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Common Gastrointestinal Myths – Fact vs. Fiction

John Bankston John Bankston April 27, 2021
Medically reviewed by Susan Kerrigan, MD and Marianne Madsen

Mark Twain was once quoted as saying, “Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.

 

Today, everyone is a pseudo-physician, making a diagnosis or dispensing advice based on what they or their family and friends have seen or read in the media. The spread of real information is often found lagging far behind the spread of misinformation in the eternal race to the finish line of truth. In that vein, let’s dispel some of the most common myths about gastrointestinal conditions:

 

Myth: Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is not a common disorder

 

According to certain studies, approximately 12 percent of people in the U.S. suffer from IBS. The same studies also highlighted that women are twice as likely as men to suffer from IBS. Also, people under 50 are more likely to have the condition.

 

Myth: Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Crohn’s Disease are similar disorders

 

One of the most common myths is that IBS is interchangeable with Inflammatory Bowel disease (IBD), which includes Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis. The truth is that they are different conditions. IBS is a disorder caused by functional issues in the digestive tract caused by problems with the way your brain interacts with your gut. The symptoms typically occur without any signs of damage or disease to your digestive tract. Conversely, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) involves chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, and prolonged inflammation will cause damage.

 

The two are separate disorders, so much so that it’s even possible for you to have both at the same time. There is also no evidence to suggest that IBS will make you any more likely to develop an IBD.

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IBS - Condition Overview

IBS - Condition Overview

Myth: The treatments for IBS are the same for everyone

 

Since IBS causes can be varied, it is difficult to prescribe a “one-size-fits-all” remedy. The treatments that work for your Uncle Bob might not work for you. Your doctor may recommend trying several different treatment methods, such as weight loss, before discovering the one that works best for you.

 

Myth: Gluten or Lactose Intolerance is another form of IBS

 

Many people also associate gluten or lactose intolerance with IBS. The symptoms can be interconnected in that people with food sensitivities or intolerances can also have IBS. Additionally, removing gluten and lactose from your diet can be one treatment option for IBS. However, the truth is one does not always cause the other. Many people can have a food allergy or intolerance and not have IBS and vice versa.

 

Myth: Gluten Sensitivity or Intolerance is just another term for Celiac Disease 

 

There are similarities between celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, most obviously in the adverse impact of gluten on people’s lives with either condition. However, they are not the same type of disorder.

 

Celiac disease is a chronic digestive autoimmune disease that, like gluten sensitivity, is triggered by a diet of foods and products that contain gluten. Both conditions can cause symptoms including nausea, vomiting, and fatigue. However, the main difference is that in celiac disease the gluten triggers an inflammatory response and damage to the small intestine, unlike gluten sensitivity.

Myth: Heartburn, Acid Reflux, and Gastroesophageal Disease (GERD) are all the same

 

These three conditions are all interrelated but are separate conditions. 

 

You are probably familiar with heartburn – those sharp pains that you get in your chest typically after eating that leave you wondering if you may be having a heart attack. There are several causes for this, two of which might be acid reflux and GERD, which makes heartburn a symptom of the other two conditions.

 

Acid reflux is caused when your lower esophageal sphincter, the muscle that tightens after food has passed through your esophagus to your stomach, becomes weakened. This results in stomach acid being able to travel back up and cause heartburn, a burning sensation in the throat, and a bitter or sour taste in your mouth. Most people will get acid reflux every once in a while, and it is generally treated with antacids.

 

GERD is a chronic form of acid reflux. It can cause severe complications due to the risk of damage to the esophagus. These can include inflammation, ulcers, bleeding, and in some cases, strictures.

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GERD - Condition Overview

GERD - Condition Overview

There are many myths about gastrointestinal conditions. Some of this misinformation may have been handed down to you by previous generations and grouping conditions by shared gastrointestinal symptoms. Additionally, some might have been spread through the internet. It is vital to verify the sources of your information so you can separate fact from fiction.

 

Using Doctorpedia and its platform of websites featuring qualified and reputable gastroenterologists will help provide you with the facts you need.

Doctor Profile

John Bankston

Author

John Bankston is a published author of over 150 nonfiction books for children and young adults including biographies of Jonas Salk, Gerhard Domak, and Frederick Banting.

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