We know that digestion is absolutely crucial. If our digestive system isn't working, then it affects every other part of the body. Yet, when it comes to Irritable Bowel Syndrome (fondly known as IBS), the majority of people suffer in silence. IBS can be debilitating and is often referred to as the “silent disease,” even though it is estimated that around one in five Australians experience unpleasant symptoms.
What is IBS?
IBS is a term that categorises triggers in an upset stomach: from vomiting to bloating to diarrhoea. It affects the functioning of the bowel, causing a person to experience chronic, recurrent bowel problems and abdominal pain. The gut works to digest the food we eat, absorb the goodness and nutrients into our bloodstream, then process and expel the waste that the body cannot use. Simply put, the gut plays a crucial role in maintaining our overall health. However, when the gut isn't working correctly, you can develop what is known as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
What causes IBS?
Scientists now believe that one of the most common causes of IBS is a condition called SIBO or SIFO – Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth or Small Intestinal Fungal Overgrowth. In short, it means you have too many bugs in your gut, which is why ‘eating clean’ and probiotics often don't help improve your tummy issues. However, IBS can have several causes— food sensitivities, dysbiosis of the large intestine, lack of digestive enzymes or hydrochloric acid, stress. All can cause digestive complaints that are often indistinguishable from one another.
What are some of the symptoms?
Symptoms of IBS can vary but some of the most common symptoms are:
- Abdominal cramping
- Bloating and/or wind
- Burping and Acid Reflux
- Food sensitivities
- Joint pain
- Skin rashes
- Iron and B12 deficiency
- Respiratory symptoms such as asthma
Often people are unaware that the foods they eat are causing their adverse reactions. This is common because the symptoms associated with food sensitivities occur hours, even days after the offending food has been eaten. Whilst there is no medical test that can be used to confirm a diagnosis, food allergy testing can help determine which foods may be causing inflammation in the bowel.
Living with IBS
There’s been a lot of recent advances in testing and research, which has led to the development of better treatments for those long-term sufferers who have been told to suck it up or who are reduced to eating carrot sticks and pears. Knowing it’s not all in your head can also be relief in itself. Often, using probiotics and specialised herb blends that reduce gut inflammation and allergy, coupled with a diet that doesn’t feed the excess bugs can help improve symptoms. A health professional can also assist with identifying and decreasing (or eliminating completely if possible) specific foods that may be causing the inflammation.
Are you experiencing symptoms? Take this as a sign. Don’t suffer in silence. Seek help from a qualified professional.