Don’t Be a Martyr: Stop Suffering from IBS

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is the most common functional gastrointestinal disorder. According to a clinical review published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) affects between 7-21% percent of Americans. This equates to about 60 million people just in the U.S. alone!

IBS is not a singular disease or the root cause of one; rather, it’s a cluster of symptoms caused by a variety of factors. Some common symptoms of IBS include: 

  • Bloating and gas
  • Cramping and abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea or constipation, or both
  • Changes in stool color and appearance, including having loose stools or mucus in stools.

Those who suffer from IBS report a lower quality of life and call in sick from work or school twice as often as the general population. Depression and anxiety often accompany IBS, most likely through the gut–brain axis, which is the connection between the nervous system of the GI tract and the central nervous system going to the brain.

The pathogenesis of IBS is multifactorial, with each person experiencing a unique set of triggers at one given time. Some of the most common causes and triggers include: 

  • Poor eating hygiene (not chewing, eating on the run, eating fast, drinking too much liquids with meals, etc.) Check out our previous blog post on eating hygiene
  • Stress
  • Food sensitivities/allergies
  • Nutrient deficiencies
  • Use of certain medications that can cause diarrhea or constipation
  • Hormonal changes
  • Dehydration
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Hypochlorhydria
  • Prior history of food poisoning 
  • SIBO or other small or large intestinal dysbiosis

A functional nutrition plan for resolving IBS symptoms is tailored to each individual’s needs, depending on the underlying causes of the condition. However, all remedies generally will begin with dietary and lifestyle support. Creating an environment that allows the nervous system to relax and stimulate digestion is the first step to recovery.  This includes lifestyle factors such as chewing mindfully, healing emotional and physiological stressors, being adequately hydrated, and addressing diet pattern, food sensitivities, and nutrient imbalances. 

If the foundational building blocks of digestion are addressed and IBS symptoms still persist, testing for overgrowths in the small intestines can be  important. In these situations, bacteria and/or fungi that are supposed to reside in the large intestine creeps up into the small intestines and colonize, becoming a great example of the right microbes in the wrong place feasting on way too much food before the body has a chance to digest it first. 

There is a lot of overlap between symptoms and causes of both small intestinal overgrowths and IBS. If you experience one of these conditions, you’re more likely to experience the other. In fact, one study found as many as 78 percent of IBS patients also had hydrogen-dominant small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.  

As Functional Medicine expert, Chris Kresser states, “treating gastrointestinal symptoms without addressing the underlying root cause is similar to repeatedly placing buckets underneath water dripping from the ceiling. The floor below may stay dry, but that won’t fix the hole in the roof. Over time, the leaky roof could lead to additional problems, like mold and structural instability.”

If you or a loved one is interested in healing IBS symptoms, we recommend beginning with the foundational basics. While they are foundational, they can sometimes be the most challenging to implement and having support can be powerful. In the coming months, we will be launching a 12 week group program that will support you in addressing these foundational concepts to optimal gut functioning. Please stay tuned for more information coming soon, or pre-register here!

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