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Did you know that irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) affects tens of millions of adults every single day? You might have heard that good digestion is the key to better health, and I can tell you that truer words have never been spoken. Let’s learn the warning signs today, so that you know if you have them, and what you can do to cure the top symptoms today.
So, what is the purpose of doing a deep dive into your gut? Well, we know the kind of positivity that good digestion can have in our lives, and we want to ensure that we are doing the best for our body at all times. IBS is something that affects so many people, all around the world, so we need to do the research necessary to identify IBS, understand it, and make sure that we are taking the right steps to treat and relieve it.
We know IBS as a syndrome, which is what we call it, but what does that term really mean? A syndrome, simply understood, is kind of like a constellation of stars. While the stars might not align to look exactly like a “big dipper” or a “hunter,” we can understand how these patterns form together to assume the likeness of the name. A syndrome is a collection of different factors, which gives birth to the larger condition.
Key Insight: A syndrome is defined not so much as a “real thing,” but as a collection of things (symptoms or conditions) that cluster together to form the whole – the syndrome.
The distinct thing we have to know here is that with a syndrome, like IBS, we have to know that there is no other clear cause for it to occur. This is the way we both rule in and rule out a syndrome, because of how determined it is by an assortment of factors operating at the same time. All too often, I worry that other doctors will see that syndrome and will not work through that concept of “no other cause.” Typically, there is always a root cause that will be to blame for your symptoms – and getting to the root of it is the most important step, and is definitely not something to be ignored…
Bottom Line: In many cases, there are causes that can be identified. We want to go deep into those causes, so that we look at IBS as something that is more treatable than simply inevitable.
Here are the top 4 signs that you might have IBS. These are all important, and it is especially important to notice them when they occur. If you need to know anything about your health, in general, it’s that you cannot let things just “go” or hope that they will “pass.” If something is bothering you, you have to be able to recognize it so that you can act on it.
The top 4 warning signs that you should be on the lookout for are:
- Abdominal pain or discomfort – whether it’s a little or a lot, too many folks out there simply ignore abdominal pain when it occurs. No matter how badly it feels, you should always address it. Pain or discomfort in this vital area can often point to some potentially nasty things affecting your health.
- Diarrhea or constipation – again, the same can be said for diarrhea and constipation. Remember how I mentioned how important digestion is for your overall health and well being? Well, it starts with what you put into your body, what happens when it’s in your body, and finally how it leaves. If you are having troubles in this area, please address it right away.
- Both prior steps for more than 3 days in a month – make sure that you are experiencing both symptoms for three days, as this will go a long way in telling you whether you have IBS or something else. If you feel something off, keep a note of it – mark it down in your calendar, or make a note of it on your phone. Keep track, and stay healthy!
- No other obvious cause for symptoms – once you rule out any other potential maladies, you can really start to interrogate the idea of whether or not you have IBS.
Bottom Line: When we think of IBS as a syndrome, we also need to think of these symptoms acting altogether. That is why the first two are often defined by the second two, because otherwise they might just be random events in your life that are tied to circumstance rather than a health problem. If we have longevity, and no other potential causes, we can really start to rule in IBS as our core problem.
Who gets IBS?
At least 10% of adults seem to be suffering from IBS, and the interesting thing about it is that it does not really discriminate by age. There is a definite peak in women, in their late-30’s and early-40’s, who are of particular concern. That’s the group that, by far, gets the highest rates of IBS in their lives. There’s no real determination as to why this happens, but it has been clear in statistics that it is something that happens.
How is IBS distinct?
To say that IBS is irritable, is basically to say that it is not inflammatory. As it concerns IBS, there is no real higher rate of:
- Bowel disease
Key Insight: When it comes to IBS, there is no measurable sign of inflammation or damage that has taken place. This is important to note, specifically in contrast to inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
When it comes to IBD, they can often feel like the same thing. You can have so many of the same symptoms, but there is visual inflammation during colonoscopy or on blood markers. If you feel like you might have IBD, make sure that you go and visit your doctor or healthcare practitioner right away. It might feel like IBS, but it can be much more serious.
