Friday, October 10, 2008

IBS: Challenge

I get a lot of questions about irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), so I thought I would feature it today. It is another one of those conditions that gets you a list of questionable sites intermixed with authoritative ones.

As usual it is not always easy to tell one from the other, and some of the less trustworthy ones are often the most tempting because they make promises and sometimes seem to have more detailed information.

Trustworthy sites rarely, if ever, make promises, and can be very general which may be discouraging. But promises and information that are not evidence-based are unfortunately not worth much. Evidence Based Medicine provides a very good and easy to understand explanation of, you guessed it, evidence-based medicine and why it's so important.

Of course sometimes the reason there is no evidence is that the research hasn't been done, which can also be frustrating.

Another thing to keep in mind is that even trustworthy sites recommend treatments that haven't yet been approved by, say, Health Canada, but have by the FDA, the European Medicines Agency (EMEA), or whatever your country's equivalent of these bodies is (or vice versa), so it's important to be aware of what country the information is coming from.

If you are ever unsure whether you can trust a source of information, ask your health care provider, local librarian, or ask me and I'll be happy to help. The Oakland Public Library gives some good suggestions for how to judge online health information, and Behind the Medical Headlines provides expert commentary on what you're hearing about in the news.
Behind the Medical Headlines aims to provide the public and health professionals with authoritative and independent commentaries from leading medical experts on articles or news items which appear in our daily media (nationally and internationally) in an attempt to reduce the confusion which can often arise from conflicting, incomplete or misleading media reports of medical areas.
And don't forget to check for the HonCode symbol .

Finally, here are some of the evidence-based consumer resources I recommend for IBS:

Irritable bowel syndrome: tips on controlling your symptoms (American Academy of Family Physicians)
Irritable bowel syndrome (National Library of Medicine)
IBS diet: can yogurt ease symptoms? (Mayo Clinic)
Symptoms of IBS (International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders)
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) Health Center (WebMD)
Should I have tests for irritable bowel syndrome? (WebMD)
Irritable bowel syndrome: Controlling symptoms with diet (WebMD)

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