS, now I am not entirely sure) which I will explain. As of two weeks ago, she has had an enormous amount of stress on her shoulders. She is BPD and takes SSRIs for quite some time. A while back she had her gall bladder removed and after that the above started happening (abdom cramps/diarr after eating spicy foods,etc).

    To understand this better let me tell you that she is extremely lactose intolerant. Recently her doctor prescribed her something called perphenazine, because the highest dosage she was taking on her main drug wasnt working for her as well as it used to. As of 2 weeks ago, she has had extremely bad cramping in the stomach, which followed with either diarreah, or loose stools. I felt very helpless and didnt want to think it was c or IBS.

    I was reading about perphenizine tonight and came across an interesting discovery, that might be coincidental but I dont know..

    People who are not lactose tolerant may suffer uncomfortable and/or socially unacceptable symptoms of too much lactose consumption. In these people, lactose is not broken down and provides food for gas-producing gut flora. This can lead to bloating, flatulence, and other gastrointestinal symptoms, now let us look at the perphenazine.

    Main drug:

    Inactive ingredients are povidone, dibasic dicalcium phosphate dihydrate, microcrystalline cellulose, sodium starch glycolate, [lactose (monohydrate)], magnesium stearate, hypromellose, polyethylene glycol and titanium dioxide

    Perphenazine – C21H26CIN3OS.
    inactive ingreds are [lactose (monohydrate)], hydroxypropyl cellulose, hydroxypropyl methylcellulose, etc

    anyone catch my drift? or am I just plain nuts.

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  4. I was having serious stomach problems, so I went to my Medical Dr.
    I told her I though I was overmedicated (psych drugs).
    She perscribed me a bill for IBS.
    I stopped taking Paxil.
    As soon as I stopped taking Paxil my IBS was cured!
    Sometimes when our body gets sick it is a warning sign, it was for me.

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      1. LOL, it was a total nightmare to get off of!
        I was sick for two weeks straight!
        I had “Brain Zaps” (it felt like someone was zapping my brain with electricity.)
        It was like having a bad case of the flu also.
        I went Cold Turkey off of the Paxil.
        After two weeks I felt great!

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  5. Jan

    Anti-depressants for IBS? This just makes me sick and is such an outrage. I’ve read articles on studies done on the gut and SSRIs, and it’s believed that SSRIs have actually caused upper GI bleeding! And now they’re recommending them for IBS! Absolutely sickening. Wish I could remember where I found the articles I read on this research – they were excellent.

    As always, thanks for keeping us updated on these things, Gianna.

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  6. This is by far the most frighting information I’ve read in awhile. Doctors always diagnose stomach problems as being IBS. It’s easier than doing all the trail and error a doctor may have to go through to figure out the real problem. I was diagnosed with IBS for severe stomach cramps, I’ve come to realize, on my own, that artificial food additives were causing the majority of my problems. Doctors never even asked about my diet, just based on my symptoms concluded I had to have IBS. Just another indication of the drug companies taking advantage of a diagnoses that is thrown out there way to frequently, and then claiming there’s a quick fix by taking a pill. IBS actually requires a great deal of research and diet control on the part of the patient. Why is this allowed to continue? I’m sure if I went back into any doctors office right now, and explained my upset stomach to them they would claim I have IBS, when in fact it’s withdrawal form these horrible antidepressants! God help us!

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  7. Sloopy

    This reminds me of the tragic story of thalidomide – the rehabilitation of another monster drug..

    Thalidomide was originally used in the treatment of morning sickness – nausea during pregnancy. I’ve yet to become pregnant, but I’m told the nausea is certainly unpleasant, but fortunately transient and definitely not life-threatening.

    The manufacturers of thalidomide cooked the results of the original safety trials. By hook or by crook they were determined to get their drug on the market without delay so they could reap the enormous profits from its sales.

    Consequently, thalidomide was never properly tested before the crooked fools in government licensed it for use. The drug was soon being prescribed to millions of pregnant women. It was a “wonder drug” of its time.

    Nine months or so after the drug’s launch, and the reports started flooding in.. It was becoming clear that this wonderful new drug was causing a plague of the most appalling birth defects. Thousands and thousands of babies were being born with shortened or missing arms and legs..

    Medicine immediately wrote off the thalidomide babies. “Don’t worry”, said the pompous nerds in medicine.. “these creatures won’t live long.. besides, they are mentally retarded any way, so don’t even realise their plight.”

    As ever, how very wrong medicine was… One of my first teachers – perhaps my very favourite teacher – had no arms thanks to thalidomide. I guess she was in her 40s and anything but retarded. In fact, she managed to be a great teacher in a dreadful school in the arse end of London! No mean feat!

    Initially Big Pharma washed its hands of the thalidomide scandal.. “Nothing to do with us.. No plague.. Just coincidence. Don’t blame us.. Not our fault.. it’s down to the mothers – they were pre-disposed to giving birth to deformed babies…”

    Eventually, as the public anger grew louder, Big Pharma was forced to pull thalidomide, the “wonder drug”, from the market. But not before many many thousands of babies were delivered into this world without arms, or legs, or both.

    That was the 1960s.. Wind forward to recent years and I open up the Sunday newspaper.. There’s a story in the colour supplement featuring Prince Charles (eugh!).

    “His Royal Highness” had just given an Export Award to some tiny drug manufacturer hidden up the Welsh valleys.

