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Mary Shomon

Could It Be Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

By April 1, 2009

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Some thyroid patients experience diarrhea or constipation as symptoms of thyroid problems. But some of the thyroid patients who are suffering from diarrhea or constipation, or other gastrointestinal symptoms such as urgency, straining, gas, bloating, may actually have Irritable Bowel Syndrome -- also known as IBS. April is Irritable Bowel Syndrome Awareness Month, and Barbara Bradley Bolen, About's guide to IBS, has put together some informative articles to help you learn more about this common but misunderstood condition.

  • What is IBS?
  • Symptoms of IBS
  • Treatment of IBS

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    Photo: clipart.com

    April 2, 2009 at 3:55 am
    (1) SV says:

    “IBS” is not a diagnosis – its a catch-all syndrome that doctors say you have when they have no real explanation.

    I have been told countless time that I have IBS, but coincidentally the so-called “IBS” became worse on thyroxine and has now all but disappeared on Armour Thyroid.

    It’s my opinon that noone diagnosed with hypothyroidism should accept to be told they have syndromes like IBS, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue (with identical symptoms to hypothyroidism) just because thyroxine doesnt work in most cases.

    April 2, 2009 at 12:48 pm
    (2) ams says:

    I actually went to the doctor for persistent GI symptoms. My doctor added a thyroid antibody test with the IBS-related tests, and it turned out my problem was Hashimoto’s all along.

    April 3, 2009 at 12:09 pm
    (3) Kelly says:

    First SV has a few inaccuracy in her comments:

    Chronic fatigue is a symptom of over 30 different diseases. Perhaps she was referring to ME/CFS which is a brain disease. Extreme fatigue is but one characteristic defined as pathophysiological exhaustion unrelieved by rest and worsened by exercise which is not recovered from in within 48 hours. And because it is a brain disease many different body systems can be affected. Much more specific clinical guidelines for diagnosis can be accessed here beginning on page 7

    Back to IBS, researchers find it may be a post infectious response or possibly symptoms of orthostatic intolerance which if treated should cause the symptoms to subsided. Although psychiatrists invested in the psychosomatic model may consider it primarily psychological the emerging scientific evidence says otherwise.

    As SV notes, be sure to check more than one possibility.

    April 7, 2009 at 3:05 am
    (4) SV says:

    I didnt write out “syndrome” since I thought it was obvious: Fibromyalgia syndrome and chronic fatigue syndrome. So yes I was referring to CFS.

    I have never seen anything called “brain disease” defined, but hypothyroidism affects the brain so if that is the definition then CFS is a brain disease.

    No researcher has found a credible explanation or treatment for CFS or fibromyalgia except for hypothyroidism.

    There is a complete overlap in symptoms, including exercise intolerance which is classical hypothyroidism.

    Studies show that around 40-50% of people with fibromyalgia and CFS have primary hypothyroidism with antibodies against the thyroid or abnormal FNA and no good test exists for hypothyroidism type 2 at tissue level…

    You make a good point when you say researchers are invested in different models: reumatologists are unfortunately invested in fibromyalgia and a whole body of psychiatrists and likeminded doctors/companies wishing to get research grants and own the patent of an expensive cure, are invested in CFS.

    Thyroid hormone is just to cheap to be the explanation, and the TSH-test is too perfect.

    April 7, 2009 at 3:13 am
    (5) SV says:

    When it comes to IBS, I dont claim that all people with IBS have hypothyroidism, just that people with bowel-symptoms and hypothyroidism should not be told they have IBS since there is a very good explanation for their symptoms.

    The way I understand it, is that it have become accepted with enlightened doctors, that IBS is due to bacterial overgrowth in the intestine.

    The question is what causes it: in hypothyroidism digestion and bowel movements slow down, creating the perfect environment.

    April 7, 2009 at 6:56 pm
    (6) Adrienne Dellwo says:


    Actually, there are many explanations under consideration for fibromyalgia & ME/CFS that aren’t related to hypothyroidism and that are showing a lot more promise in research. It’s clear there’s a connection between all of these conditions because of the high comorbidity, but FMS & ME/CFS actually have a lot of symptoms that can’t be explained by hypothyroidism.

    Both FMS & ME/CFS are linked to neurotransmitter dysregulation, cranial blood flow irregularities, abnormal stress response and irregular immune system activity as well as endocrine problems.

