What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is characterized by distressing symptoms of abdominal pain, gas, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. It is believed as much as 20% of the American population suffers from IBS. These individuals will suffer for years and have few options to help provide relief outside of taking ineffective pharmaceutical drugs. This only cover up the symptoms without identifying the true underlying cause of their symptoms.
Traditional diagnostic testing such as stool analysis, colonoscopy, and endoscopy often fails to find the underlying source of the problem. To complicate matters the cause of IBS and its symptoms can vary from person to person. Taking a complete medical history that includes looking at personal and environmental stressors, dietary habits, medication history (over years), family history, and social history can help provide clues to what may have precipitated and continues to exacerbate IBS symptoms. Simply listening to symptom history alone will help provide clues. However this is only a start.
5 Suspected Causes of IBS:
There’s often more than one source contributing to IBS. These are 5 known or suspected causes of IBS:
1. Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) is the over proliferation of bacteria that normally live in the intestinal tract.
2. Yeast and/or Parasite Overgrowth results from taking antibiotics, poor diet, eating contaminated or undercooked food or drinking contaminated water.
3. Food Sensitivities are a very under recognized source of IBS. It is a delayed hypersensitivity reaction to food.
4. Prolonged Stress results in a lowering Secretary IgA in the gut and results in immune dysfunction thereby further compromising the gastrointestinal tract.
5. Medications such as anti-inflammatories and steroids will also compromise the gastrointestinal tract and its ability to properly absorb vital nutrients important to the intricate nervous system contained here.
5 Common Treatments for Controlling IBS:
Treating IBS will be based on first identifying the underlying cause or causes. Then a targeted approach can be introduced to end the suffering once and for all. To identify 5 treatments you have to look at the 5 sources contributing to IBS presented.
1. Antibiotics and Probiotics: If you have SIBO confirmed by breath testing with your gastroenterologist treatment will be geared to reducing the bacterial overgrowth with Rifaximin (Xifaxan), an antibiotic. It is also important to take a good probiotic to repopulate the gut with good bacteria and to follow a diet that is lower in carbohydrates. This will further discourage bacterial overgrowth. It is recommended to eat more protein, non-starchy vegetables, and soluble fiber.
2. Antifungal and antiparasitics: It yeast or parasites are a known or suspected cause, then treatment with natural or pharmaceutical antifungals and antiparasitics would be recommended. Again taking a prebiotics and probiotics would be advised. It is also advised to consume an anti-candida diet or one that is low in carbohydrates.
3. Food elimination: The best way to determine food sensitivities is to have a food sensitivity test done. This should be done with a practitioner trained in functional diagnostic testing.
If this is not an option for you, then a food elimination diet should be implemented. It can be a challenge to pinpoint which food or foods may be a factor. You can begin by eliminating gluten, soy, dairy, eggs, peanuts, and corn. Then after one month reintroduce one at a time each week. If your symptoms improved and then come back as you reintroduce a given good you are likely sensitive to that particular food source.
It has been my experience though that people will often be sensitive to other food aside from the six mentioned. They are often foods people consume often, love, or crave.
4. Manage Stress: Who does not have stress? This has a significant impact on our gut health, better known as our second brain. Learning to say no and not overextending yourself might be the first step. Implementing various stress management techniques into your daily life such as meditation, Qi Gong, deep breathing exercises, journaling, and nature walks are just some things that can help with stress reduction.
5. Avoid Medications: Have your health care providers or practitioner trained in integrative or functional medicine help you to get off medications such as anti-inflammatories if possible. There may be other treatment alternatives that are less apt to compromise your gut lining. Better yet, identify the underlying cause that is leading to your need for these medications in the first place.
IBS is more than a gut motility problem and uncovering the root cause often requires looking beyond just treating symptoms.