Help with IBS

Some Common Questions about IBS.

What is IBS?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a cluster of painful unpleasant symptoms that usually include diarrhea and or constipation , abdominal pain and cramps, which usually stop as soon as you have had a bowel motion. Bloating is also common. All these symptoms usually re-occur over a cycle of days or weeks. Some days you might feel ok , but then everything starts again for no apparent reason. Some days you may seem ultra sensitive to food and drink and it seemed like a cup of coffee sent you dashing to the cafe toilet. Then there’s the day in the office where you make several visits to the toilet and you wonder if it was the Thai you had last night. However whilst some types of food may cause discomfort , IBS symptoms will persist regardless of diet and will seem to occur for no particular reason. The medical doctor is looking for patterns and ruling out other causes when they conduct their differential diagnosis and conclude it is IBS.

How is it diagnosed?

IBS is diagnosed when there is no other cause found for the symptoms. In the diagnostic process all physical causes, diseases and infections are ruled out and all the remains is a functional disorder that matches the medical criteria for IBS. SIBO is still misdiagnosed for IBS and many IBS sufferers have SIBO.

What causes IBS?

Unlike SIBO the aetiology of IBS remains unclear.  A lacking cause is typical of a functional gut syndrome where there are lots of factors involved in the symptoms. Many studies point to a strong association between depression and/or anxiety and early childhood abuse with IBS sufferers. However again these are not the cause , but it seems that people with these backgrounds and co-morbidities are more likely to suffer from IBS. IBS is more common with women.

Can IBS be cured?

That’s a tough one to answer. Chronic functional disorders / syndromes   have usually caused suffering for many years before a medical diagnosis. This can’t simply be reversed with a short course of medicine or meditation course.  However this doesn’t in any way mean you can’t treat IBS and feel better quickly. There is a great deal of evidence that once you begin a holistic treatment with IBS you will  make leaps and bounds in improving your health and quality of life.

The key to remember is that progress happens in small step. The first step is to relieve the symptoms that interfere with your life. With the right herbal formulation, lifestyle and diet changes and other treatments, like acupuncture,  the symptoms begin to occur less frequently and with less severity. When this happens you start to feel better and ready to look the other aspects of your life , like stress and emotions.

Does gluten cause IBS?

As part of a thorough medical diagnosis your GP should ensure you are tested for Celiac disease. A positive test will  determine you have celiac disease (CD) . Sometimes the test may indicate a sensitivity to gluten.

IBS and celiac disease are not the same disease. If you are tested positive for CD then you will be advised to give up gluten for good and in time you could feel a changed person and should be almost completely free of symptoms. Gluten intolerance is not a disease and it is curable. It is caused by a breakdown of function in the gut and an imbalance of the gut microbiome, called Dysbiosis.

Many people with IBS or gut complaints in general report feeling better after they stop eating wheat and so they think this was the cause, but cutting out wheat is  not going to change anything in the long term. To treat IBS effectively the focus needs to be on making your gut strong and your mind calmer. It’s also important to get tested for gluten sensitivity and celiac disease before deciding for yourself that wheat is the culprit.

Will I have to change my diet permanently?

Many people advocate giving up types of food permanently , but this only makes sense if there is a genetic cause or you are at risk of serious life threatening diseases like heart disease or Type II diabetes. Temporary changes in diet are helpful when you begin treating IBS because removing food that is hard for your gut to breakdown will give the gut a chance to heal.

Does IBS cause Cancer and other serious diseases?

There is no strong evidence that IBS causes colon cancer. IBS is associated with many other disease  such as: gastritis ; GERD; migraines; gluten intolerance; depression , anxiety and SIBO.

What is your treatment plan?

Here we apply three main aspects to treating IBS

  1. Treat the symptoms and improve quality of life
  2. Work on addressing the secondary factors that are known to complicate and worsen IBS including
    • Making temporary changes to diet and sometimes permanent improvements
    • Addressing inflammation in the gut
    • Reducing distress in the bodymind
  3. Develop an deeper  understanding of IBS in relation to your life. Is there a cycle? What is the pattern? What to do when there is a set-back? How to take care of yourself if there is a flare-up.