9 Common IBS Symptoms in Women

Suffering from a gastrointestinal disorder is no walk in the park. While it’s normal to have a little gas or bloating after an especially indulgent meal, feeling discomfort, pain, or noticing a change in your bathroom habits regularly is not. So how can you determine if what you’re experiencing is typical or if you’re suffering from some of the telltale symptoms of IBS?

IBS or irritable bowel syndrome is a digestive disorder that impacts the large intestine (colon) and causes uncomfortable symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, and changes in bowel movements. There’s no good blood test or marker to diagnose IBS, Linda A. Lee, M.D., clinical director of the division of gastroenterology and hepatology and director of the integrative medicine and digestive center at Johns Hopkins Medicine, tells SELF. Instead, doctors look for symptoms that meet diagnosis criteria.

“IBS is one of about 30 different GI diseases we consider functional, meaning there are no tests or markers, and diagnosis is all based on symptoms,” Dr. Lee says. It’s not a default diagnosis when everything else is ruled out, but rather a very distinct diagnosis based on criteria. (Diagnostic criteria basically tell doctors how frequently a specific mix of symptoms should be happening to be able to give a diagnosis.)

 IBS is not the same as IBD (inflammatory bowel disease).

“IBD is characterized by an immune-mediated inflammatory process that results in ulceration and actual inflammation in the intestine,” Dr. Lee explains. IBD can be either Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, Christine Frissora, M.D., gastroenterologist at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian, tells SELF.

The Difference Between a Heart Attack, Stroke, and Cardiac Arrest
“People with IBS do not have the kind of inflammation that we typically associate with IBD, though some people can have both,” Dr. Lee adds. Another big difference: IBS does not cause changes in the bowel tissue or increase the risk of colorectal cancer, according to the Mayo Clinic. In addition to GI distress, IBD may also cause “alarm signs,” like “fever, bleeding, weight loss, joint pain, and eye problems,” Dr. Frissora says.

In the United States, IBS is reported more often in women.

Dr. Lee says the reason is probably biological, though experts don’t have a clear answer for why women would be more susceptible than men. Some research suggests a connection between estrogen and progesterone and IBS symptoms in women—though many women (with and without IBS) report GI issues during menstruation, those with IBS are more likely to have worsened symptoms during that time of the month.

Social factors may also play into the difference in diagnosis rates. “If you go to India, for example, you’ll find that prevalence of IBS is equal. The thought is that it’s because men who have GI symptoms in India are more likely to go to a doctor to seek help than men in the United States,” says Dr. Lee.

IBS symptoms can vary greatly from person to person, and range from mild to extreme.

Generally, IBS involves abdominal pain plus altered bowel movements, Dr. Lee says. The pain and bowel movements can take many forms. Here are some of the most common symptoms of IBS:

  1. Abdominal pain
  2. Cramping
  3. Bloating
  4. Excessive gas
  5. Diarrhea
  6. Constipation
  7. Indigestion
  8. Anxiety or depression
  9. Loss of appetite

The symptoms typically show up in childhood, and usually always before age 40. “It’s very unusual for someone who is 80 to present with IBS [for the first time],” Dr. Lee says.

People with IBS often have triggers that bring on these symptoms. “Some of the biggest triggers are artificial sweeteners, carbonated beverages, onions, garlic, smoking, and alcohol,” Dr. Frissora says. But many foods can be triggers. Dr. Lee adds that greasy foods can increase colonic contractions, so those whose guts are super sensitive may respond more dramatically to that. Any food that causes gas can cause IBS symptoms, too.

IBS symptoms in women can also be triggered or worsened by menstruation, though the reason why isn’t completely clear.

Stress can also spark symptoms of IBS. “Some people say the GI tract is a stress barometer,” says Dr. Frissora. The symptoms of IBS, and worrying about if you’ll be able to get to a bathroom or not, can give sufferers even more to stress about, creating a vicious cycle.

The exact cause of IBS is unknown, though a few factors seem to play a role.

Contractions in the intestine that are either too strong (causing diarrhea) or too weak (causing constipation) may be to blame, though the cause of these muscle problems may never be known. Other abnormalities in the GI tract, like poorly coordinated signals between the brain and the intestines, can throw the digestive process out of whack, the Mayo Clinic explains.

Experts also believe that gut bacteria play a role. “Perhaps your gut bacteria are not optimized in some way and that somehow has affected your gut function,” Dr. Lee says. Some studies are currently looking at how probiotics can be used to treat IBS, specifically the kind that causes diarrhea, but it’s tough to say one treatment can work across the board because our guts are so individualized. “Our science is not so advanced yet that we can predict who is going to actually respond in a favorable way. It’s a lot of trial and error, which is a source of frustration for many patients.”

Finally, there seems to be a predisposition for those with a family history of IBS. “Many patients report that a family member has it,” Dr. Lee says. “Whether [the connection] is environmental or genetic, we don’t really know.”

IBS is chronic, but there are ways to manage (and oftentimes, eliminate) symptoms.

Many times, IBS can be managed through dietary changes. If your IBS causes diarrhea, doctors will usually put you on a low-FODMAP diet to determine what foods might be triggering to you.

“FODMAPs are carbs that all of us eat every day, but humans do not have the enzymes to break them down very well. They’re not absorbed in the small intestine, so they’re passed into the colon where bacteria begin to ferment them and produce gas,” Dr. Lee explains. “For those with [gut] hypersensitivity, any kind of gas distention triggers discomfort, a sense of bloating, and it sometimes can trigger hypermotility and diarrhea with that.”

