Lynda Carter Fights For IBS
Adele Slaughter, Spotlight Health
With medical adviser Stephen A. Shoop, M.D.
Carter gained fame playing Wonder Woman, America's ultimate female superhero.
Today she's vanquishing a more insidious villain -- irritable bowel syndrome.
"My mother has suffered for 30 years through misdiagnosis
and everything from 'it's all in your head' to diverticulitis," Carter says.
"For years she couldn't get an answer, so I thought I'd play the wonderful daughter
and get to the bottom of it and take her to UCLA."
"Fifteen years ago when they diagnosed her with IBS, they couldn't help her,"
Carter adds. "There just wasn't any treatment. My mother attempted to manage
her IBS symptoms as best she could. She is now excited that more attention
is being paid to this condition. She is working with her doctor to determine
the best way to effectively manage her IBS."
And as part of a national awareness campaign called
"Talk IBS," Carter is working with Novartis and The Society for Women's Health
Research, as a paid spokesperson, to promote greater understanding of IBS.
"She is a generally a very healthy
person, doesn't like to take drugs, and is very wary of medications and things,"
Carter says. "But today she's very excited to talk about what she has. I give
her a lot of credit."
IBS is characterized by episodes
of bloating, with either constipation or diarrhea or both, and is associated
with discomfort and abdominal pain.
think that 20% of Americans have symptoms that are compatible with an IBS diagnosis,"
Margaret Heitkemper explains, director of the Center for Women's Health, University
of Washington. "However, only about 10% to 12% actually get a diagnosis."
The Society for Women's Heath Research
estimates as many as 1 in 5 Americans has IBS, and about 70% of those who suffer
are women. The average age of IBS onset is 29, and the condition often gets
better after 60.
is a disease that no one talks about," Phyllis Greenberger says, President and
CEO Society for Women's Health Research. "It is under-diagnosed and under-recognized.
We're trying to get it properly diagnosed."
is no blood test, there is no x-ray that you can do to diagnosis IBS," Heitkemper
notes. "Doctors have to rule out other diseases, and then if the patient has
symptoms that match the Rome criteria, they have IBS."
The Rome criteria, developed by an international group of gastroenterologists,
include three months of continuous or recurring symptoms of abdominal pain or
- May be relieved with a bowel movement
- May be coupled with a change in frequency
- May be related to a change in the consistency of stools
And two or more of the following
are present at least 25% of the time:
- A change in stool frequency (more than three bowel movements per day or
fewer than three bowel movements per week)
- Noticeable difference in stool form (hard, loose and watery stools or poorly
- Passage of mucous in stools
- Bloating or feeling of abdominal distention
- Altered stool passage (sensations of incomplete evacuation, straining, or
it is so difficult to talk about this basic and private function, women are
reluctant to talk about it," Carter says.
While IBS is not a life-threatening
disorder, it does impact the individual's quality of life. Many studies have
shown that people with IBS miss more work or school, and it can force people
to constantly rearrange social plans, decline promotions at work, and avoid
"Think about your lifestyle and
having to know where a bathroom is at all times," Carter says. "I can think
about when I had eaten something wrong and all you want to do is go home, you
don't want to be out. You just want to crawl into bed and not do anything. People
with IBS live that way and make excuses to their families."
Doctors have known for some time
that there is no relationship between IBS and colon cancer or diverticulosis
and diverticulitis. For years the condition has been thought of as a psychosomatic
disorder because doctors could find no physical pathology.
"That is probably why the research
has been slow, because it predominately occurred in young women and they couldn't
find any pathology," Heitkemper says.
Progress not perfection
IBS is a real condition triggered
by stress and diet, and is a functional disorder. Some people might have additional
problems with headaches, fibromyalgia, and sleep disorders.
Today, researchers are actively studying what causes IBS and have developed
"From the science that we have we think that
people who have IBS have visceral-hypersensitivity," Heitkemper says, "meaning
that something that is usually a normal stimulus to the bowel becomes sensitive
or even painful."
"Additionally, the speed at which things go through the bowel is altered. Either
that alone, or in combination with the visceral-hypersensitivity, contributes
to the symptoms," explains the expert. "The question of what causes IBS is where
the most active research is being done."
As Carter knows from helping her
mother over the years, there hasn't been a lot of good treatment.
For years and years doctors have
focused on adding fiber to the diet or the temporary use of laxatives. For those
with diarrhea there have been some anti-diarrhea agents, and for those who have
an alternating pattern or a lot of pain, some of the anticholinergic drugs have been used because they have
"Today, there are new therapies
and some non-drug therapies as well," Heitkemper says. "There is alosetron (Lotronex)
that has been re-released, and the recent drug that came out this year is tagasarod
(Zelnorm), which again is FDA-approved for women with constipation-prone IBS."
of these drugs work the serotonin receptors in the GI tract, but through different
receptors, which is why one helps with constipation and the other with diarrhea,"
explains Heitkemper. "Because they haven't been out that long, I think clinicians
are waiting to see what role they will actually play in terms of managing patients
over the long haul."
Additionally, in a large NIH study,
researchers looked at cognitive behavior in women with IBS. Individuals spent
time with a nurse therapist who was able to help lower their stress levels and
change their lifestyles.
The study showed that individuals
diagnosed with IBS can make some simple lifestyle changes to improve their condition,
Keep a diary of your symptoms and understand the triggers.
"Is it something you're eating or does it happen after you eat," Heitkemper
says. "A food diary is usually the first line of therapy for IBS. Many people
can learn to identify the things that can cause problems."
Simple relaxation - Learn how
to do a simple relaxation exercise right before you eat, because for many people,
eating triggers abdominal pain.
Understanding and education - Learn about the condition and make adjustments.
When individuals increase fiber because of constipation, at first it can cause
gas and bloating. The important thing is not to get discouraged and stick with
the plan. People also need to find out what kinds of things the body cannot
tolerate, things like sorbitol.
"IBS has been so shrouded in darkness,"
Carter says. "I know the truth about how people suffer. It is just one more
closeted condition that we need to shine some light on because it is a very
real medical condition and you're not crazy. I think going into your doctor
armed with the knowledge of your own body is empowerment."
For more information about IBS, Click here.
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Created: 1/21/2003  - Adele Slaughter & Stephen A. Shoop, M.D.