Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is characterised by cramping pain, constipation and/or diarrhoea, bloating, gas, fatigue, anxiety, or depression. It can seriously affect your ability to function at work, attend social activities and even do everyday tasks such as shopping, due to the need to be near your own safe and comfortable bathroom. This is a serious condition that needs to be properly resolved to lead a normal life.
There are several types of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Bouts of diarrhoea characterize IBS-D. IBS-C is characterized by constipation, but it is common for people to alternate between the two.
Treating the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome simply won’t do. We need to know what has caused your condition so that it can be treated properly.
Causes of IBS
Food Sensitivities are a common cause of IBS and should be the first thing to investigate. The best way to do this is to keep a food/poop diary and write down everything that you eat and drink throughout the day. Also keep a record of how many times you poop each day and whether it was hard, normal or loose. It would help if you also notated other symptoms, such as abdominal pain and bloating. Just keep in mind that it can take hours to days before your symptoms occur after eating. This can vary due to the speed at which digested food travels through your gut (motility).
Common problematic foods include the following.
- Wheat products including bread, pasta, pizza, breakfast cereals, biscuits and cake
- Dairy products, including milk and cheese. Check your protein shake to see if it contains whey
- Sugar and artificial sweeteners including soda drinks
- Alcohol – its basically fermented sugar
- some foods such as beans, cabbage, garlic and onions
Stress plays a major role in Irritable Bowel Syndrome. The Vegas nerve connects the brain and the gut. This is a bidirectional nerve that communicates information from the gut to the brain and from the brain to the gut. There is always cross-talk going on. Both the gut and the brain utilize the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin. Those suffering stress, anxiety or depression typically have lower levels of serotonin. For some, stress can increase the speed of the gut’s motility leading to diarrhoea. For others, it slows the motility leading to constipation.
Intestinal Microbiome. This refers to the trillions of microorganisms that live in your large intestine (bowel). The beneficial organisms love to consume fibre. They ferment it to produce short-chain fatty acids and neurotransmitters like serotonin. They also are largely responsible for the state of your immune system. The opportunistic or pathogenic organisms love to consume sugars and if there is a sufficient supply of sugar, they can overcrowd the beneficial bacteria.
Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO). This occurs when opportunistic microbes colonize the small intestine in large or unbalanced amounts. This can lead to bloating, cramping pains, gas and constipation or diarrhoea.
There are some great stool tests that you can do in the comfort of your own home and the results will be available in a couple of weeks. The test identifies immune and digestive markers as well as pathogenic bacteria, fungi, parasites and viruses. It also alerts you to any deficiencies in beneficial bacterial species.
Armed with this knowledge, we can eliminate the bad microbes, repair the leaky gut and re-inoculate the gut with healthy bacteria. This will help restore your gut’s normal function, improve your immune system, and improve neurotransmitter synthesis, thus reducing anxiety. This can be life-changing and your gut will love you for it.
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