Get Out of the Bathroom and Back to Your Life with Dr. Stephen Wangen

Get Out of the Bathroom and Back to Your Life with Dr. Stephen Wangen

In this episode of The Functional Medicine Radio Show, Dr. Carri’s special guest Dr. Stephen Wangen explains IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and that there is hope!

Dr. Wangen is co-founder and Medical Director of the IBS Treatment Center.  He’s a licensed and board certified physician, the award winning author of two books on solving digestive disorders: Healthier without Wheat and The Irritable Bowel Syndrome Solution.  And, he was named one of Seattle’s Top Doctors.

Main Questions Asked:

  • How is IBS properly diagnosed?
  • What testing do your recommend to find the root underlying causes of IBS?
  • How do you help your patient get through the maze of food allergies and sensitivities? Do you recommend elimination diets or blood testing?
  • How do microbes and gut health affect IBS?
  • What’s new in the world of IBS? What you see coming up on the horizon for IBS treatment?
  • What are three actionable tips to help those suffering from IBS?

Key Points made by Dr. Wangen:

  • IBS is a giant label if you have a digestive problem whether is constipation, diarrhea, gas, bloating, or abdominal pain or in any combination and you’ve essentially ruled out other things.
  • You can’t test for IBS because there is no test for it.
  • We have to be really methodical about going through a giant mental checklist of all these different conditions and start putting the pieces together so we can address YOUR IBS and figure out what’s the root cause.
  • A lot of patients have more than one problem occurring at the same time. That’s important to figure out and recognize.
  • There are two very broad categories that we might call food allergies and sensitivities and then this microbial world. They’re both really important and there’s a lot of overlap between them as well and often a lot of confusion.
  • People might chalk up digestive problems to leaky gut and try to sell that as the cause but it’s really a big fancy term that’s no more informative than IBS is. It just means that there’s a problem and inflammation. There are many things that can cause that problem.
  • You can be sensitive to foods but not because of the food. It could be because of the microbial world. If we can solve that microbial problem, you might be able to get a certain food back in your diet.
  • There isn’t one food that’s the evil food out there but everybody wants to find that because it’s more convenient. In reality, it doesn’t work that way because it depends on the individual and how their body and immune system responds to a certain food or how their microbial world responds to food.
  • When I’m a patient, I want to go to a doctor who knows what they’re doing, knows what tests to run and which procedures to do so that we can narrow things down and find out what the answer really is as opposed to going to someone who has a one size fits all treatment that they give to all of their patients and then cross their fingers and hope it works.
  • There might be certain foods that are related in one sense but there might be other foods that don’t fit any pattern.
  • You can learn things from elimination diets, blood tests, stool tests, and from all kinds of other tests. You’re getting different information from each of them and trying to put it together.
  • If a test comes back and it doesn’t match what the patient is telling me, people often assume that the test is bad. Not necessarily.
  • The microbial aspect is really hot in the research world but there’s still a big disconnect between what’s going on in the research world and what’s really happening in clinical practice. They’ll say that there are bacteria in the gut and not think it could be good for anybody but obviously, it’s there for a reason. We had to evolve with these bacteria, so millions of years weren’t just some random accident. This is the way things need to be and our health is tied intimately with these bacteria.
  • A lot of what we do when we’re treating patients is not only using stool tests to assess that. Unfortunately, we’re still at early stages with lab work and assessment tools to understand truly what’s going on in the digestive tract.
  • In medicine, there’s always this temptation to come up with new technology and new procedures, and everything that’s new is better and fancier but in reality, digestive health is old. We were born to innately have a wonderful digestive tract.
  • The number one thing to do, if you’ve been told there’s no answer and you feel like there’s no hope, realize that is false! There is tons of hope! You just probably haven’t seen the right doctor yet.
  • Most people are led to believe that IBS is caused by stress and anxiety because in the medical system, when they can’t find anything, they usually just say that it must be stress or anxiety. In reality, about 90% of the time or more, the stress and anxiety are being caused by the IBS. When we can solve that, the rest of your life often comes together very nicely and you can get back to the things you want to do.

Resources Mentioned:

Dr. Wangan’s website

Dr. Wangan’s books

Book Reclaim Your Energy and Feel Normal Again

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