    Yawn…

    So what drug are they making, I casually wonder. Yup, unbelievably, it is Thalidomide! This monster drug has been resurrected for the treatment of AIDS-related diarrhoea!!

    “It’s a very effective treatment.. it would be wrong to deny patients the chance to benefit from it”, the grinning drug rep tells the newspaper….

    Riiiiiiight..

    And what about the risk of birth defects, asks the newspaper?

    “Oh, that’s no problem”, grins the Pharma goon, “we include a warning leaflet in with our pills. It reads: “Don’t get pregnant while taking this drug..”

    Riiiiiiiiiight.

    The story continues on the next page… and this is when my blood really starts to boil…

    The shitty little drug company making the thalidomide is exporting its poisonous pills to Ibero-America.

    Literacy rates there can be very low, and it is common for poor people to share their medicines amongst friends and family, without realising the risks involved..

    If you can’t read, you won’t know what the warning leaflet has to say about the drug and pregnancy..

    And yup.. reports of thalidomide birth defects were already rolling in… And what does the Award-winning drug company have to say?

    “Nothing to do with us.. Not our fault.. it’s down to the mothers…”

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  8. Great post, Gianna. I’ve had IBS for many years now, and been on all kinds of psychiatric meds, including SSRIs, for depression etc., and the meds have NEVER improved the IBS. They may have in fact made it worse. My IBS is ALWAYS worse during hospitalizations, too. I know my IBS triggers and manage to control it well with metamucil.

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  9. I struggled with digestive issues for “only” one decade. 😉

    I sought out from MDs like gasteroenterologists and allergist. Then I turned to alternative docs and expensive tests, etc. Then I modified my diet to eliminate foods that damaged my gut.

    In 2006, I ended up coming across the book, Gut and Psychology Syndrome. WOW! I was blown away at the info!

    I was so fascinated with the material, I became a Certified Body Ecologist. Also, I was priveledged to help organize two conferences in the US to have the author, Dr. Natasha Campell-McBride, come and speak (she is from the UK).

    I setup this website to help her sell the book in the US, since this information is needed sooooo much her in the states.

    http://www.GutAndPsychologySyndrome.com/

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  10. Great post! I as having many psychiatric diagnosis, I also have stomach problems that might be diagnosed as IBS.

    When young, my mother cooked meals for me. She could not conceive of the idea of a food , pasta, being bad for my health.
    Stomach upset was blamed on a virus/flu or “Stress”, the same stress that antidepressants can be issued for.

    It really was the food.

    I NOW don’t eat whole wheat products and my stomach works pretty good. There is no test for food allergies per-se, ( like an easy quick lab test) you have to be intelligent to figure out the “feeling bad” that can come from foods you eat.

    Liz Spikol, posted the opposite side of this arguement, pesticide phobia, where people so worried about pesticides do not eat enough food and get anorexic.
    http://trouble.pwblogs.com/2009/02/26/orthorexia-an-obsession-with-health-food/

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  11. Van

    Oh god!

    I cannot believe this…SSRIs did very little for me… the one BIG thing it did do was give me diarrhea – sick to my stomach.

    Do you just get the feeling they will say anything in order to get more medication out the door?

    BTW – off topic – Listened to you on the radio show, quite good!

    V

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  12. He was brave enough to make his story known around the world on Bloomberg….

    Scared how others might view him, and/or think of his ‘bipolar’ diagnosis, but he did it anyway….

    Very proud of him….

    You’re exactly right….first comes the SSRI, then the manic episode, then the ‘bipolar’ diagnois…..

    Again, and again, and again….

    Horribly sad,

    Duane

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  13. China, India….
    Sadly, there is so much poverty in these places….

    Ironically, we have the wealth to invest in their forms of medicine, and yet we are so guided by profit-motives, we won’t spend the time/money to study them….implement them….

    Ironically, it would be a good thing to learn from these poorer nations, and find ways to make sure people have access to these ancient medicines – around the world.

    Perfect-world scenario stuff.

    Duane

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  14. Gianna,

    Our son was diagnosed with irritable bowel, and we were told it was due to ‘anxiety’ – He was placed on Paxil for IBS….

    This led to a manic episode, and later diagnosis of ‘bipolar’….

    That’s the problem with using these SSRI’s for IBS….

    Also, I agree – this is happening with all kinds of meds…being prescribed for all kinds of things for which they’re initial approval was not designed….

    Dr. Mercola says that only 1/3 of ‘new’ drugs are ‘new’….2/3 are re-treads….they bring out last year’s model to treat illness a, and slightly alter it to treat illness b….

    What a joke…We have the worst medicine in the world, I’m becoming more and more convinced….

    China – Acupuncture….India….Ayurvedic…..
    Lots of countries run circles around us!

    Duane

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    1. Duane, you should make sure your child’s diagnosis gets changed to Bipolar 3, so at least the doctors will know it was their fault.

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  15. thenutrientpath

    This was really, really a thorough and hopeful counterpoint to the IBS new market new. Well said, Gianna. I only wish Primal Defense could certify they were gluten free.

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  16. Dear Gianna,

    Great post, and I feel like beating my head against the wall reading it.
    Not because of your excellent content, but because any lay person with a smattering of education in natural health could have saved you years of suffering.

    WHEN will those MDs learn to respect the living miracle of the human body, with its inner ecosystem?

    I have nothing against the proper, careful use of antibiotics. But why are MDs still not recommending probiotics, automatically, right along with the prescription?

    You keep going girl.

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