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Adrenal Fatigue and Bowel and Bladder Irritations

Some conditions that affect the bowel and bladder are strongly associated with adrenal fatigue. Let’s talk about two such medical states: irritable bowel syndrome and interstitial cystitis.

The relationship between the bowel and adrenal fatigue

You may have noticed that you're not digesting food well. Maybe no matter what you eat, you experience heartburn. Or you're always running to the bathroom due to diarrhea. Or you begin to find yourself straining and suffering from extreme constipation.

Maybe certain foods you eat cause you to develop crampy abdominal pain. Maybe the pain comes on even when you're not eating. If you have any or all of the preceding symptoms, you may be experiencing irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

When coauthor Rich was in medical school, the thinking about IBS was that it was purely psychological (that is, severe stress seemed to be the trigger for development of IBS). Minimizing or eliminating the stressor seemed to help the abdominal symptoms.

IBS was also considered a diagnosis of exclusion by most medical professionals, meaning that if other causes of colitis — inflammation of the large intestine — weren't found either via colonoscopy or endoscopy, the doc was left with the diagnosis of IBS.

That was then; this is now. We're here to tell you that IBS is much more than a psychological stressor. The bottom line is this: If you have symptoms of IBS, relay them to your healthcare practitioner. And if you've been diagnosed with IBS, speak with him or her about being evaluated for adrenal fatigue.

The relationship between the bladder and adrenal fatigue

With adrenal fatigue, a common condition affecting the bladder is interstitial cystitis (IC). In plain English, that's bladder pain syndrome (BPS). If someone is suffering from IC, adrenal fatigue is likely present and has likely been so for a while.

For many people, especially women in their 30s and 40s, IC is a painful and debilitating condition. The symptoms can include the following:

  • Urinary urgency (feeling like you have to go to the bathroom all the time, even when you don't)

  • Urinary frequency (frequent voiding)

  • Dysuria, or a burning sensation when you urinate; the pain of IC can be intense, sharp and knifelike in the bladder

  • Hematuria, or the presence of blood in the urine

  • Back pain and fever

Like adrenal fatigue, interstitial cystitis may not be recognized right away by your healthcare provider. All the preceding symptoms can also indicate a simple urinary tract infection (UTI). If you see your healthcare provider with these complaints, the typical kneejerk reaction is to prescribe an antibiotic for a presumed UTI. A UTI differs from IC in two basic ways:

  • IC generally doesn't get better with antibiotics, whereas a UTI does.

  • In the case of IC, a culture of the urine is often negative; it doesn't show that an infection is present.

The causes of IC are many, but a major one is food sensitivities, especially sensitivity to gluten. There's a big connection between celiac disease and the development of IC. Foods such as tomatoes can irritate the bladder, too.

A urologist can confirm IC with a cystoscopy. With this diagnostic study, a flexible catheter called a cystoscope (a bladder cam) enters your bladder so the urologist can look for signs of inflammation.

The treatment for IC is multifaceted and includes keeping a food diary and eliminating gluten from the diet. Being tested for food sensitivities may be helpful. Also, the prescription medication pentosan polysulfate (Elmiron) has helped people with IC. This med is the only oral medication approved by the U.S. FDA for treating interstitial cystitis.

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