Are you struggling with inexplicable stomach problems such as gas, bloating, or abdominal pain? Is it often difficult for you to make it to the bathroom in time or to get out in a timely manner? If so, your symptoms sound a lot like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
While it’s not always considered polite to discuss digestion distress, far too many people are suffering from the symptoms of IBS in silence. I want to help you get the relief you need by creating some clarity around the causes of IBS and what you can do to avoid them.
The Problem with Conventional IBS Treatments
In the mainstream medical community, the standard treatment for IBS is to use medication to reduce the cramping and diarrhea. While this alleviates the worst of the condition’s symptoms (at least for some people), it doesn’t address the underlying causes of the irritation.
Likewise, many medications have side effects that are as painful as IBS itself. Some people find that their prescribed pills lead to even more gas and bloating. In some instances, these medications have also been linked to otherwise unnecessary bowel surgeries and death.
Considering these failures, it’s hardly surprising that many IBS patients are desperate for an alternative. The good news? Functional medicine offers superior solutions for addressing the causes of IBS and alleviating them for long-term relief.
Top Five Causes of IBS
A functional medicine approach is an excellent way of addressing IBS because it takes into account the ways that systems in your body interact with each other. In this way, the underlying causes of the condition can be worked through, rather than merely suppressing the symptoms temporarily.
Because IBS isn’t considered to be a single medical condition, the causes can vary considerably for different people. However, any of the five following conditions is a likely contender for the cause of your gut irritation.
1. Increased Intestinal Barrier Permeability (Leaky Gut)
Your digestive system takes in a tremendous amount of food each day, which is why it’s so important that it acts as a barrier against potential pathogens and partially digested food particles. It’s hardly surprising that IBS has been linked to gaps in this digestive protection, often called Leaky Gut Syndrome (LGS).
Leaky Gut Syndrome is caused by damage to the intestinal lining that limits its ability to protect the body from foreign contaminants or to filter nutrients. It is considered to be a cause of many chronic health conditions because these toxins can “leak” into the bloodstream and cause irritation. Skin problems, joint pain, chronic inflammation, and IBS are all considered to be connected to LGS.
Standard testing for Leaky Gut Syndrome involves an Intestinal Permeability Test. This powerful diagnostic tool will assess the absorption levels of the small intestine to see if it’s functioning properly. From this information, we can work together to determine a plan to combat the problem and hopefully alleviate the symptoms of IBS for good.
2. Disrupted Gut Microbiota
Never underestimate the complexity of your gut. This thriving ecosystem is home to trillions of bacteria, all of which are responsible for maintaining equilibrium and health within your body. This means that problems with your gut bacteria can quickly trigger IBS symptoms.
Just how prevalent are microbe imbalances with IBS? Research shows that four out of five IBS patients have evidence of abnormal bacteria in their fecal matter. The good news? Studies also reveal that recalibrating your digestive system with regular doses of prebiotics and probiotics can be useful for eradicating IBS. Following a diet that restricts your consumption of carbohydrates can also help.
To gain insight on whether gut bacterial imbalances are responsible for your sensitive stomach, I recommend undergoing a Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis. This test will determine the overall health of your digestive system and provide insight into whether you are suffering from a wide variety of digestive issues.
3. Gut Infections
Thanks to your stomach acid and a host of other natural barriers, your digestive system is relatively resistant to bacterial infection. That’s not to say that pathogens can’t occasionally still cause problems. The modern processed diet is often to blame for this problem, as is chronic stress and dependence on pharmaceuticals.
Sometimes, these gut infections can trigger IBS symptoms. Intestinal parasites are a surprisingly common cause of digestive difficulties, and a single bout of food poisoning can lead to stomach problems long after you’ve recovered.
If diet and lifestyle changes aren’t making a dent in your IBS symptoms, be sure to book an appointment with your doctor to rule out whether an infection is responsible for your health problems.
4. Food Sensitivities and Intolerances
It might seem silly that food could be the cause of all your health problems, but the high prevalence of food intolerances today makes it clear that what you eat plays a major role in how well your body functions.
Food sensitives are one potential cause of IBS symptoms. Though they are commonly confused with food allergies, a food sensitivity produces different responses in your immune system. For example, only IgG, IgA and IgM antibodies are released when your system encounters food that it is sensitive to, while allergic responses trigger the release of the far more potent antibody IgE. Likewise, sensitivities tend to take longer to show physical symptoms, ranging from an hour to well over three weeks.
In contrast, a food intolerance isn’t triggered by an immune reaction. Instead, intolerances are situations where a specific ingredient in a food irritates a digestive system, often to the point that it prevents it from functioning properly. Symptoms of intolerances typically resemble IBS, as they can include stomach aches, heartburn, vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation.If a food sensitivity or intolerance is the cause of your IBS symptoms, it’s important to determine which food is responsible and find ways to limit it in your diet. Dairy and gluten are common causes of digestive problems, but many varieties of food might be to blame.
The first step for getting to the root of the issue will be to make an appointment to undergo allergy and sensitivity testing to determine what foods may be the source of your problems.
5. Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)
Considered to be an abnormal overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine, SIBO is a likely cause of IBS symptoms in a variety of patients. This bacterial overgrowth can trigger a host of health problems for your digestive system. In many cases, it will consume a significant portion of the nutrients in your food and leave you with painful gas and bloating from the resulting digestive gases.
Many doctors believe that SIBO is a leading cause of IBS. A recent study discovered that over 80 percent of IBS patients also had SIBO, and the antibiotics that treat SIBO have also been found to be useful for treating IBS as well.
Treating IBS at The Dempster Clinic- Center for Functional Medicine
Irritable Bowel Syndrome might be highly inconvenient, but it doesn’t need to be inevitable. Skip the band-aid approach, and instead find ways to identify the causes of IBS so that you can remove it from your system for good.
At The Dempster Clinic- Center for Functional Medicine, I will work with you to identify the main causes for your IBS and help you devise a wellness plan that will restore you to full functionality.
I am pleased to offer a Complimentary 15-minute Discovery Session for all first-time patients. This session can take place over the phone or in person at the clinic. It is an opportunity for you to better understand what services I provide and how they can be of benefit to you.
Please consider scheduling an appointment today! Your best health awaits.
Dr. John Dempster
The Dempster Clinic-
Center for Functional Medicine