One of the most common GI issues people in the Thryve Gut Health Program suffer from is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). IBS, also known as mucous colitis or spastic colon, is a gastric problem with several symptoms which overlap with other conditions that cause gastrointestinal distress.
These uncomfortable symptoms have blurred lines with symptoms of Leaky Gut Syndrome and Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), to name a few. Therefore, differentiating between these common GI issues can be an issue all within itself!
Let’s take a closer look at the symptoms of IBS. Also, we’ll discuss what you can do to treat this gastrointestinal problem and how to prevent IBS from occurring in the future.
What is the Cause of IBS?
Approximately one out of ten people are diagnosed with IBS. This statistic breaks down to about 15% of the world’s population suffering from this gastric problem .
Suffice to say; there’s a good chance that you or a loved one has these sort of GI problems and aren’t even aware of it.
The thing is, despite all of the science that has been done, there does not seem to be any specifically-known causes of IBS. There is, however, a lot of educated hypotheses.
According to a meta-analysis by Harvard:
“No one knows what causes IBS. Some studies suggest that the nerves of the colon may be much more sensitive than usual in people with IBS. The normal movement of food and gas through the colon causes pain, intestinal spasms and an irregular pattern of bowel movements .”
There are many potential reasons that someone might experience IBS, including:
• Side Effects to Medication
• Long-Term Use of Medicines
• Poor Diet Habits
• Digestive Tract Inflammation
• Food Allergies (Lactose Intolerance, Gluten Sensitivity, etc.)
• Sudden Lifestyle Changes
• Alcohol or Drug Abuse
Unlike other GI issues, such as the similarly named Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD), IBS doesn’t cause other gastrointestinal disorders like Crohn’s Disease or ulcerative colitis. Also, those with IBS are not any more likely to develop fatal gastrointestinal disorders such as colon cancer.
With that being said, the symptoms of IBS are very uncomfortable and do cause serious gastrointestinal distress. Let’s take a closer look at the symptoms of IBS.
There are many symptoms of IBS that will bleed over into other GI disorders. The difference is the frequency of these symptoms, the stomach bacteria making them happen, and which foods might be triggering these episodes.
Here’s a slight glimpse at some of the foods that may cause symptoms of IBS. As you can see many of these foods are within the wheelhouse of a healthy gut diet plan. However, don’t get stressed about it. We’ll talk about that a little bit later.
Common symptoms of IBS include:
• Watery or Loose Stool
• Abdominal Pain
• Frequent Bathroom Trips
The most common IBS symptoms are diarrhea and constipation. So much so, that these unhealthy bowel habits get their own classifications, IBS-D (IBS-Diarrhea) and IBS-C (IBS-Constipation), respectively. A combination of both is known as IBS-M (IBS-Mixed).
Symptoms of IBS can cause a lowered quality of life for most people. In the same breath, associated bacteria differs considering everyone has a unique gut biome (which is why we started Thryve). So, some might find these symptoms tolerable and the GI issues won’t impede their day-to-day routine. No matter where you are on the spectrum, no one needs to live their life in gastrointestinal distress.
Individual Gut Biome and GI Issues
While we outlined the main symptoms of IBS above, these GI problems can vary quite drastically from person to person. Some people may mainly experience constipation, while others battle bouts of diarrhea. It’s not uncommon to experience both symptoms at the same time or to fluctuate between the two regularly.
In fact, according to Harvard:
“The severity of the disorder varies from person to person. Some people experience symptoms that come and go and are just mildly annoying. Others have such severe daily bowel problems that IBS affects their ability to work, sleep and enjoy life. In addition, symptoms may change over time. A person may have severe symptoms for several weeks and then feel well for months or even years “
Knowing how bad the symptoms can be, what can be done to treat or prevent IBS so that it is far more manageable? Let’s take a look!
How to Treat or Prevent IBS
There is no known cure for IBS. However, it is possible to help treat this gastrointestinal problem, which can help to reduce the severity of some of the symptoms. While these life hacks won’t have the symptoms go away for good, they may help. Knowing what may trigger an onset of GI issues, and how to combat that source, may cause you to avoid unnecessary pain.
While stress does not cause IBS, it can make the symptoms of it much worse. That is why practicing mindfulness is so important. Mental stress can easily transform into something more physical in the long run.