    Also, we can’t really use “chronic fatigue” and “chronic fatigue syndome” interchangably. “Chronic fatigue” is a symptom that could be attributable to any number of illnesses, nutritional deficiencies, lifestyle factors, etc. The fatigue (exhaustion, more accurately) of ME/CFS is not linked to any identifiable cause and brings with it a host of other symptoms not associated with chronic fatigue.

    August 13, 2009 at 8:42 pm
    (7) Vicky says:

    ““IBS” is not a diagnosis – its a catch-all syndrome that doctors say you have when they have no real explanation.

    I have been told countless time that I have IBS, but coincidentally the so-called “IBS” became worse on thyroxine and has now all but disappeared on Armour Thyroid.

    It’s my opinon that noone diagnosed with hypothyroidism should accept to be told they have syndromes like IBS, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue (with identical symptoms to hypothyroidism) just because thyroxine doesnt work in most cases.”
    I FEEL THAT IBS IS A MYTH. It is a cop out to blame YOU for being sick, due to medical ignorance. Thyroid needs to be checked, TSH levels and not general thyroid testing, bacterial overgrowth has to be eliminated as a potential cause for IBS, Crohn’s, Ulcerative Colitis, Diverticulitis, and other GI diseases have to be eliminated. If they are, then it is likely your thyroid. EVEN if your thyroid levels are in range, you may need more T3. Refer to Dr. Kenneth Blanchard who has practiced 37 years in Endocrinology with special attention to thyroid diseases. That is MY opinion.

    August 13, 2009 at 8:54 pm
    (8) Mark says:

    SV, wow, you are so dead on about everything you said. I agree 100% with you. Finally someone who agrees with me and cuts through all the business side of doctors (a.k.a. the BS) and the pharmaceutical companies. Keep spreading the word because endocrinologists are still ignorant of the connections b/w health problems and their relation to thyroid issues.

    April 9, 2012 at 10:48 am
    (9) Steven Ducote Jr. M.D. says:

    I have suffered with your “syndrome that doesn’t exist and must be a thyroid problem for over 20 years,” this isn’t a site to argue about the validity of a syndrome that has existed forever it exists FACT, and is a problem for 15 to 20 percent of Americans, if the FDA is reliable enough for you. You don’t realize functional disorders like IBS, if you make any comment like you did in the 7th “wrong answer”, because you would realize nothing helps and there is constant pain that never goes away and I have a perfect Thyroid. Your temporary pain ended with a pill, most with IBS have Chronic Pain left UNTREATED. Imagine never having a cure, if I could take a pill and be normal I’d give my right arm, literally. The problems IBS causes are serious, I work at a hospital and can get a friend’s help, as I am on the floor incapacitated by the PAIN! IBS is real, get some education.. this is comment is ignorant, full of false information, and highly insulting to “IBS” patients, they cry in pain when they see me. I never have one normal day, you could give a comment and try to help people suffering, but instead you state disagreement with the entire medical community! I am in shock somebody would say such a comment, that is terrible, you probably severely insulted thousands that have visited the site with IBS searching for a cure, but there is not one, and they don’t even treat the PAIN! Fibromyalgia pain is treated, why is that not 100% fake, it is the same type of illness. It surprises me every day how disrespectful and downhill our society is consistently changing, people insulting each other and calling them liars because they are in pain and going to the Dr. I hope you realize the people you can hurt with such a comment. I am the only one who will straight up stick up to you, because I know everything about IBS and way more about medicine than you, hence being a Dr., so say positive things or don’t say anything.

    April 9, 2012 at 11:06 am
    (10) Steven Ducote Jr. M.D. says:

    Seriously read your comment Vicky, and Mark you have no idea how wrong you are. The first test I run is full blood work thyroid complete panel essay immediately, as well as every other possible blood work, patients are ignorant they want miracles, we cannot help until we know what is wrong… Dumb… Not only an Insult to ALL doctors who see pain and suffering everyday, which isn’t easy so what gives you the right to judge a single one of them. It is normal for a Dr. to hope for the least significant diagnosis, as far as having to give medication for. The FDA breathes down our necks, I can barely give a few pain pills to a suffering old lady with IBS due to all of these FDA regulations, and I have a specialty practice in Gastroenterology, which is the highest level of education of the GI tract you can get, and takes 3 extra years of surgeon residency. I and every other Dr. on the planet know better than anyone on a forum. I see now why people stopped posting after comment seven and eight; the poor people with IBS wanted help not this complete crap! Vicky and Mark you both disagree with the existence of IBS, there are barely any medications for IBS; so what are the pharmaceutical companies doing exactly since you know it all Mark? Ridiculous, those who don’t feel it themselves have no empathy, sickening…

