IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
You’ve had a camera up and down both ends, you’ve had multiple blood tests, and some stool tests to rule out every other GI condition. It’s been a long, and invasive process, and instead of leaving with some answers you leave a consult that you’ve waited 3 months for feeling further lost and confused.
At this point, you feel as though you are no better off than when you started the process and wonder, will I ever get better?
In this article we’re going to cover:
- What Causes IBS
- The Symptoms of IBS
- Top 5 things you can do to treat IBS
Before you get into this article, if at anytime you want to book a free consultation to speak with a Naturopathic Doctor about IBS, click here.
So you’ve been diagnosed with IBS…Do you want the good news or do you want the good news?
Good news is that Naturopathic Doctors love talking about poop. The other good news is that we are REALLY good at treating functional gastrointestinal disorders, especially when you’ve been told there really isn’t any other options for treatment.
IBS shouldn’t be a diagnosis of exclusion that takes months to be identified, you deserve to be diagnosed more quickly with an earlier adoption of treatment to help relieve the symptoms that are causing you distress as soon as possible!
What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
IBS is an extremely common chronic functional gastrointestinal disorder, which affects about 20% of North Americans. That means for every 1 in 5 people, they will receive the label of irritable bowel syndrome. It affects women almost twice as much as men, and can severely impact one’s quality of life.
A group of gastroenterology experts have actually developed the “Rome Criteria” to classify IBS and other functional gastrointestinal disorders.
In the conventional setting, in order to receive a diagnosis of IBS you must meet the following criteria:
Recurrent abdominal pain on average at least 1 day/ week in the last 3 months, associated with two or more of the following criteria:
- Related to defecation
- Associated with a change in frequency of stool
- Associated with a change in appearance of stool
And then in small print they state that the criteria must be fulfilled for the last 3 months with symptom onset at least 6 months prior to diagnosis. This means that typically individuals suffering with symptoms have to wait a long time before they begin to get answers.
There are different classifications of IBS including IBS-C: characterized by chronic constipation, IBS-D: characterized by chronic diarrhea, IBS-M: a combination of both diarrhea and constipation, and IBS-U: known as undefined IBS.
People with IBS may experience bloating, intense abdominal pain, stool changes, and extra intestinal symptoms such as anxiety, depression, fibromyalgia, chronic pelvic pain and chronic fatigue. Symptoms can be so severe and unpredictable, it can prevent us from going out for dinner, attending social events, going on vacation, or even attending school lectures or going in for work.
IBS can be frustrating, embarrassing, and exhausting to deal with. I’m here to tell you that IBS does not have to be controlling your life and there are effective ways to help manage IBS so that you can start living your life!
In naturopathic medicine we always ask but is it really just IBS? What’s causing the IBS? Is there an underlying factor that could be contributing to these patient’s symptoms?
What Causes IBS?
The short answer is… we don’t know exactly. The long answer is it that it could be due to combination of many things, and that combination is different for every individual.
The pathophysiology of IBS unfortunately is not black and white. What we do know is that some of these factors include impaired gut motility, increased gut permeability, visceral hypersensitivity, altered intestinal flora and gut dysbiosis, small-intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), altered enteric neurotransmitters, inflammation, diet and food sensitivities, genetics, maladaptive stress response, and more.
Not so simple huh?
A Naturopathic Approach to Treating IBS- Finding the Root Cause
Naturopathic Doctors are like gut health detectives searching for the root cause of your IBS, and investigating how a combination of the above factors may be contributing to your specific gastrointestinal symptoms.
We know that every person is unique, so what aggravates one person’s gut and IBS will not be the same as the next person.
Naturopathic Doctors are trained to look at the whole person, including how different systems communicate with one another, and how the brain communicates to the gut and vice versa.
We may ask questions like how is your mood? How is your stress? Have you had any prior infections? Antibiotic usage? Any past surgeries? What is your diet like? What does your lifestyle look like? Have you noticed any foods that make it better, or make it worse? Aside from altered bowel movements do you have any indigestion? Do you have gas or bloating immediately following a meal? Do you get any acid reflux or heart burn?
The questions help your naturopathic doctor uncover all the relevant information to know the next steps that will help you. Naturopathic doctors on average spend at least 60-90 minutes per visit with their clients, that means they get into the nitty gritty questions that you’ve probably never even thought about.
