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DrSugar Answers: IBS Treatment With No Health Insurance?

DrSugar is in the house and answering your questions.

Dear DrSugar,
I'm pretty positive I have Irritable Bowl Syndrome. Are there any things you can do to treat it without going to see a doctor? I don't have insurance and would like to avoid a costly office visit. Any advice you could give would be helpful.
IBS Betty

To see what DrSugar has to say,


Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is characterized by uncomfortable abdominal symptoms such as chronic pain, constipation, and diarrhea. The pain is often crampy in nature and is classically relieved by a bowel movement. Either diarrhea or constipation can predominate or the symptoms can alternate between the two. It is a chronic condition that usually waxes and wanes in severity and is often worsened by emotional stress or stressful life events. Mild cases are often self-diagnosed and treated, but moderate to severe cases always require physician evaluation because other diseases can present with similar symptoms. Diseases with similar symptoms to IBS include celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and endometriosis.

Although there are some prescription medications for IBS, the most important initial treatment options are simple and do not require special medications. The most important initial consideration in treating IBS involves evaluating potential dietary causes of the IBS symptoms. A good place to start is eliminating dairy products because lactose intolerance is very common and often under recognized. Other foods to avoid include coffee, alcohol, highly fatty foods, and gas producing foods such as beans and broccoli. Increasing dietary fiber and water consumption can help with symptoms of constipation. Simple over the counter medications are also commonly used to treat IBS. Imodium is frequently used if chronic diarrhea is the main symptom. Colace and sennakot are common medications used to treat chronic constipation. It is also important to seek help in the treatment of depression or anxiety, which are commonly associated with IBS. Treating underlying depression with antidepressant medications often greatly improve IBS symptoms.

It is very important to consult a doctor if any concerning symptoms are present. Concerning symptoms include: weight loss, rectal bleeding, bloody stools, fevers, moderate to severe abdominal pain, profuse watery diarrhea, and chronic constipation. If you are reluctant to see a doctor due to lack of insurance, then you have a number of options. These options include applying for Medicaid, locating a local free clinic, buying health insurance out of pocket if you find the problem might require many visits to a physician.

If you have a question for DrSugar, send me a private message here and I will forward it to the good doctor.

DrSugar's posts are for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment recommendations. Click here for more details.

Join The Conversation
velvetgoldmine velvetgoldmine 8 years
luv_bug1211, IBS isn't in the same family as Crohn's or ulcerative colitis, not even close! They have some of the same symptoms, but IBS is a functional disorder. Crohn's and ulcerative colitis are autoimmune diseases that tend to run in families, putting them in more of a similar category with MS, lupus, and rheumatoid arthiritis rather than IBS. Go see a doctor, even if you may not want to because of the cost. Don't "self-diagnose" yourself or rely on the internet to tell you what's up with your body. Because of the overlapping symptoms, IBD (Crohn's/ulcerative colitis) can and are easily be misdiagnosed for IBS, even by gastroenterologists. Crohn's can sometimes be fatal if it's not treated (by way of strictures, fistulas, blockage, abscesses, free perforation, hemorrhage, and even appendicitis). It's rare, but it does happen, and you don't want it happening to you! I was misdiagnosed with IBS for two years, got sicker and sicker and sicker from the so-called "treatments", and even had to drop out of school for awhile until I was finally diagnosed with Crohn's. It's worth it to get checked out.
luv_bug1211 luv_bug1211 9 years
You didnt mention Crohns or Colitis, both in the same family as IBS, which is really a bit of an umbrella term. Both need medical attention as some symptoms can be life threatening. Make sure your taking daily vitamins because your body isnt able to absorb them normally, which can cause a whole bunch more problems.
Dublin62505 Dublin62505 9 years
From what I've read and researched (and what has essentially been covered by Dr. Sugar), a good portion of IBS diagnosis' can be linked to food allergies. Dairy products are the worst offenders as well as gluten products. Eating small meals throughout the day along with proper hydration and exercise should mitigate some of your symptoms. Also tumeric and ginger supplements are known to lessen IBS symptoms. New Chapter makes a phenomenal whole foods supplement called Sensitive Colon support. enormously thankful for your health care system, even with its flaws. Insurance companies and Big Pharma are the biggest racket here in the states. For instance, today I went to fill a script for THREE MEASLY LEVAQUIN antibiotic pills for a procedure I'm having done tomorrow. I WAS CHARGED $43.95 FOR THREE PILLS. I thought I was going to pass out there at CVS. Big Pharma is king here in the states along w/ the rest of the corportacracy. It's modern day feudalism at its best.
Spectra Spectra 9 years
I have IBS and I have it pretty much under control without medication. What works for me is to avoid most dairy products and to eat plenty of fiber. Exercise also REALLY helps keep me regular and keeps attacks to a minimum. Also, try to avoid NSAID pain relievers because they can slow your intestines down remarkably.
valancyjane valancyjane 9 years
The thing about IBS is it's such a catch-all diagnosis, so there's no guarantee that a treatment will work. I am lucky to have a very mild case -- it's really not so much IBS as aftereffects from a gall bladder removal, so I get in trouble if I eat too much fat all at once -- and I'd rather deal with self-care than try treatment after treatment that might not work.
elvy elvy 9 years
This post makes me sad. Despite my complaints about the condition of our slow health care system in Canada, I have never had to put off visiting a doctor because of cost. I hope Betty can find ways to alleviate her symptoms.
SillyGirl SillyGirl 9 years
Same advice from my doc as well - all information I already knew and practiced. The only thing useful about going to the doc when you have moderate IBS is to rule out other problems (like celiac). Do a lot of research on the internet, and try things for about 3 weeks - everyone reacts differently to the different approaches. Really cut down on variety of food that helps you to learn your triggers. My triggers are high fat, high sugar, dairy (a little skim milk or feta wont bother me, but icecream or brie really sets me off, and raw onions or raw garlic. Exercise and drinking lots of water help alot as does getting enough sleep and doing things to destress.
cravinsugar cravinsugar 9 years
I don't have IBS, but I have an intolerance to some foods. I found that if I cut them out of my diet completely, the symptoms went away...such as, at one point in my life i couldn't eat lettuce, spinach (raw and sometimes cooked) tomoatoes (raw with skin), carrots, quinoa, blueberries, red peppers (raw with skin), etc. Once I cut them all out of my diet, let it settle, I can add one back in once in a while by itself. For instance, on a whim I really wanted a salad after not having any for 2 years, and it didn't make me sick. then i added lettuce to a sandwhich the next day. that was over doing it. If I eat raw tomatoes now, i am sure not to combine it with food that causes me problems, etc. in moderation, and infrequently, I can enjoy these foods once in a while (but it is along time inbetween)
jkat jkat 9 years
My doctor recommended all of these things. She also said her patients have seen a lot of success with acupuncture and alternative medicine. I am going to make appointments for both, as I would like to avoid anti-depressants or laxatives.
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