Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) constipation diarrhea bloating gas

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

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

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.

What is Digestion?

Digestion is a complicated process that starts even before you put food in your mouth.  The smell or sight of food starts your digestive juices flowing.  Taste and chewing stimulate the release of saliva, digestive enzymes and other digestive juices while your teeth accomplish the mechanical breakdown of your food.

When you swallow, the food travels down your esophagus to your stomach.  Once in your stomach, the food mixes with your stomach acid.  This helps with the absorption of minerals and vitamin B12, digestion of protein, and to sterilize what you put in your mouth.

When that acidic mixture passes out of your stomach and into your small intestine, your pancreas secretes digestive enzymes and your gallbladder secretes bile.  The enzymes break down fats, starch and protein.  The bile digests fats for better absorption of fats and fat-soluble vitamins.  Bile is a bit of an irritant and so the digestive tract moves it along to get it out. This keeps your bowels regular.

The digestion and absorption of nutrients take place as the food passes through your small and large intestines.  Beneficial bacteria help to keep the surface of your digestive tract healthy so that harmful bacteria or yeast can’t overgrow.  These good bacteria also help maintain a healthy immune system.

So you can see from this simplified description that digestion is a complicated process.  If any of the steps don’t work properly, everything down the line can be affected in a domino-like fashion.

What are the Symptoms of IBS?

If you suffer from IBS, you may have some or all of the following IBS symptoms:

  • Bloating or swelling of your abdomen
  • Constipation or irregular bowel movements
  • Diarrhea
  • Loose stool
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea
  • Hard stool
  • Difficulty passing stool
  • The feeling of incomplete bowel movements
  • Abdominal pain
  • Gas
  • Burping or belching
  • Mucus in your stool

How Do You Test for IBS?

The diagnosis of IBS is considered to be a diagnosis of exclusion.  What that means is that if other more serious causes of the above symptoms have been excluded, then the diagnosis is deemed to be IBS.  Other diseases that need to be excluded include inflammatory bowel diseases that affect your colon like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.  A colonoscopy may be done to rule these out.

What Causes Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

The symptoms of IBS can be caused by many different factors including:

  • Decreased saliva production
  • Eating too quickly, not enough chewing
  • Low stomach acid
  • Too much stomach acid
  • Low secretion of enzymes from your pancreas
  • Poor production of bile by your liver
  • Poor secretion of bile by your gallbladder
  • Fermentation of food either in your 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, due to antibiotic exposure
  • Vitamin A deficiency leading to unhealthy mucous membranes
  • Too much stress which impairs digestion

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

Natural 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
  • Address food sensitivities that may be impairing digestion

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 the ability to relax

For help with this or any other health problem, book an appointment here or call the clinic for more information at 416-481-0222.

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

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 website.

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