How do you know if you have IBS?
IBS stands for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Finding and treating the root cause of your IBS is essential for long-lasting relief.
Contrary to most people’s understanding IBS is not a disease, that’s why it is called a syndrome. In medical language “a syndrome is a group of signs and symptoms that are known to go together but don’t have a clear cause, course, or treatment path.” Most people diagnosed with IBS have an annoying set of symptoms that aren’t lethal, and not indicative of more serious diseases but are annoying, uncomfortable and impact their quality of life.
What are the symptoms of IBS?
- Chronic Bloating
- Constipation (also alternating diarrhoea and constipation)
- Pain and Cramping
- Excessive gas/ flatulence
- Food intolerances with no idea which foods might be culprits
You might experience the full range of symptoms or just one or two. IBS is often given as a “diagnosis of exclusion” once other more serious diseases such as Coeliac disease, colorectal cancer, Gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD) or Ulcerative Colitis are ruled out. Unfortunately, most people are told they just must live with the symptoms and there is very little treatment in allopathic medicine.
IBS is not only a bowel issue, as our digestive system is just a smaller part of the larger system of the human body, often those with IBS may also experience symptoms such as joint pain, fatigue, poor sleep, anxiety and depression.
What are some the underlying causes of IBS?
- Dysbiosis of an imbalanced gut microbiome – is when our normal healthy gut bugs have been disturbed by poor lifestyle, medications and even stress– a large percentage of IBS suffers may actually have SIBO.
- Mild Inflammation –inflammation of the gut lining is thought to be a disruptor of the nerves and muscles that function in the digestive system and can cause issues with normal motility or movement of the digestive system (see below).
- Gut Motility Issues -smooth wave like contractions of our bowels gently move food through our digestive system, allowing it to be digested and absorbed properly. If this doesn’t happen it results in altered bowel movements. Being constipated means our gut motility is under functioning and diarrhoea is a sign of too rapid motility. Some causes are dysbiosis, thyroid issues, medication side effects or slow gastric emptying.
- Visceral Hyper-sensitivity – certain individuals with IBS seem to experience pain sensation in their gut more strongly as a reaction to dysbiosis and inflammation than the general population for example their bloating might be less than others, but their perceived pain is much higher and can become debilitating.
- HPA Axis dysfunction –this in simple language means an imbalance of stress hormones due to prolonged stress, trauma, and significant life events. Stress may not only make your symptoms worse, but you may find that you have a much lower stress tolerance. Continually elevated stress hormones impact our digestion by reducing digestive enzyme function, disrupting gut motility and affecting the balance of our gut microflora.
Natural remedies for IBS
These home remedies may help you reduce IBS symptoms in the short term but please see a professional for diagnosis and ongoing care. Finding the underlying causes of your Gut issues is important, but initially relieving symptoms can allow you to feel more comfortable and give you some breathing space.
- Chamomile, peppermint, or lemon balm teas: gentle anti-inflammatory herbal teas that can help reduce gastrointestinal cramping, gas and abdominal pain.
- Iberogast is a gentle proven herbal tonic for quick symptom relief and when taken 2-3 times per day consistently, reduces low-grade inflammation and can help with motility issues, can be purchased at most pharmacies or through your naturopath.
- Digestive Enzymes to be taken with each meal to reduce bloating and gas. We should be making our own digestive enzymes underlying factors that drive IBS, maybe preventing this. Over time with the correct treatment plan, they shouldn’t be needed. A good quality practitioner-grade brand is best.
- Low FODMAP Diet: “FODMAPs” are short-chain carbohydrate containing foods which don’t get fully absorbed in the gastro-intestinal tract of IBS patients and lead to being excessively fermented by bacteria, which causes bloating, cramping and gas. Removing high FODMAP foods in the short-term will help reduce symptoms while trying to restore any gut dysbiosis and low-grade inflammation.
How to Reduce Gut Inflammation:
- Turmeric is an incredible anti-inflammatory herb that has shown a significant reduction of IBS symptoms in clinical trials. It not only provides symptom relief but reduces low-grade inflammation in the gut.
- Ginger is also a wonderful anti- inflammatory food that can be grated into hot water make a tea, juiced, blended, or used in cooking.
I hope this information has helped you work out how you know if you have IBS. These are just first steps and can offer symptom relief but getting to the underlying causes is the path to finding long term relief. If you would like to work with me and get to the root cause of your IBS, please book an appointment. I would love to help.