Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Three Key Elements to Investigate

Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Three Key Elements to Investigate

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is one of the most common gastrointestinal disorders and accounts for about 30% of all referrals to gastroenterologists. However, most gastroenterologists don’t like treating IBS, because drugs don’t usually produce good results.  

IBS has been traditionally a diagnosis by exclusion.  If you have suffered from chronic abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea or alternating between the two for more than 9 months, and your doctor has done stool testing to rule out inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, bacteria and parasites…etc., you are then left with this popular vague diagnosis of having an irritable bowel.  

IBS is challenging to treat, because causes can be multifactorial. The medical world has yet to figure out exactly how the illness develops.  Although the lack of a clear cause is frustrating, there are three key areas that your doctor should look into. Treating these areas can often produce a significant relief of symptoms.  

Identify Food Sensitivity

Dietary change is an essential part of treatment for IBS, because almost everyone feels better to some extent when they change their diet.  It can be tricky to investigate since symptoms may not occur immediately after you eat the offending foods. Sometimes you may not react to a particular food, but rather certain types of food.  Keep a food diary to find a pattern. Eating mindfully and chewing your food well are also very important. I have a patient who reduced her gas and bloating by 80%, simply by changing her fast eating habits and thoroughly chewing her food.  

Investigate the Imbalanced Composition of Bacteria in the Gut

Overgrowth of certain opportunistic bacteria or lacking beneficial bacteria can sometimes lead to symptoms of IBS.  Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) is highly correlated with IBS, and is currently thought to be one of the causes for IBS.  SIBO and H. Pylori can be confirmed by a breath test. Other opportunistic bacteria and yeast can be confirmed by a stool test. I find that when I treat the overgrowth, reduce inflammation in the gut and restore diversity of the gut flora, my IBS patients are able to recover. 

Learn to Manage Stress and Anxiety

The medical world used to view anxiety as a main cause for IBS.  Recent research has shifted this thinking to other factors (as described above).  Nonetheless, stress remains a huge factor. From the research perspective, we have seen IBS patients experience a much higher placebo effect.  Many IBS patients also notice that their symptoms are a lot worse or more frequent when they are stressed. Learning how to manage your stress can really help ease the severity and frequency of your IBS symptoms.

If you have struggled with IBS for a long time, seek out experienced doctors for proper treatment. Also, make sure you have a conversation with your doctor regarding the potential factors for your symptoms. Have any questions or inquiries? Contact us today!