Do you suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome and want to know why? Whilst there can be many causes for Irritable Bowel, you can dramatically improve the vast majority of unpleasant symptoms associated with this condition by adopting a few simple strategies and treatment protocols. Hopefully this article will provide the answers you need to reclaim your health in managing and overcoming Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome also known as; IBS, spastic bowel, mucus colitis, nervous indigestion and irritable colon syndrome is a common condition characterised by abdominal pain, intestinal cramps, flatulence, constipation and/or diarrhoea. Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a real condition, but it is not detectable as a structural disease. It is believed to be caused by abnormal muscular contractions within the colon. It is estimated that between 14% to 23% of the western world has been afflicted with Irritable Bowel Syndrome at some period during their life. IBS generally manifests during adulthood, is more prevalent in women than men, and is responsible for approximately 50% of all gastrointestinal complaints.
What causes Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
What causes IBS in one person may not be the cause or trigger in another. Furthermore, some sufferers may have one major trigger while others may have multiple triggers. The table below lists some of the more common causes or triggers. Identifying, understanding, investigating and treating these causes are important steps in bringing about positive lifelong changes to manage and overcome Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
|Anxiety||Blastocystis hominis||Bacterial overgrowth|
|Candida||Carbohydrate malabsorption||Cows milk|
|Dairy intolerance||Dientamoeba fragilis||Dysbiosis|
|Eating too quickly||Excess caffeine||Excess dietary fats|
|Food additives||Food allergy/sensitivities||Fructose malabsorption|
|Gastroenteritis||Gastrointestinal infection||Gluten sensitivity|
|Hormones||Junk food||Lack of beneficial gut flora|
|Lack of exercise||Lactose||Leaky gut syndrome|
|Low fibre diet||Low stomach acid||Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs|
|Painkillers||Parasites||Poor nutritional status|
|Simple sugars||Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth||Sorbitol|
Signs and symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Just like the causes, the signs and symptoms of IBS often vary from person to person. Some people may only experience 3 or 4 symptoms, whilst others can suffer anywhere from 10 to 15 symptoms. This can make daily life very difficult and at times embarrassing.
|Abdominal pain||Alternating bowel motions||Bloating|
|Constipation||Cramping in the lower abdomen||Diarrhoea|
|Easily feeling full||Fatigue||Feeling of bowels not emptying properly|
|Insomnia||Multiple daily bowel motions||Muscle aches and pains|
|Mucus in stool||Nausea||Sleep disturbances|
|Sexual dysfunction||Vomiting||Watery stools|
Irritable Bowel Syndrome Can Contribute To
IBS is a health condition in its own right, but it can also be the underling cause of, or exacerbating factor, in a variety of other health conditions.
|Auto-immune disorders||Colitis||Chronic fatigue syndrome|
|Insomnia||Leaky gut syndrome||Malabsorption|
|Nutritional deficiencies||Panic attacks||Pyroluria|
|Reduced liver function||Schizophrenia||Stress|
How to treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome
As shown in the table above there are many variable underlying causes that can contribute to Irritable Bowel Syndrome. We are all individuals and what works for one person, may not necessarily work for another. This often causes confusion and frustration for people, as they feel as though they are not making any headway and are caught on the never ending merry-go-round of digestive discomfort and embarrassing symptoms.
To make treatment as simple as possible we have designed a step by step strategy to provide relief for IBS sufferers. This suggested protocol is the same program we use on a daily basis with patients treated through our clinic. We have found that by following the basic steps mentioned below 90% to 95% of IBS sufferers we have treated, have achieved a long term symptom-free status.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Diet
The old saying "one man's food is another man's poison" is often true for IBS sufferers. Thus, the diet is generally the first place to start investigating to help improve symptoms. Some people can be allergic or sensitive to certain foods, whilst others can react to the the various compounds found in food. Either way, food reactions will contribute to, or cause Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
To determine if food allergies and sensitivities are an issue we recommend the Food Bio-Compatibility Test which investigates over 500 different foods and food brands.