A low-FODMAP diet (you can read more on what it entails here) is a temporary elimination diet, meant to help you determine which foods are IBS triggers so you can avoid them in the future and reduce symptoms dramatically.

If constipation is a problem, adding more fiber to your diet or taking medication like stool softeners can help. Dr. Lee also says that some patients may benefit from certain supplements, probiotics, or other medications that target specific symptoms. Antidepressants are also used to modulate nerve activity in the gut and make it less sensitive to certain stressors—but these meds come with their own side effects, so Dr. Frissora says she tries to avoid treating IBS this way if she can.

At the end of the day, treating IBS is highly individualized, and might differ depending on what you’re comfortable with as a patient. If your IBS symptoms are significant and interfering with your life, it’s worthwhile to seek help, Dr. Lee says. “Even if symptoms are mild, there are things we can do.”


Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) symptoms and cause


  • Digestive system
    Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is an umbrella term used to describe disorders that involve chronic inflammation of your digestive tract. Types of IBD include:
  • Ulcerative colitis. This condition causes long-lasting inflammation and sores (ulcers) in the innermost lining of your large intestine (colon) and rectum.
  • Crohn’s disease. This type of IBD is characterized by inflammation of the lining of your digestive tract, which often spreads deep into affected tissues.

Both ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease usually involve severe diarrhea, abdominal pain, fatigue and weight loss.

IBD can be debilitating and sometimes leads to life-threatening complications.



Inflammatory bowel disease symptoms vary, depending on the severity of inflammation and where it occurs. Symptoms may range from mild to severe. You are likely to have periods of active illness followed by periods of remission.

Signs and symptoms that are common to both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Fever and fatigue
  • Abdominal pain and cramping
  • Blood in your stool
  • Reduced appetite
  • Unintended weight loss

When to see a doctor

See your doctor if you experience a persistent change in your bowel habits or if you have any of the signs and symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease. Although inflammatory bowel disease usually isn’t fatal, it’s a serious disease that, in some cases, may cause life-threatening complications.


The exact cause of inflammatory bowel disease remains unknown. Previously, diet and stress were suspected, but now doctors know that these factors may aggravate but don’t cause IBD.

One possible cause is an immune system malfunction. When your immune system tries to fight off an invading virus or bacterium, an abnormal immune response causes the immune system to attack the cells in the digestive tract, too. Heredity also seems to play a role in that IBD is more common in people who have family members with the disease. However, most people with IBD don’t have this family history.

Risk factors

  • Age. Most people who develop IBD are diagnosed before they’re 30 years old. But some people don’t develop the disease until their 50s or 60s.
  • Race or ethnicity. Although whites have the highest risk of the disease, it can occur in any race. If you’re of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, your risk is even higher.
  • Family history. You’re at higher risk if you have a close relative — such as a parent, sibling or child — with the disease.
  • Cigarette smoking. Cigarette smoking is the most important controllable risk factor for developing Crohn’s disease. Although smoking may provide some protection against ulcerative colitis, the overall health benefits of not smoking make it important to try to quit.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications. These include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), naproxen sodium (Aleve), diclofenac sodium (Voltaren) and others. These medications may increase the risk of developing IBD or worsen disease in people who have IBD.
  • Where you live. If you live in an industrialized country, you’re more likely to develop IBD. Therefore, it may be that environmental factors, including a diet high in fat or refined foods, play a role. People living in northern climates also seem to be at greater risk.


Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease have some complications in common and others that are specific to each condition. Complications found in both conditions may include:

  • Colon cancer. Having IBD increases your risk of colon cancer. General colon cancer screening guidelines for people without IBD call for a colonoscopy every 10 years beginning at age 50. Ask your doctor whether you need to have this test done sooner and more frequently.
  • Skin, eye and joint inflammation. Certain disorders, including arthritis, skin lesions and eye inflammation (uveitis), may occur during IBD flare-ups.
  • Medication side effects. Certain medications for IBD are associated with a small risk of developing certain cancers. Corticosteroids can be associated with a risk of osteoporosis, high blood pressure and other conditions.
  • Primary sclerosing cholangitis. In this condition, inflammation causes scars within the bile ducts, eventually making them narrow and gradually causing liver damage.
  • Blood clots. IBD increases the risk of blood clots in veins and arteries.

Complications of Crohn’s disease may include:

  • Bowel obstruction. Crohn’s disease affects the full thickness of the intestinal wall. Over time, parts of the bowel can thicken and narrow, which may block the flow of digestive contents. You may require surgery to remove the diseased portion of your bowel.
  • Malnutrition. Diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramping may make it difficult for you to eat or for your intestine to absorb enough nutrients to keep you nourished. It’s also common to develop anemia due to low iron or vitamin B12 caused by the disease.
  • Ulcers. Chronic inflammation can lead to open sores (ulcers) anywhere in your digestive tract, including your mouth and anus, and in the genital area (perineum).
  • Fistulas. Sometimes ulcers can extend completely through the intestinal wall, creating a fistula — an abnormal connection between different body parts. Fistulas near or around the anal area (perianal) are the most common kind. In some cases, a fistula may become infected and form an abscess.
  • Anal fissure. This is a small tear in the tissue that lines the anus or in the skin around the anus where infections can occur. It’s often associated with painful bowel movements and may lead to a perianal fistula.

