Are you living with an Irritable Bowel?

Have you been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome or IBS? Have you been told you have to live with your symptoms? IBS is what is called a diagnosis of exclusion.  This means that people are given this diagnosis when other reasons for their symptoms can’t be found. There are no tests specifically for IBS. They are basically saying ‘we don’t know why your digestion is so bad, so we’ll call it IBS’. 

Common symptoms are constipation or diarrhoea, urgency to have a bowel movement, a small volume of stool or pain in the abdomen all while appearing otherwise healthy.  

Once you have been given this diagnosis, problems such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, parasitic, fungal and viral infections or cancer should have been ruled out. At this point you may have been told that you just need to live with your symptoms, which can be disheartening.

But poor digestion is not something that you should live with. If you are not digesting your food properly, you are not getting the nutrients you need. The toxins that your body is trying to expel are sitting there for longer than they should.  This can lead to any number of problems including cancer, arthritis, fatigue, migraines, and depression.  Many symptoms will get better by improving your digestion, so it is very important to make sure that your gut is working properly. 

There are in fact many causes of IBS.  There can be a hormonal connection, a lack or imbalance of bacteria in the gut or overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine called SIBO.  IBS can also be caused by a high stress lifestyle, a generally poor diet, or a sedentary lifestyle. The most common reason I find is an imbalance of bacteria going along with food intolerances.

In addition to the IBS symptoms, food intolerances can also present themselves as headaches, fatigue, depression, arthritis, chronic respiratory problems, weight problems, anxiety, insomnia, and migraines. 

Food intolerances develop when there is inflammation in the lining of the gut allowing small particles of food to cross where they are not meant to.  The body does not like them there, and so reacts to them.  Reactions can be delayed and can last for days to weeks, so they are difficult to diagnose.  The best way to diagnose and treat food intolerances is to do an elimination diet.  This usually gives a very clear picture of what foods an individual is intolerant to and which ones they can eat.  Common foods are wheat, dairy, soy, tomatoes, bananas, and sugar, but everyone is different and so the foods will be different for everyone.

There are several supplements that can help with IBS depending on a person’s specific symptoms, but a probiotic is almost always recommended.  Talk to your naturopath to make sure you get a good quality one as some of the ones in the stores do not have a very high bacteria count and so are a waste of money.

If you think you might have IBS, talk to your doctor to rule out any other nastier problems.  If you know you have IBS, all is not lost.  There are several treatments options to try. No one should live with poor digestion.