Various Treatment Options for IBS
Based on the totality of symptoms and a careful diet history, several different dietary strategies may be suggested.
Food sensitivity testing may be discussed to help explore whether any food intolerances (note not allergies) may be exacerbating your symptoms, and a tailored elimination diet followed accordingly. This does not mean you have to eliminate such foods for the rest of your life though! Another critical aspect in working with a Naturopathic Doctor to address your IBS includes helping to heal your gut so that you can eventually eat without having to compromise the foods that you enjoy eating.
A low-FODMAP diet, which stands for foods containing fermentable, oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols, may be recommended. High FODMAP foods such as broccoli, peas, garlic, onions, wheat, dairy, beans, added sugars, and even apples can be poorly absorbed in the small intestine leading to digestive complaints. They contain small and osmotically active molecules that can rapidly draw excessive fluid into the intestine (hello diarrhea), and they can be rapidly fermented by bacteria into various gases that can cause excess flatulence, abdominal pain, and bloating.
While the type of foods you eat are important, the time you eat is also as important! For those who are affected by IBS, it is important to eat small and frequent meals rather than large and irregular meals, which can worsen symptoms.
IV drips have been used for years to help people with digestive disorders. They work by bypassing the stomach and intestines, which means they can be safer than other treatments because there’s no contact time for harmful substances to build up in your system like food allergies or sensitivities do when you eat something new – it just goes straight into circulation!
IV Drip for Digestion has a few key objectives with each treatment:
· Anti-inflammatory which reduces inflammation and helps you absorb nutrients
· Targeted nutrients specific for GI healing
· Helps reduce GI pain & cramping
IBS is strongly linked to anxiety and mood disorders. You may have noticed that at times of stress, your bowels start acting up leading to endless trips to the bathroom. Unfortunately, experiencing such symptoms can make you even more stressed and it can quickly turn into a vicious cycle.
To help calm your digestive symptoms, we want to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is your body’s rest and digest response. This includes practicing mindfulness and meditation, deep belly breathing, and taking time for yourself on a regular basis to relax.
Gentle movement such as walking, yoga, or swimming can not only help reduce stress levels but also help improve bowel function. Those who incorporate more movement into their daily lives have found a reduction in the frequency and severity of their IBS symptoms.
It is also important to note that high-intensity exercises such as jumping, running, or HIIT workouts can aggravate your IBS symptoms.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can also produce significant and long-term GI symptom improvement for patients with IBS, influencing the gut-brain axis, mental-emotional health and stress management.
Enteric coated peppermint oil is one of the most widely studied supplements in the management of IBS. It has antispasmodic properties which can help soothe and relax the intestinal wall, as well as normalizing transit time, acting on certain receptors to modify the gut.
L-glutamine is an amino acid that is useful in healing the intestinal lining in those that may have inflammation in their gut. L-glutamine acts as the primary and preferred energy source of intestinal cells helping to promote proper growth and function, maintain the integrity and protective function of the gut lining, suppress pro-inflammatory signaling pathways, and protect cells against oxidative stress.
It has been noted that patients with IBS have altered concentrations of certain microorganisms in their gut compared to those without IBS. Probiotics can have a positive effect to help regulate the microbiota composition within the gut, which can lead to improvement of abdominal pain, distention, and altered bowel movement. Prebiotics are carbohydrates, specifically plant fibers, that serve as a food source for microorganisms in our gut. Current research suggests beneficial alteration of the gut microbiota as well as relief of IBS symptoms through a combination of both probiotics and prebiotics.
Research looking at acupuncture has been shown to be an effective treatment option for those suffering from IBS symptoms by regulating the gut-brain axis, helping to re-establish a smooth mind-body connection, and improving visceral hyperactivity.
This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but it provides a general overview of some of the treatment options available.
As with any treatment, it is imperative to discuss your treatment options with a health care team that has vast experience in gastrointestinal disorders. Our team at Higher Health Naturopathic clinic uses individualized medicine, looking at the totality of symptoms to determine a treatment plan that’s the right fit for you.
Let’s work together to help you feel better, sooner. Book a free consultation with one of our naturopathic doctors today.