Complications of ulcerative colitis may include:

  • Toxic megacolon. Ulcerative colitis may cause the colon to rapidly widen and swell, a serious condition known as toxic megacolon.
  • A hole in the colon (perforated colon). A perforated colon most commonly is caused by toxic megacolon, but it may also occur on its own.
  • Severe dehydration. Excessive diarrhea can result in dehydration.


How to Know if Your Bathroom Issues Are Actually Ulcerative Colitis

When your gut is playing with games with you, it’s easy to blame it on stress or something you ate. But if you’re plagued with bathroom issues all the time—especially diarrhea, abdominal pain, and bleeding—it may be a sign of a more serious bowel disease, like ulcerative colitis.

Ulcerative colitis, or UC for short, is a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes long-lasting inflammation and ulcers in the innermost lining of your large intestine (i.e. colon) and rectum. It can come with debilitating symptoms and even lead to life-threatening complications, so getting to a doctor when you’re experiencing symptoms is key.

It’s difficult to find exact numbers on how common ulcerative colitis is, but the CDCestimates that about 3.1 million Americans (or 1.3%) suffer from IBD, which includes both ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

IBD is characterized by chronic inflammation in your digestive tract—not to be confused with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which is a chronic condition that affects contractions of the muscles in your large intestine. Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are two main types of IBD that share some of the same symptoms, but one main difference is where the disease occurs: Crohn’s disease causes ulceration throughout your digestive tract, while UC is mostly contained to the colon and rectum.

Ulcerative colitis can start gradually and become worse over time and, like most diseases, cases can range from mild to severe, according to the National Institutes of Health. Most people have periods of remission (when they don’t have symptoms), which can last for weeks or years, the NIH says, and periods of “flares,” or active disease.

Ulcerative colitis symptoms aren’t fun.

Those can include diarrhea with blood or mucus, abdominal pain and cramping, rectal pain and bleeding, a strong urgency to go, an inability to have a bowel movement despite feeling like you need to, weight loss, fatigue, and fever. It usually shows up first as diarrhea mixed with blood as well as an urgent need to go, Ashwin Ananthakrishnan, M.D., M.P.H., a gastroenterologist at Massachusetts General Hospital who specializes in ulcerative colitis, tells SELF. Some people can experience symptoms in other parts of their body, like joint swelling and joint aches, he says.

 Depending on your ulcerative colitis symptoms, the disease isn’t always easy to diagnose, especially since they can be mild at first, Darrell Gray, M.D., M.P.H., a gastroenterologist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, tells SELF. “These symptoms can be subtle and representative of other things,” he says. However, doctors can conduct blood tests, stool tests, and a colonoscopy to give you a proper diagnosis.

Complications of UC can be dangerous, which is why it’s so important to get treatment.

Ulcerative colitis patients can get very sick from weight loss and malnutrition, and develop anemia (low blood counts) which can cause fatigue and other issues, Dr. Ananthakrishnan says. In more severe cases, ulcerative colitis can affect a person’s ability to function normally, he says. It can also put people at risk of toxic megacolon, which causes the colon to burst and can expose them to a systemic infection like sepsis, Dr. Gray says.

Ulcerative colitis can be deadly if you have a severe case that’s left untreated, Rudolph Bedford, M.D., a gastroenterologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California., tells SELF. Patients with more severe cases are at an increased risk of developing colon cancer and liver disease, Dr. Bedford explains.

Doctors aren’t sure what causes the disease.

It’s possible that UC is caused by an immune system malfunction, according to the Mayo Clinic, but experts aren’t entirely sure. When your immune system tries to fight a virus or bacteria, an abnormal immune response may cause your immune system to attack the cells in your digestive tract as well. Genetics may also play a role, the Mayo Clinic says. However, they note, many people with the condition don’t actually have a family history of the disease.

There are different types of ulcerative colitis.

Ulcerative colitis can range from mild to severe, and it can impact different areas of your digestive tract. These are the main forms, per the Mayo Clinic:

Ulcerative proctitis: With this form of the condition, which tends to be the mildest, a person has inflammation in the area closest to the rectum. Rectal bleeding may be the only sign of the disease.

Proctosigmoiditis: Inflammation with this form of the disease involves a person’s rectum and lower end of the colon. Symptoms can include bloody diarrhea, abdominal pain, and an inability to go despite feeling like you need to.

Left-sided colitis: This involves inflammation from the rectum, through the lower colon, and into the descending colon. In addition to bloody diarrhea and abdominal pain on the left side, a patient may also experience weight loss.

Pancolitis: This usually impacts a person’s entire colon, causing bloody diarrhea that can be severe, abdominal pain, fatigue, and severe weight loss.

Acute severe ulcerative colitis: This form of colitis is rare, and it affects the entire colon. It can cause severe pain, diarrhea, bleeding, fever, and an inability to eat.

There is no cure, but there is treatment.

The most common treatments are oral medications called 5-aminosalicylates, often used for milder cases, Dr. Ananthakrishnan says. But for more severe cases, patients are usually given immunosuppressive medications and biologics (medications derived from human and animal genes). Surgery may also be needed in some cases, Dr. Ananthakrishnan says.

So if you’re having recurring bathroom issues with any of the above symptoms, check in with your doctor or gastroenterologist. The sooner you seek help, the sooner you can treat your symptoms. “It’s possible to lead a long, healthy, and comfortable life, provided you are compliant with medications and see your doctor regularly.


