Ever feel a little, well, crap?
You may have IBS.
Now, be warned, if you’re a bit proper and get squeamish at the thought of talking about all thing’s gut health and poop, sorry, this isn't the blog for you. However, if you want to know all of the nitty-gritty, I’m not sparing you any details!
What is IBS?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a functional disorder of the bowel and typically includes abdominal cramping and altered bowel motions.1
IBS has three main subtypes, characterised by stool pattern (I told you I wouldn’t be sparing you any details!).
1. IBS-C: IBS with Predominant Constipation
- Symptoms associated with constipation (stools pass less than three times a week).
- Stools are hard to pass.
- It can feel like an incomplete bowel movement.
2. IBS-D: IBS with Predominant Diarrhoea
- Symptoms associated with diarrhoea (three+ stools passed per day).
- Stool may be loose, although not always.
3. IBS: Mixed IBS
- Alternating stool patterns (sometimes you experience constipation, and other times you have diarrhoea).
Symptoms of IBS:
- Abdominal distention
- Abdominal pain
- Incomplete evacuation
- Mucus in stool
How is IBS diagnosed?
There’s no specific biomarker or pathology for IBS. Instead, IBS is diagnosed by exclusion – which means a doctor considers other alternatives first (such as coeliac or IBD), performing tests to rule out other medical problems.
While there’s no specific biomarker to look out for, there is the Rome III Criteria that diagnoses IBS1:
- Recurrent abdominal symptoms for at least three months with at least two symptoms present on a minimum of three days a month. (Try saying that three times fast).
- Symptoms are usually somewhat relieved with defecation.
- Onset of symptoms associated with a change in stool frequency, form or appearance.
Why Do People Get IBS?
1. The Gut-Brain Axis
The brain and the digestive system communicate via the parasympathetic, sympathetic and enteric nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system slows us down, reduces our heart rate, increases our digestion capability and induces relaxation. The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is our fight or flight response. It stimulates blood flow to major muscles, dilates the pupils, increases the heart rate and decreases our gut’s ability to digest and absorb food. Stress activates the SNS.
People who experience IBS tend to be in a constant SNS state.2 When SNS is constantly active, the brain may send the wrong signals to the gut or respond inappropriately to signals from the digestive system. When this occurs, food may move through the intestine too quickly or slowly, impacting how food is digested, leading to discomfort, pain and altered bowel movements. So, stress can trigger IBS symptoms.
2. Food Sensitivities
IBS patients can often link certain foods to their symptoms.
Some food intolerances can be caused by the absence of enzymes required to break certain foods down. In these cases, a portion of the food may pass through the small intestine undigested and reach the large intestine, where bacteria may use the food, leading to uncomfortable symptoms (anyone who’s lactose intolerant and decides to face the consequences of two scoops of ice cream can relate).
Alternatively, if the mucosa of the gut is inflamed, it can impede the release of digestive enzymes, which causes further irritation and increased intolerances. When someone consumes foods they’re intolerant to, it causes inflammation and pain, damaging the gut wall.
Unfortunately, understanding whether IBS triggers symptoms from certain foods or if foods trigger IBS symptoms can feel a bit like the chicken or egg scenario.
How to Help Manage IBS
IBS is a functional disorder, which means it’s caused by the way the gastrointestinal tract functions rather than from the pathology – this can be frustrating as it means there’s no way to treat or cure it. However, there are ways to manage IBS.
1. Cutting Out Food Sensitivities
If you experience IBS and know that your symptoms are worse after eating your favourite cheese toasties, it might be time to say goodbye.
For some, food sensitivities are apparent, and for others, they can appear to change. I recommend using a food diary to track and identify which foods trigger an uproar of symptoms. Some common food sensitivities include alcohol, coffee, fatty foods, sugar, cruciferous vegetables, dairy, wheat, legumes, beans and onions. If you do the food diary and can’t identify foods that trigger your symptoms, you may not need to avoid them.
2. Increasing Fibre
If you experience IBS-C, it may be time to introduce more fibre-rich foods into your diet.3 Fibre improves transit time and can reduce constipation. Increase your fibre through legumes, vegetables, fruit and whole grains. If you need to increase your fibre, make sure you’re drinking at least 2.5L/day to assist digestion – your water requirements will change depending on your size, exercise frequency and the weather.
Probiotics may be the answer to improving IBS symptoms. One meta-analysis found that probiotic use in patients with IBS was positively associated with less abdominal pain and a general improvement in symptoms.4
4. Keeping the Gut Clean
Fossil shell flour, known as Diatomaceous Earth, may effectively clean the digestive system a and improve IBS symptoms by gently removing toxins and impurities. Diatomaceous Earth is rich in silica, which can repair the gastrointestinal lining and rebuild the intestinal wall.5 Plus, it reduces pathogens, bacteria, fungi and heavy metals.
Along with silica, Love Your Gut Powder and Love Your Gut capsules contain 15 trace minerals. Another great way to support gut health is Fulvic Humic Concentrate (FHC). This super nutrient food contains humic and fulvic acids, which are natural organic plant substances that play an important role in healthy metabolism and recycling of metabolic wastes.
Exercise can reduce stress, improve sleep, and encourage bowel movements, which positively affects IBS symptoms.6 Walking, yoga, jogging and Pilates are great exercises for people with IBS. High-intensity activities, such as HIIT training or running, can trigger IBS symptoms and should be avoided.
Thank you for joining me in my first Supercharge Your Gut Health – IBS class. Stay tuned for our next blog in this series, which will take you behind the scenes of another gastrointestinal condition, leaky gut.
Source: Lee Holmes - Supercharged Food
Longstreth, G. F., Thompson, W. G., Chey, W. D., Houghton, L. A., Mearin, F., & Spiller, R. C. (2006). Functional bowel disorders. Gastroenterology, 130(5), 1480–1491. https://doi.org/10.1053/j.gastro.2005.11.061
Ohman, L., & Simrén, M. (2007). New insights into the pathogenesis and pathophysiology of irritable bowel syndrome. Digestive and liver disease : official journal of the Italian Society of Gastroenterology and the Italian Association for the Study of the Liver, 39(3), 201–215. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dld.2006.10.014
Ramkumar, D., & Rao, S. S. (2005). Efficacy and safety of traditional medical therapies for chronic constipation: systematic review. The American journal of gastroenterology, 100(4), 936–971. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1572-0241.2005.40925.x
McFarland, L. V., & Dublin, S. (2008). Meta-analysis of probiotics for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. World journal of gastroenterology, 14(17), 2650–2661. https://doi.org/10.3748/wjg.14.2650
- Wu M, Cronin K, Crane JS. Biochemistry, Collagen Synthesis. [Updated 2020 May 4]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK507709/
- Levy, R. L., Linde, J. A., Feld, K. A., Crowell, M. D., & Jeffery, R. W. (2005). The association of gastrointestinal symptoms with weight, diet, and exercise in weight-loss program participants. Clinical gastroenterology and hepatology : the official clinical practice journal of the American Gastroenterological Association, 3(10), 992–996. https://doi.org/10.1016/s1542-3565(05)00696-8