    July 28, 2012 at 6:09 am
    (11) JELO says:

    @ Steven Ducote: It amazes me that you sit here and try to tell us you are such an expert when you just said that you test for thyroid problems with a blood test. I am shocked it isn’t general knowledge within the medical community that saliva testing is far more accurate in several ways, and better all around. That alone makes me doubt anything you would have to say. There is medication for IBS, more than a couple, and IBS is a syndrome, just like PCOS, which is just another umbrella term for “you may or may not have ovarian cysts, you may have hirsutism, you may or may not have insulin resistance, you may or may not be infertile…” I could go on…It’s just names doctors slap on when they don’t know what else to call it. Yes, IBS exists but it’s just a bunch of widely-varying symptoms without known cause. The cause is often related to hypothyroidism, but not always. What is the confusion here? What is so bad about wanting to know the root cause? The thing is, doctors all-too-often are not up-to-date on the latest testing. That is a fact.

    July 28, 2012 at 6:10 am
    (12) JELO says:

    And they often just give out medications that are pushed by pharmaceutical companies who have bribed them or convinced them that their drugs are best. (Such as the condemnation of Armour Thyroid (which has even made it scarce), which is an excellent drug for many people, and the push towards the NOT one-size-fits-all Synthroid and similar meds which often don’t treat the full hormonal process and leave patients wondering why there aren’t more options and why their meds aren’t working. I can only find 2 docs within a 3 hour drive of me (and I live near a big city with several hospitals and dozens of private practices) who will even THINK of prescribing Armour. I’m on a tangent, but I’m so sick of stubborn doctors! When someone is given a drug that fixes their symptoms, slaps a band-aid over their worst symptoms, yet the base cause isn’t even investigated, that is laziness and lack of concern from doctors. I have experienced this more times than I can count, and I am fed up!

    September 9, 2012 at 12:46 pm
    (13) Hmmm says:

    Not convinces he’s a real MD. Gastroenterology is a subspecialty of Internal Medicine, NOT General Surgery. Also, it’s referred to as a Fellowship, not a residency. Unless he was referring to the “fourth year” that would include GI surgery, particularly for IBD. But that’s only 1 yr of surgery GME in addition to 5 or 6 yrs of Internal Medicine training.
    But I do agree with him that IBS is a real syndrome in it’s own right. However, I also believe that Hypothyroidism can exacerbate and cause IBS, CFS, and Fibromyalgia symptoms. Does this mean that hypothyroid patients have several different primary diseases? No, just that they are having systemic manifestations of hypothyroidism, or syndromes secondary to hypothyroidism. Occham’s razor, people. It’s all probably caused by the Thyroid, in patients WITH hypothyroidism. But in others without hypothyroidism, it can be the primary diagnosis.

    April 15, 2013 at 2:06 pm
    (14) Anna says:

    I have hypothyroid – and I am so out of whack that my level is 16.9 and should be a 2.5, as I finally learned this past week.

    I am hoping for a change in how my body reacts to taking my meds differently than I have been; apparently I was not giving enough time to let them dissolve properly so only a fraction of the meds were being absorbed.

    That being said, I was reading up on IBS because of the ‘bathroom issues’ (as I call them) have been so constant with me. And I saw the mention of hormones and looked up a link if related to hypothyroid. Not only do I have every single symptom or problem caused by having hypo, but now this. I really need to focus on making my body work right and getting healthier. I hate what’s been happening with my body for some time now and after reading about IBS, I’m frustrated with the bleeding, the pains, the tiredness, the sleep interruptions, my weight fluctuating. I have decided to make a conscious effort to fix what’s happening with my body the best I can. I know I need to go see a gastro doctor, but honestly I’m afraid to. I will do it, but need to make myself more comfy with the idea in my head.

    Does anyone have any advice?

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