10 Signs of an Under-Active Thyroid.

Are you one of the twenty-five million Americans living with a thyroid problem? The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland that is found in the front of your throat. The thyroid is responsible for assisting the body with regulating metabolic functions. When the gland is not functioning correctly due to an imbalance, you may experience a wide variety of negative health effects.

Hypothyroidism, or an under-active thyroid, presents symptoms that may go unnoticed by you. If you find you are experiencing any of the following ten signs of hypothyroidism, then it may be time for you to book an appointment with your medical practitioner.

10 Signs of an Under-Active Thyroid

#1 Extreme fatigue that you just can’t seem to get rid of no matter how much rest you get. There’s a difference between a sugar-crash and constant fatigue. Hypothyroidism disturbs healthy metabolic function. This fact reduces the ability of the body to produce enough energy to satisfy the bodies energy demand. If you find that you need naps throughout the day, this should be a tell-tale sign of hypothyroidism.

#2 Check your neck. Do you have any swelling or a lump around your throat? This lump is the sign of a swollen thyroid gland, make sure you arrange a consultation with your doctor immediately.

#3 Do you struggle to lose weight? Are you gaining body fat faster than usual? The inability to correctly manage your bodyweight is another typical sign of hypothyroidism.

#4 Emotional Instability. Mood swings, depression, and anxiety are all emotional responses to an under-active thyroid. Keep an eye on your mental state, and if you find yourself unable to control your mood for extended periods of time, you may be living with hypothyroidism.

#5 Our body manufactures different types of hormones that are responsible for various biological and metabolic functions. A thyroid imbalance throws this system into disarray and interferes with the body’s regular production of hormones.

#6 Low thyroid function also affects the digestive system. Biomes are micro bacteria found in the GI tract responsible for assimilating the food we eat. When thyroid function is suppressed due to an imbalance, the biomes struggle to complete their task, resulting in weak digestion, constipation, and a leaky gut.

#7 Hypothyroidism takes its toll on the muscular and skeletal system as well. People living with under-active thyroids may experience joint pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, or tendonitis.

#8 The thyroid is a crucial gland is regulating body temperature. Our body’s need to be at a constant 98.5 degrees for optimal health. People with hypothyroidism often find that their extremities feel cold or numb.

#9 Eczema, dry skin, psoriasis, brittle hair, and nails are all signs of a weakened thyroid.

#10 Hypothyroidism even affects the mind. If you struggle to focus and concentrate, or you are experiencing bouts of ‘brain fog,’ then you may have an under-active thyroid.

Do any of these symptoms above sound familiar to you? If you think that you could be afflicted with an under-active thyroid, then it’s best to arrange a consultation with your medical professional immediately.

Your doctor will ask you to come into their office where they can diagnose you. Part of their examination on you will include drawing your blood for analysis at a pathology lab. Your blood will be screened to check the status of your thyroid hormone levels. Although there are physical signs of hypothyroidism, blood work results are the only real way to determine if you are suffering from the condition.


‘I still feel like I’m 700lbs’: Woman who lost 525LBS after surgery admits she now tracks her weight multiple times a day and starves herself if she puts on even a few pounds

A woman who shed 525lbs from her 708lb frame after having gastric bypass surgery reveals that she now ‘freaks out’ and will stop eating for days if she gains any even the slightest amount of weight.

Christina Phillips, 25, from South Haven, Mississippi admits that she is still struggling with the emotional aspects of her weight loss on Wednesday night’s episode of My 600lb Life: Where Are They Now? two years after documenting her journey on the TLC series in 2014.

‘I’ve lost a lot of weight over the past couple of years, and lately any time I see the scale go up, I tend to freak out and I will stop eating for a couple days,’ she says in a preview clip from the episode.

Obsessed: Christina Phillips, 25, from South Haven, Mississippi admits on Wednesday's episode of My 600lb Life: Where Are They Now? that she will starve herself if she puts on even the slightest amount of weight

Obsessed: Christina Phillips, 25, from South Haven, Mississippi admits on Wednesday’s episode of My 600lb Life: Where Are They Now? that she will starve herself if she puts on even the slightest amount of weight

Amazing: Christina weighed 708lbs (pictured) before she had gastric bypass surgery and got down to 183lbs

Amazing: Christina weighed 708lbs before she had gastric bypass surgery and got down to 183lbs (pictured)

Amazing: Christina weighed 708lbs (left) before she had gastric bypass surgery and got down to 183lbs (right)

Before meeting with a therapist, Christina explains that Houston-based weight loss surgeon Dr. Younan Nowzaradan advised her to speak with someone because he thinks she is pushing herself too hard to lose weight.

The doctor warns that she actually needs to gain weight if she wants to have surgery to get the excess skin on her body removed.

‘I know I’m not 700lbs anymore, but I still feel that way. And I don’t know how to change how I feel,’ she admits.

Christina’s struggle with obesity started when she was a child, and by the time she was 12 years old she weighed nearly 300lbs.

Listening ear: Christina is pictured meeting with a therapist to help deal with the emotional issues she is still struggling with after her weight loss 

Listening ear: Christina is pictured meeting with a therapist to help deal with the emotional issues she is still struggling with after her weight loss

Out of control: Christina says she will weigh herself several times a day and won't eat for days if she puts on any weight 

Out of control: Christina says she will weigh herself several times a day and won’t eat for days if she puts on any weight.

During her first appearance on the show, Christina said she turned to food because her parents ‘used to fight a lot’ and ‘it was scary’.

