Gut health is one of my biggest passions. I believe that most disease starts in the gut and when the gut isn’t happy you are more susceptible to ill health. One of the most common problems I help people with is IBS.
IBS is known as a functional gastrointestinal disorder, it can be complex condition and has multiple causes which vary from person to person. It is said that 10% of adults in Ireland have IBS and it’s much more common in women than men.
The symptoms include the following and can range from mildly annoying to completely debilitating
- Bloating and distension
- Constipation/diarrhoea or alternating between both
- Abdominal pain
- Increased gas
- Mucus in stools
I have had clients tell me that there are days that they cannot leave the house, have had to miss work or are often bed ridden with pain from IBS so this is not a condition to be dismissed or downplayed.
But what is IBS?
Well, basically it’s an irritable bowel. In medical terms, it’s a “diagnosis of exclusion.” This means that it’s a label applied when other disease conditions are ruled out. If you go to your doctor complaining of the above symptoms, they may run tests to determine if you have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), GERD, diverticulitis, and other problems that affect the structure of the intestines.
If these structural conditions are ruled out, the doctor will evaluate your symptoms based on the Rome Criteria http://www.romecriteria.org/assets/pdf/19_RomeIII_apA_885-898.pdf, a set of guidelines developed by consensus to diagnose IBS. If you meet these criteria, you will diagnosed with IBS.
…Great, now that I know what’s wrong with me the doc can fix it…. Mmm not so. Many are then told that nothing can be done… you have to live with it… it’s nothing too serious… Perhaps you might be prescribed an anti-spasmodic, something to help with diarrhoea or a laxative.
However, the fundamental problem with this approach is that it merely suppresses symptoms and doesn’t address the underlying causes. Not addressing the underlying causes of any illness or diseases can leave the patient to a lifetime of unnecessary medication, suffering, and frustration.
So what is the underlying cause of IBS?
It can be different for everyone but it usually involves one or more of the following underlying mechanisms.
- An imbalance between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ microbes in the gut
- An overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine (SIBO)
- Sensitivity, allergy or intolerance to certain foods
- Intestinal permeability
- Bacterial, fungal or parasitic infections
- Low stomach acid or digestive enzyme production
Identifying and correcting these factors is key to addressing your IBS.
The Gut Brain Connection
Did you know that a higher than normal percentage of people with IBS develop depression and anxiety and that stress plays a major role in gut health?
Our intestinal mucosa has a network of nerve fibres and neurons that are influenced by signalling from the brain so the gut is an integral part of the nervous system and the brain can easily affect gut function. We’ve all experienced a ‘gut feeling’, ‘butterflies in your stomach’ or full on anxiety induced nausea.
Stress wreaks havoc on your gut in many ways – speeding up motility of the bowel which can lead to diarrhoea, promotes an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine, affects the gut microbiota and triggers local and systemic inflammation.
So, there you go. There’s lot more to IBS than meets the eye and no-one should be told that they just need to live with it or that nothing can be done. Become your own health advocate, seek answers and get help.
Contact me for details on how I can help.