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Controlling IBS

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May 12, 2010

Amy McMahon works out and eats right and it shows. So when this 50-year-old began to bloat uncontrollably she knew something was wrong.

"My stomach was distended; I'm going to say seven months pregnant. It was just this area and my skin turned really red," she said.

It took nine months of failed treatments and testing before McMahon was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome.

"It was awful, it was really awful, by midday I'd have to lay down," she said.

Dr. Mark Pimentel treated McMahon at Cedars Sinai Medical Center with an antibiotic called Rifaximin.

Of 1,200 IBS patients taking part in the study, 40 percent said they felt better with the antibiotic and symptoms went away. The drug targets bacteria in the small intestine.

"It's not bad bacteria," Pimentel explained, "it's that they don't belong in the small intestine."

Pimentel and his researchers were the first to figure out that bacteria was causing IBS, until then, doctors would often link IBS to stress and treat sufferers with antidepressants. The diarrhea and constipation of IBS could be reduced with medications but nothing would last.

"This is the first antibiotic, this Rifaximin, that treats IBS. They get better and stay better. Every other therapy we've used as soon as you stop it they get sick again," Pimentel said.

Currently Rifaximin is not FDA approved to treat IBS, although doctors can still choose to prescribe it. McMahon is thankful she took part in the clinical trial.

"I'm feeling really good," she said.

Three years later she's still symptom free.

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