Before having life-saving gastric bypass surgery, Christina was almost entirely immobile and lived with her parents and her husband Zach, who had the task of regularly cleaning up after her when she was unable to make it to the bathroom.

However, her caretaker husband was unable to cope with her newfound independence after her weight loss, and they finalized their divorce a year ago after she realized their relationship was ‘centered around him enabling [her].’

Christina tells her therapist that aside from gaining weight, she is afraid of ‘disappointing people’.

‘At the beginning I had a lot of people doubt me,’ she explains. ‘I was in a really abusive relationship. And that definitely, I think, has had a negative impact on me. It hurts. In my heart, in my head.’

Hard to handle: Christina said she still feels like she is 700lbs (pictured) and people are staring at her

Hard to handle: Christina said she still feels like she is 700lbs (pictured) and people are staring at her.

Moving on: Christina (right) split from her husband Zach (left) who didn't appreciate her newfound independence after she had gastric bypass surgery 

Moving on: Christina (right) split from her husband Zach (left) who didn’t appreciate her newfound independence after she had gastric bypass surgery

Falling in love: Christina is now living with her boyfriend Shane, whom she has been friends with for eight years 

Falling in love: Christina is now living with her boyfriend Shane, whom she has been friends with for eight years

A month ago she moved in with her boyfriend Shane, whom she had been friends with for eight years and has known her at her biggest and has always been really supportive of her.

‘We’ve gotten to know each other on a really deep level,’ Shane tells the cameras. ‘We just open up to each other, and we will finish each other’s sentences sometimes.’

Christina says Shane is really good for her because he helps her get out of the house even though she feels like she needs to hide her arms and her legs despite her amazing weight loss.

‘It’s weird when I was 700lbs I couldn’t even get out of the house, but now that I can I still don’t feel normal,’ she explains.

Christina admits that she knows she has ‘to work through some things’ in order to overcome her obsession with the number on the scale.

Great progress: Paula Jones (right) appeared on season two of My 600lb Life and shed 265lbs from her 533lb. Over the course of two years, she lost another 60lbs

Great progress: Paula Jones (right) appeared on season two of My 600lb Life and shed 265lbs from her 533lb. Over the course of two years, she lost another 60lbs

Terrible time: Before having gastric bypass surgery, Paula depended on her children to do almost everything for her

Terrible time: Before having gastric bypass surgery, Paula depended on her children to do almost everything for her

”When I was 700 lbs., I felt worthless, and like I didn’t deserve anything better than the life I had,’ she says. ‘And now my fear of gaining weight has crippled me. But I have to move past that fear if I want to live my life.’

Wednesday night’s episode also revisits Paula Jones, who appeared on the second season of My 600lb Life and shed 265lbs from her 533lb frame following her gastric bypass surgery.

Although the 41-year-old from Atlanta, Georgia has managed to lose another 60lbs in the past two years, she fears she has passed her unhealthy eating habits on to her daughter Savannah.

‘Savannah, at a 11 years old, she weighs more than I do right now, so I feel like I can help her the most by helping her find healthy foods and what to look for when deciding what to eat.’

During her previous appearance on the show, Paula revealed that she turned to food for comfort after she was molested by a family member when she was six years old.

Addiction to food: The mom fears that she has passed her unhealthy habits on to her 11-year-old daughter Savannah (pictured), who weighs more than she doesAddiction to food: The mom fears that she has passed her unhealthy habits on to her 11-year-old daughter Savannah, who weighs more than she does

Addiction to food: The mom fears that she has passed her unhealthy habits on to her 11-year-old daughter Savannah (left), who weighs more than she does

Bad memories: Paula remembers how Savannah used to watch her eat whatever she wanted without abandon (pictured)

Bad memories: Paula remembers how Savannah used to watch her eat whatever she wanted without abandon (pictured)

Decades later, her love of food left her dependent on her children, who feared she was going to die if she didn’t get help. Now that Christina has overcome her addiction to food, she wants to ensure that her children don’t follow in her footsteps.

In the preview clip, Paula is teaching Savannah how to check nutrition labels during a trip to the grocery store, however, her daughter looks dismayed that the hot dogs and cookies she picked up aren’t healthy options.

‘All of my children have seen me eat and buy unhealthy foods. I showed no restraint. I don’t eat just for feel. I eat for enjoyment,’ she says. ‘Now I feel I have to roll back those bad habits and show them the joy of eating healthy now.’

Paula has already had surgery to have the excess skin on legs removed, and she is looking forward to having the procedure done on her arms as well.

‘My biggest fear going into surgery is that they won’t be able to do both arms, and that will delay my recovery even further,’ she admits. ‘I really need to get this final surgery behind me.’


Individual treatment the key to living with inflammatory bowel disease

SARA Byrne has had three major surgeries to bring her inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) under control, but she has reason to be hopeful.

For one thing, she is pleased that there is now a lot more awareness about the condition than there was when she was first diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2005.

She was doing her Junior Cert at the time and she believes exam stress brought on the severe stomach cramps that put her completely off her food. She lost 19kg.

Her other most severe attacks also happened at times of exam stress, but after having significant surgery in 2013, the last of three, she now has good health.

She avoids dairy products and also takes “quite strong drugs”, as she puts it, to stay well, but life is good.

Now the 27-year-old accountant is hoping that life for all IBD sufferers will improve following news of the first comprehensive study of the disease in Ireland.

