Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a functional disorder of the digestive system characterized by a collection of symptoms that negatively impact a person’s quality of life. The signs and symptoms of IBS in both adults and children include food intolerance, bloating, cramping, abdominal pain, and either diarrhea or constipation, or a combination of both.
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Because the symptoms of IBS are really complex there are subtypes to classify it according to the predominant symptoms:
- IBS-D — diarrhea predominant
- IBS-C — constipation predominant
- IBS-M — mixed diarrhea and constipation
- IBS-U — unspecified
With IBS, there may not be overt damage in the tissues in the GI tract: the problem lies in the motility or movement of the bowels. So the treatment plan for IBS is tailored according to your presenting symptoms and also by knowing the possible causes of its development.
Plenty of factors may cause IBS. The most common possible reasons are an altered gut microbiome, increased inflammation and intestinal permeability, and dysfunction in the immune system.
Let’s take a look further at the root causes and triggers of IBS:
- Impaired absorption
According to studies, malabsorption of bile acids triggers IBS symptoms like diarrhea. Bile acids or BAs are produced in the liver and converted from primary BAs to secondary BAs in the intestine with the help of bacterial action. Aside from helping in the absorption of fats, BAs keep the gut microbiome in balance so that when there is malabsorption of BAs, the gut microbiome is subsequently affected leading to an increase in intestinal permeability and inflammation.
- Disrupted homeostasis in the gut
A healthy gut has diverse gut microbes, but in patients with IBS, studies have shown that they have less gut microbial diversity. This leads also to less bacterial function such as BA transformation in the intestine and triggering the onset of inflammation.
Dysbiosis occurs when there is an imbalance in the gut microbiome. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and fungal overgrowth (SIFO) are both manifestations of dysbiosis. According to studies, patients with IBS showing symptoms of abdominal pain, diarrhea, distention, and bloating have increased SIBO. In another study, IBS-D patients have increased SIFO as well.
- GI infection
Infection in the GI tract is caused by either acquired infectious agents and/or pathobionts. Having gastroenteritis can increase your risk of developing IBS by about 2-3 times. And among acquired infectious agents, the most common to cause IBS are the protozoal agents, then bacterial, and then viral.
Pathobionts, on the other hand, don’t come from the environment. Instead, they are part of our natural gut microflora, which means they are beneficial to us. However, they do have the potential to cause disease if their environment is disrupted…as caused by antibiotic abuse, bad diet, and exposure to toxic substances.
- Adverse food reaction
If you have IBS, you may have noticed that there are certain foods that when eaten trigger your IBS symptoms. These foods usually have fermentable oligo-, di-, and monosaccharides and polyols (FODMAPs), lactose, fructose in excess of glucose, fructans, or gluten.
- Stress and anxiety
Remember that your gut and brain constantly communicate with each other. So negative emotions also have a negative impact on your gut function! According to some literature, mood disorders cause GI symptoms, but there is strong evidence that GI symptoms appear first before mood disorders occur. Patients with IBS-C have the most common occurrence of depression and anxiety according to the data so far.
If you suffer from IBS, it’s likely stemming from one or more of these causes: an unhealthy microbiome, increased intestinal permeability, and immune reactivity. Diet and lifestyle that really supports a healthy microbiome along with testing to explore which specific imbalances to support most can be a game changer.
It is my passion to work with people like you whose health symptoms are getting in the way of you living life fully and with a sense of freedom in your body. I can help you to regain your health so you can feel great and free to enjoy life fully.
If you’re ready to discover where your best health has been hiding, I’d love to connect with you!
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Until next time, I’m wishing you unstoppable health!