Treating IBS: Deciphering Good Information from Bad
Written by: cookies4marilyn
If you do a Google search for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), you’ll come up with an overload of relevant listings. But how can you decipher the good information from the bad, even if the listing is on the first page—or listed at all?
I remember wading through those listings and trying to sort through it all—every Website seemed to have the answer, and though the medical center–based sites were informative, they had no new answers for me—I had already been given everything they had to offer and to no avail. So, just like you, I had to keep researching. Deciphering through the jungle of IBS treatment information—or any medical treatments, for that matter—can be so confusing that it can be downright overwhelming.
What amazes me in this era of medical advances is that with all the cutting-edge research, new research funding, innovative treatment methods, and the billions of dollars spent on medication/pharmaceuticals every year, the complementary and alternative medical care arena is expanding. It seems that many patients are using these methods alongside regular medical care—or even replacing it. And now, because of this trend, the medical community and its variety of Websites are showing a very gradual paradigm shift for more holistic care.
What does that say about how we view medical treatments? That traditional medicine has made many strides and is still relied upon, but it does not always have the answers. And as people continue to suffer, they begin to seek out other ways to feel better, usually on the Internet. It is in this search that we can be helped—or duped. I suggest approaching this several ways. There are helpful surfing guidelines out there, and they can be a good place to start. Medline Plus: Guide to Healthy Web Surfing (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/healthywebsurfing.html
) provides some good factors to consider.
I suggest that you make sure the sites have some medical validation and research behind them. But even then, I sometimes find myself looking at agendas. I think the best guide is to look at the various treatments from whatever sites you visit, and search them on other sites. If the treatment, medication, therapy, supplement, or diet is found on other Websites and has some legitimate medical research behind it—independent of other sites—there likely is credibility there.
Also consider the author(s) or source of the Website. A medically based Website—one run by a medical center, research facility, nonprofit organization, etc.—should have reliable information. An independent Website by a medical professional can be a good resource as well, if there is evidence of clinical research and professional qualifications and training to substantiate the information. Medline confirms this, stating that if a page about a treatment, such as for IBS, “recommends one drug by name, see if you can tell if the company that manufactures the drug provides that information. If it does, you should consult other sources to see what they say about the same drug.” This holds true for not only drugs, but other treatment methods.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that some not-so-legitimate sites could use techniques to simulate a medical foundation. Beware of a “bait and switch” factor: sometimes a treatment is discussed as being researched, but it may not be what is offered for purchase. Even news or reported articles may discuss a treatment or drug from one point of view.
Also, be leery of testimonials. When sites (usually commercial) only have testimonials on their site (in order to sell a product or service) and nowhere else about the treatment method, then be skeptical. This doesn’t guarantee that the testimonials are false, but that further investigation is in your best interests. Another way to validate Websites is through other bulletin board members’ experiences; if you can get enough people to reply, you can get some measure. But keep in mind that they are opinions, and while everyone is entitled to their own—just as I am sharing now—this can pose even more confusion.
One of the many wonderful things about a self-help bulletin board is that people can honestly relate what helps and what doesn’t. This doesn’t mean that you should heed every single suggestion, but it does provide a means for further investigation. And a bulletin board can be a source of unsolicited testimonials—those given freely and independent of the product, medication, or service they are reporting on. Some may warn against their validity, and rightly so in some cases, but I have, for the most part, found them to be encouraging and helpful.
For example, one of our bulletin board members has found calcium to be very helpful for her IBS. Of course, this is not everyone’s answer, but enough people have been helped by this suggestion that it has proven to be a valid source of information. This suggestion isn’t the type that is readily offered on medical sites; it was what one person found to be helpful and therefore helped others too. I know that most people have enough common sense to realize that a self-help site is not a replacement for medical treatment, but it can offer information about treatments that have been helpful, and it provides resources to further investigate the suggestions made.
If there were no need for bulletin boards to discuss IBS, then they would not exist, just as there is a need for medical sites discussing IBS. People come here not only to learn more about their condition and what treatments work and what treatments don’t, but there is a more important reason: the camaraderie and knowing support from individuals who are hurting. And I don’t think that needs any deciphering.