Research to identify genetic markers that can help diagnose IBD is being carried out by Irish company Genomics Medicine Ireland in collaboration with St Vincent’s Hospital, Tallaght Hospital and UCD Clinical Research Centre.
The study also aims to predict the severity of the disease and identify individualised treatment for the 20,000 Irish people who are diagnosed with IBD.

There are two major forms of IBD: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Both are life-long conditions for which there is no known cause or cure. Ireland has one of the highest rates of colitis in the world.

Sara Byrne hopes that studies such as this will help to identify a cure: “The more we increase our understanding of IBD through research, the better chance we have of finding that cure or at least improving the treatments available so that if you are living with IBD, its impact on your day-to-day life is minimised.

“It’s really important that as many IBD patients as possible participate in this study to help us on this journey,” she told Feelgood.

International studies have already linked some genes to the development of IBD but that is only part of the story. There are many genetic and environmental risk factors yet to be identified.

Professor Deirdre McNamara, consultant gastroenterologist at Tallaght Hospital, said: “This study will enable us to gain a comprehensive understanding of the interactions between genes, environment, biology and the disease.”

She said IBD had evolved into a global disease, with over 2.5 million sufferers in Europe and one million in the US.

“Irish IBD patients have an opportunity to contribute to potentially life-changing research that will benefit not just our patients here in Ireland but people with IBD throughout the world,” she said.

Sean Ennis, chief scientific officer at Genomics Medicine Ireland, said the study would examine how changes in our genetics contribute to the risk of getting IBD, how it progresses and how it responds to treatment.

Professor Glen Doherty, consultant gastroenterologist at St Vincent’s University Hospital, said: “As we gain a better understanding of the role of genetics in IBD and in an individual’s response to different drug treatments, it will enable a more personalised approach to the treatment of the condition.”

Meanwhile, Sara Byrne advises others who may have been recently diagnosed or who feel they may have IBD not to go online looking for dietary advice.

“Not a single person has the same story,” she says. She advises people to work closely with a dietician to establish if particular foods aggravate the condition.

For Sara, food is one of the great joys in life and while she follows a very healthy diet, kickstarted in the morning with porridge topped with almond butter, bananas and cinnamon, she has a sweet tooth and a bar of chocolate is also a regular on the daily menu.

Her secret is to eat little and often and also to do stress-busting things she enjoys, such as singing in the Line-Up Choir in Harold’s Cross in Dublin.


Mild hypothyroidism: Who should be treated?

What to do about mild hypothyroidism is a subject that has been studied and debated for years. Mild hypothyroidism is also called subclinical hypothyroidism. It doesn’t meet the standard definition of overt hypothyroidism. You may have no symptoms, and your thyroid function blood tests show a mixed picture.

Your free T4 level is normal, meaning your body is getting enough thyroid hormone. It is your TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) level that is above the normal range, which indicates your thyroid gland has to work harder to pump out that thyroid hormone.

One worry about mild hypothyroidism is the potential link between untreated subclinical hypothyroidism and coronary artery disease. Results of research on whether subclinical thyroid disease causes heart problems have been conflicting. However, the condition has been associated with heart and blood vessel abnormalities, and some studies suggest that treating mild hypothyroidism can improve various markers of heart structure and function.

However, there are potential downsides to treating subclinical hypothyroidism. There is the risk of overtreatment, which might cause symptoms, such as feeling jittery and insomnia. Also, long-term overtreatment can lead to loss of bone density.

If your TSH level is elevated to between 4.5 and 10 mIU/L and your T4 is normal, you should be considered for treatment with thyroid medication, especially if you have symptoms of hypothyroidism, or you have a positive test for thyroid antibodies, a history of heart disease, or risk factors for atherosclerosis. If you aren’t treated, your doctor should continue to monitor your thyroid function with blood tests every six to 12 months to check for progression.


Colitis and Crohn’s: Is 21st century living to blame?

Inflammatory bowel disease is on the rise, especially in countries that adopt a Western lifestyle. Find out what the latest research reveals about how our modern lifestyle affects our chances of developing inflammatory bowel disease

IBD arises ‘in newly industrialized countries’

Prof. Gilaad G. Kaplan — who is a gastroenterologist and epidemiologist at the University of Calgary in Canada — and colleagues recently published an article in The Lancet that highlights how IBD rates have evolved across the globe.

In North America, Australia, and most countries in Europe, IBD rates are estimated to have passed the 0.3 percent mark, but the number of new cases diagnosed each year has reached a plateau.

“More striking,” explains Prof. Kaplan, “is the observation that as newly industrialized countries have transitioned towards a westernized society, inflammatory bowel disease emerges and its incidence rises rapidly.”

Industrialization and a Western lifestyle are now clearly in the mix of culprits to blame for rising IBD rates.

During the past 100 years, the incidence of inflammatory bowel disease has risen, then plateaued in the western world, whereas countries outside the western world seem to be in the first stage of this sequence.”

Prof. Gilaad G. Kaplan

This puts IBD squarely into the category of being a global burden, posing significant challenges for doctors and health policy makers.

Our living spaces influence IBD risk

Back in July, we reported on a population study that looked at the influence of rural and urban environments on IBD.

While there was already evidence from several individual studies and a systematic review, pointing at the role of our living spaces on the chances of developing IBD, there were inconsistencies between the different study designs.

The research — which was led by Dr. Eric I. Benchimol, an associate professor at the University of Ottawa in Canada — identified that living in a rural environment offered significant protection against IBD, particularly in those below the age of 18.