To rule out the chemical compounds found in various foods as a cause or an exacerbating factor of IBS, it's advisable to go on the 7 week FODMAPs diet developed by Dr Sue Shepherd. People who show improvement on the FODMAPs diet, especially when reducing fructose containing foods, generally indicate an underlying issue of excessive detrimental gastrointestinal organisms, bacteria or parasites. These organisms eat the compounds / fructose in foods and produce chemicals which irritate the lining of the intestinal wall, resulting in many of the symptoms of IBS.
Removing all lactose (dairy) and gluten containing foods from the diet is also important, as these are often major irritants to an already sensitive intestinal tract.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Dysbiosis
There are trillions of cells that make up the body, and there are more beneficial organisms in the gastrointestinal tract than there are cells in the body. When detrimental organisms creep into the intestinal tract an imbalance occurs and the beneficial organisms are reduced. This is known as Dysbiosis which is translated from Greek and means, "bad way of living". Dysbiosis is a major contributor to IBS. When our beneficial organisms are disturbed or numbers reduced, the body is more prone to digestive, immunological, neurological and cardiovascular disorders. Blastocystis hominis and Dientamoeba fragilis are two such detrimental organisms that are known causes of IBS.
Candida is a fungal yeast overgrowth that resides in the intestinal tract and can mimic many of the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Candida is often found in conjunction with an overgrowth of detrimental organisms and often occurs when there are lower levels of beneficial intestinal bacteria.
Small Intestinal Bacteria Overgrowth (SIBO) is an overgrowth of detrimental organisms in the small intestines and can be associated with and mimic IBS. SIBO if often the cause of fructose malabsorption, which is associated with the FODMAPs Diet.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Leaky Gut
Leaky Gut Syndrome is a condition which causes microscopic holes to occur in the intestinal wall, thus allowing undigested foods, bacteria by-products, chemicals and poisons to filter into the bloodstream resulting in a myriad of health conditions. Many of the symptoms of Leaky Gut often mirror those of IBS. Both conditions exist together and both conditions will cause the other one to occur. Leaky Gut Syndrome can also be caused by dysbiosis, SIBO, candida, food allergies/sensitivities, coeliac disease, stress and medications such as antibiotics, anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) or cortisone.
Stress and Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Stress, worry and anxiety unfortunately tend to co-exist with IBS. Many cultures have linked various emotional states to specific organs within the body. For example fear is associated with the kidneys, anger with the liver and love the heart. Interestingly the emotions associated with the bowel are worry, anxiety and nervousness, the same emotions that always seem to show up in someone suffering from IBS. Generally the worse the organ function, the more severe the emotional state.
GABA is the body's main relaxing, calming and tranqulising neurotransmitter. Deficiencies in GABA present as anxiety, excessive worry and nervousness. GABA is also responsible for proper digestive function as the body needs to be in a relaxed state to produce hormones, enzymes and acids to effectively digest and assimilate the nutrients from food. The amino acid L-glutamine is responsible for making GABA as well as being essential for repairing any damage to the intestinal wall. Sufferers of Irritable Bowel Syndrome generally have reduced levels of glutamine because of either poor digestive function, inadequate diet or malabsorption. Improving GABA levels is an important step in not only feeling better emotionally, but for good digestive health.
Probiotics, Prebiotics and Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Supplemental probiotics contain beneficial strains of live bacteria naturally found in the intestinal tract. Probiotics are extremely important for IBS sufferers as they dramatically increase intestinal bacteria numbers. Prebiotics are special fibres that provide food for the existing beneficial intestinal bacteria. They rapidly increase numbers by enhancing their activity and function. Both probiotics and prebiotics play fundamental roles in reducing symptoms of IBS and bring about long term relief.
In our clinic we use the highly potent multi strain probiotic Multibac 10, and Sacchrobiotic, which contains the probiotic saccharomyces boulardiii, both which are excellent for crowding out detrimental organisms. For many IBS sufferers they require additional herbal support to kill dysbiotic organisms and for this we recommend Intestinal Cleanse.