When the smooth rhythm of the muscles of the digestive tract is disrupted—either moving too quickly or too slowly—we experience digestive distress. For some of us, this distress can be frequent and painful, creating a major disruption in our life and in our lifestyle.
Several health conditions are marked by severe digestive distress, including ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s Disease, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). While all of these conditions involve inflammation of the lining of the bowel, IBS can be healed through careful shifts in diet and lifestyle, focusing on reduced inflammation.
What is IBS?
IBS is marked by abdominal pain, changes in bowel habits, and a cluster of symptoms that last for three months or longer. Symptoms vary for each person and can include:
- Stomach gas and bloating
- Alternating diarrhea and constipation
- Mucus in the stool
- Nausea after eating
- Rectal bleeding
- Abdominal pain that progresses or occurs at night
- Weight loss not explained by dieting or other health concerns
IBS can be caused by one or several underlying health factors that cause a disruption in the digestive tract. These factors can include:
Food Allergy or Sensitivity. Research has shown that IBS can be triggered or made worse in people who are consuming foods to which they have a food allergy, intolerance or sensitivity. For some people, a specific category of carbohydrate foods known as “high-FODMAP” create symptoms of IBS. Check out my previous article on what a low-FODMAP diet entails.
Imbalance in Gut Flora. In the digestive system, we have friendly gut flora that support the process of digestion, nutrient absorption, and immunity. If we don’t have enough friendly flora, or there is an overgrowth of unfriendly flora, or an “invader” yeast or bacteria, then inflammation, nutritional deficiency, and digestive distress can result. Toxins, processed foods, stress and antibiotic use can also increase inflammation and trigger or worsen IBS.
Hormones. Changes in hormones, particularly for women, can cause a cascade of changes in the body, including digestion. Steadying hormones can be accomplished physiologically as well as psychologically. Axis Endo, formerly Estrium, can be one part of the solution, especially for changes in hormones around menstruation. Similarly, for men, Testralin can be a nonpharmaceutical part of the solution, as it is designed for men aged 40 and beyond to support healthy testosterone and estrogen balance and help maintain male reproductive health. This powerful formula provides 14 key ingredients—including green tea, flax lignans, and plant sterols—that may help promote healthy testosterone balance and beneficially influence estrogen and testosterone metabolism.
A Plan for Healing IBS
Doctors can assess for IBS using diagnostic tools such as physical exams, lab tests, stool and urine tests, food allergy or intolerance testing, dietary assessment, and assessment of lifestyle factors including stress level, fatigue, etc. The goal is to identify sources of inflammation that have set the stage for developing IBS. Once identified, doctor and patient, and sometimes a nutritionist, will develop a plan to minimize/ eliminate exposure to triggers, reduce inflammation, and promote healing.
The “healing plan” for IBS will be different for every person because so many factors interact to produce inflammation and symptoms. This plan can include following a Low-FODMAP Diet (useful for a variety of GI conditions), nutritional and herbal supplementation, stress management, avoiding smoking and caffeine, moderating alcohol intake, adjusting sleeping habits, homeopathy, and exercise.
If you suspect that you are affected by IBS, contact a clinician about an evaluation and put yourself on the road to wellness. It is possible to enjoy food again and heal from Irritable Bowel Syndrome.