The study involved more than 45,000 people, of which 14.6 percent lived in a rural postcode, and more people were city dwellers at the time that they received their IBD diagnosis.

In order to study the effect of early life exposure on subsequent IBD risk, Prof. Benchimol and his colleagues also assessed 331 rural IBD patients and compared them with 2,302 urban patients.

Exposure to the rural environment from birth was consistently associated with a strong protective association with the development of IBD later in life, whether children were exposed continuously for 1 to 5 years from birth.”

Prof. Eric I. Benchimol

He adds that “the mechanism by which rurality protects against IBD is uncertain, and may include dietary and lifestyle factors, environmental exposures, or segregation of individuals with different genetic risk profiles.”

Inheritance, but not as we know it

Dr. Martin Blaser — a professor of medicine at the New York University School of Medicine in New York City — and team study the human microbiome. Previous work by Prof. Blaser and other groups indicates that antibiotics have a long-lasting effect and increase the level of risk of developing IBD that we inherit from our mothers.

The initial boost of microbes that we are exposed to at birth is crucial in getting our immune system off to a good start.

In a new study in Nature Microbiology, Prof. Blaser and colleagues found that it is not the antibiotics per se that cause an increase in IBD risk. Rather, antibiotic use changes the mother’s microbiome, which is then passed to the baby at birth.

Our results provide strong evidence that antibiotics change the baby’s inherited microbial communities with long-term disease consequences, which is especially important given the widespread use of antibiotics in young women before and during pregnancy.”

Prof. Martin Blaser

Mice that were genetically engineered to carry increased susceptibility to ulcerative colitis showed a 55-fold increase in bowel inflammation when they inherited their mother’s antibiotic-treated gut bacteria.

This means that mothers can pass on an increased risk of developing IBD to their children not via their genes, but via their own microbiome.

“The basis for inheritance of IBD might possibly be quite different from what we had been thinking for many years,” explains Prof. Blaser.

What does the future hold?

Prof. Kaplan concludes his article by saying, “[T]he changing global burden of inflammatory bowel disease during the next decade will require a two-pronged solution that involves research into interventions to prevent inflammatory bowel disease and innovations in the delivery of care to patients with inflammatory bowel disease.”

By combining the research efforts of geneticists, epidemiologist, microbiologists, physicians, and pharmaceutical scientists, we will hopefully get to the bottom of the many factors that influence whether a person develops IBD.

Armed with this knowledge, we can look to new treatments and technologies that aim to address the underlying disease pathways, and — crucially — the environmental and lifestyle factors that clearly contribute to inflammatory bowel diseases.


The daily struggle with Sjogren’s syndrome: Guiding dental patients to relief from pain

By Katie Melko, RDH, MSDH

What is Sjogren’s syndrome? “Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disease that affects the salivary and lacrimal glands which results in a decrease in saliva and tears.”1 The most common oral manifestation for Sjogren’s syndrome is xerostomia, another term for dry mouth.

The specific cause of Sjogren’s syndrome is unknown and currently has no cure. The cellular and humoral resistance are involved, and there are two types of Sjogren’s syndrome. Primary Sjogren’s syndrome is when the person only has one autoimmune disease, and secondary Sjogren’s syndrome is when the patient has a combination of another autoimmune disease.


The authors of “Oral Pathology for the Dental Hygienist” state diagnosis is accomplished as: “Sjogren syndrome is identified when a patient presents themselves with xerostomia, keratoconjunctivitis sicca, and another type of autoimmune disease. A biopsy can be performed on one of minor salivary glands and a measurement of stimulated and unstimulated salivary flow; this information can help diagnosis Sjogren Syndrome. Keratoconjunctivitis can also be confirmed by having an eye examination and the lacrimal flow is measured with filter paper. Other symptoms that can be identified through blood work are mild anemia, decreased white blood cell count, an increase of serum Igs, and a prominent erythrocyte sedimentation rate. It is also said that ninety perfect of dental patients with this syndrome have a positive response to rheumatoid factor.”1


Treatment options for Sjogren syndrome are usually based off of the symptoms patients have. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents are used for arthritis. In more severe cases, corticosteroids and other immunosuppressive drugs can be utilized to give patients relief.

For dry eye relief, patients are using artificial tears and glasses to provide a protection to the eyes against wind. Patients suffer from dry mouth as well, and it can create many issues for the patients along with severe pain.

Oral Manifestations

Patients will first experience xerostomia and that leads to the mucosa becoming erythematous. This results in dry lips that often crack which cause patients to complain of general discomfort in their mouth. The dorsum of the tongue loses filiform and fungiform papillae and is bright red in appearance.

Periodontal disease, high caries risk and oral candidiasis are general problems dental patients have with this autoimmune disease. Patients also experience painful fissures at the corners of the mouth (labial commissures), burning mouth, and sore mouth (mostly the tongue).

There are many treatment options available to help manage these issues and provide comfort to the patient simultaneously. The great thing is that there are multiple products to choose from; so, if one product doesn’t work, there are others to try. Using products that contain vitamin E are recommended, as well as lip balms and creams.


The Journal of the American Medical Association states, “Reduction of salivary volume and subsequent loss of the antibacterial properties of saliva may accelerate infection, tooth decay, and periodontal disease.”2 Treatment options to help reduce this from happening are using saliva substitutes.

