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April is IBS Awareness Month

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a disorder that leads to mild to severe abdominal cramping, diarrhea, constipation and other symptoms. IBS affects an estimated 10-15 percent of Americans, but many more people go untreated because they’re too embarrassed to discuss the signs with their doctor.  While it is a recognized disorder, some people still do not take those that have IBS seriously or they think it’s “all in their heads.”


IBS can occur at any age and has been known to effect women more often than men. For many individuals, IBS is a periodic annoyance, but for others it can impact their quality of life and make them hesitant to travel or attend social events. The unpredictability of IBS, can also lead to increased stress that in turn can increase the severity of the symptoms.


“Unfortunately, people often snicker or avoid talking about intestinal challenges, choosing instead to suffer in silence,” says Mitchell Strand, MD, chief medical officer of Touchstone Health HMO. “Senior citizens should visit their physician to rule out any other diseases and create an appropriate treatment plan to help reduce the discomfort and stress associated with IBS.”


The symptoms of IBS range from mild to severe, vary from person to person, and can be contradictory. The main indicators are abdominal pain, feeling full, excess gas, and bloating that has been present for at least three days a month for the last three months. Symptoms are often reduced after a bowel movement and usually occur when there is a change in bowel movement frequency. People with IBS have constipation or diarrhea, or may suffer from both alternatively.


Although the causes of IBS are unknown, there are many theories ranging from the result of a previous intestinal infection to psychological stress to a dietary reaction. And with this uncertainty, doctors, as well as those afflicted with the disease, may have different opinions about what is causing the symptoms, and which treatments help.


There are no tests to diagnose IBS, but your physician may do tests to rule out other diseases that are symptomatically similar. For many people, the symptoms of IBS get better over time but may come back later but for others they are consistently present. The goal for IBS treatment is to relieve symptoms and, since these are inconsistent between individuals, the treatment plans must also be individualized and may include medication, lifestyle changes or dietary modifications.


IBS may be a lifelong condition and often unpredictable requiring coping strategies for those with the most severe debilitation. Examples include: eating small meals throughout the day, taking prepared food to parties, reviewing restaurant menus in advance, choosing aisle seating at events and locating bathrooms immediately at unfamiliar locations. With appropriate treatment and a little planning in advance, those suffering from IBS can reduce the impact the disorder has on their life.

Antibiotics and Immunizations-Managing Your Medications

Using Antibiotics Properly:
• Antibiotics are powerful drugs used to treat certain bacterial infections—and they should be taken exactly as prescribed by your health care provider.
• If you do get sick, antibiotics may not always help. If used inappropriately, they can make bacteria resistant to treatment—thus making illnesses harder to get rid of.
• Antibiotics do not work against viruses such as cold or the flu. When in doubt, check with your health care provider—and always follow the antibiotic label instructions carefully.

Get Immunized:
• Adults need tetanus and diphtheria boosters every 10 years. Shots are also often needed for protection from illnesses when traveling to other countries.
• Get your flu shot. The single best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated each fall.
• Most adults only need a pneumonia shot once in their lifetime. Some high risk people may need booster shots every 5 years.

Manage your medications and talk to your health care provider about how your medications work together. Bring a list of all medications you are taking to every doctor and specialist you see.

 An article in today's New York Times, Too Many Pills for Aging Patients, by Jane Brody, gives some helpful advice:

"The geriatric society’s Foundation for Health in Aging has produced a one-page “drug and supplement diary” that can help patients keep track of the drugs and dosages they take. They should show the list to every health care provider they see. The form can be found at

Too often, people with multiple health problems have one doctor who does not know what another has prescribed. A new prescription can lead to a toxic drug interaction, or simply be ineffective, because it is counteracted by something else being taken.

There is nothing to be gained, and potentially much to lose, by failing to disclose to health care professionals the use of prescribed, over-the-counter or recreational drugs, including alcohol. Nor should any chronic medical condition or prior adverse drug reaction be kept from your doctor.

Whenever a medication is prescribed, patients should ask about side effects to watch for. If a bad or unexpected reaction occurs or the drug does not seem to be working, the prescribing doctor should be told without delay. But patients should never stop taking a prescribed medication without first consulting a health care professional."

Click here to read the entire article.

Y0064_H3327_THPSMK_2060 Approved
Touchstone Health HMO, Inc. is a Medicare-approved Health Maintenance Organization with a Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug contract with the federal government and a contract with the New York State Medicaid program. The plan is available to anyone enrolled in Part A and Part B through age or disability and who continues to pay their Medicare Part B premium. Copayment, service area, and benefit limitations apply. Members must use contracted providers to receive plan benefits, except in an emergency, urgent care, and for out-of-area dialysis. The Touchstone Health Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug plans are Total, Prestige, Power, Clear and Freedom. Enrollment in Touchstone Health depends on contract renewal.