Most of the posts I publish weekly are inspired by problems I keep seeing in my practice, or questions I often receive. This post is no exception. Because I focus on food sensitivities and digestive health as a nutritionist, I see a lot of clients with IBS, short for Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Since it’s something I’ve dealt with myself, this topic is especially dear to me.
What is IBS?
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), which includes both Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis, shows actual structural changes in the bowel. On the other hand, IBS does not. It is often a label that is slapped onto people who have digestive issues outside of IBD. It is seen as an issue that affects the colon.
People are often grouped into sub-categories of IBS based on their symptoms. Those who see mainly constipation as a result of their digestive issues may be given the label of IBS-C. IBS-D is a label given to those with more diarrhea. Some experience both, and are labeled as IBS-M (for mixed).
Symptoms may include gas, bloating, cramping, and mucus in stools.
What’s really hiding behind IBS?
The issue I have with the label of IBS is that it is a bit of a “catch-all” term. It is given to anyone whose digestive problems cannot be helped with drugs. People are then told that they’re stuck with their condition.
While I can’t speak to the experience in other countries, the healthcare system in Canada makes it difficult for those with IBS. Don’t get me wrong, I’m forever grateful for covered healthcare! But most MD’s simply don’t have the time to spend with each patient to bring them back to health.
The truth is that there is often something hiding behind Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Bowels don’t just defect for no reason. Thankfully, more and more doctors are advising their patients to test for Celiac Disease, which can cause many of the same symptoms.
But what to do when your symptoms aren’t a result of Celiac Disease either? The investigation is actually not over! Some people with symptoms similar to Irritable Bowel Syndrome are actually dealing with an issue in the small intestine called Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth, or SIBO for short. A Naturopathic Doctor may be able to diagnose you in that case.
But what I most commonly see show up as Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a combo of two factors: food sensitivities, and something called “dysbiosis”. This strange term means that there is an excess of undesired organisms in your gut, compared to the good ones. (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, click here for more information.)
How to manage your symptoms
Many people see their symptoms improve by making some dietary changes. For some, it may be as easy as switching from raw vegetables to only steamed vegetables. Unfortunately, most people need to do a bit more work.
For some, a complete diet change can do the trick to relieve their symptoms short term. Some diets which have seemed to work include the FODMAP diet, the GAPS Diet, the Specific Carbohydrate Diet and the Paleo Diet.
One thing to keep in mind is that most diets will manage symptoms without getting to the root cause of the issue. Taking care of your gut health is crucial to saying goodbye to IBS for good.