What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and What are the Common IBS Symptoms and Causes
IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME (IBS)
For those suffering from IBS symptoms, also known as irritable bowel syndrome, life can be a continually painful experience that can leave them feeling tired, weak, and even depressed. Worst of all, most IBS sufferers simply can’t predict or determine if they will ever find any relief from discomforts associated with this condition.
WHAT IS IBS?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is not necessarily a single illness or condition, but rather its a collection of varying IBS symptoms that may have different causes and triggers that effect your GI track.
Some of the most common causes or contributing factors to IBS include:
Parasites – people who have eaten poorly cooked foods or drank unclean water sometimes pick up parasites that make them ill. My whole family contracted giardia in Sydney a few years ago, so you don’t have to go to an exotic country. Long after the parasites have been removed from our systems and the worst of the illness is over, IBS symptoms may continue. Some people who had a parasite infestation years ago still suffer from IBS today.
Overgrowth of bad bacteria or Candida in the gut – Antibiotics kill off the helpful bacteria in the gut allowing bad bacteria and candida to overgrow. The unbalancing of the gut bacteria (called dysbiosis) can often result in IBS symptoms. Many of my clients have a history of either long term or repeated antibiotic use from when they were younger, eg acne treatment in their teenage years or other childhood illnesses and infections.
Infections – Like parasites, many people who suffered at one time from an infection, like a bad bout of gastroenteritis, may develop IBS that lasts for years once the infections have cleared up. There is hope however. There are various functional medicine tests that can help us identify what specifically is out of balance for you and then we can work to create that balance again.
COMMON IBS SYMPTOMS
There are many symptoms of IBS and while some suffers of this condition may exhibit many of the symptoms at one time or another, others may only exhibit one or two of the symptoms. In both cases symptoms may come and go.
These symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain or discomfort
- Changes in bowel habits, frequent diarrhoea or constipation or alternating between the two
- Gas and / or bloating
- Mucus in the stools
- Nausea after eating
- A sensation that bowels don’t completely empty after a bowel movement
In almost all cases suffers’ symptoms generally improve and worsen depending on factors in their day to day life. When symptoms worsen this is normally due to what is called an IBS trigger being present.
Possible triggers may include:
- Stress and how we deal with it
- Eating or drinking foods that the individual is sensitive or intolerant to (eg milk, garlic or bread)
- Eating fatty foods
- Medications such as antibiotics
- In women menses sometimes triggers IBS symptoms
- Consuming very hot or very cold foods
- Alcohol intake
- Eating spicy food
- Drinking coffee or tea, especially on an empty stomach
- Consumption of foods containing high levels of fructose
To address IBS symptoms we need to explore all of the individual triggers and remove them or learn to manage them to reduce their impact. Keeping a journal can help identify what these triggers are and once identified they become easier to manage and reduce some of the symptoms suffered.
The steps I go through with my clients are typically:
- An elimination diet to identify the food triggers that can lead to IBS symptoms
- If the elimination diet does give complete symptom relief then there are testing options. We can either do a stool test to identify how many good bugs and bad bugs you have, if parasites are present and how well you digest your food. Or we can test for SIBO, small intestinal bacteria overgrowth to see if that is contributing your symptoms.
- Once triggers are identified and removed the inflammation is reduced and we can focus on healing up the intestinal permeability and getting good bugs back into the gut to correct dysbiosis.
- The final phase is to see if the foods that used to cause symptoms can now be reintroduced or do you have to stay away from them for longer.
Interested in finding ways to help reduce your IBS symptoms? Email me, phone or book in a free strategy session today.