Is IBS ruining your life? Find out how to treat the common symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
The diagnosis of IBS can only be made by a GP or gastroenterologist and is positive if a person has had the following symptoms for 3 months or more:
- Abdominal Pain
- Irregular bowel movements i.e constipation or diarrhoea or alternating between the two
Some of the common causes of IBS:
- A diet high in processed food that contains too much sugar, salt and trans-fats.
- Overuse of broad-based antibiotics that can reduce the numbers of your ‘friendly’ gut bacteria. A good mix of healthy bacteria and yeasts in your gut is essential for the health of the gut and overall health and wellbeing. Other drugs that may affect the levels of your ‘friendly’ gut bacteria are steroids, antacids and some painkillers.
- Stress. The last thing your brain wants you to be doing is eating dinner when it thinks you are in danger. It will stop gastric secretions, close down sphincters and slow down motility in the gut. This goes back to the times when we lived in caves and we had to run to catch our food or fight a sabre-toothed tiger that was trying to eat us. The brain gets the body ready for fight or flight. In these modern times we have different stressors, meeting deadlines and targets, getting the kids off to school, financial worries and relationship concerns, but the body is still programmed to respond as it did many thousands of years ago.
- Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) can also cause symptoms of IBS, particularly bloating, and especially bloating in the mornings. SIBO is when colonic bacteria that should be confined to the large bowel has migrated through the ileo-cecal valve into the small intestine.
Linda explains IBS
As well as the above symptoms, there can also be cramps and spasms. You may suffer indigestion, or embarrassing, excessive smelly wind. You might be constipated, suffer from diarrhoea – or even have constipation one day and diarrhoea the next.
You might feel constantly fat because of bloating, or feel socially isolated because you’re not confident about eating out. Maybe you’ve tried different medications from the pharmacy or even your GP, and nothing has worked.
If you have been diagnosed with IBS, but your healthcare provider has told you that it is ‘all in your head’, do not believe them – get a second opinion.
Many people think that IBS is caused by stress and can’t be treated, but this isn’t true. Stress can certainly contribute to the symptoms, but IBS is almost always a physiological condition, caused by an imbalance in the digestive tract, that responds well to a program of supplements, combined with diet and lifestyle changes.
When sufferers of IBS consult me for help and advice, it does not take too long for me to pinpoint exactly why they have IBS. Perhaps they were born by caesarean section and bottle-fed. Maybe they had acne as a teenager and were put on a long course of antibiotics to combat the infection, or they may have issues with acid reflux, and are taking a strong antacid. All of these factors will cause an imbalance in the delicate gut flora.
However, when we are stressed, certain gastric secretions are inhibited, so we have nothing to help digest our food and absorb our nutrients. This can create gas, bloating, indigestion and general gastric discomfort. Furthermore, gut motility is affected by stress hormones, making the gut speed up (causing diarrhoea) or slow down (causing constipation). I see many people in my clinic that have ‘confused’ bowels, with peristalsis slowing down and speeding up, and their bowel rhythms completely out of sync. So, stress is certainly a contributing factor to IBS symptoms.
The symptoms of IBS – and the lack of a “cure” – can have a huge impact on your life, and undermine your confidence. Rest assured, they can be greatly improved once you understand what is happening in the gut and take action to bring it back into balance.
In my Digestive Disorders Clinic, I’ve treated thousands of people with IBS symptoms, and they’ve all had in common a condition called dysbiosis – meaning that the bacteria and yeasts in the intestines are out of balance. Research studies also highlight dysbiosis as a possible cause of IBS: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3816178/. This imbalance may be related to illness, multiple courses of antibiotics, regular, long-term use of antacid medication, excessive prolonged stress, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO, and especially if the IBS is accompanied by bloating in the morning), parasites and other diet and lifestyle factors.
In every case my first recommendation is to take Live Bacteria (sometimes called probiotics) to help re-colonise your digestive system with “good” bacteria. My high-strength, multi-strain Live Bacteria replenishes gut flora and brings your digestive system back into balance.
In my experience, the second most important supplement for IBS is a digestive enzyme, to help the body digest food so that painful bloating is less likely to occur. I’ve added calcium to my plant-derived Digestive Enzymes to give your digestive system extra support. Take Live Bacteria with your breakfast and a Digestive Enzyme with your main meal in the evening – I’ve found this to be the best combination of supplements for most IBS symptoms.
When the digestive system has been out of balance for some time, it can become inflamed and weakened. Omega 3 has anti-inflammatory properties that can help soothe a stressed digestive system. My super-high-strength Omega 3 capsules contain cold-pressed fish oil to boost every living cell. I recommend Omega 3 to strengthen the digestive tract and calm inflammation – it works well with Live Bacteria and Digestive Enzymes in my IBS plan.
Linda’s tummy tips
Here are the tips I’ve found are most helpful for my IBS patients:
- Don’t ignore the urge to go to the loo. You’re carrying around a bag of raw sewage in your body that is rotting and fermenting – get rid of it when you feel the urge! If using strange toilets bothers you, then always carry some antibacterial wipes in your bag to give the toilet seat and flush handle a wipe down before use.
- Don’t eat when you feel stressed or emotional, as certain gastric juices are slowed down by stress hormones, leaving you with nothing to help digest your food. This can create gas, bloating, indigestion and general discomfort. If you’re in a situation where you do have to eat, such as a business lunch, take a Digestive Enzyme before your meal to help support your digestive system.
- Chew food at least 20 times before swallowing, and don’t drink a large volume of water with meals – this dilutes gastric secretions and slows digestion. Drink it half an hour before and an hour afterwards. At dinner, you could have a small glass of red wine as this will aid digestion, particularly if eating protein.
- Don’t eat too much, too fast, or too late.
- Try to avoid taking antibiotics and antacids which can interfere with your natural gut flora.
If you have sudden onset bloating and abdominal pain, make an appointment to see your doctor – your IBS symptoms could be masking something more serious.
Live Bacteria, Digestive Enzymes and Omega 3 are the supplements I recommend most often for IBS. However IBS comes in many forms, so I’ve developed different approaches for different symptoms in my IBS Plan. Depending upon your individual symptoms, you may also need to take Garlic, Charcoal or Fibre – visit my IBS Plan page to find out more.
For more in-depth advice, our Diet Plans section includes nutrition plans and lifestyle tips, including my IBS Plan.