The Types of IBS
IBS has three different types, and we can basically understand them in terms of the symptoms. Let’s illustrate it like this:
- IBS-C – more constipation
- IBS-D – more diarrhea
- IBS-M – a mix of both
Bottom Line: What we need to know about IBS is three things: there are many people living with IBS, IBS is most certainly not IBD (which can often be far more serious, and can potentially result in death, and the types of IBS are always tied to symptoms.
How do you test for IBS?
You might not be able to test directly for IBS, instead you want to rule out other diseases that might be the culprit. Here are just some of the tests you might want to consider running, so that you can get a fuller picture of whether or not you have IBS:
- Screen for celiac, especially with IBS-D
- Food allergies (1)
- Food intolerances (2)
- Bowel infections
- Other bowel disease
- Thyroid disease (3)
- Fructose intolerance
- Lactose intolerance
Bottom Line: These are all things that need to be ruled out in order to understand whether or not you have IBS. What you want is a fuller picture of your health, so you need to make sure that you are taking a comprehensive approach to understanding what you have, and what you do not, as it concerns any potential ailments.
What causes IBS?
When we have exhausted all of the other potential causes, and we know that IBS is there, there are a few things we know that are associated with the cause of IBS:
- Immune Response – this involves active mast cells and t-lymphocytes
- Tight junctions – epithelial permeability (old term: leaky gut)
- Low levels of e-cadherin (4)
- Narcotic side effects – like narcotic bowel syndrome, which is brought on by a lack of narcotics and can result in painful cramping (5).
The first thing you should be doing, as it concerns IBS, is finding the cause. Digging deep into your health, you need to be able to understand the factors and the potential culprits behind your health struggles. Then, you can work towards addressing them properly. If you leave yourself in the dark with your health, and do not accurately identify your IBS causes, you are not doing yourself any favors whatsoever.
Key Insight: If there are no obvious causes for your IBS present, there is still a lot of good data on the various approaches that you might be able to take in order to address the problem.
These are just some of the things you might be able to do, beyond identifying the causative factors behind IBS:
- Meditation (6)
- Talk therapy
Food and Diet Repair
It would seem that diets that are high in plant foods, as well as different types of fibers, are especially helpful for those who have IBS. Over the longer term, they do a better job of helping to manage your symptoms. The food we eat can have a direct effect on how we feel, and IBS is proof of that fact.
It cannot be stated enough, diversity really matters in your diet. This means that we need to get lots of good, and different foods into our diet. When we are considering many different food types, we need to think about:
- Intact whole grains
- Nuts and seeds
- Some seafood
Key Insight: Probiotics might also be useful. There is actually something called saccharomyces which has been shown to be super helpful in those with IBS (7). This is especially good for those who are suffering from constipation following IBS.
When it comes to the effects of diarrhea on your body, you might be best suited considering astringents. These might include:
- Low-dose Triphala
Fiber has been shown to help in the long-term, and not so much in the short term. This does not mean that you should give up on it, though, it just means that the short-term relief might not be immediate. Fiber can still do really great things for your body, even if you need to exercise a little bit of patience from time to time.
For those who get cramps, can also do well with things like peppermint. Tea can work well, but enteric-coated versions of the oil can also work wonders. Acupuncture, too, has also been shown to be of good use for those who are suffering from cramps due to IBS.
Bottom Line: Your digestion is so important, and it is super critical to your overall health. The first thing you need to do, always, is to go deep and find out the root cause of your ailment. Go deep, and go through all of the steps, so that you can have a well-formed and picture-perfect idea of your health. Just know that if there are symptoms left, there are always things you can do to make them work better – like what we talked about here today.
Keep Your Health In Mind
Are you concerned about IBS? What about the health of your thyroid? While you are trying to get to the root cause of your IBS, you should consider taking the Thyroid Quiz today (8). It has the potential to provide you with some really valuable information for your health, and for your life. Take it now, and start taking steps towards better health today.
Dr. Alan Glen Christianson (Dr. C) is a Naturopathic Endocrinologist and the author of The NY Times bestselling Adrenal Reset Diet.
Dr. C’s gift for figuring out what really works has helped hundreds of thousands of people reverse thyroid disease, lose weight, and regain energy. Learn more about the surprising story that started his quest.