I’m sure you know the feeling, even though you may not know the name. Irritable bowel syndrome or Spastic Colon is one of the most common intestinal disorders. Most doctors and patients find it hard to clearly define just what Irritable Bowel Syndrome is. It used to be a diagnosis of exclusion where the doctor would finally label your symptoms as IBS when they couldn’t think of anything else to call it,But IBS research has advanced so much in the last 5 years that it has cleared the path to a much fuller understanding of the cause and effects of IBS.
This syndrome – or collection of symptoms, may start with (photo) indigestion, bloating, gas and abnormal bowel frequency and then progress to (photo) abdominal pain, cramping, heartburn, diarrhea alternating with constipation and nausea. In addition, many patients have what are called “extra-intestinal symptoms that are outside the digestive tract like fatigue, fibromyalgia, urinary frequency, brain fog, skin conditions and headache.
Unfortunately, people tend to travel a disheartening journey starting with over-the-counter medications and then turn to their doctor for stronger drugs, and then possibly to the gastroenderologist for a colonoscopy and barium enemas. Along the way they may have realized that some foods increase their symptoms, and so tried limiting their diets so much that they are afraid to eat. In the end, sadly, they continue to suffer and even may be on antidepressants.
IBS is a problem in three fundamental areas: bacterial imbalance, neurology and inflammation without the outward signs of the more aggressive gut diseases like Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) or Crone’s disease. It can be considered a ”functional” disorder where the bowel doesn’t work properly and has increased sensitivity and pain, most often in the left lower area of the abdomen . There can be decreased gut contractions that cause constipation-called IBS-C or increased contractions causing diarrhea called IBS-D. In this circumstance the diarrhea is usually brief and a mucus coating is often observed.
Initially the symptoms are minimal but each new problem slowly leads to the next until your symptoms overflow limiting your quality of life. This may take years to fully develop and you might not recognize the beginning phases because the surface of the digestive tract has no pain receptors to let you know that troubles are on the way, and because some of the symptoms you have don’t seem to be related to the gut at all.
Medication, may temporarily decrease the symptoms but your underlying condition is not improved in any way, and will probably result in decreased absorption of vital nutrients leading to new problems and worsening your old ones.
I’ll list some of the causes of IBS here and then go into each one more thoroughly in other videos.
1) Bacterial Imbalance-This is when the bad bacteria overcome the good bacteria
2) SIBO or Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth- Here the bacteria move into the small intestine where they shouldn’t be
3) The gut – Brain axis –Studies have found that activity in certain brain areas are related to IBS
4) H. Pylori Infection- This is a bacterial infection of the stomach and upper small intestine causing ulcers, and changes in stomach acid.
5) Alcohol consumption. Alcohol is a strong GI irritant and can increase the inflammation in the gut.
6) Stress – This decreases stomach acid production which then leads to decreased digestive enzymes and IBS
7) Slow bowel transit time –This occurs in hypothyroid conditions and the slow movement of the bowel causes added irritation and bacterial buildup.
8) The typical western diet- This diet is high in processed, refined foods that contain very little digestive enzymes leading to gut imbalance
9) Gluten sensitivity or lactose intolerance –This cause an immune response to wheat or dairy that then damages the GI tract and results in inflammation.
10) Increased age – There is evidence shows that advancing age decreases digestive enzyme production and mal-absorption.
11) Microscopic Colitis – This is a variant of inflammatory bowel disease where very small changes in the lining of the intestines resulting in inflammation and nerve irritation.
12) Food Poisoning – many IBS sufferers show a history of acute gastritis and chronic IBS can be the result of this event.
13) Serotonin imbalance – the gut makes 90% of the bodies serotonin that is primarily responsible for the movement of the contents of the bowel, there for with less movement there is more irritation of the gut wall
There is good news.
By far, the most effective approach is much simpler than you think, but it does require a plan. The first thing to consider is that the cause of IBS is probably not a recent event. It is likely that this has been developing for quite some time involving several aspects of digestion, but the only way to expect a lasting solution is to determine the CAUSE.
Testing the gut is now a reliable and non-invasive way to scientifically direct our approach so we don’t have to waist time hunting for the right combination of supplementation, diet change, and lifestyle modification. I’ll go over the testing options in other videos but you should know that it is not only possible but probable that with proper treatment, the gut environment begins to improve and the inflammation in the walls of the gut decreases, leading to an improved immune picture, better nutrient absorption and normal function. Also when this happens, the other “extra-intestinal” symptoms like headache, brain fog, and skin reactions decrease as well.