The exact cause of irritable bowel syndrome still remains unknown. The reason for that is simply because we are all unique and IBS is a multi-faceted issue, which is why we must have a multi-faceted approach to truly heal. With that said, here are some of the contributing causes behind IBS that are worth your consideration while determining your individual approach.
Never have I ever met a client struggling with IBS that wasn't struggling with stress. In fact studies are now finding that IBS is a combination of irritable bowel and irritable brain and that there is a strong correlation between IBS and mental health, especially anxiety and depression. (1)
Unfortunately there is no pill, drink or any other external treatment for your daily stressors, it requires a change in perspective, a change in habits and a change in how you spend your energy. Practiticing meditation is essential to calming the mind and lowering your cortisol levels.
2. Leaky Gut
The lining of our gut is much like a mosquito mask. Permeable, to allow oxygen through, but prevents 'skitters' from getting in causing irritation and inflammation. Your gut functions the same way and is naturally permeable to allow vital nutrients to be absorbed. In cases of digestive issues, leaky gut is caused when the tight junctions, the gateway between the intestines and what is allowed to pass into the blood stream, begin to loosen allowing toxins and undigested food particles to float through the blood system. This is the root of inflammation and in cases of diarrhea-predominent IBS, studies have shown that intestinal permiability is affected, meaning leaky gut is present. (2)
To find out the eight signs you have leaky gut and four steps to heal it, read here!
3. Imbalance of Gut Microbiota
The body is a complex system with roughly 10-100 trillion bacteria and over 1000 different strains. A decrease in good bacteria populations and functional diversity and stability of these bacteria has been shown to be present in those with IBS, crohn's or colitis leaving the gut in dysbiosis (imbalance). (3)
Supplementing a probiotic will help to balance the microbiome and assist with anything from immune health, nutrient absorption, mood, energy and most importantly balancing bad bacteria.
4. Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)
SIBO is a condition where the small intestine has an overgrowth of bacteria. Symptoms of IBS are similar to that of SIBO and research is showing that IBS suffers could have an overgrowth of bacteria as well. One study reported that up to 78 percent of IBS patients have SIBO. Eradication of small intestine bacterial overgrowth saw great improvements in diarrhea and pain associated with IBS. (4)
5. Food Sensitivities
You may be able to identify some of the foods that cause you pain after drinking or eating them, but do you listen to this message from the body? This is the body's way of communicating to you that it is unable to cope with this particular food or drink.
Studies for many years have linked food sensitivities with IBS and leaky gut, but recent studies are also confirming that there is a significant reduction in IBS symptoms in patients who are on elimination diets, eliminating foods which an individual has a sensitivity to. (5) (6)
Refer to the GAPS diet or FODMAP diet, known for their benefits with IBS, Crohn's and Colitis flares, to help get you started.
In a flare? Try this!
Remove inflammatory foods: Sugar, Dairy, Gluten, Deep-fried or processed foods, additives, artificial sweeteners, pop, caffeine, alcohol.
Probiotics: Take a probiotic with a higher amount of Bifidobacterium strains. Read more on how to pick a probiotic here.
Fish Oil: Fish oil is a great source of Omega 3, a great anti-inflammatory essential fatty acid and gut healer.
Hot Water Bottle: Heat helps to calm spasming muscles. Start by rubbing a carrier oil such as coconut oil to your stomach with a few drops of peppermint essential oil, then apply your hot water bottle to calm stomach pains.
Herbal Teas: Staying hydrated is extremely important. Enjoying warm non-caffeinated herbal teas is a way to stay hydrated, help soothe and to heal. Enjoy any of the following: peppermint tea, marshmallow root, ginger or chamomile.
The recommendations above are symptom management tools. While they may provide you with some relief during a flare, seeking out a holistic practitioner to help you uncover your custom approach will bring you long term benefits. (7)
Grab a copy of my FREE 'Healthy Gut' Cheat Sheet for top foods, supplements and lifestyle recommendations to heal your gut.