The Low-Down on IBS

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Feel like your life is being run by your bowels?

Perhaps you’ve give up on going out to dinner, taking a trip, or pretty much doing anything! You probably feel like you’ve tried it all - from upping the fibre to taking yoga classes and you’re simply fed up. Let’s look at what could be causing your discomfort so you can start healing your gut.


Irritable bowel syndrome is just that – a syndrome. So it’s not only bowel irritated but there’s a whole host of causes and symptoms associated with IBS. Scientists have classified IBS as a functional disease, a somewhat umbrella term to describe a dysfunctional bowel and numerous underlying reasons.

Diagnosing IBS

Here’s the list of criteria healthcare practitioners consult when diagnosing IBS:

  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Pain relief after a bowel movement
  • Frequent and looser stools as pain starts
  • Feelings of incomplete rectal evacuation
  • Mucus emerging with the stool
  • Presence of symptoms about 25% of the time
  • Constipation
  • Painful bowel movements
  • Painless diarrhoea
  • Flatulence
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression
  • Bloating

What Exactly Causes IBS?

Some of the major triggers for irritable bowel syndrome include:

  • Imbalanced gut flora – the flora in our guts plays a very important role in our health so when we take antibiotics, particularly repeatedly, it can wipe out that bacteria. When the good bacteria that helps us with digestion becomes imbalanced, digestion and immunity are compromised.
  • GI Infection – some people tend to develop IBS after a bout of food poisoning or other intestinal parasites.
  • Food intolerances – food sensitivities or intolerances are a major contributor to IBS. Common triggers include sugar, chocolate, wheat, dairy, gluten, citrus fruits, coffee.
  • Hormonal imbalance – IBS tends to flare up just before a period. It’s not yet clear why this is so but it’s possible that when the ratio between oestrogen and progesterone are off during a cycle, sluggish bowels can worsen cramping and congestion.
  • Stress – anxiety and stress affect the body in a variety of ways. In IBS sufferers, there will be a decrease in digestion.

How to Develop a Healthy Gut

There are a number of measures that can be taken to develop a healthy gut.

  • Probiotics – a probiotic can help alleviate some instances of IBS. You’ll find probiotics in fermented foods like kefir, miso and yogurt and a range of supplements.
  • Allergy testing and elimination – try eliminating trigger foods like lactose and gluten and see if this helps improve your digestion. Or visit a holistic allergist for food testing to find out what triggers your IBS.
  • Stool analysis – talk to your GP about a digestive stool analysis. This could offer answers about pH imbalance, yeast overgrowth, parasites or malabsorption.
  • m Multivitamins – digestive health is crucial to extracting the essential nutrients from the food you eat. If the digestive process becomes compromised, you’re not receiving the required micronutrients for basic functions. Take a high quality multivitamin and mineral complex.
  • Consume loads of fibre and fresh, whole foods – the human body is designed to eat fresh, whole foods – foodstuffs void of additives and hormones. And foods that have not been refined or genetically modified. What’s more the gut requires dietary fibre to work properly. The gut ferments dietary fibre, producing short-chain fatty acids such as butyric acid – the primary source of fuel for the colon.
  • Natural herbs – herbs such as ginger, marshmallow, enteric-coated peppermint, Swedish bitters, slippery elm bark, deglycyrrhizinated licorice root and fennel seeds can all help greatly to calm irritable bowel syndrome symptoms. A good deal of these healing herbs have been used over generations and don’t generally have side effects. Do a little research first and get to know what they’re used for and remember to seek advice from a qualified practitioner for best results.

While IBS can be annoying, it need not be debilitating. Seek help with looking after your gut and making sure your digestive system works the way it is supposed to.

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