26 April 2011

Thinking about the Duke and Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Through Hardball Talk, I read an article in the Seattle Times.  Defensive wunderkind CF Franklin Gutierrez spent time at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota undergoing a series of tests to have a better understanding of his increasingly worse intestinal ailment which had landed him on the disabled list.  They reached a diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome, which can be somewhat controlled with medication.  He expressed a sentiment I have heard from a few friends who experienced similar circumstances:
"I've been having this a long time and nobody knew what I had, so knowing now this is what I have (and) can be treatable makes me feel better mentally and now I want to feel better physically, too, to get ready and be here again," Gutierrez said. "It's going to take time for the medicine to work. Let's see how it goes."
My knowledge of IBS is somewhat limited.  However, I will do my best to explain it.  It is a disease that is diagnosed because pretty much everything else has been ruled out.  It is not well understood and conditions known as IBS may actually encompass several different issues yet unknown.  Stress is known to intensify symptoms, which include bloatedness, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.  There also seems to be a connection between IBS and depression.  This may be the product of dysregulation of serotonin levels associated with IBS.

This story and this connection between IBS and depression also makes me think of Justin Duchscherer.  In the May edition of Men's Health, Duchscherer gave an interview to the amazing writer Pat Jordan in which Duke discusses his issues with depression.  Here is an excerpt from the article where he is explaining how he feels:
“People think if you’re rich, you must be happy,” he says. “They can’t understand why you’re not. I feel guilty making so much money playing a game. If I pitch a shutout, it doesn’t make me happy. I think of the guys I struck out, how they’re going home, depressed, to their families.”
I find this interesting because he also suffers from IBS.  In Oakland, Duchscherer started out in the bullpen and would have issues with his bowels.  In the middle to late innings, he would often run off to the bathroom from the pen to use the restroom.  The A's, noticing how his 'nerves' were not handling the bullpen well, shifted him to the starting rotation to give him scenarios where he knew exactly when he would pitch.  That certainty paid off for the A's and resulted in Duchscherer pitching quite effectively when healthy.  The Orioles are hoping that in the second half of the year that Duchscherer is able to provide some usefulness to their rotation.  He is currently dealing with a chronic hip issue that does not appear to be going away.  Based on the current performance of the starting staff and the thin talent at AAA, the Orioles will need him.

I don't know how prevalent IBS is among baseball players.  In a 1999 study on long distance runners and cyclists, it was found that 71% and 64%, respectively, suffered from lower intestinal problems.  Many of these individuals are likely suffering from IBS.  However, it is largely assumed that long distance running or cycling would be more likely to suffer from intestinal issues as extreme fatigue redirects blood from the intestines to the brain and muscles.  Baseball players likely do not have this confounding factor at play.  The only two other professional baseball players who suffered from this that I am aware of are George Brett and Matt McCarthy.  The latter is the author of Odd Man Out, which we will be reading in late June as part of the Camden Depot Book Club.


DempseysArmy said...

That's great if they finally figured it out. But I am suspect that it is IBS...seems like he wouldn't have to go all the way to the Mayo Clinic to figure that out. IBS is not a rare affliction.

My guess is still that he has a dietary issue (maybe a gluten or dairy deal that hasn't been diagnosed) or some sort of gastroparesis...but who knows.

Jon Shepherd said...

From my understanding, I imagine he went to the Mayo Clinic where they tried to figure out if he had celiac's or other diseases. Everything came back negative, so they went with IBS. IBS is basically what you blame when you cannot determine a cause. That said a lot of these diseases are hard to verify. Hopkins and Seattle have been fighting over whether my dad has celiac's.