Long-term stress can cause mental health problems, like depression and anxiety. Studies have shown that there is a strong correlation between depression, anxiety, and IBS.
The best way to destress would be to take a break, and just meditate. If you feel the need to move around, then find a compromise with yoga. In fact, there are man yoga poses for all sorts of GI problems.
You can also do other fun activities like playing video games, going outside in the sun for a walk, and listening to calming music. Do whatever you need to do to destress. Thanks to the gut-brain axis, if your mind is at ease, then your gut will be too.
Peppermint is an excellent way to soothe discomfort caused by IBS. Consider drinking a peppermint tea or using a peppermint oil tincture.
You might feel comfortable creating a massage oil with peppermint oil in it to rub on your belly. Dilute essential oils into a thicker oil, like sweet almond, extra virgin olive, or apricot kernel oil. Massage lightly in a circular motion around the stomach to help ease gas.
Change Your Diet
Remember when we discussed food triggering those horrid symptoms? You might want to eliminate some trigger-happy nom-noms temporarily from your menu plan. Try adopting alow FODMAP diet.
The FODMAP diet is popular among people who are trying to lessen their uncomfortable GI problems. This diet was crafted specifically to help reduce digestive issues in people who suffer from them. It removes foods that contain ingredients that may cause GI issues. Low FODMAP diets can negatively affect the gut bacteria if these foods are restricted long-term so we suggest limiting the diet to no more than 6 weeks and support with probiotics.
Some of these foods are rather typical, such as fatty animal meats and refined sugar. However, other inclusions in a low FODMAP Diet shocking because they are healthy, such as onions and beans.
Another thing that you should limit is caffeine. Many of us need our morning cup of coffee in order to start the day. For a lot of us, that morning cup of coffee also has us running to the bathroom. Attempt to eliminate, or at the very least reduce, the amount of caffeine that you consume every day.
Lastly, increase fiberhis addition to your menu is excellent because fiber is known to help with both constipation, as well as diarrhea.
Fiber is mainly found in fruits and vegetables. Eat a lot of leafy greens, cabbage, carrots, and berries to reduce gastrointestinal distress. These foods additionally selectively feed the beneficial bacteria which may help alleviate associated symptoms.
Many people with IBS find comfort talking to a mental health professional. They might be able to figure out what is causing these bowel habits on a subconscious level.
Psychological therapy isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. You might want to experiment with different programs like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or hypnotherapy.
These types of talk therapy sessions help you realize underlying stressors that are potentially causing you physical damage, in the form of IBS. With this information, you can discover new ways to cope with stress or learn how to move on from mental health blockades that are causing you harm.
Talk to Your Doctor
Consider talking to a doctor about your irritable colon to get a proper IBS diagnosis. There might be some underlying issues that you need to attend to.
They might want to take some blood tests or get scans of your small intestine (fluoroscopy) or large intestine (colonoscopy). Never hesitate to reach out to your doctor when your bowel habits become so irregular. You don’t want to worsen your situation.
Consume Probiotics Supplements
Most symptoms of IBS start in the gut. Think about it…diarrhea, bloating, cramping? That’s all gastrointestinal distress. So, you need to make your gut biome a better place for your microbes to live. That’s why you need custom-matched probiotic supplements for gut health.
A diverse microbiome can help prevent anyone type of bacteria in the gut from overpopulating. Having a plethora of intestinal flora species can help prevent SIBO, which is a disorder many with IBS have.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome AND SIBO
Approximately one-third of people who are diagnosed with IBS also have SIBO . A study looking into this matter looked at the gut health of healthy volunteers and people who are diagnosed with SIBO. Breath tests can help diagnose SIBO.
331 people participated in this study. Results found that 105 of the IBS patients and 7 of the healthy volunteers have SIBO.
Furthermore, scientists conducting the experiment broke the IBS group into four categories. People were classified by which symptoms were most intense for them.
Symptom groups classified included:
• Constipation (IBS-C)
• Diarrhea (IBS-D)
• Mixed Constipation and Diarrhea (IBS-M)
Using that knowledge, we then recommend personalized probiotics supplements targeted at the intestinal flora causing you gastrointestinal distress.