Stress, diet key 'triggers' for women

Published: Sunday, Oct. 12 2008 12:15 a.m. MDT

Stress and diet are two key considerations when figuring out what to do about irritable bowel syndrome symptoms, according to Dr. Holly Clark, gastroenterologist at LDS Hospital.

If you can identify your "triggers," Clark said, you can often reduce the frequency or severity of the symptoms.

Those symptoms, including gas, bloating, diarrhea and constipation, and issues of urinary incontinence dominated calls to a hotline focusing on women's "silent" health issues Saturday. Over the course of two hours, callers to the Deseret News/Intermountain Healthcare Hotline waited up to 30 minutes while Clark and Dr. Richard Labasky, Alta View Hospital urologist, fielded about 80 calls.

Clark told some of the callers they should keep a symptom diary to see if they can identify what's irritating their gastrointestinal systems. One of the problems, though, is many doctors don't want to take the time to get to the bottom of it, she said.

"It is time-consuming," Clark said, "and you may never figure out the cause."

Sometimes, it takes several tries of different things to get some relief.

She pointed out that some flatulence is actually healthy, a sign that you're eating fiber and your gut is working.

Two-thirds of the urology calls were regarding urgency incontinence — the sense that you "have to go right now," Labasky said. And although some of the calls also mentioned pelvic floor prolapse, where tissue sags and structures may protrude from the vagina, most of the others were about stress incontinence, where actions like sneezing and laughing spark urine leakage.

Women have a tendency to think they'll just have to live with incontinence or they're too embarrassed to talk about it, even with a doctor. That's a shame, Labasky said, because there are very effective treatments for many cases of incontinence.

Medications are often very effective at calming the bladder and relieving urgency incontinence, with as many as two-thirds of the women experience some relief.

There are also surgeries and supports that can be used to relieve stress incontinence. Operations to provide surgical support for sagging tissue involved in stress incontinence are effective 90 percent to 95 percent of the time.

Women can find more help with both types of problems during a special gathering at LDS Hospital on Wednesday, when both urinary incontinence and irritable bowel syndrome will be discussed.

The event, called Speak Up!, will be at 6 p.m. in LDS Hospital's Jon and Karen Huntsman Education Center, 8th Avenue and C Street. Clark and Dr. Yvonne Hsu, a uro-gynecologist, will be featured. Each will make a brief presentation and then answer questions.

The hotline tackles a different health topic the second Saturday of each month.


E-mail: lois@desnews.com

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