Many different options are on the market to help patients with dry mouth. There are tabs, nasal and oral sprays, lozenges, gum, toothpaste, mouthwash, gels, and chewables. Along with having multiple ways to help relieve dry mouth, there are also many different brand options. It is important to remember to tell your patients that a product takes a good seven days to show any signs of working. Patients usually try products on and off or for only a few days.

I would like to reiterate that even though there are many options to help patients; it takes time to reveal improvements with the oral health condition the patients have. Dental professionals can assist patients in finding what works best for them when it comes to dry mouth. Drinking water is great for the body. But if a patient with dry mouth is constantly drinking water, it does send a signal to the brain saying saliva isn’t needed. So I try to encourage my patients to not overdo it with water.

Biotene and Oasis are popular products that patients can easily purchase at any drug store. But I also recommend Xylimelts and sugar-free gum with xylitol. PreviDent Dry Mouth RX can be recommended when simpler remedies appear to be ineffective.

Other treatment options for patients who are having sores and burning sensation are borage seed oil (helps with inflammation and can be used as a soothing agent) and Orabase or any numbing aids that are sold in the oral health aisle (help reduce pain and burning sensation).

I have, unfortunately, have seen patients so desperate to alleviate the pain that they chew or place Tylenol directly on the area. This is why educating the patient on how to help alleviate the pain is important. Rincinol by Sunstar GUM is a great rinse that helps relieve pain. Orajel and Anbesol are other products my patients have used for temporary relief.

When patients have a flare-up of oral candidiasis or thrush, doctors often prescribe nystatin or Diflucan (the more popular options) to help relieve patients of pain.


I Know Why He Has Autism


My name is Carrie Cariello. I am forty-two years old.

I am married to a man named Joe and we have five children.

Twelve years ago, I gave birth to a baby boy with a neurological disorder called autism. It impacts the way he eats, sleeps, talks, and thinks.

He is considered special needs, because his needs are special.

For example, he needs to ask me thirty-six thousand times what the plan for the day is, even if it’s just a regular old Monday and we’ve had the same plan every Monday since the beginning of September.

He needs to sleep with six pillows every night or he flips out at bedtime.

He needs medicine to cope with his overwhelming feeling of fear and anxiety.

He needs to roll all of his food between his fingers before he eats it, even meatballs.

I have a child with special needs. Sometimes, I can’t believe it myself.

I mean, it’s easy to understand the who and the what and the where and the how of it all.

My child has autism and it is in his brain and his heart and his soul and his body. It is the result of a complicated mutation in genetics and DNA.

Also, my in-laws.

(I mention my in-laws here because I usually try to blame Joe’s side of the family for the autism gene. As you can imagine, this only helps to strengthen our relationship.)

And yet there are times when I don’t understand the why.

Why did I, of all people, have a boy who needs medicine every night just to sleep and has to touch all of the food on his plate at the dinner table — a boy I hurt for and hope for and love so much that my heart squeezes?95224dd18e9c596efab32d24d57e627db3d366a2.jpg

I have to admit I don’t spend a whole lot of time trying to answer this question because frankly, it’s pretty pointless. It doesn’t change anything.

But every once in a while, when I’m feeling particularly pensive or sad or nervous, it flashes across my subconscious like a lightning bolt. It is bright, and hot, and I don’t want to reach out and touch it because I’m afraid I’ll get burned.

Why me?

Why did God or the universe or the complicated twist of genetics give me a child with special needs?

Why do I have to think about the long-term effects of medication and wipe greasy meatball fingerprints off the counter every single day?

Why do I lie awake at night, worrying about what will happen when I’m not here anymore?

Maybe it was so I would stay married.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, I love my husband. I have loved him for twenty-three years. I love that I know his favorite band is Rush and I love the way he stands at the sink in the morning and brushes his hair. I love the sound of his laugh when he hears a good joke, and I love that whenever we sit down in a restaurant and open the menu and there is calamari, I know that’s what he’s going to order.

There is no good way to explain the way autism has affected our marriage except to say that it should have broken us. I mean, I don’t know how it hasn’t broken us already. It should have broken us, and we are somehow still standing. Perhaps the very thing that is trying to tear us apart has actually kept us together all this time.

I am a much different mother than I expected to be.

I am the kind of mother who cares less about grades on a report card and more about teaching my kids how to load the dishwasher. I worry less about trophies on the mantle and more about kindness on the bus.

Perhaps God/the universe/genetics/my in-laws decided to give me a child with special needs so I would learn how to wait. The best things in my life so far are the ones I have waited for; an unexpected sentence, a surprise smile, a quick one-armed hug in the hallway.

The thing is, I will probably never know why I gave birth to a baby with autism, any more than I know why six is the magic number of pillows at bedtime. Some things in life are simply meant to remain a mystery.

But I do know that no matter how hard I think it is to have a child with special needs, it is a million times harder for him.

On the days my heart is squeezing, this child’s heart is shattering.

When I am gasping for air amidst autism’s rising tide, this child is nearly drowning.

Underneath it all — the tantrums about a missing pillow and the small orange vial with the little white pills and hundreds of questions about the schedule, I know he’s trying to tell me something else entirely.

Make room for me. I am here.

The thing is, once in a lifetime, you get the chance to meet a person who is unlike any other person you have ever met.

A person who is complicated, and honest, and tenacious, and pure.

This person, well, he changes who you thought you were.

And who you planned to become.

He is traveling a lonesome journey of one, yet changing the lives of many.

He is a boy named Jack. He is my child. He is my son.