Up to 45 million(1) people in the US struggle with gas, bloating, diarrhea, and abdominal pain due to IBS.
Yet conventional medicine has very little to offer IBS patients to help them recover. Some patients are even brushed off entirely by their doctor and told that their symptoms are all in their head.
This leaves millions of people suffering daily, feeling frustrated and alone. I know because I’ve been there!
I struggled with digestive issues for the first 25+ years of my life. Here’s what I wish I would have known then.
1. It IS a Big Deal
Because you look “fine” on the outside, many people see IBS as simply an annoyance instead of a potentially debilitating health condition.
When you’re not digesting your food properly, your body doesn’t get all of the nutrients it needs to thrive and microbial imbalances develop. This can lead to fatigue, anxiety, depression, brain fog, poor thyroid function, joint pain, autoimmunity, and other serious issues.
2. It’s More than a Bathroom Problem
Those of us who’ve experienced IBS (myself included) know how significantly it can impact your life and hold you back from doing what you love.
The constant search for a restroom, daily stomach pains, and fear over when the next “incident” might occur can rob you of your confidence and joy and leave you feeling isolated.
3. It’s NOT All in Your Head, there are Physiological Causes for IBS
Until recently, many doctors claimed IBS was psychosomatic, but we now know that is not the case. There are physiological reactions and imbalances behind your symptoms.
The tricky part is that they are not the same for everyone. Each patient has their own root causes and triggers and it takes time, patience, and testing to uncover and treat them. I’ll cover the most common ones later in this article.
4. It’s Not JUST Caused by Stress
Don’t get me wrong, stress can be a major trigger for IBS symptoms, and stress relief techniques can have a positive impact on your condition. But, stress alone does not cause IBS. The same goes for anxiety and depression.
5. It May (or May Not!) Be Due to Food Sensitivities
Many IBS patients have undiagnosed food sensitivities. These are IgG immune reactions to certain foods that present up to 72 hours after eating them. The most common triggers are gluten and dairy, along with other highly inflammatory foods like corn, soy, eggs, and nightshades.
However, just because this is a common cause doesn’t mean that ALL IBS cases come down to food intolerances. It may also be the case that food sensitivities are one of a few underlying causes of your symptoms. If you identified your trigger foods and removed them from your diet and saw some improvement in your symptoms but not a complete resolution, this may be the case.
6. SIBO Could Be a Factor
Another common culprit for IBS is Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, or SIBO. This imbalance occurs when you have an increase in the number of bacteria or changes in the types of bacteria present in your small intestine.
The classic signs of SIBO are bloating, gas, and diarrhea. Sound familiar?
7. It’s Important to Look at the ENTIRE Digestive System
Many people don’t realize just how many components there are in the digestive process. It’s an impressively complex system, but that means there are many things that can go wrong and each possibility needs to be evaluated and addressed.
When it comes to IBS, vagal nerve function, low stomach acid, and microbiome imbalances are some of the first areas I investigate with patients.
8. IBS Medications are Just a Bandaid
Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter or prescription antidiarrheals (such as Imodium), gas relief medications, antidepressants (thought to help with stomach pains), and antispasmodics.
None of these do anything to address or treat the underlying root cause of your condition. They’re just meant to reduce symptoms in the short-term. What’s worse, many of these drugs can cause the very symptoms they aim to treat, including stomach cramps, bloating, and diarrhea!