Irritable bowel syndrome is a very common gut disorder. The standard medical view is that the exact cause is not known. The most common presenting symptoms are bloating, flatulence, diarrhoea and / or constipation. It is estimated that as many as 20% of the population could be suffering with this condition. IBS can affect anyone at any age, but it commonly first develops in young adults. IBS is almost twice as common in women.
Introduction to IBS
I am presenting this article as a healthcare practitioner with over 30+ years of clinical experience in successfully dealing with this very common condition. More than anything else, IBS is a dietary issue. It is primarily an “allergic” reaction to specific foods. The allergic reaction is not classic allergy (immediate) but rather a slow, insidious, inflammatory reaction – more commonly known as a “food intolerance reaction”. It is because of the slow, insidious nature of this food intolerance reaction that it has been missed.
What are the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?
- Pain and discomfort – usually comes and goes in episodes. The length of each bout of pain can vary greatly. Many people with
IBS describe the pain as a spasm or colic. The severity of the pain can vary from mild to severe.
- Bloatingand swelling of your abdomen may develop from time to time. You may pass more wind than usual.
- Changes in stools:
- Some people have bouts ofdiarrhoea and some have bouts of constipation
- They may have a feeling of not emptying after going to the toilet.
- Some people have urgency, which means they have to get to the toilet quickly. A morning rush is common. That is, they feel an urgent need to go to the toilet several times shortly after getting up. This is often during and after breakfast.
Note: Passing blood is not a symptom of IBS. You should tell a doctor if you pass blood.
Is there a test for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?
There is no medical test that confirms the diagnosis of IBS. A doctor can usually diagnose IBS from the typical symptoms. A colonoscopy is commonly done to help rule out other conditions such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, coeliac disease or colon cancer.
What causes irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?
The standard medical opinion is that the cause is not clear. However, we are very clear about two primary causative factors:
- Stress or emotional upset appears to play an important role. About 50% of people suffering with IBS can relate the start of their symptoms to a stressful event in their life. Symptoms tend to become worse during times of stress or anxiety.
- Intolerance to certain foods has a major role to play in this condition
What are the treatments for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?
Many people are frustrated with a diagnosis of IBS because there is no simple medical solution. The medical treatment of IBS is primarily directed towards easing the symptoms and improving the quality of life of the patient.
- Exercise – regular exercise is known to help to ease symptoms.
- Managing stress levels – stress and other emotional factors appear to trigger symptoms in some people. So, anything that can reduce your level of stress or emotional upset may help.
- Keeping a symptom diary – may help you to monitor symptoms. Note everything that you eat and drink, times that you were stressed, and when you took any formal exercise. This may help to identify triggers, such as a food, alcohol, or emotional stresses.
- Fibre – the advice about fibre in treating IBS is mixed and confusing. Early research studies indicated that a
high-fibre diet helped symptoms in IBS. Our observations have been the complete opposite. Because wheat intolerance is very common, we have found that in very many cases, wheat bran (fibre – pictured right) makes matters worse.
Our experience has been that in the majority of cases, people with IBS find that one or more individual foods can trigger symptoms, or make symptoms worse. If you are not sure if a food is causing symptoms, it may be worth discussing this with a doctor who may refer you for a food intolerance test. Refer to this website for details of food intolerance testing.
Taking probiotics may increase the good bacteria in the gut and this will help to ward off the bad bacteria that may have some effect on causing IBS symptoms. Further research is needed to help identify which are the most beneficial bacteria. Our observations indicate that the bifidobacteria are definitely the most beneficial for people suffering with IBS. Probiotics work best when they are used in conjunction with the dietary changes recommended by the food intolerance test. It is important to remember that the bad gut bacteria are being fed by these intolerance (undigested) foods.
Peppermint oil may help with bloating and wind. It is available over-the-counter or on prescription. If on prescription drugs or if you are pregnant, you should discuss this with your pharmacist or doctor beforehand.
Could This be an INFLAMMATORY Condition?
YES, an increasing number of practitioners are coming to recognise that “inflammation” best describes all of the above symptoms. People are starting to recognise that specific foods are triggering these symptoms. However, unlike normal, immediate, allergy reactions, these particular food reactions are delayed (hidden) reactions. This is classic food intolerance (undigested food in the digestive tract causing inflammation).
An increasing number of people have resolved these symptoms by using the food intolerance test to help them find their problem foods.
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Click Here to view our Food Intolerance Tests
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This short video by Dr. Mark Hyman (personal physician to ex-president Bill Clinton) explains how inflammation makes you fat and sick.