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Ask Dr. Gott 10/21
Bowel issues caused by food additive
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    DEAR DR. GOTT: I read your column regularly and have seen articles about Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I would like to share my experience with this annoying condition.
    I had suffered for a while with gas, bloating and other symptoms. My internist thought that I was lactose intolerant despite my claims that many milk products did not cause my symptoms. He ordered a colonoscopy, which showed I had Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
    Shortly after the diagnosis, I was reading an article in Prevention magazine that claimed there was an epidemic of IBS and that an additive found in many dairy products might be the cause. The additive is a seaweed product called carrageen.
    Interested in this, I decided to check my refrigerator and found that the additive was in many products I had on hand, including soymilk, ice cream, sherbet and more. I threw all these items away and started checking labels when I went to get replacements. I have found only two ice creams that don't have it. It is also in sour cream, most yogurts, creamy dressings, eggnog, some brands of buttermilk and more.
    I feel that our food industry's additives have impaired the health of many people, especially young children. I hope that this information can help others as it has helped me.
    DEAR READER: I was unfamiliar with the additive, but, upon doing some research, I found that is a dried and bleached red marine algae widely used as a gel, emulsifier and thickening agent. It is primarily used for foods, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.
    I am unaware of a link between carrageen and IBS, but that is not to say it is impossible. If eliminating the additive from your diet has improved your symptoms, stick with it. If not, try an over-the-counter product called Digestive Advantage IBS. It has helped many of my readers who also suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome. IBS with constipation can often be helped by increasing fluid and fiber intakes. Occasional treatment with laxatives and stool softeners is acceptable but should not be used daily. IBS with diarrhea can usually be controlled by increasing fiber and roughage intakes and using OTCs such as Imodium or Pepto-Bismol.
    If you truly have IBS, see a gastroenterologist, who can give you up-to-date information about available treatments appropriate for you. If you believe you do not have IBS but are simply suffering from an allergy to carrageen, see an allergist. This specialist can test you for various allergies to help pinpoint the cause of your symptoms, including any possible lactose intolerance. He or she can also provide appropriate treatment.
    To give you related information, I am sending you copies of my Health Reports "Irritable Bowel Syndrome" and "Constipation and Diarrhea."
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