Cramping, tummy pain, diarrhea and constipation, bloating, and stinky toots are just some of the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). IBS is definitely no fun, but it’s unfortunately very common. In fact, it affects up to one in five Canadians.
Although there’s still some uncertainty surrounding the direct cause of IBS, the pattern of symptoms experienced simultaneously usually leads to a diagnosis. It’s high time to shed some light on IBS, the possible causes, and holistic ways to manage the symptoms!
What is IBS?
IBS is considered an issue related to the functioning of the gut. There are a few possible causes behind it, ranging from stress to changes in gut bacteria. Since those who suffer from IBS don’t often show visible signs of damage in their gut, up to 75% of people with the condition end up being left undiagnosed or even misdiagnosed.
What are the symptoms of IBS?
Despite the name, the common symptoms of IBS can be far worse than just “irritable”! The severity of each one can vary from person to person, with most people experiencing them simultaneously.
- Abdominal pain
- Changes in bowel movements
- Diarrhea and/or constipation
Possible causes of IBS
There’s still some mystery surrounding the direct cause(s) of IBS—understandably making it even more frustrating for those suffering from it! However, there are a few factors that do seem to have a strong association with the condition, shedding at least some light on IBS’ origin story.
The nervous system and stress
Ever heard of the brain-gut connection? As it turns out, what happens in your brain affects the gut, and vice versa. Mental stress is considered to be an important factor in the onset of IBS, with some researchers even calling the condition a “combination of irritable bowel and irritable brain.”
Stress does have an effect on the gut, including intestinal sensitivity, changes in bowel movements, and more. It’s also considered a trigger for IBS symptoms, making it a stress-sensitive condition. The more you worry, the more you may feel the effects. But don’t fret, we’ll look into different ways to de-stress below!
Food allergies and sensitivities
New studies have suggested a link between food allergies or sensitivities in the development of IBS, specifically in those with diarrhea as their main symptom. Researchers found that once food allergies or sensitivities were identified, removing them from the diet significantly reduced the symptoms of IBS. Specifically, abdominal pain and diarrhea.
Bacterial overgrowth and changes in the gut microbiome
We can’t forget the importance of healthy bacteria in our gut! Especially since it’s involved in so many processes throughout the body. In the case of IBS, there is research that supports a link between a change in intestinal bacteria and the development of IBS. Specifically in those who developed IBS after the use of antibiotics or following a bacterial infection in their gut. Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, or SIBO, has also been linked as a factor leading to the development of IBS. They may be small, but bacteria sure does have a mighty impact when it comes to our health!
Now that we’ve demystified IBS, let’s look at some holistic lifestyle changes that can help manage the symptoms.
When it comes to food allergies or sensitivities, it’s important to remember that in addition to being a potential cause of IBS, they can also be a trigger for symptoms. For that reason, it’s a good idea to pay attention to foods that may worsen symptoms—especially if they are common allergens like dairy or wheat. Keeping a food diary handy to document what you eat and how it makes you feel is a helpful way to find out what foods may be triggering your IBS.
Healthy gut flora is also a great way to help rebalance the gut microbiome. It’s especially important if an overgrowth of bacteria caused the IBS in the first place! Consuming foods rich in probiotics like yogurt, sauerkraut, or kombucha is a great start, as well as incorporating a good quality probiotic supplement. Orange Naturals’ Everyday Probiotic is formulated with probiotic strains documented for their therapeutic effect in the gut. Guaranteed to contain a minimum of 14 billion live bacteria per every shelf-stable capsule, Everyday Probiotic is a great way to help restore a healthy gut flora—especially after the use of antibiotics!
You can also try the low FODMAP diet (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols). A low FODMAP diet recommends limiting foods that are more difficult for the small intestine to digest, such as dairy, fruits/sweeteners, certain vegetables, grains, and legumes. There are lots of promising studies on this diet being helpful, with one noting 76% of patients eating low FODMAP reported improvements with their IBS symptoms!
Similar to diet, stress is not only considered a potential cause of IBS, but also a factor that can trigger existing symptoms. There are many ways to soothe your mind and body, such as going for relaxing walks in nature, journaling, practicing yoga, stretching, meditation, and working out to release some feel-good hormones. Try incorporating any or all of these into your daily routine to melt your worries away!
Did you know there are plenty of herbs that can help you relax and ease digestive discomfort? Chamomile helps calm nerves, reduce anxiety, and relieve inflammation in the gut, and can be consumed as a herbal tea or as a digestive bitter. Orange Naturals’ Digestion tincture combines organic and wildcrafted herbs—including chamomile—that help aid in digestion, increase bile flow, and reduce gut-related issues.
There are also plenty of adaptogens that can help you cope with stress, and getting them all in a convenient bottle makes consuming them even easier. The combination of rejuvenating herbs in Orange Naturals’ Stress tincture helps sharpen the performance of the brain and body after periods of stress, providing renewal in every dose!
By incorporating even just a few of these holistic changes into your lifestyle, you can help reduce the symptoms of IBS, and live life on your own terms again!
“Psychology Works” Fact Sheet: Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Comparison of Symptoms, Healthcare Utilization, and Treatment in Diagnosed and Undiagnosed Individuals With Diarrhea-Predominant Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Impact of psychological stress on irritable bowel syndrome
Food Allergies Tied to Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
IBS and Your Gut
Try a FODMAPs diet to manage irritable bowel syndrome
Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with bright future
Food Allergy and Intolerance in IBS