IBS: What is it? What causes it?

Updated: 2 hours ago

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What is IBS?

IBS - Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Symptoms include constipation, diarrhoea, severe bloating, possible cramping, gas, foul-smelling stools and sometimes blood in stools. For some sufferers, symptoms are also coupled with sudden and urgent need to go to the bathroom. Essentially what many describe as a bad gut or leaky gut.

IBD - Irritable Bowel Disease

This is a more severe gut inflammation of the lining, intestinal bacteria and encapsulates other conditions such as Crohn's, Colitis, ulcers.

Important note on constipation!

Constipation is not just being completely unable to go to the bathroom. You may still be constipated even if you do pass waste once a day, as ideally you would be going as frequently as you eat - one meal in, one meal out. Even in the space of one day food can sit in the intestines putrefying, permitting bad gut bacteria to grow and causing unwanted symptoms such as bloating and gas.

How is IBS diagnosed?

GPs can diagnose this and may use certain tests to verify such as a stool test, colonoscopy or endoscopy. Many people self diagnose based on the symptoms listed above and the huge amount of research available online.

What causes IBS?

Gut Dysbiosis

Often IBS is the result of dysbiosis, where there is an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in the gut biome. If the bad bacteria start to proliferate many of the above symptoms start to develop.

Symptoms can start appearing when young, often increasing in frequency or severity as you get older.

Dysbiosis - gut microbiome imbalance - can be triggered from antibiotics, a foreign pathogen from food poisoning or travel bug.

* Foreign pathogens can upset the lining of the stomach and intestines causing inflammation.

* A travel bug may be a parasite or worm that causes these symptoms, or if you're already a sufferer, can exacerbate symptoms by increasing the level of inflammation.

* Antiobiotics destroy the entire gut microbiome; they cannot distinguish good from bad bacteria. So in an otherwise healthy patient, this has the ability to create dysbiosis. Additionally, antiobiotics are often the treatment for foreign pathogens, so unfortunately this approach completly wipes out any good bacteria that were trying to restore balance.

Allergies or food intolerances

Sometimes, irritants in a persons diet or environment are causing a negative reaction with the gut flora, and once those irritants are removed the IBS symptoms disappear. Common offenders include gluten, alcohol, caffeine and fatty foods.

Other times, certain fruits and vegetables appear to cause problems, especially if part of the Nightshade family (eg. aubergines, tomatoes). By noting down these pattens it is very easy to rule out certain intolerances.

It might not even be IBS

Often, women get misdiagnosed with IBS when actually it's polycystic ovaries or endometriosis. Many symptoms align - bloating, cramps, diarrhoea, constipation - so if you're also suffering from heavy or missing periods, best to get that checked first.