irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) constipation diarrhea bloating gas
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Bloated? Gassy? Constipated? Diarrhea?: Sounds Like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

by Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND

If you are suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), then you know how uncomfortable this condition can be.  In order to better understand what is happening in IBS, we need to have a basic understanding of digestion.

Digestion is a complicated process that starts even before you put food in your mouth.  The smell or sight of food can start the digestive juices flowing.  Taste and chewing stimulate release of saliva, digestive enzymes and other digestive juices while the teeth accomplish the mechanical breakdown of food.  Once in the stomach, food mixes with stomach acid to help with absorption of minerals and vitamin B12, digest protein, and to sterilize what you put in.  When that acidic mixture passes out of the stomach and into the small intestine, the pancreas secretes digestive enzymes and the gallbladder secretes bile.  The enzymes help break down fats, carbohydrates and protein and the bile helps digest and absorb fats and fat soluble vitamins.  Bile is a bit of an irritant and so the digestive tract moves it along to get it out.   Digestion and absorption of nutrients takes place as the food passes through the small and large intestines.  Beneficial bacteria help to keep the surface of the digestive tract healthy so that harmful bacteria or yeast can’t overgrow and helps maintain a healthy immune system. So you can see from this simplified description that digestion is a complicated process.  If any one of the steps doesn’t work properly, everything down the line can be affected in a domino-like fashion.

What Could be Wrong with My Digestion?

  • Decreased saliva production
  • Eating too quickly, not enough chewing
  • Low stomach acid
  • Too much stomach acid
  • Poor secretion of enzymes from the pancreas
  • Poor production of bile by the liver
  • Poor secretion of bile by the gallbladder
  • Fermentation of food either in the stomach or intestines
  • Overgrowth of harmful bacteria or yeast
  • Development of food intolerances such as lactose intolerance
  • Development of food allergies
  • Lack of beneficial bacteria, like acidophilus from antibiotic exposure
  • Vitamin A deficiency leading to unhealthy mucous membranes
  • Too much stress causing sympathetic dominance i.e. not enough rest and digest time

All of these possibilities need to be addressed to adequately understand what is causing or contributing to your irritable bowel syndrome.

Naturopathic Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

  • Improve eating habits – don’t eat on the run or in front of the TV, relax and focus on your food, chew until your food is a liquid and then swallow
  • Increase secretion of digestive juices like stomach acid, pancreatic enzymes and bile
  • Cleanse the digestive tract of harmful bacteria and yeast and restore lots of beneficial bacteria
  • Identify through blood testing and remove food intolerances and allergies from your diet
  • Nourish the lining of your digestive tract
  • Stress reduction techniques like massage therapy, yoga, tai chi, breathing exercises, meditation and nutritional support for the adrenal glands.

Benefits to Naturopathic Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

  1. Better eating habits
  2. Improved digestion and absorption of nutrients
  3. Better immune system function
  4. Healthier digestive tract
  5. Better stress coping skills and ability to relax

DISCLAIMER: The information provided here may not apply precisely to your individual situation. Diagnostic and therapeutic choices must always be tailored to the individual patient’s circumstances, and consultation with a licensed naturopathic physician should be undertaken before following any of the treatment strategies suggested in this web site.

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